Action Comics #15 came out this week, bringing us one issue closer to the end of Grant Morrison's brilliant run on this book. From the title's inception there has been a feeling that this has been all one big story, the 'little man' peeking around the corner of every slice of this book. And this issue cements that, bringing so much of what we have seen into focus as we near the end.
Now part of that means that Morrison has a lot to explain here and more than any issue of his, this one seems to have the most exposition. Rather than having the villain monologue, we instead have insider Ms. Nyxly giving us the back story of the Vyndktvx. While I am usually of the 'show me don't tell me' mindset as a reader or viewer, I actually breathed a sigh of relief here. Many of Morrison's past stories end enigmatically. And while I usually enjoy those stories, rolling with the events, I often ask myself 'what the heck just happened.' So to understand the impetus for this whole big arc, even if I was simply hearing it, will only make me appreciate this even more.
That isn't to say that nothing happens in this book. In fact everything seems to be happening at every time. We learned from last issue that The Multitude is one of Vyndktvx's weapon, a many-pointed spear which can attack from infinite points and throughout time. In this issue, we are basically following that attack from three different time periods - Clark's high school prom, the 'current' Action time, and some point I assume in the future where the Earth seems in ruins, under a red sun, where the anti-Superman army is chasing down Kal. In fact, we learn that last issue takes place two years in the future of the 'current' Action. So like many Morrison stories, I have to simply immerse myself in the story and absorb it.
Rags Morales and Brad Walker split the art chores here and with similar styles, the book moves along smoothly.
Here in the present, Ms. Nyxly begins telling Clark about just how Vyndktvx attacks. How part of his plan is to strike at different time in Superman's life, weakening him everywhen. And what is worse, he seems to have the power to change things.
The book opens with Clark thinking of his prom night and how something tragic happened that night. Vyndktvyx is there, Pa helping the 'little man' with his car. Superman wonders what might have been if things went differently. And that is the power of Vyndktvx. It may have been different!
And we get a glimpse of what happened that night.
That's the Kent's truck, mangled in an accident, a body crumpled on the road.
Could Vyndktvyx be responsible for the Kents' deaths? We have seen Pa, on his death bed, talk to Clark somewhere along the way of this run. So things have changed. The question becomes, are these changes immutable? Or can they be set right?
Meanwhile, in the assumed future under a red sun, a rapidly weakening Clark has to stay ahead of Vyndktvx's army. There is Nimrod. There is the Kryptonite Man. And Metalek is there. And Lois' telepathic niece Susie too. And a Red Kryptonite woman and a Blue Kryptonite man we haven't met yet.
Three ongoing timelines ...
Meanwhile, in the 'present', Nyxly starts her story out by asking Clark to share a glass of wine and a toast to the 'triumph of good over evil'.
If it one thing I have learned from Morrison is that very little is done by chance. The whole makeup of this panel, the bright but solid background, the sunlight dappled Superman, the words of the toast. This has to be something more than a simple sip of wine.
We finally hear about Vyndktvx, the failed court jester of the 5th dimensional court of King Zrfff. Despite all his tricks, Vyndktvx couldn't get the king to smile.
And then, surprisingly, we get a possible hero in this piece. Mr. Mxyzptlk shows up and simply wins the court over. The King laughs. The Princess Gsptlnz swoons. And the dimension is entranced. I love how he brings out the 3 dimensional universe as a plaything for the King. And the name of the universe ...Triceveryday30 ... is perfect.
And he gives Gsptlnz three wishes as a present.
All this love lavished on Mxyzptlk angers Vyndktvx to know end. And so revenge against the universe is planned.
Again, time in this book is fluid and overlaps. Nyxly (nee Gsptlnz) tells Superman that Mxyzptlk loved sparring with him, loved being outwitted by him. Of course, all those battles take place in the future of this 'current' timeline. Roll with it!
In the war torn future, Superman makes it to his Yucatan Fortress of Solitude (a fortress I think he had in the early 2000s) and calls out the troops.
He asks the Legion to come through time to help fight.
He calls Comet! Could there be a Super-horse in this DCnU?
He calls on the Wanderers! Will we see Quantum Queen and Psyche?
And even Krypto gets called into the fray.
But there is more we need to know about Vyndktvx.
In his rage, he uses three weapons - The Nothingcoat, the Imaginator, and the Million-pointed Multi-spear. Aiming to kill Mxyzptlk, Vyndktvx accidentally kills the king.
And the power of these weapons are so great that 230 worlds immediately die. Others fight on, including Vartox and Super-turtle.
And Vyndktvyx is not untouched either. Using these weapons has corrupted his body. What's worse, two planets repel the Multitude. Krypton (by Jor-El) and Earth by Superman. It is enough to add Superman to the revenge list.
And so we see how this revenge plays out over time.
This perfect moment of young love, where Lana and Clark feel on top of the world, is shattered by news of Ma and Pa's death.
And in the 'present', Nyxly cannot use her third wish to save things because she is shot through the head by Nimrod, another failure on Superman's part.
And yet, I wonder if that third wish has already been used, part of that libation earlier.
And in the future, Superman looks just about defeated, in the clutches of a Kryptonite fueled army.
Whew ... that is a lot of story and a lot of backstory for 20 pages. But it is the three storyline that struck me here. Imagine just how each of these moments could cause Superman to lose faith in who he is, how he could give in to defeat. The death of his parents. The shooting of his friend, a 5th dimensional princess who could help, right in front of him. A devastated Earth, standing alone against an army of villains tailor made for him. And all these attacks happening 'at once' like a needle shoved through time.
Amidst all that big story is the small moments that simply resonate. Lana looking up at Clark lovingly in the dance talking about how everyone wants to be in love like them. The alarum sent out to Comet and the Wanderers. And Superman having to chew over the time slips he is experiencing - Mars 2 years hence but experienced, attacks from Mxyzptlk even farther. All small moments that just struck me.
I think that this being a simple revenge story somehow makes Vyndktvx seem a little smaller in scope. Somehow this all seemed 'bigger' when I thought he was a megalomaniac looking for universal domination, looking to eliminate his one threat in Superman. Now he is a jilted and untalented jester who simple wants to hurt the people who hurt him. Maybe that is the biggest joke of all.
And it is funny that in some ways I thought this might be the weakest issue in the Action Comics run to date - just chock full of monologue. And yet, I also thought is was a strong issue, an important piece in solidifying this entire arc, while still peppered with the tiny wonders that I love in Morrison.