Friday, February 3, 2012

Review: Action Comics #6

Action Comics #6
came out this week and continued the dizzying pace that Grant Morrison has brought to this title since the relaunch. This is a side adventure, a two issue nugget in which a future Superman and the Legion come back to save the day. While the young Superman is battling the Collector on Earth, the future Superman is trying to save his rocket ship from dying. And the stakes are high, if the rocket runs out of energy, the Collector can take over Earth's computer systems, dooming the planet.

Morrison is at his best here, flinging ideas at us effortlessly, giving us just enough information for the story to make sense but leaving enough unsaid that there is more mystery after this issue than there was before. And there isn't that obtuse feeling that Morrison sometimes veers towards; this isn't the incomprehensible Final Crisis ending. There is a meaty story here, enough to make me wish there was more. And yet, it is wrapped up neatly in two issues and the title will go back to the initial story next issue. Consider my appetite whetted.

But perhaps the greatest compliment I can give the issue is that I really felt blown away by it. Stunned enough to read it again immediately after reading it the first time despite the stack of new unread comics sitting next to me. Amazed enough to have another long time comic fan send me an email saying he was blown away by it.

And frankly, it is that sense of wonder and amazement and entertainment that makes me read comics in the first place. After reading a day's worth of bitter tit-for-tat about Watchmen prequels, Action Comics #6 reminded me why I have stuck with this hobby.

Last issue ended with the Anti-Superman army stealing the Kryptonite engine from Clark's ship.

Here we see that crew talking to the gnome-like guy who was with Glenmorgan in issue one. He clearly seems to be the brains behind this operation but the real grab here are these villains. We really don't know any of them.

We learn that one is from Trom, Element Lad's home planet. This bandaged man I initially thought was General Zod. But is that a war hammer on his back? I thought the robot looking being with the rifle might be an updated Terra Man, but a later reference to a Nimrod the Hunter seems more apt. I thought the circled trio in the back might be a 21st century Dark Circle (given the Legion riff) but they are later named the Sisterhood of Abiding Hate (pure Morrison there). But what about the little girl in the polka dot skirt? The Green K man we saw last issue. The bald headed man is called Doctor but who is he?

And to add to that, they each speak in different colored word balloons and they call themselves the K-Men. Are they powered by the various isotopes of Kryptonite ... red, silver, black, and blue? And why is blue called the 'most terrible of all'? Is there word balloon color mirror the Kryptonite that powers them?

Morrison is teasing us here. And I love it.

The gnome says he will give each of them a shard of Kryptonite if they each perform an act in his name.

I said it before ... I'll say it again. His name is Mxyzptlk. It has to be.

Meanwhile, the future Legion and Superman strategize in the Collector's satellite, at the site of the rocket. The rocket is running out of energy and only Kryptonite can keep it active.

Again, Morrison is teasing us here. This Superman says that Superman will eventually adopt this satellite as his first Fortress of Solitude. So we will eventually see that story. And we know that eventually we will see a different Fortress.

But there is the classic time travel trippiness about this story, Superman saying he remembers this adventure except he remembers finding the engine intact.

But the K-Men have left an agent behind, Erik Drekken who somehow has the power to evolve/devolve at will. It is hinted at that he is Titano (recently seen in Perez' Superman). He becomes a giant squid like monster, a gibbon, and even a worm over the course of this issue. But here, he is defeated, reverts to his human form, and lets his mind wander just a but much. He thinks of where the K-Men are hiding the engine ...

And they are hiding in the one place Superman would never think to look ... inside himself! They are inside a tesseract space in a bullet in his brain shot there by Nimrod. That is fantastic. Superman can't fight a fight inside himself!

And more importantly ... when did he get shot? Is that in the future? Or was that while he was here in the past.

Another thing that I loved about this issue, both here and in the backup feature, were the flashbacks to the Kents and the wisdom they have given Clark throughout his life. While the Kents might not be part of Clark's life in his adult years, he is who he is because of how they raised him. That has always been a truth in Superman's origin. That the values of the Kents made Clark think he was a man first, a superman second.

Here, Saturn Girl has to mind probe Superman to try to triangulate the bullet's position based on abnormalities in his thinking (here by having the details of this memory ... things like a farmhouse's color ... be fuzzy, Imra knows the bullet is near his amygdala).

But that is some classic Pa Kent there. Clark needs to use his powers to help and inspire other people. That he needs to be a role model, showing people the best they can be. That is the Superman I want. Not the distrusted and vilified guy in the Perez book.

So you might ask why don't the villains simply kill Superman from the inside out. Well, they are at the mercy of an invulnerable environment. Invulnerable brain cortex can crush you if you are that small.

And what of this comment that the bullet explains his recent behavior? Is that the behavior we see in the Perez book? Or is that behavior in upcoming Morrison issues?? My mind reels ... fantastic.

The Legion arrives inside the tesseract, tricks the K-Men into attacking themselves, and grab some of the Kryptonite.

There is more to this gnome-guy than meets the eye. And Imra, someone Lightning Man brags can understand any language, can understand that language. Perhaps because it is from another dimension?

In another good Morrison twist, we don't see the Legion mop up. They defeat the Anti-Superman Army off screen. Now sometimes I complain about stuff like that. But in this instance, it isn't the Legion fight that is the climax to this story, it is what is happening on the satellite.

With the Kryptonite shattered and scattered, Superman begins to succumb to Kryptonite Poisoning.

But in those throes, he realizes that the K-energy in his body can power his rocket's engine. And despite the attempts of Drekken to stop him, despite the pain ravaging his body, he doesn't give up. He staggers to the engine and uses his own radiation to repower it. And the rocket, in return, blasts Drekken to continue it's mission to protect Kal.

But it is that 'never give in' moment, paired with the Pa Kent deathbed exchange, that makes this scene. That is Superman, remembering that his upbringing taught him to be a force for good, to never give in, to fight a never-ending battle. Add to that the self-sacrifice of dragging his dying body to the rocket, willing to die to save the Earth and you have what Superman should be ... needs to be.

With the engine repowered by the reclaimed Kryptonite, with the villains defeated (although I guess they are still in a bullet in Superman's head to be removed later), the Legion heads out with Superman in the time bubble. This side adventure is over and no one on Earth knew it happened.

And it ends on a great note. One of the memories Imra looked at in Superman's mind was the first time the Legion met Clark. Clad in more classic Legion togs, they wondered why this mythic hero was a scrawny gawky kid. And yet, it was that moment that helped Clark truly realize that the Earth was worth fighting for, worth being a hero for.

It was a wild, madcap, frenetic ride with action and emotional resonance, and hints of the future and peeks at the past. I mean the Legion was fighting a supervillain team in Superman's brain. Unreal.

Action continues to be the cream of the New 52. Consider me blown away!

Overall grade: A+


Martin Gray said...

Great review of a great issue. But as for who that
Iittle girl is, I think I have that covered ... OK, she is named in the issue, but I clocked her from the earlier visuals. Pop over to Too Dangerous For a Girl when you get a chance!

So, enjoy the back-up, Anj?

Anj said...

Looks like I have to head to my Superman encyclopedia to look up Lois' niece! Good call.

I loved the back-up. Review up soon.