Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Superman Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel (The New 52) Review



Superman Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel (The New 52)
What is he lifting, anyway?


Writer: Grant Morrison

Artists: Rags Morales, Andy Kubert, Brent Anderson, Gene Ha and Brad Walker

Collects: Superman Action Comics #1-8

Background information:

Action Comics is really DC’s flagship title. If you want evidence of that, look no further than the fact that it’s the series that introduced Superman. Say what you like about Batman, DC is really Superman’s playground. Action Comics has featured some of Superman’s greatest and most controversial stories such as Superman declaring his intention to renounce his US citizenship (resulting in some comments that made me truly weep for the species).

If you don’t know who Superman is... really? He’s the most iconic superhero of all time (Dear Kanye West; Sorry for stealing your act). His “S” symbol is one of the most recognised symbols in the world.

Review:

Luckily, on the off chance you haven’t heard of Superman until now, Action Comics give you a good insight into the origin of the world’s most famous hero. Superman and the Men of Steel is a brilliant first story for Superman, but the first Action Comics volume leaves much to be desired in terms of art.

Twirling is now a superpower.
So Superman has really just begun his career, here. Not yet wearing the blue tights, a much younger Clark Kent sports a t-shirt, jeans and worker’s boots as he fights injustice in Metropolis. Unfortunately, Clark is still a more or less unpolished version of his future self. He’s aggressive, defiant and nothing like the kind-natured Boy Scout that most of us envision when we think of the Man of Steel. Because of this, the government is naturally afraid of him and have set up numerous projects to subdue the last son of Krypton; including seeking the help of one Lex Luthor.

Okay, so the whole story is written by Grant Morrison who has written possibly the greatest Superman story of all time in All-Star Superman. He’s also responsible for a couple of year’s worth of Batman and Justice League stories. His style is... let’s say it’s a little weird. Morrison loves to delve into the more obscure parts of DC lore to write his stories and depending on who you ask, it’s the best thing ever, or the thing that kills franchises.

That said, Superman and the Men of Steel is surprisingly light on the weirdness for a Morrsion title. There’s some obscurity that rears its head here; references to the Legion of Superheroes, Superman’s dog, Astro, and at least one interdimensional creature shows up in this trade. All the same, this book feels as though Morrison is holding back. It’s a good thing that he does, though, because the result is a Superman story that feels amazingly grounded and pretty realistic for a guy who can leap tall buildings in a single bound.

On that note, those who feel put off Superman by the mistaken belief that he is overpowered should feel very comfortable reading this volume. Superman’s powers are scaled back, here. He’s still super-strong and insanely fast. He’s still bulletproof and can shoot radiation from his eyes. He still has X-Ray vision (which doesn’t help him see through Lois’ clothes; it allows him to see people as skeletons. Y’know, like actual x-rays do). But he can be beaten. He’s bulletproof, but a speeding train will still beat him around something critical. He can’t fly yet, and I haven’t seen him use his heat breath. It’s great to see a toned-down Superman in this volume; it allows us to see Superman as a real person, not the idol he eventually becomes.

Someone mentioned Superman IV: Quest for Peace.
Although the story here is fantastic, the art is what really drags this book down. This one volume boasts five different artists across its eight issues, and they aren’t guest artists. I should point out that none of these guys produce bad art. Rags Morales and crew are all accomplished artists in their own right, but with multiple artists working on the same issue there is a total lack of artistic consistency. One minute, Clark is a awkward-looking kid in a baggy shirt (the way he hides his muscles from the public), the next moment he looks like Harry Potter, the next, he looks Asian. He’s not the only character to appear to undergo a race change in one issue. Doctor John Irons, who we will come to know as Steel, actually looks like a white dude in one panel. I actually thought it was Lex Luthor talking to himself at one stage. Again, these artists aren’t bad, but you know that proverb about too many cooks? We’ve been served the art version of poo soup.

Superman and the Men of Steel is a great story, but the inconsistent art is a major letdown. It get’s three out of five bowels of poo soup.

***

+ Story is great.

- Art is all over the place.

Alternate Option: Superman: What Price Tomorrow?

I’ll be honest; it’s an inferior story to Morrsion’s volume, but readable. The art here is generally more reliable.