Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thursday Review: Action Comics: The Men of Tomorrow

I promise this will be my last comic book review for a while since not many people seem to give a shit about when I talk about comics, especially old ones.  Anyway, a couple months ago I read the New 52, rebooted Action Comics, which if you don't know was the first superhero comic book that introduced Superman to the world.  Unlike with the New 52 Batman this is an actual reboot, taking place about five years before the other Superman titles.

Anyway, when it starts, Superman breaks into the office of Mr. Glennmorgan, a heartless businessman who exploits his workforce and creates generally unsafe buildings and railways.  Apparently Superman showed up on the scene only six months ago and the authorities are not very happy about his methods.  So after getting Glennmorgan to confess, Superman is chased by the cops.  At this point, like in the original Action Comics, Superman doesn't so much fly as run and jump really fast.

He manages to elude the cops and get back to the crummy apartment where Clark Kent lives.  But later he finds out from his buddy Jimmy Olsen that he and Lois Lane (who is not Clark or Superman's girlfriend yet) are on a subway, one of Glennmorgan's projects that's going to have a catastrophic failure any minute.

So Superman springs into action!  It's kind of like "Spider-Man 2" as he tries to stop the train by planting himself in front of it.  Superman isn't strong enough yet either that he could simply stop the train right away.  It finally crashes into a wall with him pinned to the front, but everyone is safe.

The story picks up then to a government lab, where Superman has been taken captive for study by Lex Luthor, a scientist working with the government.  They try electric shock, drugs, and acids but nothing can hurt Superman.  Once he's rested enough, Superman breaks out of the place.  This leads to the government deciding it's time to activate its Top Secret prototype of a robotic exoskeleton that is supposed to be able to kill Superman.

Later, Clark, Lois, and Jimmy are at a factory when the machines start coming to life!  The machines turn into robots that like the Borg are wanting to collect samples of humanity's diversity or some such thing.  Clark pretends to act like a coward and run off so he can reappear as Superman to take on the robots.

But it turns out there's a bigger threat:  the mother ship now in orbit.  Lex Luthor has known about it for months and has tried to work out a deal with the aliens.  That doesn't help him when the aliens cut out a large section of Metropolis and shrink it down to preserve it for safekeeping inside their ship.

Superman is not caught up in that because he's been busy fighting the government's anti-Superman machine, which is now under alien control.  After he drives it away with a little help from Dr. John Irons (aka Steel), Superman has to figure out how to get up to the mother ship.  He can't just fly up there.  So instead he has to jump really high and use a satellite to give him a boost up to the mother ship.  (Because that's really plausible, right?)

Once he gets up there, he finds the aliens also have a Kryptonian city in a bottle.  The aliens want him to choose between saving Metropolis or saving the Kryptonian city.  What does he do?  Duh, save both of course.

Up to this point, Superman has been wearing only the red cape and a T-shirt with the S symbol on it.  Inside the alien ship he finds a Kryptonian bodysuit that looks more like the traditional costume, except it has a high collar and the belt is red with no yellow.  Inside Metropolis he also finds the rocket he came to Earth on, which was impounded by the government.  With that he's able to reprogram the alien machines to shut down.  Hooray!  Metropolis gets put back but I guess the other cities bottled up are screwed.  Sucks for them.

I really enjoyed the first couple of issues especially.  A powered-down Superman is a lot more relatable and interesting than what we've come to expect.  The Superman Grant Morrison presents is actually vulnerable to more than Kryptonite, nor can he lift continents or turn the Earth backwards or any of that other ridiculous shit Superman's done in the past.  A welcome change of pace.  As well in the first issue especially Morrison got Superman back to his roots of fighting real bad guys, the exploiting businessmen and abusive husbands and so forth that the Man of Steel tangled with originally.

The last couple issues included in this volume get back to the Grant Morrison I'm familiar with from reading Flex Mentallo and Batman:  The Return of Bruce Wayne.  That is dense, multi-layered stories that don't make a lot of sense if you haven't read comics for the last 74 years.  There's something about the Superman from I guess the present going back in time and something with Kryptonite fragments.  I don't know.  It made me wonder if there was some missing stuff coming from other Superman titles I hadn't read.  Really they should have just put in the first six issues and brought the price down a little because those last two issues don't really connect to the first ones.

Also included are the "backup stories" (aka filler) from the first eight issues.  Two of these focus on John Irons becoming Steel, which was essentially the DC Universe's Iron Man, except not as funny.  There are a few other ones that deal with Clark's growing up and leaving Smallville.  Like any backup stories they're interesting but not essential, which is why they aren't the main title.  Duh.

Anyway, as I said I really liked the first issues, the last couple less so.  It is a good start I would say for the title.  I think it would be a good direction for the new movie to go, but we shall see.

Monday is another Phony Photo...


  1. I wish I had the resources to still be into comics. I really would have liked to have seen what DC is doing with their whole starting over thing.

  2. The best issue to date of this book is #9, so the one after 909 (sorry, Beatles reference that doesn't actually make sense in this context).

    Sholly Fisch (the writer of your superfluous backup stories) has been making a tangible contribution to the series, and perhaps not coincidentally starting with #9 being among his best. He's building a name. Might be worth mentioning and not dismissing so cavalierly.

    You didn't miss any tie-ins in those latter issues. Morrison has no real connection to the other Superman book. The connection works itself out I believe in issues yet to be published. I think the point was simply to establish that even this version of Superman is not just about the t-shirt era, but about the whole legacy, which is why the Legion appears. Start small go big kind of deal.

    1. I don't think I was dismissing the backup features cavalierly, but there's a reason they're called BACKUP stories--because they aren't as important as the main story.

    2. No, because they're additional material.

  3. I can totally relate to a guy that can jump into orbit - and then use the satellite to do what again? What's in my head makes no sense at all - even when using comic book physics.

    Anyhow. I'm not a huge fan of the t shirt and cape combo.

  4. I don't read these comics, but I do find the artwork impressive.

  5. Interesting post. I've never read comic books, so it's hard to comment, but it seems there are so many details about superman that never came out in the movies.

  6. I like how they combined all the different ideas into one comic. Very clever stuff.



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