Arguably the most iconic super hero of all time is the Last Son of Krypton. When DC decided to do the reboot, they chose A-List comic talent like Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, and the legendary George Perez.
Action Comics was the comic that premiered Superman in the 1930's with Superman getting his own solo title a few years later. The two books also are separated in time. Morrison and Morales would take on Action Comics, where the duo would tell Superman's origin story while Perez and artist Jesus Merino would chronicle his modern adventures.
Morales is a fantastic artist and he is a good fit for Action Comics. His styles lends itself to subtleties in facial expression and body language. But Morrison is often opaque to me. There is no denying that he is some kind of genius. I remember finishing one of his stories and thinking “I have no idea what just happened, but I think it was impressive.” His work on JLA was legend (wait for it) -dary. But his take on Batman and the debacle that was Final Crisis was all just too, for lack of a better word, weird.
I think that I am in the minority with this opinion of his Superman works as well. All-Star Superman is considered by many comic critics and fans to be the greatest modern Superman story. I, however, often found it confusion and cold. I prefer works like Mark Waid's and Alex Ross' Kingdom Come (review of this coming later). In Action Comics, feels much more like an alien outsider than previously. I hate the decision that was made to kill off Ma and Pa Kent. I know that this more accurately reflects the original version of the character. But as I mentioned in my Smallville article, the Kents are who teach Clark how to be a good man. Without them, Superman feels more isolated and inaccessible The stories are very imaginative and the action is exciting. Morales takes Morrison's convolution and makes it watchable.
I do have to say, though, that now with origin story out of the way, things have calmed down. Issue #10 was probably my favorite issue thus far because of Superman's interactions with the Justice League and the staff of the Daily Planet. I now feel like I am getting to know Morrison's Superman a little better. I also have to say that the backup story in issue #5 was beautiful. It is a flashback of Jonathon and Martha Kent and their struggles to start a family. After years of disappointment, the turn to their pastor who tells them that they are not being punished but that God is preparing something wonderful for them.
As someone going through the adoption process, currently in the “No Man's Land” of waiting, I found this particularly touching.
While Action Comics is a fun, if sometimes confusing, the Superman series was a mess.
Perez is my favorite comic book artist of all time. But he is not the greatest writer. Just as they took away the Kents in the reboot, they also took away Lois and Clark's marriage. I know that many comic writers hated the loss of the “will they/ won't they” element, but I thought the series became better when the two were together. But I do have to admit the best parts of Perez' run were the times that we see Clark pining for an oblivious Lois. There is one scene where he walks away from her apartment and his super hearing cannot block out the thoughtless things she says about him nor the amorous banter she shares with the man who is with her.
But that is the only memorable scene from that entire run for me. I hate to say it, but the book was boring. I was about to drop it, but then a new creative team of writer Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgans took over.
Jurgans is one of the most established Superman artists around. And Giffen's writing was like a breath of fresh air. He brought something to the book that was lacking in it before: fun. A Superman book should be heavy on action and excitement, but it should also be fun. He is not Batman, with the shadows and intrigue. He wears a bright costume and a brighter personality. After I finished Giffen's first book, I realized that I had been smiling the whole time because I was enjoying the book so much. I cannot wait to read more of these stories. If you like your Superman books fun and flashy, then right now I would say that this is the Superman a better buy than Action Comics.
Action Comics: 3 stars
Superman: 4 stars