Commentary by Nick “BatKnight” Young
Faster than a speeding bullet! Check. More powerful than a locomotive! Check. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Check. It’s Superman! Yes, Superman! A 21st Century champion of the oppressed who fights a never-ending battle for Truth and Justice! And our hero does just that in the aptly titled Action Comics # 1.
This comicbook keeps Superman pretty busy. First, he interrogates and forces a corrupt businessman to confess his crimes. Then, he saves tenement dwellers from a certain, and seemingly reckless, death. Lastly, the Man of Tomorrow stops a runaway train. But make no mistake… These action-packed events are not just the daily happenstance of Metropolis, but are in fact the workings of a certain bald genius. Lex Luthor and General Sam Lane want to see what the 6-month veteran of the superhero game can really do and test his limits. They get glimpses and ideas of just what Clark Kent’s alter ego can really do. And Luthor’s planning does not bode well for the young superhero…
At first glance, this reboot of an oft-rebooted character may seem gimmicky, but writer Grant Morrison really has a goal for the Man of Steel: to bring the Champion of the Oppressed into the 21st Century and make him credible. It is quite refreshing to see Superman take on corruption and save regular folks after seeing all of the supervillains he fights. This Superman may not be as rough-and-tumble as his 1938 counterpart, but he still kicks tail when things are out of line. Superman still does not murder and he does not cause harm, only disabling the tanks that attack him after he saves the tenement dwellers in an inspiring and thrilling sequence.
Another good thing about this newest version of Superman is that he actually has limits. Kent is absurdly powerful compared to The Average Joe, but he still struggles with heavy objects such as trains, and he can be hurt by high voltage. It makes his struggles more pulse-pounding.
One of the weaker spots in this issue is the Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen sub-plot. It feels thrown-in just for the sake of having them in the issue. When they chase Gus “Guns” Grundig, it’s an interesting plot point, but not built-up from the beginning.
Artist Rags Morales draws a fantastic Superman (despite his makeshift costume) and a true City of Tomorrow feel for Metropolis. However, the standout is Lex Luthor. He looks like a smarmy, pudgy loser. But the ingenuity in his look lies in the old adage “Never judge a book by its cover”. Luthor may be every bit as dangerous and cunning as he was before. Also, Morales draws beautiful, epic action sequences befitting of the title. Those images are almost cinematic in quality.
Grant Morrison and Rags Morales have gotten the Man of Steel off to a great start. Action Comics # 1 is more than worthy of its title and has already set up a story that may please fans, and it may go down as one of the great Superman legends.