Here’s a quick summary of Issue #1:
The issue opens with Superman delivering justice to a rich, white-collar criminal. He makes quick work of the offender’s bodyguards, and, when the police arrive, they find our hero standing on the ledge of the building’s roof with the squealing businessman held above his head. Superman steps off the roof, falling with the businessman to the ground below. The fall doesn’t kill the businessman, but causes him to confess to his crimes. Superman delivers his mission statement, “You know the deal, Metropolis. Treat people right or expect a visit from me,” then easily escapes the cops pursuing him and makes his getaway.
Superman continues his rounds, helping a group of people escape from a building that is being demolished with them in it. We soon learn that the Army has contracted Lex Luthor to deliver Superman, and the people in danger were all part of Luthor’s trap. Superman is battered by the tanks that Luthor has sent, but, soon, the people he rescued come to his aid and he’s able to escape.
We see Superman change to his Clark Kent threads and arrive home. We learn that, as Kent, his is living in a cramped apartment, is best friends with Jimmy Olsen, and works for a rival paper of The Daily Planet. We also hear from Kent’s landlord that people are inspired by the things Kent writes in the paper.
The issue ends with Superman crushed between a bullet train and The Daily Planet. Desperate to lure our hero out once more, Luthor sets a trap involving a runaway bullet train, containing Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane. Superman is able to stop the train and save those aboard, but he is left unconscious and at the mercy of the Army.
Superman is at odds with the authorities! Again, I have what I consider minimal Superman experience, but the old school hero I know was always on the side of American authority. Cops, politicians, the president: any of these figures of authority were commonplace at Superman’s side. This was so much the case that Frank Miller literally turned the character into the American government’s lap dog in his defining work, The Dark Knight Returns. This is not the case with Morrison’s Superman! Rebellious in nature, the new version of our hero doesn’t consider America’s justice system to be just, battles the police, and is being hunted down by the Army! Morrison’s Superman may believe in doing what’s right, but what’s right and what’s legal are no longer synonymous for our alien protector. This is an excellent and exciting new direction for the character!
Lex Luthor’s Xenophobia! This is not a new quality for Lex Luthor, given his constant battle with the ol’ Supes, but Morrison really highlights it in this issue. I’m sure more will be revealed in the coming issues, but it seems like this is the lead motivation behind Luthor’s quest against Superman. Morrison’s story seems to be pulling from the current climate in our country, making Superman more modern with changes like his updated world view, or new living situation. In the same way, Luthor’s worldview is closer to ones that have been heard recently in the media, given the volatile national debate regarding immigration and national security.
Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Morrison managed to fit a reference to each one of these in the first issue. It’s nice to see his inner-fanboy show through!
Next: Superman in chains! So, now, the U.S. Army (Lois Lane’s father to be exact) has our hero in their clutches! Somehow, I have a feeling that this new Supes won’t be changing his opinion regarding authority figures anytime soon. And, who else is psyched to see what kind of awesome prison the military created to hold some one like our ridiculously strong alien friend?
The cape. While it took me a little while to get used to it, I’ve finally accepted the new look for Superman. The shirt still seems a little silly, but, given that this is five years before the Superman we get in Justice League of America, I can buy the gradual build up to the actual costume. Still, one part still grates: the cape. He really doesn’t need it and he’d look much cooler in just the t-shirt and jeans. I mean, seriously, how does Superman not look in the mirror before he goes outside and think, “I look like a five-year-old playing superheroes.”
All in all, I’d say Action Comics #1 is a success. While I was only planning to pick up this first issue, given my distaste for Superman books, Action Comics has enough interesting story lines going on that I’m intrigued to see what happens next to our hero. While many fans have complained about the changes that have come with the DC reboot, perhaps, at least with Action Comics, the publisher has achieved its goal of securing new readership!
’Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer