8 Sep 2011

Cover To Cover: ACTION COMICS #1

ACTION COMICS #1
Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Rags Morales, Rick Bryant & Brad Anderson
DC $3.99


Matt C
: Although my reviews on this blog for the past few years may have suggested otherwise, I don’t hate the writing of Grant Morrison. He’s not a ‘marmite’ writer as far as I'm concerned as it implies there’s no chance of him winning me over with good stories. That’s simply not the case. While his recent work on various Batman titles may have disappointed and infuriated me in equal measure, I’m not blind to his talent and am always willing to give him the opportunity to amaze. I will admit that I far prefer his work when he attempts straight-up storytelling rather than turning on the weird and wonderful, as that generally sees him overdose on pretentiousness and travel up his own backside. He also has a habit of assuming his audience can read his mind, seemingly skipping over important plot points in effort to get to the next big idea, resulting in confusing scenes that make little sense however many times you reread them. Then there’s his knack of introducing a jaw-droopingly brilliant concept, setting it up perfectly, only to fumble the ending so the entire things capsizes.

So, yeah, I’m not exactly his biggest fan but I am well aware that he’s capable of turning out some truly excellent comic books. We3 immediately springs to mind; then there’s last year’s Joe The Barbarian. Then of course there’s All-Star Superman, universally praised as one of the best takes on the Man of Steel in years. Bearing that in mind, the relaunch of Action Comics seems like an obvious place for Morrison to make his home in the New 52, and first impressions following this debut issue are generally positive.

Purely on a visceral level, it’s a great comic book; from the opening page, it doesn’t stop moving. It’s an exciting page-turner, and that it can generate such an adrenaline kick makes it a winner in the entertainment stakes. Where it’s going to cause problems for some is in it’s presentation of Superman as a cocky kid who wears jeans as part of his costume –basically, this is not a Clark Kent anyone’s going to be familiar with. There are positives to shaking things up like this (refreshingly, he’s not quite mastered the full extent of his powers and manages to get in over his head more than once) but negatives too, as the persona people have been drawn to for 70 years isn’t really present. The flip side to all this is that we know (from other DC titles released so far) that this is set in the past, and from what I can tell this 'kid' (early 20s is probably more like it) eventually grows into the inspirational hero we all know and love, but there’s none of that cornpone approach that a Smallville-raised guy takes to the big city; he seems much more urbane than he perhaps should be.

We do get an introduction to a recognizable supporting cast,with Lois, Luthor and Jimmy all pretty much how you’d expect them to be. It’s also nice to see Superman being portrayed as far from all-powerful – when he takes a hit, he bleeds. Rags Morales seems to be more than up to the task of delivering the dynamic visuals necessary to convey movement, and it’s largely his art that makes the book seem so electric. There is an occasional problem in the way he renders faces, particularly apparent when Luthor looks late 20s in one panel and then in his mid 50s in the next. It’s noticeable but not to the point where it becomes a major distraction though.

The are a couple of moments where it’s not clear exactly what’s going on (and I’m putting that more at Morrison’s feet than Morales’)but this is, by and large, a very promising opener with a bit of a fantastic cliffhanger. As I said though, Morrison is great at setting up a story but not always so good at wrapping it up, but I’m suitably impressed to continue with this to see where the writer takes it. Morrison may have disappointed me many times before but the residual excitement I felt after I put this book down was more than enough to prove to me that when gets it right (even though it may not be as often as I’d like), Morrison deserves his reputation as one of the modern day masters. 7/10

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