Thursday, September 8, 2011

Action Comics #1

Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Yes, it's all there, and not by coincidence. The second Action Comics #1 visually-checks numerous elements of Superman lore without always name-checking them. And so, we get references to the Thirties in the form of the wife-beater who is thrown through a wall, the poor tenants who have their homes destroyed, and even (Neo) Nazis. We get a nod to the 1978 movie when Superman is asked if he can do something and he says he's never tried. From later eras, we see a photo of the deceased Kents, Jimmy Olsen holding a device that emits a zee zee zee, and of course, Lois Lane putting herself at risk and needing to be saved. Grant Morrison is aware of the elements he wanted to include, but unlike the Superman he portrays, he doesn't want to beat anyone over the head with them.

And conscious as he is of the little touches, he begins on page 1 by showing Superman overshoot his intended target. The seemingly countless elements of Superman lore that Morrison includes make it important to note which ones he avoids. This is not the Superman who is so used to holding back that he has forgotten what it is like to go all out. This Superman is going all out, frequently, and he's a bit of a bull in a china shop.

The china happens to be the powerful and the corrupt, who include Glen Glenmorgan, the Army of Sam Lane, and a Lex Luthor who is not a fugitive, but far from law-abiding, and whose use of electricity to stun, but not stop, Superman, channels the Ultra-Humanite from Action #13. Glenmorgan merges together in one person several powerful men whom Superman harassed in 1938's Action, including a magnate who is promoting arms in order to sell armaments and a mine owner who subjected his workers to unsafe conditions. He may also be based on Morgan Edge, as the owner of Galaxy, and the Earthly liaision of Intergang, and therefore of Darkseid. This, then plays on the Darkseid plot in JLA #1, and suggests that the matchup we saw in Final Crisis that nearly ended the last DC Universe is at the forefront as we begin this one.

Morrison excels in teasing future plots, and while the main action in Action #1 concerns Sam Lane and Luthor teaming to trap Superman (as in the recently out-of-continuity Superman Secret Origin) while the threat of Intergang looms, there is more. An object entering the solar system from afar is sure to be the focus of another plot. The diction resembles that used of the kryptonite asteroid from Jeph Loeb's Superman/Batman, but this could be just about any interplanetary friend or (more likely) foe. Clark Kent's landlady has a name that suggests the Fifth Dimension. The three friends -- two men and a beautiful blonde -- visiting Clark are almost certainly the Legion of Super Heroes. And as Clark now works for an editor named Taylor, he is probably at the Daily Star, which may go out of business if it is, as stars normally are, part of Galaxy. That would mean that by taking down Glenmorgan, Superman is taking down Clark Kent's boss. And the little man turning the tables is what Action #1 was all about. Both Action #1s.