A new Superman in town.
There's a new Superman in town, and he's ... OK.
When DC Comics relaunched the titles that make up its superhero universe last year, they took the opportunity to retool the Man of Steel a bit. "Action Comics" started over with a new first issue, showing Superman in his earliest days -- which, in this new universe, is five years ago. ("Superman" began again, too, but set in the present day.)
And in a stroke of brilliance, DC hired Grant Morrison to write "Action Comics." Morrison is famous for gigantic, mind-blowing concepts and ideas. He's the author of one of the best Superman stories ever written, "All-Star Superman." He's also a Scotsman who penned the instant classic "Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God From Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human."
And at first it seemed we were heading for something memorable. I raved about last September's "Action Comics" No. 1 on my website, which gave us a Superman reminiscent of his 1938 debut -- a man "only" as powerful as a locomotive, one who jumped instead of flew, with New Deal ideals and a passion for fighting on behalf of the common man.
So I was looking forward to the first collection, out this month. "Superman: Action Comics Volume 1 -- Superman and the Men of Steel" ($24.99) collects the first eight issues of the new "Action Comics." And, for better or worse, it was not what I expected.
Which is perhaps my own fault. I was so surprised -- and pleased -- to see a Superman with an attitude that I wanted the emphasis on that concept to continue. Not just because I also tend to side with the underdog, but because it's bold, it's brash and it's courageous storytelling -- things you haven't been able to say about the Superman books for a long time. Like it or loathe it, this Superman was feisty, with an edge.
But that turned out to be an element of the story, not the focus. Instead, subsequent issues of "Action Comics" went about the business of building major, and familiar, components of Superman's world. Morrison keeps to the core of elements like Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, the Daily Planet, Lex Luthor and kryptonite, but retools some of the details for the 21st century.
As to the art, I'm a big fan of artist Rags Morales, who brings not only tremendous talent and skill to the page, but deep thought to the concepts.
This is an excellent update to the Man of Steel, especially compared with other such attempts. "Action Comics" is more imaginative and entertaining on almost every level.
So call it the prejudice of high expectations. When you attach the name Grant Morrison to Superman, I expect to have my brain blown out the back of my head. But "Action Comics Volume 1" is "only" a terrific comics collection full of action, humor and high concept.