THE NEW 52, Week 2:
Action Comics #1
"You know the deal, Metropolis. Treat people right or expect a visit from me."
With those two sentences, Grant Morrison seals the deal. He has begun writing the second greatest Superman story ever told – right after his own All-Star Superman. Because make no mistake, as much as we older readers didn't think we needed a reboot, this back to basics Action Comics #1 is everything Superman should be about.
Having just finished reading Morrison's book Supergods last night, I can see how this story throbs with Morrison's belief about writing comics. He seeks to inspire, to offer readers hope, and he believes there is no better way to do it than to do right by Superman.
And all of that is here.
This Superman is stripped down to what Siegel and Shuster first envisioned, but plopped down in 2006, or maybe 2002 or so. Young, idealistic and absolutely about fighting for the little guy, this Superman has not earned the trust of the powers that be, but the people on the street love him.
As Clark Kent, he's also of the street, living in the poorer section of Metropolis, nicknamed Hob's Bay. Why? Because he's a reporter trying to make ends meet during the "death of journalism," and very clearly still dedicated to the power of good reporting. Both halves of his existence are about truth, justice and the American way.
He hasn't come fully into his powers yet. General Sam Lane commiserates with young genius Lex Luthor that in the six months since his first public appearance, this alien has only gotten stronger and better with his abilities.
Even those go back to the beginning; Morrison and his collaborator Rags Morales demonstrate them all. See Superman leap tall buildings in a single bound, with a tactic closer to his Dark Knight buddy's way of doing things. Every time the police surround him, he notes, one of them has to see if it's true what the Daily Planet says about him – is he faster than a speeding bullet? And oh, yes, he is more powerful than a locomotive, or a bullet train if you feel the need to update for the 21st Century.
The full cast gets nods, though in this first issue they're not quite fully formed. Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane work for the Planet but apparently Clark is over at the Daily Star and working for George Taylor instead of Perry White. Somehow, Clark and Jimmy have become good friends across an age difference of only a few years.
Of course, there's Lex Luthor, portrayed by Morales with a vaguely reptilian look. With Morrison's words, however, Luthor does seem almost reasonable in his hatred for Superman. Though he might be a little intense for General Lane's tastes, it's understandable how Lane could fall in with Luthor without compromising his own sense of duty and justice.
It's complex and yet so simple, dynamically laid out by Morales in a way that draws the eyes from panel to panel and back again because his work is just so gorgeous. This is the book to reboot the New 52, appropriate for readers of all ages without losing a bit of intensity.
It worked for me, Mr. Morrison. I'm inspired again. And I can only hope that there's a book in the rest of the line from DC even half as good as this one.