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Cover date: July 2012
"The Curse of Superman"
Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciller: Gene Ha
Inker: Gene Ha
Writer: Sholly Fisch
Penciller: Cully Hamner
Inker: Cully Hamner
Reviewed by: Michael Bailey
After defeating Lex Luthor the Superman of Earth-23, in reality President Calvin Ellis, investigates Luthor's hideout and finds a strange machine. Suddenly a portal opens and the Lois Lane, Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen from an alternate Earth step out. Clark and Jimmy are in a bad way leaving Lois to explain that they come from an Earth where the three of them created a machine that could bring their imaginations to life. They created a being known as Superman but needed funding to keep the machine running so they sold the idea to a corporation. That corporation used the machine to create a Superman that would appeal to the public but that Superman soon turned evil. Lois, Jimmy and Clark ran across worlds, but the evil Superman followed them and destroyed the various "Supermen" of those Earths. Not surprisingly the evil Superman appears on Earth-23 and engages Calvin in battle. With the help of Lex Luthor Calvin is able to trap the evil Superman. Afterwards the Justice League arrives and investigates Luthor's machine. Lois introduces herself to Calvin and states that he must be Superman done right.
Story - 2: I have to admit that part of me was intrigued by the idea that Morrison was going to spend an issue on an alternate Earth. It seemed like an interesting idea. After I thought about it for awhile the intrigue was replaced by mild annoyance, mainly because as much as I have enjoyed what this title has had to offer ACTION COMICS has not felt focused as a title. Morrison took eight issues to set up the new Superman which would have been fine if he didn't take a two issue side trip in the middle of it that had very little to do with the main story. Everything was wrapped up last month and instead of heading to the next big adventure we are given yet another side story. Call me crazy but I want some consistency in the comics I read and the way this title is going it seems like we're going to be all over the place on a regular basis.
Taking that bit of baggage out of the equation and I still didn't care for the story all that much. While there were elements that I liked "The Curse of Superman" didn't do a whole lot for me. As I have mentioned in the past I prefer more straight ahead superhero stories and this one was anything but straight ahead. The plot itself was; evil version of Superman chases Lois, Jimmy and Clark through the multiverse and ends up on Earth-23, home of the Calvin Ellis Superman. The particulars had the kind of Morrison weirdness that I just don't care for. Clark, Lois and Jimmy created a thought machine that produced a Superman but they couldn't afford to keep the machine up so they sold the idea to a corporate entity which turned the idea of Superman into an evil one.
That's a little much for me.
Once the evil Superman's origin was revealed something started eating at me. I couldn't quite place what it was but that nagging feeling kept growing and growing and my enjoyment of the issue kept falling and falling. Then it hit me; the theme of this story is that a big, corporate entity will take the dreams of the artist and turn them into something evil and twisted. Clark, Lois and Jimmy created this pure idea of what Superman is and the corporation they sold it to turned it dark and edgy. I know I am going out on a limb here and maybe I'm putting my perceptions of the story into what Morrison was actually trying to say but I don't think it is unreasonable to believe that Morrison was making a statement on how DC Comics twisted the creation of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
Go with me for a minute; Jerry and Joe created Superman in the mid-thirties and try to sell it but it doesn't go well. Finally the idea is bought by DC for $138 and their creation is taken away and becomes a pop culture icon that the corporation exploits for financial gain but the creators got the raw end of the deal.
I'm not usually the type to read something into a story but this seems a little obvious.
If I'm wrong then I'm wrong. If I am right Morrison is using the comic to make a statement about what happened to Jerry and Joe or even about Superman as a character, which strikes me as a little disingenuous. Morrison may be a creator and a freelancer, but the money he makes comes from that evil corporation he was making a statement about.
Then again I could be wrong. Whatever the case once I saw that in the story the whole thing fell apart for me. There were elements that I still liked, such as Calvin Ellis' name and origin but between the theme of the story and the fact that this is yet another trip away from the character I actually want to read about my enjoyment of this issue just fell through. To me this is the first real clunker of the new era.
Art - 4: While Gene Ha does not have a style that I particularly care for I can still see where the art in this story is good. More importantly it fits the type of story Morrison was telling and to me that makes a real difference. I liked the design of the Earth Morrison created and it was neat to see the different versions of the classic DC characters. I have little to no complaints when it comes to the art.
President Calvin Ellis calls the President-For-Life of Quarac and informs him that the dictator's nuclear program has been completely dismantled and that sanctions are in place in case Harrat believes he can restart the program. Ellis, in reality Superman, destroyed the various facilities with the help of Nubia, the Wonder Woman of Earth-23. After issuing the threat Ellis extends an offer to become part of Ellis' Alliance of Nations much to Nubia's surprise. When the conversation is over Nubia and Calvin talk about what they just did and Nubia points out that as Superman Ellis is powerful but as President he may be even more powerful. She asks a simple question; what happens when the people no longer support what Ellis believes is the right thing to do?
Story - 3: This story was well written and I enjoyed it for the most part. What I didn't care for was the political subtext. Sometimes a writer can slip it in subtly but with this story it is in your face the entire time. Having said that the final question Nubia asked made the story worthwhile because it does call into question what Calvin had done. Without that final question the story is preachy. With it the story becomes a conversation starter. So while I didn't like that the political stuff was there I did like what Sholly did with it.
Art - 4: I am a big fan of Cully Hamner, so it was nice to see his name in the credits. Cully didn't disappoint either. The storytelling was very clear and I liked how you could see President-For-Life Harrat's expression go from supreme confidence to defeat over the course of the conversation. I dig seeing that sort of thing in comic book art. More than anything the art fit the story, which means this issue is 2 for 2 when it comes to the artwork.
Cover Art - 4: I have no issues with this cover. It has the iconic shirt rip with an alternate Superman. I love that sort of thing and the color effects were really well done.
Variant Cover Art - 4: This cover is fine if not a little stiff. The character looks good, though, so I can't criticize it too much.
Variant Cover Art - 3 (Black and White): This cover was a surprise because normally I prefer the black and white variant. This time, however, I can't say that. The art on this cover looks like it was designed to have all of the coloring effects put in that were on the main cover, so it doesn't have the life that the previous black and white covers had. Still, the art is neat and the shirt rip is iconic so again I can't complain too much.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2012.