Cover date: August 2012
"Clark Kent is Dead" - Part 1: "Bulletproof"
Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciller: Rags Morales
Inker: Rick Bryant
Writer: Sholly Fisch
Reviewed by: Michael Bailey
Nimrod the hunter tracks Superman to the Kent Farm and then to Metropolis. At the same time Clark changes to Superman and leaves Metropolis to track down a child killer. Afterwards he switches from his T-shirt look to his armored suit and attends a meeting of the Justice League where he makes the suggestion that they should do something about the injustice to the common man that is going on in the world. The League shoots him down. Later he changes back to Clark and spends some time with Lois and Jimmy as Nimrod stalks him through the city.
A hooded figure named Adam takes control of a truck driver. He rides with the trucker into Metropolis and tells the driver that he has come home to assume control of the planet of his birth.
As Lois, Jimmy and Clark head to a meet and greet lunch with Perry White, a man with a bomb strapped to his chest heads toward the Daily Star building. The bomb goes off and Clark is supposedly killed. Nimrod arrives at Clark's apartment and is quite distressed to hear that Kent has been killed. He is confronted by Superman and tries to kill the Man of Steel. Superman uses his heat vision on Nimrod's gun, which explodes and damages Nimrod's face.
Later, in the hospital, Nimrod is approached by a bespectacled man who tells the injured hunter that he can be part of an army against Superman. All Nimrod needs to do is make a deal.
Story - 5: Yeah, I gave it a five. After a few months of being hot and cold towards ACTION COMICS this issue put a big, ol' smile on my face. It was such a solid issue and I enjoyed it from beginning to end with only the mildest of quibbles here and there.
Death of Clark Kent stories are nothing new to Superman. While I can't point to specific issue numbers and story titles I am fairly sure there were a few stories, imaginary or otherwise, where Clark died or supposedly died in the Silver Age. I am most familiar with the Death of Clark Kent storyline that was kicked off in SUPERMAN (Vol. 2) #100 back in 1995 and I rather like that story even though it and the villain of the piece (Conduit) take a lot of heat. There's also "That Old Gang of Mine" which was the seventh episode from the second season of LOIS & CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN. That was a terrible episode and was not only a waste of the name Emil Hamilton but also had the worst explanation for how Clark could come back from the dead after being shot by the clone of John Dillinger.
(For those interested Clark comes back at the end of the episode and, if memory serves, explains that Superman cloned him using Emil Hamilton's equipment. The fact that this is never talked about again is probably for the best as it was an awful, awful idea.)
All of that is a fancy way of saying that like most elements of the Superman mythos that Morrison has played with this plotline is nothing new. The thing about any character that has been around for nearly three quarters of a century is that themes and stories are going to be repeated, so if you follow a character for any length of time or go back and read most of that character's adventures you are going to notice when this happens. This sort of thing used to bother me but as time has gone on and I've gotten a little older I have come to the conclusion that bringing back an old idea isn't a bad thing as long as the writer makes it work and in this case Morrison has definitely made it work.
There were a few legitimate surprises at the beginning of this issue. The first was seeing that while Morrison wrapped up the big budget, sci-fi, Silver Age type story a few issues ago he hasn't completely abandoned the champion of the week and oppressed angle. Seeing Clark go after the child killer made for a serious, "You're not fighting a woman now!" moment. Morrison completely switched gears by having Clark keep the killer's hamsters and bringing them to a Justice League meeting. It was quirky and endearing at the same time. The scene with the League furthered the idea that while he is apparently wearing two different costumes Superman still wants to help the common man. The debate with the League was well balanced and brought up a number of good points. Which brings me to...
Quibble #1: I hated that Morrison had Batman say that one day they are going to have to bring Superman down. I don't know if this was foreshadowing or just another example that Batman is obnoxiously paranoid. Apparently Morrison has been reading some Silver Age FANTASTIC FOUR because Reed Richards was constantly worried about the various members of the Four turning against humanity for no good reason.
It was nice to see Mrs. N again too. I rather like her as a supporting character.
The scene with Lois, Jimmy and Clark was solid as well. It is nice to see these characters just hanging out and the Lois presented here is more in line with the Lois I want to read about. This scene gave Clark's "death" later in the issue more weight because we see that there are people that care about him. Speaking of Clark's death...
Quibble #2: It was disappointing that Clark's death didn't have anything to do with Nimrod coming to Metropolis. The solicits for this issue led me to believe that Clark's death and Nimrod's appearance had something to do with each other but this was not the case. I can't blame the story for this because it is unfair to blame a story for my perceptions of the marketing for the issue. Even though I can't blame Morrison for this minor annoyance it does lead to...
Quibble (more major than minor) #3: Because Nimrod's appearance and Clark's death have nothing to do with each other this issue feels very random. Nimrod tracks Clark to Metropolis and hits town the very same day the suicide bombing supposedly kills the good Mr. Kent? That's very odd. It doesn't detract from my enjoyment of the issue but at the same time it did bug me a little.
Despite the randomness of his appearance in this issue Nimrod turned out to be more interesting than I had expected. I thought he was going to be a two-dimensional villain but the fact that his first encounter with Superman turned out so poorly for him was great. The scene in Clark's apartment was fantastic and a good page turning moment. The last page was a great way to end this story and has me excited about what is coming up in the book.
Oh, there was a neat little Easter egg right before Clark gets "killed". There is a theater shown in the background that is playing a movie or play called A House Above the World that stars Gregory Reed and Keira Knightly. Gregory Reed was a mainstay in the Bronze Age as the actor that plays Superman in the movies made about the Man of Steel on Earth-1.
So despite the smallish problems I had with the story I was very satisfied with it. If Morrison can keep up this sort of storytelling and world building and lay off the interludes this title would definitely be on the right track.
One more thing: There was a tease during the scene with Clark, Lois and Jimmy about a Superman that was around before Clark took the name. We even got a scene with a trucker picking up a man named Adam. There has been some teasing in the solicits about a proto-Superman and I have to admit that I have been curious who that character was going to be. Looking at the costume and seeing the name Adam I wouldn't be surprised if this first Superman turns out to be the revamped, New 52 version of Captain Comet, a character from the Silver Age that has appeared off and on in the DCU for years. If I am right then I am not surprised. This seems like something Morrison would do.
Art - 4: It was nice to see Morales and Bryant back on this book. I wish they could keep a more regular schedule so that ACTION could have a more consistent artistic look but I've made that point again and again in a variety of places so there is no need to go into it again here beyond this sentence. It was interesting see Morales' take on the Justice League and I especially liked his Wonder Woman.
I have to wonder if Morales prefers to draw the T-shirt costume over the armored look. Sure we saw the armored suit in the Justice League scene but for the most part Morales (and Morrison most likely) had him in the older outfit. I guess I was working under the assumption that the T-shirt look was gone, hence the surprise. Still, I am not disappointed that both looks are being featured. It's neat to see that Clark changes his look between his Champion of the Oppressed work and his Saving The World With The Other Super-Heroes work.
Overall the art was solid, as usual with very few elements to complain about.
Clark's friends, including Jimmy, Lois and George Taylor, eulogize Clark at a reporter's bar. Afterwards Superman watches Jimmy and Lois from a nearby rooftop. He overhears them talk about the fact that it would have been nice for Clark to hear how much his fellow reporters respected him.
Story - 5: Once again Sholly Fisch fills in the more character driven elements of the overall story. This was a solidly written piece. While Jimmy's story was great it was Lois' eulogy that really got to me. The Lois presented here feels more in line with the Lois we are seeing over in SUPERMAN than the one we have seen in the Morrison written stories, though to be fair Lois was really solid in the main story from this issue, but I went into that in the first part of this review. More than anything it is great to see that we are back to Clark being respected by his fellow reporters and editors instead of being... well, what Geoff Johns had turned him into right around the time of the Legion storyline from a few years ago. George Taylor's eulogy filled in some of the details of how Clark came to work for the Daily Star and gave a little more heft to the new backstory. I also really liked the moment at the end where Perry White and George Taylor shake hands. That was neat.
Art - 5: Cafu's art is amazing throughout this story. The coloring gives it a dreamy sort of look and you can feel the emotion the characters are feeling. Superman looked really good at the end of the episode as well. I have absolutely no complaints about the art in this back-up.
Cover Art - 4: Hey, a shirt rip! Awesome.
This is a very effective cover. Someone has Superman in his sights and the red coloring sells that effect.
Variant Cover Art - 4: At first I thought this shot of Superman in the T-shirt costume was an example of a variant cover having nothing to do with the story but it turns out I was wrong about that. In any case this is a solid looking Superman cover. It is another example of a classic Superman pose in the new costume.
Variant Cover Art - 4 (Black and White): This is a rare example of the black and white cover losing something with the lack of color. The reason the main cover works so well is the red tinge to the image. With that gone this image feels like it is lacking something essential.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2012.