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Mild Mannered Reviews - Action Comics

Action Comics #3 Action Comics #3

Action Comics #3

Scheduled to arrive in stores: November 2, 2011

Cover date: January 2012

"World Against Superman"

Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciller: Rags Morales and Gene Ha
Inker: Rick Bryant and Gene Ha

Michael Bailey Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Click to enlarge

Action Comics #3 On Krypton Jor-El discovers that an alien consciousness is threatening Kandor and sends a warning to his wife, Lara and baby Kal-El escapes but the consciousness succeeds in copying Krypton's database and preserving certain artifacts. This turns out to be a dream Clark Kent is having and after being woken and interrogated by Inspector Blake his landlady hands him back his Superman costume which she had previously hidden from the police. Later Jimmy tries to convince Clark to come to the Daily Planet but Clark remains loyal to the Daily Star.

Over an unspecified amount of time Clark talks to his mysterious source, Superman saves a little girl from getting hit by a truck, the public turns on Superman and Clark tells the picture of his Ma and Pa that he is so sorry and that he tried. Later Clark interviews the owner of the Factory of Tomorrow when Lois and Jimmy show up to do the very same thing. Just as Lois and Clark are about to argue over this the same consciousness that "preserved" Krypton starts speaking through the various machines that have now come to life. Elsewhere John Corben is fitted into the Steel Soldier armor but soon he is also taken over by the consciousness that wants one thing... Superman!

3Story - 3: My first thought upon opening this issue was, "Hey! The new version of Krypton. Sweet!" I, like many of my fellow Superman fans, was curious as to what was in store for us regarding the planet of Superman's birth. Krypton is an essential part of the Superman mythology. Where he comes from and what that world was like is just as important as what Smallville (which we still haven't seen) and Metropolis are like. They shape the character even if that shaping is subtle.

The look of the new Krypton I go into in the Art section of this review. The feel? Well, it was something I would expect from Grant Morrison. I don't mean that as a shot either. Morrison has his own style and what I liked about his take on Krypton is that it felt very much like the Silver Age version but taken in a different direction. If you have read any of the various retellings of Superman's origin from the fifties and sixties you know that whenever the writer established Krypton he (or she if that is the case) always put in some throwaway dialogue coming from the citizens of that planet. Maybe it was a couple elders discussing the abilities they would have on Earth. Maybe it was a mother complaining that her first grader has not mastered calculus. I actually get a chuckle out of those panels because the writer seems to be going out of his or her way to tell the reader, "These people are so much smarter and more advanced than us."

Morrison does something similar here but he uses the dialogue to show how decadent and haughty the people of Krypton are. Lara is trying to get them to safety because her husband has learned that Kandor is in danger and they all talk as if Jor-El is crazy and they honestly believe that nothing bad will happen to them. It speaks volumes for what these people are like and much like John Byrne's version we get a Krypton that kind of deserved to blow up.

More than anything the opening scene was exciting. I am assuming we are seeing the new version of Brainiac taking Kandor but instead of just physically taking the city it seems like he is, through his Terminauts (a very Morrison-y name), is copying the planet's database and preserving significant artifacts. This reminds me of SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES but is different enough that it doesn't feel like a direct lift.

I think that is why I like the new ACTION COMICS and Morrison's take on Superman more than what Geoff Johns did with the character. There are lifts and references but nothing is specific. When the crystal Fortress of Solitude showed up at the end of "Up, Up and Away" (the storyline that kicked off the post-INFINITE CRISIS Superman era) I was put off because I had already seen that take on the Fortress and, to a large extent, that take on Krypton. I wanted something new that might have call backs to the past but was trying to give a new audience its version of Superman and his world. Morrison is, with one or two exceptions, doing just that.

Outside of a complete lack of any scene transitions I found a lot to like about this issue. The post Krypton scene in Clark's apartment had a lot going for it and I especially liked the fact that his landlady covered for him. The scene with Jimmy was solid as well. I like that Clark is remaining loyal to the Daily Star and Mr. Taylor because he took Clark seriously. I dig the fact that Clark, like Lex, has a secret partner feeding him information and I am hoping that the contact turns out to be John Henry Irons. The final scene with Metallo was a great way to end the issue because it not only tied into the opening scene but it improved on what Geoff Johns had done with John Corben in SECRET ORIGIN. I like the idea that Corben wasn't a potential stalker for Lois but more a guy that had a thing for her that led him to make a really bad choice that, in this version, cost him his heart and possibly his humanity. There is a lot more subtlety to that over a guy that turns his back on everything he swore to defend because he's a jerk.

I also felt really bad for Clark in the one panel where he is talking to the picture of Ma and Pa. For one thing it was nice to get some recognition that they were important to him, which surprised me given Morrison's "setting free" comments from the previous issue. For another thing it shows that Clark was doing what he was doing because of the lessons his adoptive parents taught him. At least that is what I took away from the scene. Sure it was a moment of doubt and I have been on the record that once Superman puts on the outfit he should have things figured out. Still, it kind of worked here and may turn out to be a good exception to my normal rule on how Superman should be presented.

This issue was not without its share of problems. I continue to not like Lois Lane in this title. She is coming off as shallow and that is not Lois Lane, at least to me. There is a difference between giving someone a friendly hard time and telling someone that they look like something a pig wouldn't hold down. To me that was cruel and unnecessary and hurts Lois as a character. The other L.L. in the issue, Lex Luthor, was mishandled too. I don't like the idea of a Lex that would capitulate to an alien invader, even if he has been working with said invader. With all of Lex's comments about how Superman is an alien it seems weird that he would distrust Superman but want to work with this other entity and look happy doing it. Neither of these mischaracterizations ruined the issue for me but it did knock my grade down a bit.

4Art - 4: The decision to have the Krypton sequences drawn by another artist was a good one. I am not suggesting that Rags Morales would have turned in sub-par work. Not by a long shot. I just liked the idea that the flashback/dream sequence looked different than the scenes taking place in the present. Overall I really like this take on Krypton. It is kind of weird actually. On one hand the designs feel like the Krypton of today just like the Krypton of the sixties and seventies fit that era and the Krypton of the Post Crisis era fit that time period. On the other hand it looks like Gene Ha used elements of the various Kryptons for his designs. No matter the case I truly like what I see. A lot.

The rest of the issue was a bit wonky. Clark looked off throughout his first scene in the apartment and was not consistent from panel to panel. I wasn't all that thrilled with Lois either. She looked...I can't really describe it. Actually I can but this is a family friendly site and coming right out and writing what I am currently thinking might not fly around here. Let's just say Lois looks like she has been experimenting with controlled illegal substances and leave it at that. The issue wasn't a total wash when it comes to the art. The overall story telling was strong and I liked the design of the Metallo armor quite a bit. It's the specifics that bothered me but I really liked the Krypton sequence so overall the issue gets a four on the artwork.

4Cover Art - 4: I like this cover quite a bit. The composition is neat, there is no unnecessary coloring or blurring effects and I feel bad for Superman. For some reason my eye keeps getting drawn to the bottle on the right hand side. It accentuates the fact that this crowd has turned against the champion of the weak and the oppressed.

5Variant Cover Art - 5 (Gene Ha): I absolutely love this cover. As I mention in the Art section I love the new designs for Krypton and this variant shows what the (for the moment) modern Jor-El, Lara and Krypto look like. To me this is the best kind of variant cover. It is still on point with the story and isn't just a pin-up of Superman.

5Variant Cover Art - 5 (Black and White): As with the previous two issues I actually like this one better than the standard cover because the lack of color shows how tight the artwork is. Now if I could only get one of these variants for myself.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2012

February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012

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