Mild Mannered Reviews - Superman by Grant Morrison Omnibus HC

Superman by Grant Morrison Omnibus Buy Now

Superman by Grant Morrison Omnibus HC

Scheduled to arrive in stores: May 25, 2021

Writers: Grant Morrison and Sholly Fisch
Artists: Rags Morales, Brad Walker, Andy Kubert
Cover: Rags Morales

Reviewed by: Craig Boehmer

The New 52 "Action Comics" was the first series that I collected month to month. I grew up, and currently reside, in a small mountain town in Western Canada. When I moved away for university I found a local comic shop, this was my first one. I saw "Action Comics #900" and I purchased it, then a few months later I heard about the reset of the DC Universe. I liked Superman so I started collecting "Action Comics". I collected all of Morrison's run and then the small story arc by Andy Diggle and Tony S Daniel. I didn't collect any of the Scot Lobdell run but started again when Greg Pak and Andy Kuder were on the book until the "Truth" storyline. I really enjoyed the first few arcs of Morrison's run on "Action Comics", but by the "Fiend from Dimension 5" arc I was craving a simpler story with more consistent art. Years later I bought the first volume of the Morrison run, it was still great. I have also reread the final arc digitally, and it was difficult. But this year for my birthday I received enough cash for a few omnibuses. So I bought the Superman by Grant Morrison Omnibus. Here is my review on the entirety of Morrison's run.

Overview: This is a tough run to summarize. Basically the villain is Mr. Mxyzptlk's rival from the 5th dimension Mr. Vyndktv. Mr. V has been attacking Superman across his life, killing his parents, lifting Luthor up to power, and trying to hurt those around him. He brings in a slew of villains to kill Superman, including Nimrod the Hunter, the K-Men, Lois's Step-Niece Susie, Drekken, Xa-Du, the Multitude, The Metalleks, and Superdoom. Additionally, Superman must also face-off against the Collector (a version of Brainiac who is trying to preserve Metropolis as Mr. V destroys Earth), Metal-Zero (a version of Metallo that the Collector uses as a henchman), Adam the Forgotten Superman, Glen Glenmorgan (a corrupt businessman), Lex Luthor, the army, and a few street level criminals. Morrison shows this Superman as a street level hero trying to correct injustices in Metropolis. This culminates in the final arc where Mr. V unleashes his Anti-Superman Army against Superman. But Clark utilizes his allies such as Krypto, Captain Comet and the Cometeers (Adam the Forgotten Superman with his intergalactic heroes), the Legion of Superheroes, Jimmy and Lois, and his landlady (Mr. M's wife Nyxlygsptlnz) to save the day.

4Story - 4: The stories in here are a wild ride. The first story arc has him fight the Collector, the second arc joins Superman with the Legion of Superheroes to save his rocket from Mr. V. Then the stories are two issue or single-issue arcs introducing different villains in the Anti-Superman Army. These are great issues that flesh out the world of Superman. We also see Clark fake his death as Nimrod gets too close to exposing his identity. This leads to a great couple of character moments where Batman helps Superman see how much good Clark's work as a reporter does for everyday people. The focus of this run is on Clark, and Superman's fight for the impoverished and repressed people of Metropolis. He exposes and brings down a corrupt businessman, he rebuilds slums, and protects children and wives from abusive men. During a memorial for Clark, Lois and Jimmy recount how he gave money to each beggar he met, and actually talked to them and knew them. Morrison's Superman works really well when he is focused on these social issues. And it is interesting to read this given the current ongoing story in "Superman: Son of Kal-El". If John knew how much Clark did for regular people, before all the intergalactic terrors took up all of his time, he may have not been so hard on him about his lack of work on Climate Change.

Something that I did not expect to see in this collection was its strong link to "Superman Reborn" from the Rebirth era. It is fitting that in Morrison's run it is acknowledged that a 5th dimensional imp stole away much of Clark's life, and it is not until Superman confronts the 5th dimensional imp Mxy, in "Superman Reborn", that it all comes back uniting the New 52 with the Post-Crisis Superman. Tomasi and Gleeson are the only writers after Morrison that really reference this run on the New 52. It is not overt, just the link with the 5th dimension. It was great to see because it really connects the two runs.

Morrison's run is ambitious to say the least. They bring in a host of villains, both new and old, for Superman to face off against. I preferred when they gave a single issue or two to introduce the villain in a battle with Superman before having them join the Anti-Superman Army. It made for a great way to characterize them prior to having them become lackeys to Mr. V. The run builds well upon itself, establishing the super threat that is on the horizon and playing with time itself. Much of the run is not strictly linear, this harms the first arc in its initial release. I was pleased to see that the omnibus altered the order of these issues. I am specifically referring to the story break at issue four, issues five and six are a different arc drawn by Andy Kubert, and then issue seven continues the previous story. It was super confusing, and disappointing when I collected it in monthlies. They made the right choice by separating them in the omnibus.

Sholly Fisch does an incredible job on the back-ups during Morrison's run. He takes a lot of Morrison's giant ideas and humanizes them. He also fleshes out the world this Superman lives in. Fisch tells beautiful short stories about the Kents trying to conceive a child right up until Clark arrives, as well as stories highlighting John Henry's work as Steel when Metropolis goes missing. There is also a tale about Calvin Ellis working as President and as Superman to topple a dangerous nuclear program. Many of his stories build the emotional connections that Morrison would depend on for the big moments in the main story. I wish Sholly had been tapped to follow Morrison on "Action Comics", we may have gotten a lot more of their ideas built upon and fleshed out. I honestly found myself most engaged when Fisch was writing than when Morrison was. That's not necessarily a knock on Morrison, it just highlights how good Fisch was at the character moments and world building.

4Art - 4: The art fluctuated significantly in quality. Some issues and designs are 5/5, others drop down to 3/5. Kubert and Walker give fantastic art every issue they come in for. Chris Sprouse provides a very simplified art form that I enjoyed for the smaller back-up issues, but don't think I would have liked for the full twenty-four pages. Criss Cross has some great work as well, but it definitely looks a little more scratchy and his character designs shift from panel to panel. Rags Morales does the bulk of the heavy lifting. His early issues are fantastic, he places a lot of emphasis on the different designs for Clark and Superman. I'd like to get into the character designs for Clark and Superman as well as some of the other characters that I noticed received significant changes.

Clark is not the polished and confident looking journalist that John Byrne's "Man of Steel" presented him as. I really liked Byrne's Clark, in design and personality. Morales' Clark works for this era. He comes across as more of a Harry Potter kind of hero. Baggy clothes, disheveled hair, and big round glasses. These three characteristics do a lot to blur any similarities he may have to Superman. He visually looks like a young outsider trying to upset the status quo, which is what he is presented as.

Superman rocks a t-shirt, blue jeans, cape, and work boots for most of the run. When my son and daughter saw Superman in this omnibus they asked, "Why does he look so weird?" I explained it was because he had just started and didn't have his suit yet. To be clear, I loved this look then and still love it now. I would love to see more of this look. Morales struggles with a consistent look to Superman's face though. In the first issue he definitely has a classic Golden Age Superman face. But this fluctuates throughout the run, and is my major criticism of Morales' work. Superman's face is wildly different, sometimes from panel to panel. Morales does a good job of creating a very youthful looking Superman, but he really needed to alter this to distinguish him from the older Superman that comes in and out of the story. This could have been accomplished by a thinner young Superman and a bulkier older Superman. Unfortunately, the first few issues have a bulkier Superman, presumably when he's younger, but then he is very skinny later both as a young hero and old. The Superman suit is ok. I don't mind the overall design of the New 52 suit. I've seen it drawn really well by Jim Lee, Kenneth Rocafort did a pretty good one, Adam Kubert was ok, and Andy Kuder did a great job. Morales doesn't do a bad job, it's just inconsistent. Things like the collar length fluctuates significantly. I think Morales really struggled with keeping a steady schedule and it really impacted his work. The art from the first few issues, which is fantastic, is very different from the latter issues.

Steel's design evolution is great over the series. But this run's design is not my favorite. I'm not sure why they didn't give him his classic look right away, I didn't like the chord look on his arms, or the single goggle over one eye.

Metal-zero looked good. The added bulk makes him more intimidating than the traditional Metallo. I wish they had included the Metallo villain's issue in this collection. Giving him a suit, rather than keeping it exactly like his human body was a cool twist. Plus, being a robotic body they could have shown an evolution into the more traditional Metallo look and character.

The Collector (Brainiac) is a wild change from the regular Brainiac. But then they routinely refer to him as the Collector and not Brainiac, except for once or twice. He is much more alien in design, and it evokes a monstrous creature from a horror movie. His first reveal is great because he is so monstrous. However, he returns later in his more traditional look. It would have been nice to have seen a story connect this arc to the later Brainiac arcs and show his transformation.

5Omnibus Cover Art - 5: Rags Morales knocks this one out of the park. An epic pose of the classic hero in a new costume. It was a great image to choose for this cover.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Except for digital first releases, the month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

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