Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Action Comics #2

Action Comics #2

Cover date: July 1938

Writer: Jerry Siegel
Artist: Joe Shuster

Reviewed by: Micah Nichols

Action Comics #2 starts off by filling in the blank left by the cliffhanger ending of Action Comics #1. To get you up to speed, In Action Comics #1 Senator Barrows was influenced by a crooked lobbyist named Alex Greer to pass a bill putting the U.S. at war with Europe. Superman captures Alex Greer and takes him on an unpleasant "joyride" hopping from building to building scaring the living daylights out of him.

In the first frame of Action Comics #2 we see Superman carrying Alex Greer under one arm heading down eighty stories. After striking the pavement causing it to crack and send fragments flying we see Superman push the idea of more of this harsh torture. "Say! Wasn't that fun? - Let's do it again!" Alex Greer responds with, "No! I'll talk! - The man behind the threatening war is Emil Norvell, the munitions magnate. You'll find him at his Lexington Park Estate!" Superman leaps to the top of the Washington monument to get his bearings and immediately dashes to Norvell's estate.

Meanwhile, Alex Greer gives Norvell a call tipping him off to Superman's surprise visit. "I can't explain over the phone Norvell, but you're about to receive a visit from the most dangerous man alive!" "Don't worry Greer! - I'll take certain precautions to make sure he doesn't remain alive long!"

After five minutes Superman steps through Norvell's window calmly confronting him. "Whether you like it or not Norvell, you're coming with me!" Norvell responds to Superman by telling him that he has "other plans" while simultaneously pressing a secret button behind him. Superman presses him "What are you holding behind you! Give it to me!" Norvell shouts out to his gang "All right boys! - He asked for it! Let him have it!!"

Instantly, several wall panels slide open and Superman is attacked with machine guns by a number of armed guards! Ignoring the bullets, Superman dashes at his "would be" murderers. One of the guards shouts "Good heavens! HE WON'T DIE!" Superman responds with "Glad I can't say the same for you!" A moment later, the guards are flying head first out the window with the machine guns wrapped tightly around their necks. As Superman confronts Norvell he says, "You see how effortlessly I crush this bar of iron in my hands? - That bar could just as easily be your neck!... Now, for the last time! Are you coming with me?" Norvell responds with "Yes! Yes! Immediately!"

Several minutes later Superman brings Norvell to a dock. "You see that steamer? It's the Baronta. Tomorrow, it leaves for San Monte. Unless I find you aboard it when it sails, I swear I'll follow you to whatever hole you hide in, and tear out your cruel heart with my bare hands!" Norvell states frantically that he will be on board.

The next day we see that both Lois and Clark are aboard the Baronta. This surprises Clark. "LOIS! Why, what are you doing here?" "Our Editor decided to have me accompany you to the war-zone and send back dispatches colored with my distinctive feminine touch!" In the next few frames we see several suspicious persons, including a group of sullen faced toughs who possibly intend to enlist with one of the armies as paid mercenaries, a woman of mystery named Lola Cortez who is an exotic beauty who fairly radiates danger and intrigue, and finally we see a pasty faced Emil Norvell who hurries up the gang-plank and quickly confines himself to his cabin. Half an our later the Baronta leaves port.

As Norvell nervously paces in his cabin he hears a knock at the door. When he opens it he sees none other than Superman! "YOU!" "Yes - I thought I'd compliment you on having had sense enough to show up!" Shortly after Superman departs we see Norvell giving orders to a hit-man to kill Superman. The hit-man seems confident that Superman is as good as dead. As Wuperman is gazing at the moonlight he whirls suddenly at the sound of footsteps. The hit-man, not alone, shouts "all together now - Get Him!" Superman braces himself against the rail, but it breaks sending him into the ocean. The thugs report back to Norvell who tells them they will get nothing and that they better keep their mouths shut or he would report them to the police. Superman swims up to the Baronta, but instead of boarding, he swims past it.

The next evening Norvell is attacked by his double crossed henchmen, but he is saved when Superman arrives. Superman shouts, "Here's where I settle a little score!" Superman gives the toughs the most severe thrashing of their lives, sending them in every direction. Norvell asks Superman why he saved him. Superman responds with "because the fate you escaped is pleasant indeed compared to the one I have in store for you." Norvell asks what Superman is going to do to him, Superman says, "Nothing, if you join the San Monte army!" In his own room, Norvell decides that he'll join the army, but that he'll escape at the first opportunity. After Norvell enlists he notices that Superman has also enlisted! Superman puts the word in with the sergeant to have his men moved to the front lines. Norvell asks if he's trying to get them both killed, but Superman says, "You'll see!"

Superman asks Norvell why he manufactures munitions when it means that thousands will die horribly. Norvell says that munitions are expensive and that men are cheap! At that moment a shell bursts overhead causing all the soldier to drop flat to avoid danger. "This is no place for a sane man, I'll die!" "I see! When it's your OWN life at stake, your viewpoint changes!" Shortly the soldiers retire to camp. Meanwhile sentries are puzzled by a dark shadow in the sky, passing it off as a bird. Superman speeds through the sky to a strange rendezvous.

Two men in charge in the enemy camp are speaking. "But the question is general, how strong are our lines?" "Impenetrable!" At that same moment Superman bursts into their tent taking their picture and easily escaping. Later that evening Clark Kent mails a package to Cleveland, Ohio ultimately leading to the front page of the evening news displaying the pictures Superman took.

Meanwhile Lois Lane and Lola Cortez have registered at the same hotel. "I'm a reporter down here on a news assignment, and you?" "A wealthy traveler." At that same moment, soldiers enter the hotel and state that they are there on official business. Lola, panicky, darts into an elevator and hides a document in Lois' room. The guards are given permission to search the hotel and find nothing in Lola's room, but find the document in Lois' room. She is sentenced to death at dawn for espionage!

Kent hears that Lois is to be executed and immediately goes to her rescue. Just as the soldiers pull the trigger Superman jumps in the way of danger. Superman swoops up Lois and takes her with him into the midst of a torturer's inquisition. Superman interrupts the torturer, lifts him up telling him that he's giving him the fate he deserves and hurls him out of sight. Untying the captives' bonds Superman says "You're free to flee! - Good luck!"

After depositing Lois near the Baronta, Superman advises Lois to go back to America. "But when will I see you again?" "Who knows perhaps tomorrow, perhaps never!" Superman heads back to his detachment to attend to Norvell, but he sights anti aircraft guns booming along the way as the camp is being attacked by a blood thirsty aviator. Superman leaps to the plane in a head on crash damaging its propeller sending the plan to earth. Norvell, seeing the crash, shouts "Good! That finishes my nemesis!" At that same instant Norvell is surprised to see that Superman is still alive!

Norvell begs Superman to let him return to the US. Superman says he can as long as he quits manufacturing munitions. After sending Norvell on his way Superman kidnaps both army's Commanders and tells them that he's decided to end this war himself by having them both fight it out one on one. They say, "Why should we fight we're not angry with one another?" "Then why are your armies battling?" After realizing that the war was taking place simply to sell munitions the war is halted. When Kent gets back to his editor he's told, "Since you've been gone there's been no Superman news, maybe he's retired for good!" "Somehow Chief, I've a hunch he'll make his appearance again soon!"

5Story - 5: Action Comics #1 did a great job of setting up the story for this issue which turned out to be a lot more than expected. It seemed that the issue was going to be about Alex Greer, but he turns out to be nothing more than the lead in to an excellent story. Superman was ruthless throughout the issue to make his point. The Superman of the Golden Age is very similar to the Superman seen in DC's "New 52" comic boos, but he is also incredibly different. I'm not quite sure if I'm right on this, but I think he even killed all the men that Norvell got to attack him with machine guns. It sure sounded like they died. As Superman fans we always hear that Superman is "over powered," but in the early days, although incredibly powerful, he is obviously powered down. The most interesting part is that we see that Superman stops a war in a very human way. He doesn't kill the commanders, but just gets them to see how they are being used for someone's personal gain. Interesting to see him settle the war in such a non violent way in contrast to how he was during the entire issue.

3Art - 3: I would give the art a higher score, but it is very primitive. Some of the frames look like a young child drew them. That wasn't consistent throughout, but it was obvious to see that Shuster was just getting started. Some of the panels looked very rushed. When I look at a Superman comic, the "S" says it all. In this issue the "S" isn't saying much, sometimes Shuster doesn't even bother drawing it. It's just gone. That letter hadn't gained its importance just yet.

Cover Art: Unfortunately this issue of Action Comics did not feature a Superman cover, as Action Comics was a collection of different stories.

Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews



  • Superman #76 (May/June 1952) - “The Mightiest Team in the World”
  • Superman #80 (January/February 1953) - “Superman's Lost Brother”
  • Superman 3D (1953) - “The Man Who Stole the Sun”, “Origin of Superman” and “The Man Who Bossed Superman”
  • Superman #87 (February 1954) - “The Prankster's Greatest Role”
  • Superman #88 (March 1954) - “The Terrible Trio”
  • Superman #89 (May 1954) - “Captain Kent the Terrible”, “Superman of Skid Row”, and “One Hour to Doom!”
  • Superman #91 (August 1954) - “The Superman Stamp” and “Great Caesar's Ghost”
  • World's Finest #88 (May/June 1957) - “Superman and Batman's Greatest Foes”
  • Superman #115 (August 1957) - “The Midget Superman!”
  • Superboy #65 (May/June 1958) - “The Amazing Adventures of Krypto Mouse”
  • Action Comics #242 (July 1958) - “The Super-Duel in Space”
  • Superman #123 (August 1958) - “The Girl of Steel”
  • Superman #127 (February 1959) - “Titano the Super Ape”
  • Action Comics #252 (May 1959) - “The Menace of Metallo” and “The Supergirl From Krypton”
  • Superman #129 (May 1959) - “The Girl in Superman's Past”
  • Superman #130 (July 1959) - “The Curse of Kryptonite!”, “The Super-Servant of Crime!”, and “The Town that Hated Superman!”
  • Jimmy Olsen #40 (October 1959) - “Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl's Pal”




Compilation Volumes


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