I can already predict a fan backlash to Action Comics #1. I’m sure a lot of readers are going to be miffed by Grant Morrison‘s take on Superman, mainly because he doesn’t seem like his usual boy-scout self. Instead, he makes pithy comments and occasionally seems like a bully. The Superman we’re used to usually exists in one of three modes: kind, determined or condescending. He comforts civilians, devotes himself to saving lives, and usually admonishes the bad guy with a lecture. We rarely see Superman appearing indignant, or angry, or fed up with having to put himself out to come to the rescue. That’s how he appears in Action Comics #1.
I’m not here to disparage against Action Comics in any way. This is the part of the relaunch I’m happiest about. I would say if anything Superman needed to change. He’s always been a popular character, but I feel that he–in the last 10 years–hasn’t been as popular as he deserved to be. Comic book fans have been herding more towards edgier characters, explaining people’s recent obsessions with Batman and Deadpool. While Superman couldn’t possibly be as dark or edgy as some of the other characters, he could be given more of an emotional range, which is what Grant’s doing here.
I’d like to point out too that Superman’s “change” perhaps isn’t as dramatic as people might make it out to be. Grant’s take on the character is similar to the Golden Age Revival technique James Robinson used with Starman. He’s taking Superman back to his roots.
If you read the early issues of Action comics and Superman from the 40s to the 50s, you’ll see those comics were quite different from what we read today. One big difference is that Superman didn’t fight super-villains on a regular basis, especially not villains from outer space or different dimensions. Superman was a working man’s hero. He set out to fight social injustice. A lot of the villains he faced were robbers, quack doctors, or some sort of defrauders.
Here, he returns as a friend to the working man. It begins with him taking on the rich and corrupt, then befriends some working class people nearby. If that’s not enough, he appears in jeans.
I realize there’s a lot of new #1 comics out, but this is one that you should make a point to pick up. I had to go to two comic book stores yesterday to get it. Worth it.
Read other issue reviews.
If you like Action Comics #1, you may also like Superman: For Tomorrow.