Book Review | Superman – Action Comics, Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel (Action Comics Vol. II #1) by Grant Morrison

Book Review | Superman – Action Comics, Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel (Action Comics Vol. II #1) by Grant MorrisonI’m not typically a reader of comic books. But Grant Morrison could almost persuade me to become one.

I came home from knee surgery to find myself bored, drugged, and distracted. Somehow, I ended up with a copy of Morrison’s treatment of Superman in this renumbering of the Action Comics line (as a comics novice, I have almost no idea what that means, but it sounds good, and it was in the summary on Goodreads…). Superman has always been my favorite super hero, from the time I would, as a five-year old, stuff the edges of a red blanket in my shirt and zoom around the house channeling Christopher Reeve’s version, fighting off the villainous Lex Luther and making the world safe. He’s a man who is unequivocally good, typifying the Platonic ideal of the word, and yet is conflicted as the last of his race, alone on Earth, motivated by pure, unselfish intentions instead of desires for fame, glory, or wealth.

Yes, that can seem a bit superficial alongside more nuanced characters like Bruce Wayne/Batman, in the DC universe, or perhaps Tony Stark/Iron Man, in the Marvel. And yet, it’s the need for an ideal that appeals to me. Yes, he’s practically invulnerable, can fly, shoots lasers from his eyes (or heat rays?), has ultrasonic hearing and x-ray vision…but for kryptonite (and I never can figure out how every villain manages to get their hands on any of the stuff, given how far Krypton is from Earth, but whatever), he’s practically a god–which is a big part of the critique Lex Luther, played by Kevin Spacey, levies at him in Superman Returns, and that looks to be a part of the upcoming Superman v. Batman film starring James Cavill and Ben Affleck. That’s morally problematic, in a world where God is invisible and man must rely on faith to find deity. Instead comes this interloper, this god-like…super man, who we happen to call Superman, even against his better wishes…

So, there’s a case to be made that Superman is more complex than on first glance. It doesn’t hurt that a major part of his ethos is a moral strength as powerful as his physical prowess. All super powers aside, Clark Kent–Kal-El–is every bit as good a person as he is powerful. It’s this moral simplicity, and the greater challenge of avoiding the corruption of ultimate power, that makes Superman resonate with me. He is a good person with great power in a corrupt world. How will he respond?

All this is a really long way to get to Grant Morrison’s Superman – Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel (The New 52), which I much enjoyed, in my loopy, drugged up state. Heck, I think I caught myself crying–and I totally blame the drugs, again.

But seriously, it was fun trip back to visit my younger self, to find someone capturing the essence of who Superman was when I was young, before the world became more gray. Here was a young Clark Kent, just arrived in Metropolis, still wearing t-shirts and Levis as he zips around the city helping the helpless and fighting the perps. It’s a different America that he portrays than what we often see in the pages of the newspaper today, but one that still exists, if we look for it and become a part of it.

I look forward to reading the others in the series, hoping that Grant, and his fellow writers, can keep up the quality work.

Superman – Action Comics, Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel Book Cover Superman – Action Comics, Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel
Superman Action Comics (Book 1)
Grant Morrison
DC Comics
August 7, 2012

DC Comics took a bold step and renumbered the longest-running monthly comic, Action Comics, to #1 for the first time since 1938 as part of the DC Comics—The New 52 event.

With this renumbering comes a new creative team featuring comics legend Grant Morrison and fan-favorite artist Rag Morales. While Morrison is no stranger to writing the Superman character, having won three Eisner Award's for his work on All-Star Superman, Action Comics will be something new for both old and new readers and present humanity's first encounters with Superman, before he became one of the World's Greatest Super Heroes. Set a few years in the past, it's a bold new take on a classic hero.

Superman: Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel includes issues 1-8 of the monthly series

About Daniel

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. He reads about history, politics, and current events, as well as more serious genres such as science fiction and fantasy. You can also follow him on his blog where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas.