Overview

Action Comics #2

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Action Comics #2

Credits

  • Words: Grant Morrison
  • Art: Rags Morales, Brent Anderson
  • Colors: Brad Anderson
  • Story Title: In Chains
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Oct 5, 2011

Morrison turns the “social commentary tables” on Superman.

Action Comics #2 is a difficult issue to break down.  On the one hand, Grant Morrison is recreating the Superman mythos in a more logical and sensible manner than ever before, while on the other, the slow methodical pace almost drags the story down to simply hitting the necessary “origin-story” beats.  True to fashion, however, Morrison writes Action Comics to be more than a straightforward superhero tale.

Morrison picks up Action Comics following Superman’s capture at the hands of Lex Luthor.  Imprisoned in a fortified military bunker, Superman is tortured, poked, gassed, prodded, and shot, reinforcing both his physical resiliency and his current depowered state.  While reintroducing necessary characters and themes, like Lex Luthor’s ruthless and relentless personality and the first glimpse of Kal-El’s Kryptonian rocket, Action Comics almost falls into the trap of typical origin story.  Morrison averts such a stumble, however, by incorporating emotional and social themes that not only return Superman to his 1930s working-class roots, but also add a layer of insight to the book without being melodramatic.

Last issue spotlighted Superman as a “Man of the People,” striking out against corporate corruption, while in issue #2 the cards are turned, with Superman becoming the victim of a xenophobic backlash.  Superman, though a people’s champion, is simultaneously the ultimate outsider and alien, just as much a victim of hatred as any other immigrant.  This thematic focus takes Action Comics beyond simple superhero book and whole-heartedly jumps into the realm of social commentary, a territory Superman can certainly thrive in.

Sadly, the split art duties of Rags Morales and Brent Anderson end up being an incredible detriment to Morrison’s story.  Morales’ work is both inconsistent and bland.  Superman’s age, for example, drastically changes from panel to panel, oftentimes appearing to be both a rough 40-year-old and a 20-year-young hero on the same page.  Luthor, similarly, is introduced as well fit, only to be penciled several panels later as loose and frumpy.  Though Morales is vaguely serviceable, Brent Anderson’s fill-in art is truly distracting.  Anderson’s rendition of Lois is simply haggard, appearing to be more of an ugly pouting child than an attractive reporter.  Anderson’s shortcomings are not limited to Lois Lane alone, moreover, as his version of Superman clashes head on with Morales’.  Considering the historical weight that both Morrison and Action Comics carry, it is unacceptable to have both Morales’ mediocre art and Anderson’s ugly fill-ins on DC’s flagship title.

Despite the artistic shortcomings, Morrison’s thematic work saves the title.  The social commentary that surrounds Superman not only brings the Man of Steel back to his roots, but also gives Morrison a vast amount of territory to discuss both Metropolis and our world.  While some of Action Comics #2's events may be less than fresh, Morrison’s social commentary definitely makes the book worth reading.

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