Okay, be positive…be positive…Let’s get everything out of the way that I totally abhorred about Action Comics (2011) #1 so that I can get down to talking about what I liked about it. I hated Superman’s declaration “Because that ain’t Superman.” I detested just how bad the whole carefully crafted “working class jeans and boots” fashion statement looked. The fact that “what you (Clark) writes changes lives” and that he’s “an inspiration,” but blathers “Because that ain’t Superman” was totally annoying. That Superman casually brakes “both hips” and “six ribs” of a wife beater (in Action Comics #1 (1938) Superman caused the wife beater to pass out from fright…somehow more fitting since wife beaters and other such inhuman creatures are usually cowards), and the fact that everything I loved about my Superman is gone annoyed me. Perhaps most of all though, the fact that there really isn’t anything new or inventive about this Superman is most disappointing. We’ve seen all this before, even if it has been about 80 years or so since a “Champion of the Oppressed” Superman graced the pages of Action Comics.
Okay…be positive…be positive…Let’s take a brief inventory of everything about Action Comics (2011) #1 that I liked. Surprisingly I didn’t have an issue with his lowered super power levels. Mostly because throughout his existence the GenX Superman got his ass kicked physically a great deal of the time while facing several daunting physical challenges. The fact that “what you (Clark) writes changes lives” and that he is “an inspiration” was also very satisfying. This Superman has a very well defined and apparently well rounded out Clark Kent persona. In fact, the Clark Kent persona seems to be the main one. This is something that absolutely needs to remain intact for any contemporary version of Superman to succeed thematically. I loved that this first issue of Action Comics (2011) was action packed. The collusion between General Sam Lane and Lex Luthor, which is highly reminiscent of their ideological relationship during New Krypton, was smartly retained. The fact that Superman drops some “Neo-Nazis into the sewage works” owned. The fact that Morrison totally shunted even a brief “stranger visitor from another planet” origin blurb was smart. We all know about Superman's alien origin. The fun (yes the fun…I can’t believe that I’m admitting that there might be something “fun” about the DCnU Superman), again the fun, about this new Superman is going to be seeing how Krypton is portrayed.
Speaking of portrayals, Grant Morrison does a good job of portraying his take on Superman convincingly while plotting and pacing his first issue of Action Comics (2011) well. It moves quickly, and it's packed with plenty of excellent dialogue, except the “Because that ain’t Superman” blather. I know this is purposefully made to come out of Superman’s mouth in order to distance him from Clark. A working class hero probably wouldn’t engage in proper English all the time and would pepper his speech with slang, but, more importantly, if Clark is trying to hide his identity then he’ll need more than the glasses. Logically, would a superhero that’s also a reporter use slang? Probably not, so Superman’s use of “ain’t” helps to disguise his identity. Clark probably would never utter “ain’t.”
But…for all the solid character portrayal and development (especially of the female characters as Dan Horn excellently points out in his review of Action Comics (2011) #1 here at The Bin), the quick and action packed plot, and the smart ideas (like the Gen. Lane/Luthor relationship) that Morrison deftly kept intact from the previous era’s recent Superman stories, (to borrow Superman’s lingo) this “ain’t” Superman as we know him. Some might see this as a boon, but it is really nothing more than a regression. This is a regurgitation of the Superman of the 1930s (as I’ve already argued in various articles about Superman here at The Bin recently). The socialistic imagery is also way too heavy handed. In one scene, Superman is surrounded by working class types who encircle him in order to protect him from the evil, capitalist funded army tanks attacking him in the slums of Metropolis. While there is nothing wrong with including progressive ideas in Superman’s stories, in fact including them is a great idea, beating the reader over the head with the message really isn’t smart storytelling. It’s more akin to preaching. Let me be clear though, mixing a little class warfare dramatics into Superman’s adventures is a good thing overall, but it doesn’t need to be blatantly blared. Also, I find it hard to stomach Superman’s casual breaking of “both hips and six ribs” of anyone, even a wife beater. Don’t get me wrong, the wife beater undoubtedly deserved it, but Superman doesn’t beat the weak, and nearly everyone is weaker than him. Bring him to justice, maybe even give him a taste of his own medicine…to an extent…but don’t abuse your power, Superman. Again though, this is a young and brash Superman. He probably acts before thinking first at this point. As he grows and matures, hopefully he’ll learn…and hopefully Morrison will reflect Clark’s progression towards maturity, and the political center, as he continues to unfold the early adventures of this new Superman.