Review: Action Comics #2

Grant Morrison's revamp of the Man of Steel's origin hits a speed bump or two.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Action Comics #2

We learn some things about the new origin of Clark Kent in Grant Morrison's Action Comics #2… things we're not sure really needed to be changed.  The first issue had a fun sort of energy about it that was delighting in paying homage to the classic Superman tropes, but the second installment starts moving in a new direction that doesn't necessarily feel like the best fit for the Man of Steel.

When last we left our hero, he had just proven that he's only slightly more powerful than a locomotive these days, and we open this issue with Superman in captivity, strapped down to a chair and being poked, prodded, electrocuted and poisoned as part of Lex Luthor's experimentation and intended dissection of the alien he insists on referring to as "it."  We get Dr. Irons and Sgt. Corben involved as well – the former is livid about the torture going on and quits in protest, while the latter seems particularly interested in the subject… and apparently has a history with the Lanes, particularly with Lois.  Is it an actual history, or a long-standing pathetic crush?  We don't know yet.  Irons and Corben have apparently been working on a Steel Soldier project that looks like it's going to be a disaster that turns Corben into Metallo now that Irons has quit… and he'll likely develop his own Steel suit in the near future as well.  That's all well and good, although it's going to take a while to get used to learning more and more about Lois Lane's dating history.

Where it gets iffy is when we learn that the U.S. government has had the rocket Clark arrived in and the charred corpse of Krypto all along, and Clark has no idea what Krypton even is beyond a noble gas.  While it's amusing that Luthor thinks Superman is a shapeshifter whose natural form is that of a super-dog, it's less so when we see Superman breaking out of containment and threatening to break Luthor's "scrawny neck."  It's understandable, given what they've put him through, but at the same time, it doesn't feel like Superman.  It feels like he's using Batman fear tactics again, which was the case in the first issue as well. Again, we repeat the mantra that 'this is young, brash Superman that doesn't yet have the wisdom that comes with experience' to calm ourselves… but the fact that we have to read the 'behind-the-scenes' extras in the back to find out that both Ma and Pa Kent are both dead in this new world really doesn't bode well. 

This is Superman, after all.  The classic origin story.  How much did it really need to be changed?

Rags Morales' artwork is a bit steadier here than it was in the first one, although Luthor's head still looks misshapen at times.  It's a curious result he brings – he has very expressive faces that somehow manage to still feel kind of stiff and unreal.  And melty.  Weirdly melty.  There's an angry Luthor face that for some reason seems to have a Jonah Hex style flesh-over-lip thing going on.  It's a mixed bag.

It's an entertaining enough story on its own, though, and it continues to earn enough good will to give the next issue a chance.  The reveal at the end about who Luthor is working with is an interesting one, but it still doesn't feel right.  Maybe it's just a matter of time and getting used to all this change after 70-odd years of traditional Superman, but we haven't seen the heart and soul of the mythos yet, and we miss it.