'Action Comics' #1 review: A radical Superman, forever in blue jeans?

Taken by itself — isolating it from the rest of DC Comics’ newly launched “The New 52!” line — the freshly renumbered Action Comics #1 as written by Grant Morrison released today is a rousing Superman tale. It presents a Superman who’s the guy we know from the waist up (blue shirt, red cape, “S” symbol on chest, forelock dangling flirtily from dark hair) but new from the waist down (think Bruce Springsteen on the cover of Born In The USA).

Superman is something of a wiseguy and, dare I say it, a radical: In the first few pages, Superman seizes a super-wealthy law-breaker, holding him helplessly aloft, as the police ask him to put the guy down. “Sure, officer, I’ll put him down, just as soon as he makes a full confession. To someone who still believes the law works the same for rich and poor alike. Because that ain’t Superman.”

Untangling Morrison’s syntax here, I believe that means this Superman does not believe the rich and poor are treated equally under the law. Cool! A Superman with opinions about Earth-folks’ justice system. Why, the next thing you know, he’ll be renouncing his citizenship.

Morrison has said his Superman can get hurt — he’s not invulnerable, and one of the best aspects of Action #1 is artist Rags Morales’ depiction of a hero who gets battered and shows signs of exertion, even exhaustion. Morales’ drawings of Superman as Clark Kent show us a slender young man with tousled hair and big round glasses (indeed, he looks a bit like Steve Ditko’s original drawings of Peter Parker in Spider-Man).

Putting the most hurt on Superman here is a behind-the-scenes alliance between Lex Luthor and Lois Lane’s military father. And speaking of Lois, she’s seen bad-mouthing Clark as “the one who works for our rival newspaper.” No moony looks between these two in the Daily Planet offices — in fact, no sign of those offices in the first issue: It’s all out-on-the-streets action.

I enjoyed the swiftly paced Morrison-Morales adventure, titled “Superman Versus The City of Tomorrow,” but I have my doubts about just how DC expects new readers to climb aboard this rocket ship of a comic book. The goal of “The New 52!” is to start fresh; DC editor Eddie Berganza has been quoted as saying: “It’s a way of making everything accessible, so everyone can jump in at the same time. Whether you are an old fan and you want to catch up, or if you haven’t read comics for a while, this is a way to come in. Everything is meant to be enjoyed and read without footnotes or looking up back issues.”

Well, I showed last week’s Justice League and this week’s Action Comics to two different non-comics readers who’d like to get back in the comic-reading habit. They were baffled by the time period (apparently these stories are set five years ago), were puzzled by Superman’s new jeans-and-boots costume in Action and more traditional costume in JL, and wondered why Superman was being referred to in Action in quotation marks, as “Superman,” as though the world the hero lives in is unfamiliar with a super man. Sometimes I think those in the comics industry live in an alternate universe, so steeped in their so-often-rebooted “mythologies” and “events,” they can’t see their characters through the eyes of the new readers they so covet.

I’m a big Grant Morrison fan, so I’ll stick around to see how this new, populist Superman develops. I wonder how many other new readers will, though…

Twitter: @kentucker

Comments (105 total) Add your comment
Page: 1 2 3 4

    This “reboot” will last 2 years, tops.

    • SNIKT!

      This is the problem with Comics in general: IF you’re CONSTANTLY rebooting, reworking, redoing everything, NONE of the sotries have weight or matter.

      Back in the old days the publishers would get away with writing stories that dramatically changed the status quo by “making it all a dream” or a “What If?” tale. Now? Sure, let the world learn that Spider-Man is Peter Parker, Let Lois and Clark get married. Hell, even kill off a hero or two dozen. They’ll just reboot things after awhile and “start over” once again. And like I said, when the powers that be pull those stunts, es all the stories then become pointless.

      • Jason C.

        I think this view is a little juvenile. Why does a reboot cause a story you connected with to become pointless? Personally I’m able to separate a comic book arc from the overall storyline if it affects me enough. I’ve never understand people that think that a reboot or remake ruins the power of the original work.

      • Dave

        Because you already know how the story ends. And when you know how the story ends (with everything being rebooted), then there is no point in reading.

    • thelatestjoe

      I love the idea of a new Superman…Everyone should already know the original…If not there is another Superman in the 52 coming out…Let’s see if this superman has what it takes…

  • HM

    I bought the Justice League reboot and read it with interest. Your review of the new Action Comics does nothing to make me want to read it. In fact, it makes me want to skip it like a Return of the Jedi Blu-ray in which Darth Vader yells “Noooooo!” A “radical” Superman? That’s not why I read Superman comics. There are more than enough other superheroes to be “radical”. “Radical” has gotten tiresome, like yet-another-princess at Disney. I’ll take my Superman as wholesome and traditional — Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

    • Seth

      You forget, Superman was always a radical populist. This Action Comics #1 is very reminiscent of the original. Superman always stood for truth and justice. “The American Way” came from the lips of Lex Luthor. Lex embodies the “American Way.” Superman is the quintessential David bestowed with the strength and powers of Goliath. He’s fighting for the little man because he was raised by the little man.

  • tracy bluth

    Yeah, I’m not sure how I feel about the story line yet. But I absolutely hate the jeans.

    • Elizabeth

      Besides, wasn’t the Hulk rocking jorts way before this? Hardly revolutionary…

  • Geoff

    I hope both books eventually “flash forward” present time, but yes, there seems to be a slight paradox with the initial Justice League and Action timelines, because Supes seems a tad younger in the Action story, but it’s only the first issue, so who knows? Either way, I hope this attempt at “reviving” the line is a success both creatively and financially; these are great characters open to many interpretations.

    • BobFromAccounting

      According to someone in the DC hierarchy, JL and AC are supposed to revert to normal time after the introductory arcs are completed. I’m assuming 3 or 4 issues in. That’s a complete guess on my part, by the way.
      Also, Action Comics’ arc does take place before Justice League’s arc, which is why Clark seems younger and is wearing the jeans and t-shirt instead of the Kryptonian battlesuit.

  • Handsome Smitty

    Great. Another overpaid artist hack working for a major coroporate entity attacking the rich. These young punks prove the validity of Lord of the Flies more and more.

    The human race is becoming more schizophrentic every day. God help us.

    • JackBloodCoat

      ‘Young punk’? Morrison is 51 years old and, being one of the highest paid writers in the comics industry in excess of receiving royalties for writing the best selling graphic novel ever, is fairly wealthy himself. He lives in a castle, hardly the environment of the poor. I’m not saying there’s not a point to be made about artists in corporate entities attacking the morality of big business, but lack of knowledge to this work invalidates your argument.

  • Truth

    Wow, so they bastardized Superman. And not talking about his outfit.

    One of the things I always loved about Supes was the inner turmoil of the difference between being “righteous” and self-righteous, as Supes always played by the letter of the law, was referred to as the “Boy Scout” by his more radical contemporaries, and the underlying drama and moral issues that came up because of it. Are you willing to hold on to your values? At what price? This was an underlying attraction of Superman, and by making him just another whiny flippant Superhero, you disgrace the Superman concept, and turn off readers.

    • JLC

      Agreed. Sounds like the wrote a story about a guy who looks kind of like Superman, but isn’t Superman. Want to dial down his powers? Fine. But if you’re going to change everything about the character, just go ahead and make up a new character. Slapping the S on his chest is a cheat.

      • Jeditikit

        Albert Pujols? That’s a “five” on his chest, not and “S”. Go Cardinals!

    • JackBloodCoat

      Go read the original Action Comics #1, it’s almost exactly like this. Superman was birthed by two poor men living in Depression-era Brooklyn. They saw corruption at every turn and created a hero to knock it down. The righteous, system-affirming Superman did not come until later. This interpretation of Superman is not new, it’s the original. We just haven’t seen that interpretation in about seven decades.

      • GLFan

        Exactly! Thanks for nailing it.

      • PJH

        Actually it was Depression-era Cleveland.

      • wr

        you mean two jewish teenagers in Chicago?
        But thanks for playing.

  • Justice

    Any high priced lawyer that the rich criminal could afford would have that confession tossed out in a minute. Though Superman never really worried about that whole Constitution thingy, much like most of the socialist liberal set who the new writer wants to indoctrinate.

    I have not read it, but I am a Superman fan, and if he actually said the line “Because that ain’t Superman.” it sounds like it was written by a wanna be hipster who doesn’t get the lingo.

    • Cris

      Ooooh noooo! The big, bad liberals are at it again! Moron.

      • Justice

        Way to open a repore where ideas and thoughts can be exchanged in an adult fashion.

        The point of my post is that Superman is supposed to be above politics, and now they have him as the lowest common denominator and that the writer is pushing his own agenda instead of that of the well established character.
        The character can grow, and maybe you should too.

    • Spider-Pig

      Does everything have to be political to you? Can’t a badly written comic sometimes just be a badly written comic?

    • Tyler

      If anything, Grant Morrison is more of an anarchist, so it is safe to say that he isn’t jamming an agenda down our throats. He is simply getting back to the root of the character to tell a new story. Most people have never read the earliest Superman stories. Those that have recognize that this take is far from “radical.” Besides, this story also takes place when Superman is just starting out, as evidenced by his improvised costume and lack of experience. I imagine that, by the time he dons his new armour, he will have all of the powers we usually associate with him, as well as a better understanding of his place in law and order.

    • kennyg

      The dialogue in this issue was terrible. And I’m not just talking about the confusing quote in the article. All the characters were smug, too clever, and trying to hard to sound hip – it read like a bad Diablo Cody reject script. Nobody talks like this! Thank God he didn’t call anyone “homeslice” or something as douchey.

  • Chris

    Everyone needs to evolve. You guys need to grow past the sterotypes you have of the past and open your minds. I means a few years back Marvel had good guys fighting good guys in Civil War, and Iron Man damn near killed Capt America. Yet Iron Man is still a good guy. Get over your past pre conceived notions and grow with the genre. So Superman isn’t a Boy Scout anymore, he needs a little edge to him in my opinion, it will be fun to read.

    • Elle

      There are plenty of heroes in the superhero universe that have an “edge.” Clark was the one hero who was different and it was part of what made him unique. We have created an entertainment landscape where all heroes have to have shades of grey because it’s “cooler.” Clark was never perfect. He had flaws. But I disagree that anyone who is frustrated that clark is not more just like everyone else are the people who have to open their minds.

      • Elle

        Sorry if there are multiple comments. Having a hard time posting here today.

      • sean

        Clark had that edge in the 1930’s but Dc Comics stripped him of all of that and turned him into Mr.Perfect superhero.Now Dc Comics is bringing that rebel Superman with the edge back.

        This is the Superman that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster his creators made before Dc Comics decided that Superman should be more law abiding and an example for the children and many others around the world.The Superman TV show with George Reeves eventually had the actor in cereal commercials with children.

        You get the idea from my examples that this is the Superman Dc Comics wanted.A superhero who sets a good example for the children.

      • Elle

        That assumes that characters shouldn’t evolve. Batman didn’t originate as the Dark Knight that we have now but it would be hard to argue that his evolution into that darker character has become an iconic part of his cultural impact. The same is true for Superman except that Superman is the light while Batman was the dark. As more and more darker and edgier superheroes emerged the idea of Superman evolved and changed. And I disagree that Clark was ever perfect. He has always been very flawed.

      • Elle

        I also question how this new Superman is setting a good example for children and what is WRONG with having a hero who sends a positive message to children in a world with so few role models for youth. The new “darker” Superman answers violence with violence and he’s cocky and arrogant. Is that the message that we want to teach little kids about problem solving and justice? Or do we want to teach them humility and dignity in the face of conflict?

      • Gregg

        ‘We have created an entertainment landscape where all heroes have to have shades of grey because it’s “cooler.”‘
        Er, well, no. Because it’s better writing. Because perfect characters are bad characters. It may be “cooler,” as you so dismissivley put it, but it’s also just better. They’re trying to write stories for people above the age of ten years old. It may not light that spark of nostalgia in you anymore, but that’s tough.

    • sean

      You do realize that this is the 1930’s version of Superman right? This is the way the creators of Superman made him before Dc Comics turned him into a saint and more of a law abiding superhero who would never intentionally break the law.The only difference is that this version is wearing blue jeans,red cape and a blue t-shirt with the S symbol.Other than that This Superman is leaping instead of flying but we all know that won’t last for long.

      But I agree with you that the book should be really interesting since I wasn’t a kid from the 1930’s who got to read the adventures of a Superman who dangled a bad guy by their ankle above the city and made up his own rules back then.Now Dc Comics is bringing that version of Superman back.I’m definitely going to pick up the first issue but after that I’ll just wait for the paperback book.No way I’m shelling out $3.99 while I’ve got some other titles that are less expensive on my list of must have books.

      • Elle

        Yes, I’m well aware that this was closer to the original Superman of 1938. But I also understand that even Jerry Siegel’s vision of who Superman was changed and evolved as the years passed as he matured and grew and developed the character further. For example, it’s well known that Jerry Siegel actually wanted to end the Triangle For 2 between Lois and Clark as early as 1940 because his view on love had changed and he wanted “partnership” and honesty between Superman and Lois. DC rejected the idea. So it’s all well and good to say that this was the “original” but that doens’t mean it was right. Superman evolved for a reason as our culture evolved. Our laws about violence and the way we prosecute public violence have changed for the better in the last 70years as well.

      • Tyler

        Absolutely right. I was much too young when the original Superman strips came out to understand what they were really about. Now, it seems like I can finally finish reading a story I started when I was six and took eight decades to continue.

  • Javadude54

    Superman is an illegal alien and should be deported! We need to build a fence between us and outer space to keep out these freeloading riff-raff!!

    • J-Mac


    • Mr. Effing Tea Party

      Seriously! And if we’re not going to deport him we should stick him in a lab and run a bunch of tests on him. Nobody asked him to come here and he’s taking jobs away from the military by protecting the country. I don’t like it.

    • DesertDawg

      At least Superman respects this country and speaks English. Imagine if Superman refused to learn English and only spoke his native tongue. It would be hard to like him because you wouldn’t know what he was saying. Maybe the country would try to make everyone learn Kryptonian to make it easier on him.

      • Mr. Effing Tea Party

        I still want to see his birth certificate!

      • c jones

        It’s in the space capsule that brought him here to earth as a baby. Why you want to see a Kryptonian birth certificate is beyond me though. It probably won’t be allowed as evidence in court.

      • Mr. Effing Tea Party

        @c jones, I want to make sure he’s actually from outer space . He might be an illegal from Canada using the outer space story as a convenient coverup.

  • MTS

    It’s interesting that Ken’s non-fan friends were put off by the JLA and AC titles taking place in different time periods since the trend both on this site and others seems to be that would-be new readers are put off by the interconnectedness between the DC titles — they feel they have to read dozens of books each month to keep up. (And they aren’t wrong.) In this case, at least two of the titles have nothing to do with each other and that also generates complaints.
    Anyway, if I understand it correctly, the main “Superman” title will take place in the “current” timeline and AC will, at least initially, be five years behind. The reason is that they wanted to reboot Superman to an extent that they aren’t doing with other characters (the Bat family’s backstory, for example, supposedly isn’t changing at all.)

  • An Average Sized Mustache

    Having read the comic as a kid I was tempted to pick up Action Comics #1 but ultimately decided against it. Why? Because there is no end to Superman. Its had a few beginnings and a middle that stretched on for 70 years but it never fully concludes. And no ending means no real consequences. That said, if any of these story arcs turn out to be okay I might pick up the trade paperback.

    • Shatter24

      I would suggest reading All-Star Superman tpb by Grant Morrison, if you think the Superman saga never concludes. That may be canon in this new timeline, maybe not, but its a great story that “completes” the Superman saga.

      • An Average Sized Mustache

        Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll check it.

  • Angel

    if you go back to Action Comics # 1 from the 1930s, you will find a Superman who supported labor unions and took down crooked munitions factory owners. He was a hero more in keeping with the progressive sensibilities of his creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. As the character was embraced by other forms of media, he became the “Big Blue Boy Scout” that we are familiar with today. Even so, Superman confronted the Ku Klux Klan in his radio incarnation. If anything, Morrison is returning the Man of Steel to his roots.

    • Mr. Effing Tea Party

      And thanks to Siegal and Shuster we have a muslin in the White House!

      • Geez…

        A “muslin”? Really? How on Earth did I let myself vote for a “muslin”? What was I thinking?


      • Mr. Effing Tea Party

        @Geez. Don’t call yourself a moron. You’ve done enough.

      • Hypoxic

        That’s easily the dumbest thing I’ve read all day, and it’s been a long day.

      • Mr. Effing Tea Party

        @Hypoxic, you’re talking about Geez’s comment? Tell me about it. BTW Superman’s cape is muslin!

  • sean

    This is actually the Superman from the 1930’s.Dc Comics is trying to put the word out that this is a Superman you’ve never seen before when in reality the creators of Superman created a version of the hero who held bad guys by their ankles and forced them to confess to their crimes in the 1930’s.The 1930’s Superman broke into corrupt bankers homes or even into the home of a wife-beater and gave him a taste of his own medicine by throwing the guy across the room into the wall.

    That Superman made his own rules and laws back then before Dc Comics neutered the character and put a leash on him then turned him into a more law abiding superhero.Later on they would hire someone to create a new hero who we all know as Batman.Batman would then become the new bad ass superhero who broke the rules while kicking butt or holding bad guys by their ankles.Guess Dc Comics realized that people were getting bored with Superman or that he was too much of a saint.

    Plus their writers didn’t know how to create some new fresh exciting stories about him so Dc Comics decided to bring back the 1930’s rebel Superman who did break the rules while he saved the day but of course in our modern world.Back then Superman could break into a home of some bad citizen or a corrupt mayor without the police chasing him.In this book which Dc Comics is trying to act like is a new version of Superman when this is the way he was before Dc Comics changed him.

    We see the police chasing him because in today’s world after he technically intimidates a man to confessing to a crime the man committed.As for this review of Action Comics #1 it’s all good and dandy that you might be confused as to why Superman is acting the way he does in the book because you and of course I weren’t young kids when the original 1930’s Action Comics #1 came out.In the original book he was doing the same things.You all should read his original stories in Dc Comics reprint of 1930’s Action Comics#1 paperback book filled with other stories.The book is called “The Superman Chronicles volume one.

    • Elle

      I’ve read it. I’m well aware of where this came from. But I disagree that this was the right direction to take the character. Superman was the one hero in the DC Universe that was humble. I don’t think we are doing him any favors as a hero by making him more arrogant or cocky. Sadly, I think it ruins that what made him unique. The character evolved just as Batman has evolved.
      We didn’t treat Black people or women with equality in the 1930’s either which is why Lois Lane was often treated with sexism despite being a career woman and a feminist figure. Regression is not a postive message to send and sadly I think that’s what this relaunch is for Superman. A regression. Some fanboys may find Superman “cooler” now but I think we had to sell Superman’s soul in the process. Now he’s just like everyone else.

      • Jay

        I generally enjoyed the new Action Comics #1. For those who object to the new Superman’s behavior, remember that this is when he just started his career, when he is a newbie and is still learning lessons of balances what he can do versus what he should do. At this point in time, its obvious that he has an idealistic sense of justice and little sense of restraint in terms of using his powers to battle what he considers injustice.

        I do think it would have been helpful if DC had given some kind of official explanation of when the story is taking place. At least in Justice League #1, they had a box stating that it was 5 years in the past. DC claims they want to make it easy for new readers to jump on board, but they risk confusing new readers with the different comics set at different points in history.

      • superman1930

        I never said that this is the right direction with Dc comics returning Superman back to his earlier roots.I mean before Superman I guess you could say evolved and became more of a boy scout this superhero who I enjoy reading about was throwing bad guys out of open windows or hurling them through the air and didn’t even bother to catch them.There’s even a story of him injecting a drug into this football player with a hypodermic needle to take his place while he investigated a criminal act in a football game.These are the type of things that he did in his earliest adventures.

        I don’t agree with all the things he did but he always got the job done.You said that Batman changed to throughout the years but the one thing you failed to mention is that he sometimes does cross the line just a bit to get the answers he’s looking for.Batman is a great superhero no doubt about it but even you have to agree that he has on occassions broken bad guys bones and sometimes uses these exact methods to get what he wants from them.You might want to check out Batman the Dark Knight issue #2 story by David Finch.In that issue Batman breaks both the Penguin’s arm and legs.So though Dc comics is bringing Superman back to his original roots which is mostly for profits, Batman will still be the more aggressive vigilante of the two of them.That’s the one way I believe Dc comics will try to show the distinction between the two of them.

        It’s like they say “Some things stay the same while others things don’t.”

  • ajmix969

    So how many of you complaining, without reading the book, has even picked of a Superman comic in the past few years? I’m betting none of you. As an avid collector of every Superman book for the past 20 years I’m saving judgment till I read it. Many people out there never pick up a book then complain when changes are made. In order to make the caricature viable and relatable to new readers, the reboot is a great idea. I’ve already picked up Justice League #1 and curious how it’s going to play out. If you look at the numerous telling and retellings of Superman in film, tv and print. One thing I’ve noticed, the world around him may change, he, in certain ways change with that world, but at his core he is always Superman.

    • Elle

      Umm…I’ve been buying comics since I was 7 years old dude. I even suffered through WONK and Grounded despite the fact that they cut the heart out of the books by removing Clark entirely from the narrative and making him Superman all the time. Perhaps you could respect that there are going to be differeing opinions on this even amongst those of us that are loyal fans. I love Superman and I respect that there are those who are excited about this new take. I really do respect that. But I can tell you as a person with two young nephews…I wouldn’t allow them to read this book. Because I don’t think it sends the right message. And that I have to say that about Superman? Makes me sad.

  • Brad

    What many commenters here are missing it that Morrison’s Superman is a throw back to the original depiction of the 1930’s. Superman was a New Deal radical just as commenter “Angel” says. Personally, I like the idea but I am disappointed that the origin stories are only “5 years ago”. I am tired of origens and a perpetually young hero. I would like to see some stories focusing on an aging superman dealing with the mortality of his friends and loved ones and the consequences of his own potential immortality.

    • Digby

      Check out Morrison’s fantastic All Star Superman for just that.

      • Angel

        Just watched the All-Star Superman DVD…a little uneven, but good. But, as Digby says, Superman does confront mortality…in a big way.

    • Elle

      No, I’m not missing that. I’m well aware of that. But I also think it’s regressive to return to a cultural mindset of the 1930’s. Our laws about justice were very different then and the way our culture DEALT with violence was much different then. Our entire approach to justice in this country has HAD to evolve with the evolution of weapson, access to handguns, drug wars etc. Jerry Siegel’s vision of Superman changed as he aged as Jerry matured and grew. So it’s all well and good to say that morrison is “returning” Superman to his Golden Age Roots. I’m just not sure that I think those roots and a cultural mindset that embraced violence openly in the streets is a mindset that we should be encouraging or returning to. The peaceful icon that Superman evolved into over the years happened for a REASON.

      • Angel

        The reason for Superman’s change in outlook was corporate, not maturity on the part of Siegel. National (DC) owned the character. You can’t use Superman to sell Kellogg’s Corn Flakes if he’s bucking the system and rooting out the corruption in the “system”.

      • Mr. Effing Tea Party

        @ Angel, Superman should leave the system alone!

      • Elle

        That’s not entirely true. If you read Jerry Siegel’s unpublished K-Metal story you’ll see that there were many ways in which Siegel intended to mature the character that DC rejected at the time. But let’s play devil’s advocate and say that Superman did evolve into a more family friendly, kind, righteous character was a way to sell the brand. I disagree that that is a bad thing. In a world full of dark heroes like Batman, Ironman etc. Superman and Captain America were one of the few heroes out there who were sending a DIFFERENT message for young men.

Page: 1 2 3 4
Add your comment
The rules: Keep it clean, and stay on the subject - or we may delete your comment. If you see inappropriate language, e-mail us. An asterisk (*) indicates a required field.

When you click on the "Post Comment" button above to submit your comments, you are indicating your acceptance of and are agreeing to the Terms of Service. You can also read our Privacy Policy.

Latest Videos in Books


From Our Partners

TV Recaps

Powered by WordPress.com VIP