Tag Archives: Rags Morales

Action Comics vol 1: Superman and the Men of Steel

Action Comics vol 1:  Superman and the Men of Steel

A great homage to the original Action #1 without just doing the same old thing!

2012

DC Comics

256 pages $25

This was arguably the big dog in the New 52 relaunch.  One of the longest running American comic book titles was being renumbered to 1 and Superman was being rebooted.  Everything that had come before was now gone.  Sort of.  All of the familiar faces are still there, just not quite how we remember them.  Grant Morrison was the clear choice to re imagine this icon of comics.  Bringing Rags Morales along for most of the ride was an inspired choice.

This book reads very well as one volume, unlike many comics written for the collection though, this one suffers from very few of the problems that many other books do.  The book feels like Morrison in that, whether it is present or not, the hand of DC editorial seems light enough to not be there at all.  The book chose a direction and rarely strays from it.  Morrison’s new take on the character is a strong one, rooted in his personal view of what Superman used to represent.  Here is a Superman that is firmly anti-establishment.  This is the Siegel and Shuster Superman, really.  There was a time that he was not the big blue Boy Scout.  A time before the super villain Dr. Wertham and the evil rays of the comics code.  Before the changes made in the 1940’s even, Superman was an agent of change and justice.  In this day and age, I imagine there are people that would call him a Socialist. Ultimately he is Superman, pure and honest, with a fair bit of justifiable anger toward most authority figures.  He is not as powerful as before, but it is made clear that he is getting stronger every day.  The T-shirt design is replaced by the new costume, (bummer, I kind of liked that) and much of the origin is left to be told yet, or at least filled in with backstory, as there are few real changes to the “doomed planet, desperate scientist, kindly couple” motif.  What is here is cleaned up and made more believable.  The current status of Krypto is still just plain mean though.  The supporting cast is here too.  Jimmy Olson is now Clark Kent’s pal, NOT Superman’s.  Lex Luthor is here and even more slimy than ever.  Interestingly, Ma and Pa Kent are dead already.  I always felt them an interesting touch stone for Clark, so it will be interesting to see how they fill that void going forward.  The Landlady character may fill part of it, but I don’t see that having legs.  Then there is the voiding of the marriage of Lois and Clark.  They barely even know each other at this point, and they are not friendly.

This cover to the first monthly issue really set the tone.

The art, mostly by Rags Morales is a bit problematic, but only because it is just MOSTLY by Morales and not ENTIRELY by him.  While the fill in art by Andy Kubert others is very good, the changes chapter to chapter and within some of the issues themselves can be jarring.  I really wish the schedule would take a back seat to just making a good product that flows properly.  The real gem here is the look of Clark.  With just hair, clothes and a properly awful pair of glasses, the disguise actually works for a change.  Another good touch is the bruises.  When Superman is getting pounded on, he bruises, and later Clark is still banged up.  It works wonderfully here.  For the first time, I actually find myself caring about Clark Kent and I am even worried for him!

The story moves along well enough, but there are occasional jumps that feel odd.  As though there needed to be a “meanwhile” or “later that day” caption.  The inclusion of the back up stories featuring the John Henry Irons character are fine, but the real treat is in seeing a Superman that I might actually like.  Many of the old clichés are gone as well, and I cannot say I’m sad to see them go.  I know that Morrison is off the book sometime around issue 16, but until then I am all over this book!

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DC New 52: Action Comics #1 review

Action Comics #1

DC Comics

September 2011

$3.99

Well this one certainly lives up to the title on the front of the book!

Now THAT'S a cool cover!

To start off, I think it is inevitable that Superman will go back to the same character we have all know for our entire lives, The Big Blue  boy scout.  I really don’t see that staying away for very long.  The core concepts of the character are pretty much untouchable, but the things that hover just at the edge of that, the apple pie goodness that so many fans find foolish and hokey, seem almost as pervasive.  As a quick aside:  I am not blind to the fact that many people just don’t like Superman.  There is one particular reader out there that seems to waste focus a great deal of energy on just how much he dislikes the character.  First to that person, and the other people out there that calls themselves “fans” of comics…  It is perfectly acceptable to dislike everything you read, see, hear and otherwise experience.  I would respectfully suggest that if you do not like something, stop trying to explain to everyone why you hate it, and try to spread the word on something that you DO like.  On this blog I welcome all views as long as they are reasoned and expressed respectfully to everyone that might read it.  To be honest, I am not a Superman fan.  Not really.  There are people who have an allegiance to a character regardless of any other factors.  I am not one of them.  I enjoy good comics, and that starts with talented and inspired creators putting that product out there for me to read.  Superman, like all other company owned properties, has had many creators far beyond the two kids from Cleveland.  Many have been hacks, or at least did not really bring their “A Game”.  Many others were masters of their craft.  And many more were somewhere in between.  I should not really ever say (but sometimes I do slip up on this) that I like or dislike Superman, Batman, Thor, The Avengers and so on.  What I should say is I like Thor as written by Walt Simonson, or the Avengers as drawn by George Perez.  Saying “I hate Superman” is really not saying anything of substance.  Opinions are only valid when expressed with a reason attached, even if that reason is irrational.  It is like saying “I hate cabbage”.  Well, OK, sure, but WHY?  No one NEEDS a reason to hate something, true.  But without a reason, you will not get anyone to listen to your opinions.  The best way to get people to dismiss or just plain ignore your opinions is to shout them out at the world like an idiot.  So if you have an opinion, share it, but do so intelligently and respectfully.  The words “Superman Sucks” over and over will lower the interest has of everyone reading it.  Even if they agree with you.  If you don’t like something here, that I DO, or the reverse, try to change my mind.  You probably won’t, even as I cannot change yours.  Opinions are like that, once formed, they tend not to change much.  But the debate is always more fun and stimulating that just mindless bitching.

Having said that, it is true.  I am not a Superman fan.  On my shelves right now are 8 trades or hardcovers where they are predominantly Superman books, and that is out of, what I will guess to be something between 750 and 850 similarly formatted books.  ( I don’t really do floppys anymore and the New 52 books I am reading now are very much the exceptions to the rule, as I might have something in the area of 100 floppys at any one time.  When they are put in a nice trade or HC, I tend to get rid of the originals)  Those Superman books are by some of the best of the modern writers.  (sorry, not much of the classic stuff out there that I enjoy enough to own and re read) Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman, being the most recent of the really fine books.  And that is why the New 52 and the re launch of Action Comics really had me interested.

If you were not previously much into Superman, this might be the book that changes your mind.  If you prefer the boy scout as mentioned above, this may really send you screaming.  I hope not.  As I said, this will not last.  The Supes we all know will slowly return.  But for now, there is a pretty good take on the character.  This Superman has returned to the social crusader that first appeared in the late 1930s and his methods have a lot more in common with Batman than the big blue we all recognize.

This book is in the past, behind the continuity of all the other new books except Justice League.  These are here to establish the world as it is now.  As I understand it, JL will eventually catch up.  That has not been explicitly stated for Action, but that is a safe bet.  The world does not understand or really even trust this guy in a tight T-shirt, jeans and a cape.  They are wary and frightened of him.  The police and military are after him even as he tries to fight FOR them.  Lex Luthor is here too, and he is on the side of the average man, much like he has always claimed.  The plot really is just “let’s get Superman” at this point.  They manage to re-establish that Clark Kent is there and that he still works for a news agency , but Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane work for a rival one.  This Superman is FAR from invulnerable.  Yes we have seem him take a pounding in books before, but not really like this.  The beating he takes has consequences and they follow him.  Clark SHOULD have bruises if Superman does.  I like that this Superman is more fragile, it adds impact to the story, but I don’t want to see his de power go to far.  He should still be the most powerful being on the planet.

That is where I didn’t care for this book.  To me, and this is strictly MY opinion, Superman IS a Sun God, just as Morrison has stated.  If any but the most amazing mortal was confronted with seeing a being with the kind of power that Superman has, they would likely be unable to function.  They would go bibbldy.  At least they would wet themselves.  That might be why Superman has been a character I have failed to enjoy as regularly, I cannot believe in the more simple aspects of the story.  Suspension of disbelief starts with very subtle things, after all.  My version would probably not make for very human comics, though, so the approach here is bringing the Sun God down just a bit, and making him more believable.

Grant Morrison and Rags Morales are the writer and artist that are bringing you this book, and I have to say that it met my very high expectations for it.  I will be picking up the monthly issues for the duration of the first arc.    Morales’ art has found a perfect complement in inker Rick Bryant.  The line is stunning and pulls you in and keeps you there.  Clark is believably human and he and Superman actually do look like they might fool you into thinking they are different people.  Morrison’s new take on Superman is an interesting one and I can only say 2 things:  One, please stay on the book as long as you have good stories to tell(with the obvious thought that there are a lot to tell, rather than just this first arc).  And two, that they don’t chicken out.  Take your ideas to the logical conclusion without making concessions to the commercial aspect of the industry.  I doubt DC editorial will allow something with an actual beginning, middle and end, but I can dream.

Buy this book.

 

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A new Action Comics # 1?

Well, it is official.  The DC reboot will be a truly line-wide one.  Even Action Comics will not be safe.  The bright spot in this is that the book will be by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales, two people who can do great work!  Morrison is likely best know in recent years for All-Star Superman and the current Batman Incorporated storyline, and Rags Morales has done piles of great books.  The book that stands out for me is Identity Crisis, the best of the various DC Crisis books in my opinion.

This is a slightly scary and slightly thrilling idea for me.  I didn’t get a chance to buy a copy of the first Action # 1 as I would not be born for three decades when it originally hit the stands, so yes, I will most likely buy it just for the geek factor.  There are some concerns though.  This will be, for all intents and purposes, a full reboot.  It sounds like they will be de-power Superman, assuming Morrison continues some of the ideas about the character that he has expressed in past interviews.  I have an issue with too much of a de-power though as the other books are not all changing to the same degree.  It looks very much like some of them (Green Lantern) are not really making any significant changes.  If that is the case, will Superman, as his name needs to imply, still be the most powerful hero in the DCU?  It also looks like there may be a real return to the “social crusader” that Superman was in his earliest days.

The two images of Superman that I have seen so far have been very different.  The George Perez preview image for Superman # 1…

Superman # 1(?) by George Perez

…looks very different to what we have seen as a preview image for Action # 1…

Action Comics # 1 (?) by Rags Morales

The differences in costume could be that one or both are not the final look.  The Action image is a clear homage to the original Action # 1, and the superman one has some similarities to the original # 1 of that title, but that may only be because I want there to be.  These are both fairly big redesigns if you know what you are looking for.  The loss of blue tights entirely on the Morales design, the angular Perez look that loses the underpants on the outside and simplifies the “S” somewhat.  These could be responses to the legal issues of copyright and trademark thanks to the various legal battles that have been going on, almost since the first Action # 1.  (See my post on this from May 29th)

Another, more concerning possibility is that the two books may exist in slightly different continuity.  This last one is concerning to me as it defeats the purpose of the intended, jump on friendly nature to the reboot, but the official statement regarding the book makes me wonder if that is not exactly what the plan is.  Action will start the DCU off and tell the earliest possible days of Superman.  DC’s official statement for Action # 1 is “This momentous first issue will set in motion the history of the DC Universe as Superman defends a world that doesn’t trust their first Super Hero.”  The reads to me like it is the true start point for the entire line.  You can’t have Superman show up one day and then everyone else the next.  Doesn’t work.  Is this book, at least from the start, in an earlier timeline, that will become the rest of the main continuity?  An intriguing possibility from a story standpoint, but maybe a little less new reader friendly.  Then Superman # 1 is the current continuity that Justice League etc all exist in?  The change in costume from Action to Superman would lend credence to that possibility.  Bleeding Cool seems to be painting the Action  Comics Superman as a “liberal activist”, basing that opinion on Morrison’s own statements from recent interviews.  That would certainly be in line with the original concept of the character as created by the two kids from Cleveland.  I don’t think that would be all bad either.  It would certainly make the stories more relevant for a modern audience, regardless of which side of the liberal line you come down on, and the media will certainly grab onto whatever will stir up the most controversy.  There is a lot of upside to making the character more relevant not least of which is the greater potential for projects outside of the comics medium, like the upcoming Man of Steel movie, currently with director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) and Chris Nolan (Batman Begins, Dark Knight) as producer.

I will always give Morrison a chance, as he always make the ride an interesting one, even if I don’t always like the end result.  And George Perez doing Superman?  Where do I sign up?  But these look like two VERY different books, at least given the small amount of info we have been given so far.  That may well be the key to this reboot working.  Give fans a clear choice, and a bit of variety.  Marvel has never managed to keep multiple books fresh and different for very long.  Pick up any Spider-Man book out there and, to a casual or new reader, there will be very little difference.  Maybe a change of pace is in order.  For this to be the game changer it is intended to be, it needs to not only change the status quo for DC, but the entire industry.  They need to re invent the rules of comics publishing, and hope the readers like it enough to inspire the other publishers out there (I’m looking at you Marvel) to up their game and do it not only better, but differently too.  This reboot is make or break.  More people who I speak to, my friend Kurt started me on this fear, believe that if the reboot fails to put DC back on top of the market, or at least make it a much tighter race, that it could kill the line.  I think that is worst case, but at least it could seriously cripple the publisher.  And anything that is bad for one of the big guys in the market, is potentially bad for all.

UPDATE:  As of the next day at the LA TIMES HERO COMPLEX, the reveal in an interview with Jim Lee and Geoff Johns is that the new JLA book will start in the past and then jump forward into the new continuity.  This makes me think my theory above is getting more plausible.

SECOND UPDATE:  George Perez made a comment on his Facebook page to clarify his involvement on the new Superman: Man of Tomorrow book.  He is writing and doing thumbnail layouts for artist Jesus Merino to work from.  He will also be supplying covers.  Bit of a bummer there and now not as exciting.  Merino is pretty good though, so I imagine this will still be quite a book.

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