Reader’s Guide to the New DC Universe

Reader’s Guide to the New DC Universe: Action Comics

Each weekday, Tim will take a look at what we know about each of the upcoming 52 new comics from the September DC relaunch, one series at a time. Today: ACTION COMICS!

The Concept and Characters: The initial press release, along with that cover image of a working class superhero, tells us that this relaunch explores a Superman who “defends a world that doesn’t trust their first Super Hero.” Unlike most of the other fall #1 issues, this one seemingly takes place in the early days of the DCU, re-establishing a new timeline for the introduction of the superheroes into the modern universe.

When John Byrne relaunched Superman in the post-Crisis world of the 1980s, he had planned a similar approach, retelling Superman’s origin in Man of Steel, then telling stories about his first days as a hero in Metropolis. That plan was abandoned by DC editorial at the time, before it could be executed, with Byrne jumping from Man of Steel to a brand-new Superman #1 featuring Superman already an experienced, well-known protector of the big city.

Like so much of DC’s relaunch strategy, this new version of Action Comics seems to be inspired by what DC DIDN’T do after Crisis on Infinite Earths.

It also seems poised to address another problem: readers think Superman is boring.

Superman, with his invulnerability, his dignified approach to superheroics, and his god-like powers, is often seen more as an icon than as a character who can play a central role in a compelling drama. What’s really at stake when a character basically has no weaknesses and can do anything? Kryptonite can only be used so often before it becomes a crutch.

Honestly, I’ve never subscribed to the “boring Superman” philosophy, since he’s a character who so clearly represents the potentiality of the superhero concept. He embodies the distinction between who we are and what we aspire to be. Superman has nearly unlimited power, but he still has to make moral choices, he still has to decide what path to take, and with the sci-fi trappings of the DCU, he will always face conflicts that will test even his astounding abilities.

But it will also be interesting to see a contemporary take on the early Superman—the New Deal strong man of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster—a character who will struggle with the physical demands of the job as well as the moral choices.

The Creative Team: If I had to pick one writer to relaunch Action Comics and tell the greatest Superman stories possible, the decision would be simple: Grant Morrison, writer of the best-ever Superman story in the twelve issues of All-Star Superman. But I didn’t have to pick. DC did. And they came up with the same choice.

Are there other comic book writers who could write good stories about a younger Superman, struggling in his early days in Metropolis? Sure. But Grant Morrison is the only writer who has proven that he can make Superman a compelling character for today. He’s also the best mainstream comic book writer today, the best, maybe, ever. If someone made a documentary about his career, and someone did, I would happily speak on camera about his work and his influence on the industry, and I did.

Joining Morrison on this comic will be artist Rags Morales. Morales has done serviceable work on comics like Identity Crisis and Hawkman, but he really impressed me with his opening issue of First Wave, a series that ended up going nowhere and falling apart, even artistically, by the end. But Morales did demonstrate strong control over mood and the weight of mystery in that series. Between that and the physicality he brings to his characters, I think he’s a solid choice to complement Morrison’s back-to-basics take on a super-powered muscleman hero.

Recommendation: Definitely buy it! This has the best comic book writer working today crafting stories around the character who kicked off the whole superhero genre. The Justice League comic may be positioned as the flagship series of the New DC Universe, but Action Comics looks to be the heart and soul of the relaunched DCU.

Tim Callahan writes about comics for, Comic Book Resources, Back Issue magazine, and his own Geniusboy Firemelon blog.


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