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What Is The Noob 52?
As many far-more-informed comic book fans know, DC recently completely relaunched pretty much all of their properties; cancelling all current story lines and starting from scratch in an experiment known as The New 52. The design of this experiment was to entice new readers by giving them a chance to come in on the ground floor on any of 52 brand new titles. As someone pathetically out of touch with almost everything related to comic books and comic book characters, I decided to test this experiment by diving headfirst into each and every issue. I will judge these issues based on the art, the story, and how well the writers made this alien world accessible to noobs like me. I will end each piece by explaining what I now understand about the worlds of these characters, based exclusively on what The New 52 has taught me with no other (or very little) previous frame of reference. Join me, won’t you?
Title: ‘Action Comics’
Writer(s): Grant Morrison
Artist(s): Rags Morales & Rick Bryant
Going In, What Do I Know?Ok, I may be a noob, but this is Superman for crying out loud. You’d have to have lived under a rock your whole life to not know this character. No, that’s not quite far enough. You’d have to have lived in a 12’x12’, hermetically-sealed steel box under that rock; both of which were then buried at the bottom of the ocean. With all the movie incarnations alone it’s hard not to be familiar with the Man of Steel. And I may or may not have, but definitely did, watch some *cough* Smallville *cough* in college.
I know that Superman is Kal-El, that he was born on Krypton, that his one weakness is kryptonite, and that he has more powers than Roger Corman’s got schlock. I am aware that his planet exploded and that his enemies are guys like Gen. Zod, Braniac, and Doomsday. I know that he’s Metropolis’ golden boy, the boy scout as Batman has called him on occasion, and that he hides in plain sight as mild-mannered Clark Kent of the Daily Planet. Of the characters I never read (in other words anyone not named Batman) Superman is easily the character with whom I have the most familiarity.
Artwork:I love the artwork in 'Action Comics.' The use of light and shading is not only varied throughout, but adds a great deal of depth to almost every panel. I want to frame that scene of Superman striking the tank with the severed wrecking ball and hang it on my wall. I also appreciated the wildly expressive faces each offering a great deal of personality. But I think the most impressive element of the art in this issue was the fact that Morales and Bryant are able to craft really elaborate action sequences without sacrificing fine character detail or the overall complexity of the panel composition. Even as Superman is trying to stop a speeding train as it careens off the track and thunders through the streets, every fine line and detail of that exploding train paddock is breathtakingly pronounced.
In addition to being familiar with Superman, the name Grant Morrison is one I’ve heard on the lips of my more comic book literate compatriots time and time again. As I recall, it was usually in a favorable context. I have to say, the thing that won me over the most about 'Action Comics' was the story. I’ve always had a problem with Superman conceptually because there never seemed to be any end to his power. It makes it hard to identify with a hero who is invulnerable and it kills the suspense of his various battles. I’ve always likened him to that kid on the playground who would adopt whatever convenient power he needed during imagination games as a refusal to ever lose. You’d tell him you dropped a giant boulder on him and he’d claim all of a sudden to have super strength. You’d try and shoot him and he’d suddenly be blessed with super speed. It made the game frustrating and, worse, boring.
What Morrison has done here is make Superman a pissed-off vigilante with a giant chip on his shoulder. He’s not Metropolis’ favored son yet, he’s an outlaw who almost every level of law enforcement wants brought to justice. He’s still all-powerful, but he actually has to face the adversity of being a feared pariah. Essentially, Morrison has made Superman more like Batman, except that he’s able to brazenly confront the police force that wastes their time chasing him instead of taking on real criminals. I also love the fact that Superman is not opposed to breaking bones and reducing villains to quivering little piles of goo. There are mentions made of his breaking the ribs of wife-beaters and we see him smash thugs through walls. Again, more like Batman. I love this darker approach to the character.
The driving force behind the plot is that Lex Luthor, whose position within the Metropolis infrastructure is never explained oddly, is called into consult on how to capture Superman. He arrogantly guarantees that he can deliver him by the end of the day and seems sincerely disdainful toward him on the general principle. He compares him to non-native animal species introduced to foreign environments over our history and the damage they have done. It'll be interesting to see how these seeds of animosity grow.
What The New 52 Taught Me:So apparently Superman has only been in Metropolis for 6 months and has already made quite an impression. Cops and the military are concerting all their efforts to catch him and he’s the hot topic headline for The Daily Planet. It is mentioned that Jimmy Olsen, Clark’s new best friend, and Lois Lane work for his “rival paper.” I read over the issue several times and couldn’t figure out who wrote for which paper. Oh, and I guess Superman wears jeans now…sure, why not.
Will I Remain A Noob?
Not a chance, I am so excited that someone was able to give me a Superman I give two fraks about that I have to see where this story thread goes. So far, this has been one of my favorites of the New 52.
Like The Noob 52? You'll love Noobs with Boobs by the lovely Allison at Lounge Geeks. Check it out!