“Action Comics #10”

Grant Morrison, Rags Morales et al.
DC Comics
$3.99, 32 pages

After last month’s brief sojourn into the world of Calvin Lewis, Super-President, Morrison returns us to the regularly scheduled adventures of a young Superman struggling to find his place in the world.

The Clark Kent in Action Comics is so vastly different from the one in the pages of Superman as to boggle the mind. This is Clark Kent the crusader, Clark Kent the intrepid reporter, and Clark Kent the idealist who believes that he and his friends could solve all of the world’s problems if they’d just get out there and try.

It is nice to see Morrison get a break from the aliens and robots that managed to interject themselves into what was otherwise shaping up to be a fascinating series about a burgeoning hero’s quest to right the wrongs in the lives of society’s little people. This issue is Superman-as-wish-fulfillment for those among us who see stories in the news of rape and murder and wish that we had the power to track down the culprits and bring them to justice.

Rags Morales art is spot-on in this issue. His ability to show the subtle nuances of expression on Clark’s face do a tremendous job of giving the reader a window into what is happening in his mind without resorting to cheesy internal monologue. The brief scene with the Justice League also allows Morales to showcase how much can be conveyed about a character by posing alone.  His Batman seems aloof and somewhat petulant; Cyborg nervously slips into the background; Aquaman is a pretentious aristocrat; Green Lantern stands much more like the good little soldier he is at this point in his career than the brash character we know he will become later. The only one who seems truly comfortable in their skin in these scenes is Wonder Woman, as Morales draws her with a confidence and openness that speaks volumes about Diana’s attitude.

It is in this scene that Morrison explores the greatest moral dilemma of Superman, which is: how much can he do versus how much should he do. He wants to know why his heroic colleagues aren’t supportive when he wants to tackle famine in Africa, why they won’t help him stop child torture, and why they only seem to work together when there are alien attacks. Ironically, given his actions inBatman Inc., it is Bruce Wayne who declares that he doesn’t want to “march into countries uninvited to ‘fix’ problems we barely understand.”

The final act of the story leaves the reader very unclear as to how exactly Morrison will manage to pick up the pieces. While it is obvious that things will eventually return to status quo, as we have seen what becomes of Superman in the years after Action Comics, that does not make the events any less startling, nor does it take away from the poignancy of the last several pages. There is some truly emotional writing here, making Morrison’s love for Clark Kent, perhaps even more than Superman, utterly clear.

“Action Comics #10” is a book that tugs at the heartstrings, playing a melancholy song of regret that puts a truly human face on Superman.

Josh Epstein

Josh Epstein is the Publisher for the Capeless Crusader website. He’s a lifelong comic nerd, and “Superman” is the first word he ever read aloud. He is also an actor, singer, and resident of a real-world Smallville.

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