Once of the most difficult things to accept about this relaunch is the same problem I had (and, in part, still have) with Marvel’s Ultimate Universe: why reboot things if you’re just going to keep telling the same story? Particularly in the beginning of Ultimate Spider-Man, each arc introduced and discarded a classic Spider-Man villain – where’s the fun in that? But, after going on a run through the first five or six arcs, I started to get it. It was a chance to revamp and update classic characters for a new audience, and slowly slide things in a direction we never would have predicted. Rather than jumping in blind with ideas that will be (inevitably) compared to their classic counterparts, the Ultimate Universe started slow and built up a following all its own, a rhythm unique to itself.
In a way, that’s what I see Morrison doing here. Sure, fans have a pretty good idea of the importance of Doctor Irons’ “Steel Soldier” project, and John Corben’s reckless decision to test that that suit for himself – we’re seeing the origins of Steel and Metallo, respectively – but the story is fast-paced, well-characterized and, frankly, a joy to read. Who cares if it’s bringing in these past elements? That won’t make the last-page reveal any less shocking, or Superman’s eventual escape from the soldier’s any less thrilling. Good storytelling is good storytelling, and Morrison is a master.
Morrison’s story is well-served by his art team, with Astro City artist Brent Anderson joining Rags Morales on art and Patrick Brosseau coloring. Superman in chains is an undefeated man, exhausted but endlessly cocky. Superman in motion is vibrant, confident and dynamic. The characters are distinctive, the designs are memorable, and the layouts are easy to follow and flow well with the action. Though the relaunch has given us more innovative work on many fronts, Morales and Anderson understand superhero storytelling flawlessly, a trait that makes them perfect partners for Morrison as he reinvents one of the oldest superheroes of all time.
Like in All-Star Superman, Morrison has found a way to tap into a fresh new energy for an old character. Action Comics is a whip-smart book, exciting and fast-paced, and #2 (“Superman in Chains”) includes 8 pages of back matter, with Morrison and Morales talking about the design work that went into relaunching Action for a new generation. Anyone interested in the Man of Steel – or anyone who doesn’t get what all the fuss for the character is about – owes it to themselves to give the book a chance.
Action Comics #2 (lebeau’s take)