“You know, the generic, samey origin stories are definitely my favorite part about superheroes,” said no comic book reader ever, and yet, this week in comics sees DC’s questionable Zero Issue month begin. So, yay for that.
This week in comics, DC’s attempt to cash-in on Watchmen 25 years too late (and a few years too late for the film) begins with Before Watchmen: Minutemen, Boom! launches some a pair of new ongoings, and Morrison kills Clark Kent, that bastard!
Action Comics #1 gave us rowdy, unruly teenage Superman, a crusader for Truth, Justice and the American Way who hadn’t yet managed to learn how to temper his passions with diplomacy. And it was fascinating. Six issues into the series, and Morrison and his creative team are still finding new ways to look at the younger Superman, whether its in the simple, touching back-up feature by Sholly Fisch or in the main adventure, which finds us following an older, wiser Superman as he faces a threat to his past selves. And while neither story is perfect in this particularly-weak issue of Action Comics, I still find myself enjoying and even recommending t he book for its shameless sense of fun and the rock-solid grasp it has of its main character.
So, I’m soldiering on with my One Sentence Reviews, in which I read every DC New 52 comic for the week and sum each of them up in badly constructed single sentence reviews. Despite the arrival of a new baby and the fact that some titles are a real chore to get through, I’m too hard-headed to quit at this stage and will keep it up as long as I can. I can’t promise, however, that sleep deprivation hasn’t affected my ability to be fair or rational in my reviews.
Each comic is scored out of five and at the end I have a cumulative leader board (averaging the scores of each title) to show which are consistently excellent, which are on the rise, and which are circling the drain.
I have also reviewed the mini-series issues from the week but, as usual, they aren’t included in the leaderboard.
Warning, there could be spoilers ahead (although I try to avoid them).
Superman is an old character, and one that some people have often had trouble relating to. Seen as the ultimate boy scout, as a man in a stable marriage who works a 9-to-5 job, teens in particular often reject him. And while other writers have played up Superman’s genuine outsider status (most brilliantly in recent years, Kurt Busiek in the fantastic and melancholy Superman: Secret Identity), few have aligned it so thoroughly with the spirit of teenage rebellion than Grant Morrison is doing in Action Comics right now. I don’t know if the audience will bite, but Morrison has envisioned a thoroughly youthful Superman, a self-righteous warrior for truth with a black-and-white view of right and wrong and the power to try and enforce change. But like we all discover eventually, change is really, really, really, really hard – even for Superman – and pushing against the status quo is a great way to make enemies.
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.
One week in, and I have to say: I’m impressed. It’s not that all of the books are winners. They aren’t. There’s a fair bit of mediocrity here. But it’s the sort of mediocrity that SELLS. It’s the kind many people like. While I found the Batbooks lacking the ambition of Morrison’s run or the strong characterization and storytelling of Snyder’s run, the fact is that all of them are solid executions on a formula that works. Outside of maybe Hawk and Dove (the only book I put down without having a solid grasp on what it wanted to do or say), every book on here stands a fair chance of finding a loyal audience – and what’s more, there’s an awful lot of ambition on display.
But what has really impressed me is the variety of stories on display. Whether it’s the way Morrison and Morales have shaken up the way Superman is ‘supposed to’ look, act and sound, the way Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder are effortlessly blending superheroes with horror or the way Ivan Brandon gives war a terrifying new dimension in a world full of superhumans, the New DCU seems to have something to offer everyone! Continue reading