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Action Comics #0 – Review

By: Grant Morrison (story), Ben Oliver (art), Brian Reber (colors)

The Story: Look out, Metropolis—this hick from the boonies is ready to rule this city.

The Review: Let’s not beat around the bush.  Zero Month, as the posters at my comic book shop call it, is a clear ploy to reignite the attention and enthusiasm DC had upon its initial relaunch.  I’ve already made it clear how annoyed I was at the number of series where their stories felt truncated or artificially altered to fit in a sudden #0 issue.  That said, it’s not a bad idea to offer an opportunity to explore the origins and backgrounds of these characters.

Morrison wisely skips us past the “boy rocketed to Earth from doomed Krypton” stuff.  That bit has become so ubiquitous to Superman that even if people know nothing else about the character, they know that part.  Instead, he takes us to the real juicy point of Clark’s life, his early days in Metropolis.  When this series debuted, Morrison basically tossed a radically new version of the Man of Steel at us and left us to figure the how and why ourselves.  Now we can get a clearer picture of how Clark made his way to T-shirted vigilante, scruffy journalist.

I say “clearer” because very little in this issue tells us anything we haven’t already put together ourselves.  We already know about the mentoring relationship between Clark and Mr. Taylor, his ex-boss at the Daily Star.  And if we didn’t get the hint yet about the true identity of Ms. Nyxly’s husband, then this issue practically screams it (“This silly old derby hat was his trademark.”).  But Morrison throws us a few more bones, and we can chew on that pretty happily.

The most valuable thing to come out of this issue is a fairly deep dive into Jimmy Olsen’s history.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this move, given how often writers neglect their supporting cast, relegating them to the star’s ciphers.  Jimmy’s family background is such a mess, it has a ring of truth to it, convoluted as it is.  It also meshes very well with his desire to be taken seriously as a photographer—trying to move on from his superficial roots.

Morrison also does a bang-up job selling Clark’s connections to Jimmy and Lois.  For a long time, people just took those relationships for granted.  Now you get to actually see Jimmy and Clark buddying up in the purest way possible: two-player video gaming.  And for once, you see the true heart of attraction between Lois and Clark.  Clark waxes, “Reading Lois Lane is like watching a martial arts display.”  When Lois frets over why she has to go through so much trouble to meet Clark, Jimmy reminds her, “You loved his blogs…”  Writer in love with writer; mutual admiration society.  Makes total sense.

In the background we get a human interest story of a troubled kid finding Superman’s cape, and the magic that comes with it.  It’s one of those sweet, sentimental stories you can only find in a Superman comic, and as predictably as it pans out, you do get his warm, gauzy feeling in your heart at the end of it.

Oliver’s gift for dramatic expression has survived his Batwing days and, if anything, looks even better now.  His sparse style of setting is still chilling.  Rooms and streets look too empty, like no one of flesh and blood actually lives there.  Maybe you wouldn’t notice with a less realistic style of art, but Oliver’s photographic work actually calls attention to points of artifice.  Kudos also to Reber’s Rockwellian lighting, which works so very well with the sunny tone of the issue.

Like the main feature, Sholly Fisch’s back-up doesn’t deliver much more background about Adam Blake than you already knew.  He does, however, give you some insight into Erik Drekken (remember—the gorilla/man who showed up out of nowhere in the confusing Action Comics #6), slotted to be our next antagonist.  Cafu, along with colorist Jay David Ramos, provides pretty slick art for a back-up.

Conclusion: Only partially substantial and largely unnecessary, but it’s still a very enjoyable reading experience.

Grade: B+

- Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: - Clark takes second player in a Counterstrike-like game, but says he’ll only help Jimmy by flying the plane because he’s a pacifist.  Adorable.

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