ACTION COMICS #16

By: Grant Morrison (story), Brad Walker & Rags Morales (pencils), Andrew Hennessy & Mark Probst (inks), Brad Anderson (colors)

The Story: God among men versus god.

The Review: Mr. Morrison, I know you’re probably too wily and experienced to succumb to the temptation of perusing the internet for remarks on your work, but your probably know already the general criticisms about your work.  “Confusing” is the operative term you likely most often hear, but I think a more accurate description is “headache-inducing mind bogglement.”  Granted, you don’t want to alter your craft on public whim alone, but sometimes, the public has a point.

Because this issue is a prime example of what people are talking about when they complain about the obtuseness of your work.  Now, I know what you’re about to say: this is a story about time and space going bananas at the shenanigans of a fifth-dimensional being so of course the narrative will run off-kilter.  Unfortunately, that’s not where my point of contention lies.  Your reality-warping nonsense is your fictional style at its most classic and actually the best part of the issue.  The real problem lies elsewhere.

Namely, it lies in how many last-minute continuity conundrums you force us to deal with at the last minute.  The weirdness begins with the opening appearance of the Legion of Super-Heroes.  For those who don’t read Paul Levitz’s ongoing of the same name*, this may be their first exposure to the 31st-century team, and already they don’t know what to make of it.  The Legion shows up under a vague and inexplicable martial law, breaks into a secured area, and commandeer a Time Bubble to “change everything” on a “one-way trip” out of their own era, so we never really get a clear idea of why they’re on the run.

Don’t think you can make up for it by relying on Sholly Fisch’s back-up, either.  While his Legion tale has a purity and liveliness that I haven’t felt from the team in years (and which makes me think Fisch would be the perfect immediate replacement for Levitz on that series), it only hints at why things are the way they are in “The After Age.”  It is a little presumptuous to throw this hefty chunk of confusion at us near the climax of an arc and bet on explaining it later, outside the main feature.  Even Chris Sprouse’s perfectly retro art (with Karl Story’s fine inks and Jordie Bellaire hippie colors) can’t overcome your questionable storytelling choices.

For example, why wait until now to suddenly make all the repeated references to the day “Superman died”?  Why give Luthor the inspiration to build an “anti-Superman weapon” but activate it before he even completes it?  Why drag in all these villains we barely know (especially the K-Men, whom you keep pushing on us yet never even half-bothered to explain) for this grand finale?  Why bother with all these pawns when you have a villain who can crawl over every block of reality, webbing up the known universe as he does so?

And look, I know that you’re not getting much support, artistically.  Morales has done nothing for your story on this entire run; even an art-idiot such as myself can tell that he’s downright stymied by your fictional vision, so he just delivers the safest rendering possible instead of the most rewarding.  Walker’s figures at least lack that melting, sloppy quality that characterizes Morales at his worst, but even he doesn’t push the artistic risks any further than necessary.  Anderson keeps things looking fairly unified, but his bright, punchy colors don’t really convey the apocalyptic, end-of-days tone you’re presumably going for.

Conclusion: Mr. Morrison, it’s only my appreciation for what you’re trying to do that keeps me from going any further beyond calling this issue “questionable.”  I hope you can completely overturn my expectations in the next chapter.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * And why would you, really?

– By the way, maybe I’ve watched too many Korean dramas, but I find little more cloying than the image of a comatose person who still has enough consciousness to shed a tear.

Grade

Conclusion