If this month’s #0 issues are all about looking back and shedding light on the origins of various heroes in the New 52, where does that leave Action Comics? Grant Morrison’s relaunched series has essentially been one big origin tale from the start. Luckily, Morrison finds room before the events of issue #1 to explore Clark Kent’s very first adventure as Superman and the theft of his indestructible cape. While Action Comics #0 doesn’t really need to exist in the larger context of this run, it delivers enough memorable character moments that it’s well worth read regardless.
The best compliment I can give this issue is that it feels more consistent and cohesive than the majority of Morrison’s previous issues have been. The plot is relatively simple by Morrison standards, so rather than cutting between scenes and points in time intermittently, Morrison is able to follow the journey from point A to B in a more methodical manner. Issue #0 opens where one of the recent backup stories left off, with Clark ordering his first batch of Superman T-shirts. From there, we see him settle into his role at the Daily Star, interact with Jimmy Olsen, and put his growing abilities to the test for the first time as Metropolis’ new defender.
Again, it’s the character work that makes this issue. Morrison once again shows how easy it is to craft a compelling Clark Kent — one who is both human and relatable yet also powerful and noble. Clark enjoys a definitive Superman moment in this issue that pays homage to his Golden Age, "man of the people" roots. But Jimmy Olsen also has a strong showing in this issue. Morrison sheds a great deal of light on what drives the character in the New 52 universe. The result is a more down-to-earth and independent-minded take on Jimmy than the flamboyant globetrotter Morrison wrote in All-Star Superman.
Issue #0 doesn’t add much to the greater picture. The script acknowledges the recent revelations about Cark’s landlady and her 5th Dimensional origins, but apart from that the book could just as easily have shipped a year ago to kick off Morrison’s run. The subplot involving the stolen cape doesn’t amount to much. What this conflict does accomplish is reminding readers that Morrison’s Superman is as concerned with the individuals of Metropolis as he is with alien invasions and Justice League matters. It takes a deft hand to pit Superman against a child abuser and not have the results turn out hokey or preachy, but Morrison manages it.
Issue #0 benefits from a much more consistent visual style than the series tends to offer. Ben Oliver fills in for Rags Morales this month. While there’s a certain sterility and coldness to Oliver’s work (some of the smaller details Morales worked into his panels are sorely missed), there’s a lot to be said for clean lines and an overall much smoother presentation.
Sholly Fisch delivers another backup feature to complement the main tale. Interestingly, this story delves into Morrison’s ongoing mythology much more than these backups have tended to in the past. Fisch doesn’t focus on Superman here, but rather the origins of the Captain Comet/Neo-sapiens subplot from recent issues. Again, this material isn’t necessarily that vital, but it adds a bit of color to previous stories. It’s nice to have one issue that slows down the breakneck pace of the series and focus on the characters before Morrison begins his final push.
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