STORY: Grant Morrison
ART: Rags Morales, Rick Bryant, and Brad Walker
Writing complex, labyrinthian, enigmatic, totally relatable, emotionally engaging stories is Grant Morrison’s game. His first arc on Action Comics, “Superman and The Men of Steel”, explored Superman’s early days, his origins, his future, and his most deadly villain, Brainiac. In the span of eight issues, Morrison took the Man of Steel we all knew and felt comfortable with, and reinvented him with a new audience and age in mind. While other titles couldn’t handle the reboot (see Green Arrow), Morrison’s adept navigation of Superman’s earlier days has been nothing if not fantastic reading, whether you like the new direction or not.
Perhaps Grant got the memo about readers understanding the ongoing tale because Action Comics #11 seems to go at a more deliberate and cohesive pace, while still keeping the Morrison charm by throwing us a curveball with a new villain at the issue’s end. In fact, this issue feels a lot like Morrison is throwing readers a bit of a bone with some fan service, including a two-page conversation between Supes and Batman, some history of the universe with Brainiac in Superman’s (apparent) new base of operations, a look into the life of Johnny Clark – Superman’s new alter ego.
Last month’s Justice League revealed that Superman is the only member of the League that Batman actually trusts; a bold claim that deserves some narrative to back it up. Their conversation focuses on Superman changing his alter ego and the ramifications of his decision. Superman laments about losing the personal connections he didn’t think he would miss, and how his responsibilities as the Man of Steel somewhat prevent him from realizing goals like building a new life for himself and/or rebuilding his old one. By the end of Batman’s allotted five minutes, he agrees to take care of the problem of the dead Clark Kent. This revelation that Batman somehow orchestrates the ‘return’ of Clark Kent is quite exciting, as it signifies a greater cohesion in DC’s ‘New 52’ universe.
Things start to get a bit murky near the end of the issue, when a new villain shows up to assume control of the planet. He goes on a (psychic) rant about his supreme intellect and how little Superman’s brawn can stand up to an attack on the mind. Within moments, this mysterious new player is able to defeat a Metalek monster similar to the one Superman was fighting at the beginning of the issue. He uses his psychic powers to take control of the nearby civilians and siks them on Superman as Lois Lane lays on the hood of a car, possibly dead. Morrison, if nothing else, has a flair for the dramatic and leaving the issue is one hell of a cliffhanger.