STORY: Grant Morrison
ART: Ben Oliver
Is it just me, or does has it felt, recently, as though Grant Morrison is just phoning it in? For a few months now, Action Comics has started to putter out. While it started strong, fast, and plenty action-packed, issues 10-12 have been pretty lackluster. Unfortunately, Action Comics #0 continues this trend even in “Zero Month”, with “The Boy Who Stole Superman’s Cape”. Knowing Grant Morrison, I expected there to be much more to the story than simply a boy who steals a cape. In some metafictional sense, Morrison has thrown readers for a loop once again by scripting a bland, directionless story that doesn’t add much to the ‘New 52’ universe beyond a few key moments that could have been placed in any other – probably better – story just as easily.
And these are the best parts of Action Comics #0 – the instances of importance that are scattered within the pages of the actual narrative. For instance, Jimmy Olsen’s first picture of the ‘S’ symbol and the subsequent discussion amongst Jimmy, Lois Lane, and Perry Olsen as to whether the ‘flying man’ is acceptable as a printed piece of news. This scene in particular saves the issue from being a total disaster – it’s interesting without being overbearing, and it’s something the ‘New 52’ is lacking, in terms of origin stories. Similarly, the opening scene between Clark and Jimmy about Jimmy’s family not only works to solidify a friendship that’s been shoddily portrayed at best, but it gives more insight to Jimmy Olsen as a character in the ‘New 52’. Altering tertiary characters is another element the ‘New 52’ has been missing, so it’s nice to see a someone as widely known as Jimmy Olsen getting an upgrade.
As for the boy and the stolen cape, Morrison takes the story in a pretty generic direction. Turns out the boy’s home life is less than perfect and his stepfather (or mom’s boyfriend, or some fling…Morrison never really says) becomes the main villain of the issue due to his raging alcoholism. Soon enough, the cape becomes the focal point when the man attempts to stab a child. Yes, you read that right. A grown man tries to cut children no older than 10. Really, it seems like Morrison just wanted to show a knife being broken by the cape. It’s just sloppy. Then, the older of the two boys punches his (possibly foreign?) stepfather with huge force. We already know that Clark’s cape is special; his clothing has been a recurring theme throughout Morrison’s run so far. Why do we nee an entire issue dedicated to a boy discovering the cool powers of a cape? Unlike Joe Hill’s excellent The Cape, this isn’t about a deranged, disconnected man finding a means to his violent ends. No, this is just about a kid and an abusive father figure.
I don’t want to detract from the emotional significane of stories like these. I truly do not wish that. Unfortunately, when tales like these are done poorly, or half-assed, it’s more disrespectful than not. In the case of Action Comics #0, Morrison simply tries to hard to strain a story from an emotional core. He wants us to connect with the young boy, reading in awe as he himself is in awe over the awesome power of Superman’s cape. Instead, we get a lot of pieces that don’t quite add up to anything.