Action Comics 2. Grant Morrison and Rags Morales. [****]
I loved the first issue of Morrison’s revitalization of Superman. He deftly fused some of the best of the golden age Superman with choice pieces of Byrne’s reboot and later versions. It had an energy that most comics, let alone most Superman comics, lack. It was great, this brash young Superman fighting for the little people and against the studied hate of Lex Luthor. This second issue doesn’t lose the energy, but it does lose control of it some.
Captured at the end of the previous issue, Superman is subjected to torturous tests by Lex and a cadre of military scientists, defended only by Doctor Irons, who in previous continuity was the hero Steel. It is still a magnificent re-imagining of the Superman mythos, with as many warts as possible sanded off. However, the plot of this issue falls into the trap that people often erroneously claim Morrison’s stories fall into. Somewhere in the ideas and the big moments, it loses cohesion and any sense of actual narrative. While that is usually a bogus claim of those whose reading comprehension is poor, I believe this issue strays into incoherence. It feels like 30 pages of story crammed into 20 and that compression leads to a story that feels like some important parts are missing. Still, the ideas underlying the carry it well enough, as long as this is a one-issue blip and not a continued problem.
Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E 2. Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli. [****½]
The first issue of this series promised much, but didn’t quite deliver it. This issue does. It cleans up the action from the first, throws a few more big science fiction concepts onto the page and manages some deft characterization of the monster fighting crew of monsters that populate this book.
Frankenstein is a no nonsense man of action. Griffith, the werewolf, is an eager young soldier. Mazursky, the sea monster, is a committed, possibly mad scientist with a combination of determination and damage. Velcoro, the vampire, has gotten the least characterization so far, but he seems to be a bit of a sociopath. Then there are the scientists of SHADE, who supply the team with support and crazy tools. It is like a monster sci-fi James Bond. Ponticelli’s scratchy art is a perfect complement to the black humor of the story. It all adds up to a terrific comic.
The Shade 1 of 12. James Robinson and Cully Hamner. [*****]
James Robinson returns the world where he really made his name. Back to Opal City and to the Shade, one of the biggest characters from Robinson’s seminal Starman run. The villain turned hero, sort of, Shade was easily the best character from that series, save for maybe its star.
Despite it being ten or so years since Starman ended, Shade manages to pick up right where it left off but not be alienating to new readers. All information needed is on the page. Shade is jovial and verbose, though he claims to be in the dumps. His girlfriend, police officer Hope O’Dare, suggests an adventure to perk him up. Interspersed in between Shade scenes in an encounter between one Von Hammer and a group of hit men. What he learns from them points him to Shade. There is an undeniable charm to the Victorian born Shade. He is acts like a man who has lived for more than a century might act. He is calm and never surprised but also not jaded. At least not anymore. This is just a great book. I look forward to the rest of it eagerly.