Recent Dorkiness

Connecting the Super-Dots

Action Comics #10, by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales One of the things that continually amazes me about Morrison's Action Comics is how slight it feels on first read, and yet how much... stuff... I unpack out of every issue when I sit down to review it. I think it's down to how quickly he moves from scene to scene, and how very little down-time there is for reflection during the reading process. You'd expect that to lead to hollow stories, but there's such incredible economy of writing going on here that every scene is like a little dwarf star of fiction, or (less hyperbolically) like poetry. Not that it's lyrical at all, but it is compact: every panel counts. That's never more apparent than on this page: Here we see Clark rushing out to action, and two separate issues being addressed. First, it's revealed that (after a couple of close brushes with having his secret identity revealed), Clark is keeping his Superman t-shirts in a bus terminal locker. And, if you take a close look at the stack, you'll see that they're in multiple colors, which I can only assume is an attempt to quietly explain an apparent coloring error from earlier in the run: Clark's t-shirt mysteriously went from blue to white (and back!) mid-adventure. It's a fine example of desperation breeding inspiration; if DC's insistence on the “hit the deadline no matter how bad the final product is” approach to funnybook-making is going to preclude basic quality control, you might as well make the best of it. So now, rather than being annoyed that they can't even get their flagship character's colors right, I'm amused and delighted by a very practical nod to the legend of Superman-Red/Superman-Blue (and, evidently, -White and -Green, too). I like that he's sticking with the t-shirt and jeans look for his more... human-level adventures, as well. It's a great look for him, so much so that when the spandex comes out, it all looks rather silly. Because he still puts on his *snicker* Kryptonian Battle-Armor for his JLA meeting, like it's pervert formal wear, or ceremonial garb for his super-secret club. Recent issues have of course pointed out how extreme super-feats really do require a super-suit, just so he's not left performing his acts of derring-do nekkid. But you don't need a bulletproof vest all the time, and I'm happy to see this issue acknowledge that. **SPOILERIFFIC THRILLS follow... after the jump!**

At any rate. Back to Morrison’s technique. In addition to the “every panel counts” thing, there’s also an inexorable movement happening. Though it didn’t seem so to me on first blush, each scene leads into the next, no matter how unconnected they appear. So we open, this issue, with latest Super-Baddie Nimrod the Hunter talking to Mr. Fry (current owner of the Kent farm back in Kansas)…

click to embiggen

…which leads to a call alerting Clark…

…which affects Superman’s mood as he conducts the angry apprehension of a child murderer, too late to save the latest victim…

…which leads to an argument with the Justice League based in his growing frustration at being so very very powerful but not being able to effect change in a way that actually makes a difference to people on a day-to-day basis…

…which makes Our Hero sad and a trifle distracted as Nimrod tracks Clark, Lois, and Jimmy across Metropolis…

click to embiggen for important background details

…which leads to him rushing off half-cocked to talk down a suicide bomber as Clark rather than just disarming him as Superman…

…which fails, and leaves Our Hero with a big problem:

Keep in mind: I’m not just summarizing here. I’m drawing connections. On first read, most of this stuff seemed like a jumble of separate story bits to me. But when I went back for my pre-review skim, it all slotted together like a jigsaw puzzle. And that’s just the major plot throughline; the cause-and-effect thing is happening on even more levels than that. The suicide bombing, you see, is in response to Clark’s expose of corrupt businessman Glen Glenmorgan, which cost the bomber (hired thug Gus Grundig) his livelihood. And Nimrod’s investigations at the old Kent place are due, in part, to Clark not being careful enough to guard his secret identity, an identity also ferreted out by Batman, as revealed in the Justice League scene. Of course, his landlady figured it out, too, so what more proof do you need that the kid’s not gotten very good at this particular super hero deception as yet?

And then there’s Lois. In the space of a few issues, she’s gone from open contempt of Clark to hanging out at his apartment. And if her curiosity about Clark’s prom date is any indication…

click to embiggen

…her romantic interest has been piqued, too. But her competitive nature and tough big-city-girl exterior would never allow her to show it openly. Clark’s interested, too, I think; his reaction to Lois’ Superman scrapbook is a mixture of nervous “oh shit she’s so close to figuring out I’m Superman” and mild jealousy that she’s so obsessed with his alter ego. The jealousy doesn’t manifest in the above scene, but as we saw earlier, when Lois tells him that Grundig’s bomb attempt is his “cue to run”… I can’t help but think there’s a bit of “I’ll show her that we don’t need Superman” creeping into his decision to rush into action as Clark rather than Superman. And we’ve already seen where that leads.

So Nimrod both succeeds and fails in his attempt to kill the Superman. He’s utterly unprepared to deal with the power levels he’s facing on the job…

…but the very fact that he’s tracking Our Hero throws Clark off sufficiently that, combined with the various other pressures he’s facing, he gets careless and makes a bad decision that leads to his “death” anyway. Which may have been what the Strange Little Man wanted when he hired Nimrod in the first place. This leaves Superman in a precarious emotional position: full of frustration, figuring out his place in the world, and suddenly cut off from the network of friends and co-workers that keep him human.

Oh, and then there’s this:


So, yeah. Loving this book. Loving this book so much that I suddenly find myself without time to review all the other books I bought the last couple of weeks. Hrm. Ah well. I had fun, anyway…

Grade: A

About Mark Brett (455 Articles)
Shaved Yeti. Alien. Writer of stuff. Read my fiction at Read my thoughts on comic books and other dork culture ephemera at

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