Ok, I have to admit that writing these reviews is a little harder than I thought. I mean, how many ways can you say, “it has good art and a good story”, and vice versa. I guess I could just pad out the article by describing the plot, but I’ve never been a huge fan of that approach with entertainment reviews in general. It just seems a bit lazy.
A quick scan of the internet and review of other sites critiquing comic books has produced insipid results, unfortunately. I mean, I shouldn’t really be surprised. As much as I love the medium, we’re not exactly critiquing War and Peace. Each issue has 22 pages, and story arcs tend to run five or six issues so that it can be collected into a trade paperback for sale in bookstores at a later date. That’s 110 to 132 pages, which let’s be frank, is not quite as dense as 110 pages in a novel.
Comic book writers and artists need to convey a lot of information in a very limited space, so they have to be efficient, maybe even ruthless, with what they show and what they don’t show. Which means that building comfort and creating emotional moments through connection to the characters is extremely hard for comic creators. Novelists on the other hand have the luxury of spending more time with characters and narratives, which allows the reader more time to connect with the characters and the material.
All that said, I think it’s better to review story arcs versus single issues. Especially in the case of Grant Morrison who tends to use non-linear story telling and also inculcates quite a bit of foreshadowing. His run on Action Comics is no different and for me it was best binge-consumed instead of reading each issue individually as it was released.
I don’t know if this is a symptom of his story telling style, but at times the story seems to staccato step. Almost like I skipped a page. For me, I feel like that happens quite a lot with his stories and unfortunately it makes it hard to follow the central narrative. You always feel like you’re missing something.
That said it is a really good re-introduction to Superman and he does evolve quite a bit over the story arc into a more recognisable version of the character. I also really liked the re-introduction of Brainiac and how he used this villain to introduce well know story elements from the Superman mythology, like the Fortress of Solitude.
There’s also a sub-plot/thread devoted to Mr Mxyzptlk which starts in issue one and runs for the entire series culminating in Grant’s last issue which is number 18. It is easily the most inventive interpretation of the character and fits this rebooted version of Superman quite well. I’ve never been a big fan of this villain because Superman is primarily a science fiction hero, and the magical aspect of the character has never felt congruent with Superman’s universe.
Rags Morales art is on point as usual. He is easily one of my favourite artists, dating back to his time on Forgotten Realms and some of the other D&D books of the ‘90s. His characters are kinetic, which adds motion to the story. He’s very good at displaying emotion, which adds depth to the story and he doesn’t seem to cut corners at all. Some artists will get a bit lazy and skimp on the detail, but Rags doesn’t do that. His panels/pages are always very detailed and give you allot to look at.
All in all I’d rate Grant and Rags 18 issue run on Action Comics as a solid 4 out of 5 stars.