Believing Clark Kent has been getting in the way of his vocation as Superman, the hero has killed off his reporter alter ego and taken on a new role – Metropolis firefighter Johnny Clark. The new guy will keep his distance from colleagues, so there’s little chance of anyone guessing his secret.
This issue we see Johnny take part in a rescue in the Bakerline district and it’s a wonder he doesn’t immediately run back to the Daily Planet – Clark never had to carry around stinky cats on litter trays. He stick with it, though, visiting Daily Star editor George Taylor in hospital. Injured in the blast which ‘killed’ Clark, Taylor mourns ‘one of the best reporters I’ve ever known’.
Superman is having doubts, it turns out, and visits Batman to share them. His fellow Justice Leaguer tells him to leave the problem with him, and Superman retires to his new home in space, the Collector of World’s onetime alien museum, where he guards 204 miniaturised bottled cities. Having fought Metalek, a Transformer-like alien intelligence, earlier that day, he asks the Brainiac AI why Earth is suddenly seeing so much interest from extraterrestrials. Brainiac warns of a world-ending threat known as the Multitude. It has 333 planets on its death list, but isn’t unstoppable – Superman learns that his own father, Jor-El, once pushed it back.
On Earth, meanwhile, Lois and niece Susie are confronted by a glowing stranger with massive mental powers, who tells Susie he has to take her away. He claims that ‘you’re one of us, a Nutant. Neo-Sapiens born one-hundred thousand years ahead of our time to prepare the way and inherit the Earth.’ By the time Superman shows up, via another Metalek encounter, Lois is in a bad way …
Action Comics #11 is another issue with loads happening. The stranger’s story will have bells ringing with longtime readers – a man with mental powers born 100,000 years ahead of his time, eh? And I didn’t even mention the name of his spaceship. All together, veterans – the Cometeer. It seems writer Grant Morrison is giving us some riff on Silver Age DC hero Captain Comet. Despite the familiar chest emblem, and facial markings reminiscent of lines on one of his costumes, I don’t think this guy is actually Adam Blake, onetime star of Strange Adventures. Well, he’s rather unsavoury and I can’t see Morrison making such a traditionally clean-cut character bad. Also, next month’s story is entitled Return of the Forgotten Superman’ – given that Bronze Age stories have Captain Comet predating Superman in the heroic community, and that Blake comes from a farm in the Midwest, he has to be the ‘Earth’s First Superman’ referred to in solicitations.
Predating Fifties star Comet is Susie, troublesome minx in several Forties Superman stories. She doesn’t seems a naughty girl here, though I suspect she’s subconsciously convinced Lois she’s her niece and that they’re not actually related – because Lois never mentions her unseen sister’s name, and in the Five Years Later stories currently appearing in Superman, Lois’ sister Lucy seems too young to have a daughter of Susie’s vintage.
I’m less interested in the alien invasion threat; the New 52 relaunch is under a year old and already aliens seem passe. I’m quite taken by Superman’s weird logic, mind – he removes Clark because he’s getting in the way of Superman’s work, but takes on a new full-time job as another man. How can he tell his journal that ‘Johnny allows me to be Superman 24/7’ when it’s patently not true? And guess the number of Johnny’s fire truck. Yup, 1938, just as WGBS Action News is on Channel 38 – it’s like some odd Metropolis fetish.
Oh well, the story is enjoyable throughout, whether we’re in the realm of high adventure, hamster-husbandry or community construction. Morrison’s script reads well, with the dialogue believably natural, while the confidence with which he doles out stimulating story information and beats makes for a comfortable read.
There is one lingering story point that’s confusing me, and please do tell me if I’ve missed something – why does Superman wear the tee-shirt in Metropolis, and the nasty Kryptonian armour elsewhere?
Pencillers Rags Morales and Brad Walker do beautiful work here. The basic split is that Morales, inked by Rick Bryant, handles Superman adventuring, while Walker gets the quieter moments. Walker’s hamster scene is a treat, with Susie given real personality, while Morales’ hooded Nutant looks very spooky. Yes, I’m guessing a Captain Comet type, but the look also has echoes of Morales’ Hourman design, with some Apokolips in the mix too.
This issue’s back-up sees Sholly Fisch reveal where Clark Kent gets his ‘S’ tee shirts from. ‘Exactly where you’d expect’, is the answer, but it all makes for a briskly entertaining tale, elegantly drawn by Cafu. Jay David Ramos’s colour palette for the flashbacks is smart and attractive.
Morales and colourist Brad Anderson’s cover is striking, though the cover copy is a bit OTT. It was ever thus.
I believe we have just five more issues of Action to come from Morrison. I’ll be savouring every one.