It’s already set five years in the past of the current DC Universe, but for zero month Action Comics goes just that little bit further back. To the week Clark Kent got a job at the Metropolis Daily Star while looking like a tramp. The week he moved into his first apartment. The week Superman made his first headlines. And the week he lost his cape.
Well, not ‘lost’, exactly. It’s taken by a wee tyke, but things turn out for the best as the super-resilient cape both inspires and defends.
Other bits of business in Grant Morrison’s story include the least subtle hint yet – heck, I’d go so far as to say it’s a reveal – as to who the man in landlady Mrs Nyxly’s life is; Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White’s first reading of the symbol sported by the mysterious strongman popping up around the city; and Clark’s assessment of Lois’ writing style which shows he’s quite the wordsmith himself.
This is solid, inessential fare, filling in the background of things we already know, or could guess at – but by cracky, it’s entertaining. The biggest thing this story does is provide a bit of depth to Jimmy, letting us know something of his family background and what drives him.
The art by Ben Oliver is a treat for the eyes, bewitchingly realistic. The price for overall gorgeousness on a deadline, though, seems to be an overabundance of panels in which the figures are silhouettes – I counted something like 14 in 22 pages. And while counting may seem anal, I was curious as to how many there were because the constant black figures became so distracting. Where colours are needed, Brian Reber does a top job. And lettering the story, Steve Wands keeps it strong and subtle.
A back-up written by Sholly Fisch and drawn by Cafu shows us what prompted Erik Drekken to begin the research that wound up with him able to slide up and down the evolutionary scale and a member of the Anti-Superman Army. It also colours in some of the detail around recent villain Adam Blake, aka Captain Comet. It’s an intriguing, good-looking time-passer, but other than the (rather guessable) Drekken reveal, more a bonus than a necessity.
The cover is by Reber and Oliver and it’s of the quality that could see it mounted in the DC offices for years to come.
Overall, I’d say this is Action Comics marking time, giving us the zero issue required by DC’s marketing team, but holding back its best tricks for the regular monthly. Nevertheless, it’s more skilful, stylish and entertaining than most superhero books out there, so recommended nonetheless.