Grant Morrison's stories can be a little strange and esoteric, but above all else he is a great writer. So it's not shocking that Action Comics continues to be one of the best books of the new 52 reboot, even if it doesn't feel like it belongs to the rest of the DC Universe.
In this newly envisioned DCU, the people of Earth fear and hate their superheroes; which is the opposite of the way it used to be. The problem is that the new rebooted comics sometimes come off as more like Marvel books as opposed to the unique identity that DC had carved out for itself. Morrison handles that angle better than others writers, but I can't shake the feeling that this is a very Marvel-like execution for these characters.
Morrison opens the issue with a seven page flashback to life on Krypton by guest artist Gene Ha, who delivers a sensationally rendered update to Krypton that keeps some of the Silver Age flavor but still manages to look convincingly otherworldly. The level of detail on these pages remind me of Bryan Hitch's work from the early issues of The Authority. It's a pretty stunning sequence that actually puts Superman's mother, Lara into the spotlight as she attempts to escape with her baby, Kal-El from an alien menace shortly before the end of Krypton. Jor-El and a surprisingly kickass Krypto also put in an appearance.
But Rags Morales also shines in the bulk of the issue, as Clark Kent deals with the fact that his lofty goals of ending corruption in Metropolis are being lost in the overriding xenophobia being promoted in the media. In short, the world is scared s***less of Superman and what he can do, so they aren't bothering to listen to what he's saying. For economy of storytelling, Morrison manages to show Superman confronted by a paranoid mob after saving a girl and her kitten before he deals with his despair over the situation... in a single page.
In fact, Superman spends far time as Clark in this issue than he does in costume. And Morrison's Clark Kent is a guy who doesn't care if the police invade his home to search for anything that they can use against him. This Clark has a backbone and he doesn't back down when Inspector Blake makes some very unsubtle threats against him. Clark is actually outshining his Superman alter-ego in terms of balls. But between his two identities, he's a one man Occupy Metropolis. I didn't think this angle would work, but it feels timely.
The one creepy thing about Clark's early scenes is that his landlady figures out his secret identity after the cops leave... and she looks way too much like Woody Harrelson's landlady from "Kingpin." Trust me, you don't want Morrison to go there.
As much as I'm enjoying Morales' art, I do think he's cheating a bit with Clark Kent's appearance to make him look different from Superman. He doesn't just look like Superman with a slightly different haircut. Clark appears a bit more gaunt, with bruises and possibly dirt on his face. It works, but it's hard to reconcile the two depictions as the same guy.
There are some interesting character dynamics happening in the background. Clark and Jimmy are more like equals in their friendship and Clark doesn't seem to like Lois Lane at all; which is a nice change from having him constantly hover over her. Clark Kent also has someone anonymously feeding him info to bring down Superman's current nemesis, Glen Glenmorgan.
Of course, Lex Luthor is still out there and he makes his presence known in one of the best panels of the book. We even see the birth of Metallo unfold in a way that seems to be connected to the Krypton flashback at the beginning of this issue.
On its own, Action Comics #3 makes for a surprisingly dense and enjoyable read. I still don't buy that this is the same Man of Steel being portrayed five years later in Superman, but if you're only reading this book than it doesn't matter what happens anywhere else.
Crave Online Rating: 8.5/10