When DC Comics re-launched its line back in the fall of 2011, two of their new titles — “Justice League” and “Action Comics — were set firmly in the past. And while “Justice League” has since shifted to the present-day setting with its origin story completed, “Action Comics” continues to gleefully remain in the past. That’s what helps make “Action Comics” #10 stand out this month; Grant Morrison and Rags Morales’ story is one that at a glance deliberately doesn’t fit with the present-day “Superman” title.
Ignoring that for a moment, “Action Comics” #10 at its core is an entertaining enough story. There are a lot of building blocks for the present-day Superman’s life still being moved into place here; Lois Lane’s obsession with Superman is revealed, we get Clark Kent’s interview offer with the Daily Planet and some early interactions with the Justice League. They’re all entertaining and they mix well with Morrison’s own take on the “Spider-Man” villain Kraven, as the world’s greatest hunter Nimrod prepares to stalk and kill Superman.
What makes the story work are a lot of the smaller details in this comic. Opening, rather than closing, with the revelation that Nimrod has figured out Superman’s secret identity is a strong one. It grabs the attention and lets you know that it isn’t going down the normal path. Then there are the other tidbits along the way; Superman puts helping hamsters on the same level as poverty in Somalia, or the hints of another, pre-Superman sighted in Kansas some years earlier. By the time we get to the climax of the issue — the moment mentioned earlier that doesn’t fit with everything else we’ve read over in “Superman” — it has turned into a puzzle box needing to be solved.
Morales is back on art this month and it’s fun. He’s drawing a gawky, younger Superman here and it’s a strong visual difference from what we’re getting elsewhere at DC Comics. He’s able to handle a lot of the little ideas here with strength, too; I like his depiction of Superman’s secret t-shirt stash, for instance, and how the emergency outfit is distinctly different from the more formal costume.
Sholly Fisch and CAFU provide the back-up story this issue, spinning directly out of the big climax. It’s a scene that feels almost like Morrison and Morales deemed unnecessary, giving it to Fisch and CAFU instead. It’s a strange moment as a result, with Fisch and CAFU somehow undercutting themselves from the moment it begins. It’s not a bad story, and any new art from CAFU is a great thing, but it feels slightly misplaced.
“Action Comics” #10 is a good comic, but we’re going to need to see how this plays out in #11-12 to get a better understanding on if it’s a great comic. Standing on its own, it works well enough, but it’s clearly the first act in a three-act story, and where we go from here is just as important as this issue’s starting point.