Grant Morrison and Rags Morales (with the help of CAFU and Brad Walker on pencils) wrap up the first year of “Action Comics” this month with a story that should feel grand and powerful, a strong punch from all involved to the audience. What we actually get, though, is a tangle of ideas that have some good individual moments but never quite pull together.
So many little moments in “Action Comics” #12 are hallmarks of Morrison’s comics in general; the idea of the new species of Neo Sapiens, the Oort-Kind aliens or even that Superman can “read” a flash drive without using a computer. Each moment is strong and makes you think, “Hey, this is clever.” But none of these moments quite intersect with one another in a good way. The opening dream sequence feels like it’s from an entirely different comic than the next pages with Superman trying to get to an injured Lois Lane, and those different still than the Blake Farm Ghost origin story.
The further I read, the more I found myself slightly frustrated with “Action Comics” #12. Every now and then I’d turn the page and think, “Wow.” The big splash revealing the Oort-Kind is near-perfect; their presence hovering over Blake is positively eerie, with their red glowing eyes and cloud-like bodies. Even the lettering from Steve Wands hits the mark perfectly here, with the massive “BE NOT AFRAID” booming out at the reader.
As soon as you turn the page, though, the effect is gone. “Action Comics” #12 is a strange mixture of exposition, fight scenes and clever moments, but the flow from one to the next is virtually non-existent. In the process, some parts (like Susie’s character coming into her own) feel like they arrive out of nowhere; there isn’t a strong or even subtle lead-in to them, instead just getting presented to us as fact. Considering that Morrison’s script takes up the entire comic this month (instead of giving us a back-up story) it’s telling that this is a comic that feels like it could have used a few more pages to smooth down the edges.
With Morales, CAFU and Walker all providing pencils this month, it’s a minor miracle that “Action Comics” #12 doesn’t like a visual jumble. The three artists don’t normally have similar styles, but it feels like CAFU and Walker course-corrected a bit to try and keep the overall look the same from start to finish. That said, it doesn’t feel like the shining hour from anyone involved; pages are overly full in places, and the fight scene never plays out in a visually friendly manner. All three are artists whom I normally like, but this feels like everyone was off their game.
There are some great bits here and there that have me still interested in what’s to come. The final pages set up the next storylines with an almost gleeful menace, and there’s at least one revelation in the last couple pages so surprising that I almost cheered. Still, “Action Comics” #12 is a comic where the sum of its parts is weaker than each individual moment. Ultimately, this feels like a rare misstep from all parties involved.