With artists Brad Walker and Rags Morales providing imagery Grant Morrison’s penultimate issue, “Action Comics” #16 is filled with action and suspense, almost to the point of overflow where twenty pages of story just doesn’t seem like enough space. At the end of the main story, I found myself wishing there wasn’t a backup, but more of the main adventure as it truly seemed to just be ramping up.
Tasked with a vast tale in the confines of a mere score of pages, Walker and Morales share the art load in this issue, with Walker detailing much of the fight between Superman and Xa-Du, a great deal of which occurs outdoors. Morales works nicely throughout the book, which reminded me just how much I do enjoy his work and just how wonderfully he handles emotions through body language as well as facial expression. In fact, in “Action Comics” #16, I’d say Morales’ body language exceeds his facial expressions. Although not human, Sensor is extraordinarily drawn by Morales. Brad Anderson’s colors bind the lead story together nicely, accentuating the red skies that permeate throughout this issue. Steve Wands does a good job translating the characters’ voices visually.
Morrison is at his unpredictable best when there is some level of ambiguity to the adventures he crafts. Setting the timing for this adventure between 3030 A.D., “Yesterday: 1st Age of Superhumanity,” “Now” and “The Day Before Yesterday,” Morrison increases the drama and adds an extra layer of his trademark wackiness by bouncing up and down the timeline. In doing so, he does give Superman a battle worthy of the Man of Steel, albeit with almost cliche opponents, but Morrison has a way of dipping the cliches in coating that makes them fresh and exciting. This issue isn’t groundbreaking or remarkable as one of Morrison’s greatest comics ever, but it is enjoyable in its unpredictability. I can only presume whatever Morrison is cobbling together here will make more sense in a few months or even in collected form. As a monthly slice, however, “Action Comics” #16 is wildly incomplete and mysterious.
Sholly Fisch, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Jordie Bellaire and Dezi Sienty come together in a Legion of Super-Heroes backup tale that is retro-chic and solidly entertaining despite only being a (seemingly) tangential tie-in to the lead story. Of course, with the red skies and appearance of the Legion in the lead-in, it is safe to presume the connection is most likely deeper. Taken on its own accord, however, the Legion story is eight pages of great Sprouse art as he draws a wonderful cross-section of the Legion. The highlight for that story, however, comes in Jordie Bellaire’s faux zip-a-tone coloring. Color dots can easily become an annoyance or distraction, but when coupled with Sprouse’s ultra-clean artwork, the entire adventure takes on a whole new level of cool.
This isn’t a big impact issue, but it is an enjoyable one that delivers good to great art and unpredictable adventures. The apparent disconnect between the lead-in and backup adventure makes “Action Comics” #16 feel more like an anthology book than a straightforward comic with a primary tale. With only one issue left, I can’t help but feel as though Morrison has an awful lot of loose ends to try to tie up or trim off after reading this one.