First, the bad news. The storyline in “Action Comics” that built up in issues #1-4 won’t be continued until “Action Comics” #7 in March. The good news? It’s because issues #5-6 are a special origin story penciled by Andy Kubert.
Most of “Action Comics” #5 goes into further details on the last moments of Krypton, and how Kal-El in a rocket ship wasn’t the original escape route. Despite the fact that just about everyone knows Superman’s origin, Morrison and Kubert bring a surprising amount of tension to the story. Jor-El and Lara’s frantic attempt to save their son is touching, and it’s the little details along the way that sell it: Jor-El’s fretting that there’s no room for Lara in the space craft while Lara has already moved past that point so that she can save her child, or the way that Ma and Pa Kent get past the military checkpoint.
What’s nice is that while Morrison does make changes, most of them are repurposing pre-existing ideas. It’s the reuse of these items in different ways that makes it feel fresh and different, but in a way that (theoretically) won’t offend long-time readers. It’s definitely one of Morrison’s talents that he’s shown over the years, but I think the clean slate of DC’s “New 52” line makes it that much more apparent in comics like this one.
The big star of this issue, though? It’s not Superman, or any of his parents (biological or adoptive), but rather the space craft. Its narration, both pre- and post-arrival is a real joy to read. Early on Morrison writes it almost like poetry, evoking images and ideas even without the help of Kubert’s illustrations. And then later, as we move beyond its first appearance in “Action Comics” #2, its ruminations on Earth are fun and eye-opening. And as for the cliffhanger? Well, Morrison clearly isn’t afraid to switch things up a lot, with a thoroughly fun tease for what’s still to come in “Action Comics.”
Kubert (and inker Jesse Delperdang) provide a series of strong visuals for “Action Comics” #5, ones that will stick with the reader after the comic is over. The destruction of Krypton is the most dramatic, of course, but I found myself surprised by a lot of the little moments: Pa Kent’s grin as he tells the army, “Reckon I found me a spaceman,” for example, or the first moment when Jor-El and Lara discover that the initial escape route is off the table. Even something as small as baby Kal-El’s face as the space craft notes that the systems are failing is striking; a wide-eyed, innocent look as cracks appear along the edges of the glass. I’d forgotten how much fun a Morrison and Kubert collaboration could be.
Sholly Fisch and ChrisCross have the unenviable task of tackling the back-up feature this month, giving us an extra glimpse into Ma and Pa Kent’s marriage up until the moment of Kal-El’s arrival. While I suspect it’s a story that will be quickly forgotten due to the main story, it’s still a sweet comic. Fisch lets us know how much the pair loves one another (but without being overly sappy), and new art from ChrisCross is always a pleasure. Something as simple as the two of them pressing their heads toward one another brings across a great deal of warmth and emotion thanks to ChrisCross’s illustrations, a great image by which to remember the pair.
On the surface, “Action Comics” #5 veering away from the title’s regular storyline sounds disappointing. But reading this comic, one thing is quickly clear; if you need to postpone a story for a couple of months, “Action Comics” #5 provides an excellent template on how to do so.