I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who was a tiny bit worried when I first read that some other artists would be drawing portions of “Action Comics” issues in order to give Rags Morales a hand. But in reading “Action Comics” #3, not only should I not have doubted this decision, but it actually turned into the best part of the comic.
Grant Morrison writes an extended flashback sequence set on Krypton for guest artist (and all around superstar) Gene Ha to draw, and the result is exceptional. Ha is the perfect artist to step in here; his meticulous, detail-oriented style makes the Krypton and Earth scenes stand out as visually different places. Ha’s fine lines bring the crystalline nature of Krypton to life, with every little ink line making it feel like a truly alien environment. And when the destruction of Kandor begins, well, Ha knocks it out of the park. The looming presence of its destroyer, the collapsing of the city… it’s jaw-dropping.
In short, it’s the perfect way to open “Action Comics” #3.
After telling a story of alien civilizations and cities, Morrison then flips the comic on its back and brings us to the slightly grungy world of Metropolis. Here, the young Clark Kent is about as far from Krypton as he possibly can be. His one-room apartment is crammed full of stuff, he’s accosted by homeless people, and everything he does to try and stop Glenmorgan’s plans seems to be thwarted. He’s not in the high society of Krypton, he’s someone who has a planet united against his alter ego of Superman, and whose professional life feels like it’s hanging on by a thread. Morrison’s script plays up those contrasts in a night-and-day manner, and having Ha as a guest artist just accentuates that dichotomy.
Mind you, Morales’ pencils are good, too. He gets the Earth sequences and draws Clark Kent as your average, ordinary guy. His hair is a mess, he’s got streaks of dirt on his cheeks, and it’s only when he’s Superman that you see the true superhero that is hiding within him. That said, my favorite Morales drawing is not Superman, but actually Lex Luthor. When he welcomes a new alien presence to Earth, there’s something so wonderfully self-serving and slimy about that single panel that I actually stopped, put down the comic, and said, “Now that’s Lex Luthor, all right.”
Morrison ends the comic on a strong note — if nothing else there’s a moment there where I realized that I, at least, got faked out on where one story was heading — and with each new issue I’m dying to see the next one that much more. This is easily my favorite issue of the three to date, and I’m going to hazard a guess that I’m not alone. “Action Comics” is knocking it out of the park, and it’s great to see such a strong Superman comic on the stands again.