If I had to choose one word to describe this month’s issue of Action Comics, written by Grant Morrison with art by Rags Morales, I’d have to choose choppy. I’ll try to give you an idea of why that would be the word I’d choose.
Issue #10 finds our frazzle-haired Clark Kent hunted by a man codenamed “Nimrod,” who claims to have hunted and killed “everything that ever lived.” Why is Nimrod interested in Clark, you ask? Well, apparently, hunting and killing a superhuman from another world is on Nimrod’s bucket list, because Nimrod hasn’t really hunted and killed “everything that ever lived.” But Clark has no idea he’s being hunted – he’s got other things on his mind.
The issue cuts to Clark brooding over a piece he’s written for the Daily Star concerning the disappearance and murder of a young girl. When he decides to take matters into his own hands, we follow the enraged superhero to the killer’s doorstep. Clark, donned in a red Superman t-shirt, breaks through the door, scaring the crap out of the deranged killer. After Supes informs the killer he’s going to hand him over to the police, all the killer can think about is his two… hamsters? He wants to know what will happen to them, who will take care of them. Jump to the next page and we find Superman, dressed in his normal armor-like costume, meeting up with an apparently early version of the Justice League.
What just happened? Why is Superman wearing a red Superman t-shirt along with his cape one minute and his normal blue armor-costume hybrid the next? Ever since Superman discovered his armor-costume while rescuing a bottled Metropolis from the clutches of Brainiac, he had – seemingly – left his Superman t-shirts at home. Now he apparently jumps between costumes whenever he feels like it. On top of that, we have this very weird meeting between Superman and the group of people who, if this issue is any indication, would at some point become the Justice League. But at this point in the DC New Universe, isn’t the Justice League already together? Action Comics #1 started five years in the past, much like many of DC’s New 52 comics, but then a couple issues ago, Morrison flashed Action Comics forward to present time, just like the other New 52 comics have done. If we’re following that precedent, the Justice League should have already been together for fives years in this issue and it shouldn’t seem so…awkward.
The issue continues with Clark, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen hanging out in Clark’s apartment. Lois agrees to watch the hamsters, Jimmy comments on Clark’s old pictures of Lana Lang, and Clark is preoccupied with a picture book Lois has put together of Superman sightings. Clark points out a picture and corresponding news clipping that seemingly implies Superman has been saving the day long before Clark even appeared to the world as Superman. “It’s not Superman,” Clark says. “It can’t be Superman.” What does that even mean? Morrison, whose writing is usually fluid and easy to follow – even when he’s dealing with obtuse philosophical ideas – is down-right jarring here. Almost sloppy.
We return to some semblance of a linear plot when Nimrod, sipping a cup of coffee at a nearby cafe, continues narrating his hunt of Clark Kent. Clark catches of a glimpse of Nimrod leering at him from the cafe as he, Lois and Jimmy hop into a taxi. But, alas, this gloriously straightforward mode of storytelling is cut short as we are once again thrust into a scene of jarring, choppy randomness. A truck driver is stopped on a rainy night by a figure that looks suspiciously like Dr. Destiny. Using some kind of mind control, the hooded stranger gets the trucker to drive him to Metropolis. The only clue we get as to the identity of the hooded stranger is when he declares to the hitherto nameless trucker, “Your name is Aaron Van Dien. My name was Adam. I’ve come to this planet of my birth to assume control.” There goes my theory that this hooded mystery man may be the New 52′s version of Dr. Destiny: as far as I know, the only other alias Dr. Destiny has is John Dee. So who knows who this “Adam” guy is, because – unless they drastically re-imagined his costume – it’s definitely not Black Adam.
Now we’re suddenly back with Clark, Lois, and Jimmy. It’s finally revealed that they are all heading to meet Perry White for lunch, where he will apparently be discussing the possibility of Clark joining the Daily Planet roster. Things take a turn for the worst when an exasperated everyman decides to blow up the Daily Star, with Clark Kent evidently getting caught in the blast. The issue ends with Superman appearing in his blue Superman t-shirt and getting the best of Nimrod in Clark’s apartment building. “Clark Kent is dead,” Supes declares as his landlady looks on. “I’ll explain everything later Mrs. N.”
At this point, I was ripping my hair out.
Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love Grant Morrison and his work. All Star Superman, is in my opinion, the greatest Superman story ever told. His run on Animal Man was nothing short of genius. I love his version of JLA. And his writing on Batman & Robin was awesome. That being said, Morrison is not up to his usual greatness in Action Comics. While I am definitely digging his more physical Superman – it’s nice to actually see the Man of Steel bleed and sweat and work for it, as opposed to being completely invulnerable like he had been for the past 10-plus years – I’m decidedly not digging his non-linear and ridiculously hard to follow storytelling in Action Comics. I’m not asking for the story to be watered down; I’m just asking for Morrison make the story readable so that hardcore fans like myself can actually understand what’s happening.