After finishing the first major story arc of DC’s rebooted Action Comics series, Grant Morrison and artist Gene Ha give readers a decidedly different Elseworlds style tale of Calvin Ellis – Superman of Earth 23. For all of you Final Crisis readers, you can begin salivating. With his usual high concept to relatable idea storytelling, Morrison tells a compelling tale of what a true Superman could do given the opportunity to change his Fortress of Solitude’s setting to the White House.
Morrison starts this tale with Earth 23’s Superman duking it out with Lex Luthor over a mysterious meta-music machine that taps into multiversal frequencies. For quantum physics nerds like myself, he presents a fascinating idea that he began with in Final Crisis and ties it in neatly to the story at hand. Unfortunately, Morrison takes a misstep with the rather clumsy entrance of a pirate-eyed Lois Lane and the rather burnt carcasses of Jimmy Olsen and Clark Kent.
On the run from a Supermanstrosity, their arrival brings on the next part of the story. Telling their story of how Clark came up with an idea to use frequency specific vibrations to create ideas with their own life, Morrison uses the opportunity to take aim at how corporate greed and human nature ruined the idea, giving rise to a Superman that could be anything they wanted him to be. In this case, he’s a mechanical, carcass burning monstrosity hot on the trail of the trio.
I found this part of the story pessimistic and a bit ironic considering how much Morrison engages with the corporate apparatus to make his living and especially with the recent pricing for his Morrisoncon venture. Get off the high horse Grant. You’re officially part of the machine.
Where Grant shines in this issue is in how he makes you forget any minor issues you may have with the story, like the inauthentic dialogue of Earth 23’s Superman, by capturing your imagination with a truly badass story full of action, ideas, and emotion. With a little bit of help from his arch-nemesis Lex Luthor, Earth 23’s Superman dispatches the Supermanstrosity in epic fashion.
Lois finishes the story by saying, “I guess you must be Superman done right”. Despite my minor qualms with the story, Morrison does get it right. By the end of the issue, it made me wish Calvin Ellis was running our country. I hope DC takes this one-off story and expands on it in either a regular series or graphic novel because this story slays the new Superman reboot. Are you listening DC?
The back-up story written by Sholly Fisch and drawn by Cully Hamner takes Superman of Earth 23 into action against a fictional Qurac, creating an allegory for the current nuclear stand-off with Iran. This particular story shows Superman delivering a diplomatic strike to the fictional country while on the phone with their dictator, President-for-life Harrat.
I appreciated the plotting and dialogue on this as well because the story is smooth and simple. The downside was it’s somewhat jingoistic attempt at drawing parallels with our country and Iran. In the end, Earth 23’s Wonder Woman asks Superman when he’ll draw the line at doing what he’s considers the greater good. I appreciate the overall theme Fisch tries to deliver. It’s hard to develop a well-rounded story in ten pages.
Overall, I would grade the main story an A- and the back-up story a solid B.