DC Comics released Action Comics #3 by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales (with some help by Gene Ha) this week. I adored issue #1 and found issue #2 to be rather less enthralling, so how did #3 hold up?
Action Comics #3
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Rags Morales, Gene Ha, Rick Bryant, Brad Anderson, and Art Lyon
The shortest answer I can give you is “busy!”
Issue #1 featured largely action with short burst of exposition in between. Issue #2 was exposition framed by a bit of action and a bit more torture. Issue #3 decided it would go all exposition, giving us a story at 200mph that fits enough information that would take a typical decompressed story-arc a year to get through. Clark is recruited and turns down the Daily Planet, he decides to not be Superman due to public opinion, he goes after a major corporate enemy, a villain is introduced, life on pre-explosion Krypton is introduced, the cops hassle Clark, and his landlady casually finds out he’s Superman.
Now, all of this is set-up, and nothing is actually paid off, so it makes sense for it to come reasonably fast-paced, but the pacing absolutely gets in the way of the emotional value of anything that occurs. I get that we all know that Clark ends up at the Daily Planet and that the 5-year later book is already setting up a status quo that this must aspire to reach, but, well, getting there should be an epic adventure that makes us understand where Clark began and ended, not a rushed jumble.
Ultimately it is the lack of transitions that make this issue jarring. We jump from scene to scene as Rag Morales does his best to keep up. In fact, even though he apparently can’t keep up and we get some Gene Ha as well, everything looks crisp, but is so busy as to seem jumpy and not allow for anything approaching innovation. The emotions of the characters are clearly on their faces, but they come so suddenly and with so little set up, that it takes a moment to grasp what’s going on. I have no idea how this issue will fit in, story-telling wise with the larger narrative in the trade, as this is the third straight issue with a very different manner of telling the reader what’s going on.
But while it was sometimes confusing, and often wordy, it wasn’t boring. There’s so much going on here, there’s a definite interest to see how it plays out. It’s also nice that this is combating the Smallville slow it down syndrome by going top speed, but, well, set-up matters, and this stuff needs to happen for a reason and be built to have any emotional weight. I enjoyed the events of the book, but I didn’t care. If the first issue of this series was a caffeine jolt in the morning, then this one was a 5-hour energy on an empty stomach without sleeping – still interesting, but somewhat dizzying and disorienting as well. Rating? 4/10