Comics Review – Action Comics #18

Grant Morrison has written essays on what Superman means and represents in his book, Supergods.

His studies of the character come to light – reshaped and reworked for the DC universe – in the final installment of Action Comics, with issue #18 featuring Rags Morales, Brad Walker, and Chris Sprouse penciling, Andrew Hennessy, Cam Smith, and Carl Story inking, Brad Anderson and Jordie Bellaire colouring, and Carlos M. Mangual lettering. I had a look at the  issue #18 today, and my regular Saturday comic review will follow this weekend as scheduled.

Action Comics #18

Mythology appears repeatedly in the comic. Superman is described as an American myth. He is a god of inspiration and strength –  A conflicted Villain finds a new life after Superman challenges him to be better.

Several young charcters look up to his example, including Susie Thompkins – a girl genius and physics savant. Superman is a symbol of empowerment for the very young, and is an enduring legend of optimism, and idealism.

While Superman fights against powerful and influential villains, Superdoom, and Vindictivix (The second villain’s name is spelt without any vowels, looking like this: Vyndctvx. It’s easier to comprehend with the letter “i” left in), The point is not simply to see him fight an overpowering villain or two, though that does help gain attention. The point is to show Superman’s resilience in the face of overwhelming odds. Superman imparts the value of resilience.

The villain Superdoom is Superman‘s opposite. He exists to show Superman as good, by contrasting him with something bad. A juxtaposition. Superdoom is an inversion of the positive hero archetype: a giant, and a bully. He represents greed: this negative Superman turns the inspiring “s shield” into a dollar sign simply by slashing the “S” through with a vertical line.

Heavy science fiction might make the comic inaccessible, however – the rampant time travel, parallel universes, and 5th dimensional creatures can confuse and obscure the story.

Colourful Kryptonite appears, and Red kryptonite plays a key role in the comic.

Red Kryptonite shows Superman dark  hallucinations – he sees himself both as a savage beast in a xenophobic society, and as a worker drone –  a misfit in the ant hive, doomed to failure and death.

Grant Morrison deftly ties old continuity from Superman‘s golden age to the finale of Action Comics #18 using Red Kryptonite: Superman as a Lion returns.

The art for these sections is suitable creepy. Further, a slew of side characters – aliens from distant worlds and friends of Superman – unite their combined, genius intellect to give Superman a hand. Their character designs are varied and interesting.

Superman as a Lion. Art by Curt Swann from http://www.coverbrowser.com/covers/action-comics/5

Other artwork makes use of full pages to capture scale and size. Superman crash lands back on earth, and a panel over the crater in the Earth highlights brings the reader close the the hero, establishing a sense of connection on the final page.

Superman‘s heroic actions save a family attempting to colonise Mars in the not-too-distant future. Their son, Noah, comments of Superman‘s ability to overcome impossible odds.

In a short story included as something of an epilog, writer Sholly Fisch introduces a a young boy with green skin living on a far away planet in the distant future. He is running away from a bully – a human boy – and stumbles into a superman exhibit at a museum of Earth history. Inspired by the man of steel, the boy stands up to the bully, and wins the support of several other alien kids. Superman, even when long gone, inspires us to be better.

It’s a fitting finale to an #18 issue run of Action Comics, which has defined Superman’s role in the DC universe – its central hero.

Action Comics #18 is published by DC comics.

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