DC’s new word of the day is alternate universes. Last week saw the premier of several comic series set on alternate worlds, and one story in an already running series set on an alternate Earth. That story? “Curse of the Superman” in Action Comics #9. I knew nothing about this character going in, but felt I couldn’t miss the opportunity to check it out. Did it end up being a worthwhile read?
Action Comics #9 is set on Earth-23, where President Calvin Ellis is secretly Superman, an alien whose real name is Kalel. Like the traditional Superman story, Kalel is from the dead world of Krypton and possesses all the powers of super strength, speed, flight, invulnerability, etc. He also fights against the maniacal madman Lex Luthor who, even in alternate realities, mistrusts Superman. Everything changes when Superman finds a machine Luthor made to connect with parallel Earths and three travelers (Lois Lane, Clark Kent, and Jimmy Olsen) step through. The three are gravely injured and fearful, talking about how their world, another separate Earth from the main DC world, was overrun by a monstrous Superman bred of a thought machine of their own design turned towards a corporate purpose by a totalitarian regime. In short order, this Superman bursts through the portal and engages Calvin in a fight to the finish. Can Earth-23 Superman defeat his foe and save his world and the parallel Earth? This issue also features a back-up feature where President Superman must shut down a nuclear threat in the nation of Qurac in order to preserve world peace.
I like Grant Morrison’s writing, and he delivers something truly unique in this issue. The story was different than any I’ve ever read and I applaud Morrison for his creativity. I did, however, find the story somewhat convoluted and perhaps a bit heavy-handed in its anti-consumerist message. The dialogue was well-written in typical Morrison style, but it still failed to make the story stellar. The backup story, written by Sholly Fisch, was a nice tale; it was nothing special, but it was definitely more exciting than the other backup stories we’ve seen in past issues of New 52 Action Comics. I liked her clever reference to President Rickard (clearly talking about Prez Rickard, a minor character of Sandman fame). Ultimately, the writing was fairly good, but not great.
The art in this issue was fairly good as well. Gene Ha’s style is blocky, but well-defined. I like the way he drew the characters’ clothing and weaponry, as well as the machinery present in this tale. His design for Superdoom (the evil Superman) was pretty cool as well. One complaint in that the characters’ faces seemed strangely elongated in several scenes and thus looked strange. Another is that some scenes felt too shaded/shadowy, and I’m not sure if Ha or Art Lyon, the colorist, is at fault. The backup story is pencilled by Cully Hammer and has decent art: it’s nothing spectacular, but it’s not bad either. The art, like the writing, is good but not superb.
Overall, Action Comics #9 is a fairly middle-of-the-road book. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t exceptional either. I felt like this issue was filler since it didn’t focus on the main Superman we all know and love, but I do admire the creative time for thinking out of the box and focusing on a character most people (myself included) are unfamiliar with. It’s worth reading if you’re looking for something a little different, but I think it’s better to borrow than to buy.
Brett Simon is a twenty-two year old comic enthusiast. He’s glad he made it through this whole article without comparing Calvin Ellis to Barack Obama…wait darn he just did!