The best interpretation of the Man of the Steel since the New 52 launched.
The Superman that appeared in the early issues of Grant Morrison’s Action Comics was one of the few characters in the New 52 that actually felt like a new interpretation on an old character. Where previous continuity portrayed Superman as a veteran, God-like being of absolute morality, the New 52 version of the character was younger and more brash. Unfortunately, that characterization only lasted a handful of months, going out the window along with the jeans and t-shirt costume.
As soon as other writers had their chance with the hero, Morrison’s new headstrong Superman was quickly replaced by a watered-down version of the same character we had known for decades. The problem with New 52 Superman ever since has been that he isn’t capable of the same inspiring highs as Old Superman, but he has none of the interesting quirks of Morrison’s Action Comics run.
Greg Pak’s Superman in the pages of Batman/Superman was a very promising start, so I had high hopes for what he could do with the hero in a solo title. In Action Comics #25 Pak and company offer the single best portrayal of Superman since DC’s relaunch in 2011.
The story for this issue loosely ties in with the Batman Zero Year event, offering another opportunity to visit an inexperienced Superman early in his career in a tale beautifully realized by Aaron Kuder.
In this story, Superman is a hero who enjoys the action. He even occasionally needs reminders of the innocent people’s lives who are on the line, the reasons why he battles. He not only cracks a smile, but laughs as he’s defeated his foes. This is fun for him.
But even as he wears his youth on his sleeve, the great man he will become shines through too. This is a Superman who feels it’s his responsibility to help every single person in need, but still a Superman arrogant enough to think he can stop a hurricane.
“I’m gonna stop the storm. Yeah, I know. It’s a force of nature.
But so am I.”
The scenes of Superman helplessly struggling to stop the unstoppable hurricane are nicely paralleled with a story of Lana Lang fighting against the odds to save her ship and the men on it who are stuck on it in the midst of this deadly storm.
Neither character will admit defeat in the face of overwhelming odds. It’s a beautiful sequence illustrating the point that Superman only works as a means of inspiring humanity to become the best versions of themselves that they can be, racing to join him in the sun.
The back-up story allows a more calm Superman, some time after his encounter with the hurricane, to reflect on his role in helping humanity. He can hear a great deal more than an average person. As the years go on he hears more and more, making it his responsibility to help more and more people.
Where most other writers of late weren’t able to portray either Superman’s highs or lows in an effective way, in this one issue Greg Pak has succeeded in delivering a Superman with the arrogance to call himself “a force of nature” but the moral character to accept that one day he will be able to hear everything. And that every problem on Earth will be his to deal with.
Greg Pak (W), Aaron Kuder (A) • DC Comics, $3.99, November 6, 2013