It’s the battle to end all battles, and all stories, in the final issue of Grant Morrison’s run, ACTION COMICS #18.
Action Comics #18
As Lex Luthor remote controls a giant mech to battle Super-Doom, who is possessed by the Little Man, The Legion of Super-Heroes appeals to the dying Mr. Mxyzptlk for clues on how to defeat their common 5th Dimensional foe and save not only Superman, but the next thousand years of history. Once Lex is defeated it falls to Adam Blake, Earth’s “first superman,” and his alien allies The Wanderers to pitch in and take down the Anti-Superman Army. As the Little Man connects Superman to all the minds on planet Earth so that he can feel their suffering, Superman realizes that, though he may be unable to force Vyndktvx to say his name backwards and return to the fifth dimension, if WE all say our names backwards, we can jointly “banish the devil.” Once free from the Little Man, Super-Doom’s body self-destructs, forcing an almost powerless Superman to fly it into space to save the Earth. Caught in the blast and missing for 24 hours, Superman is feared dead until Lois Lane calls Clark Kent’s cell phone, and Superman answers, sitting in a smoking crater, petting Krypto and promises Lois that he is just fine.
“A New American Mythology.” That’s what Morrison, as the story’s narrator, called this tale on the first page of his final issue. Now, assuming he’s not so vain as to be talking about his own story, but rather, the Legend of Superman as a whole, he pretty much hits the nail on the head. Morrison has always been a writer who understood that Superman fulfills that role of all mythological heroes. He is the example of what is best in our culture, and what we should strive every day to be.
Morrison even allows himself to get “meta” for a moment, and has the Little Man, the personification of evil in this story, going so far as to be named “Vindictive,” offer US eternal life if we reject Superman’s “impossible demands” upon us. Those demands? Well, in the story itself it’s a “clap your hands if you believe in fairies”-esque request for us all to write our names down backwards and say them aloud to banish the devil. Morrison and Rags Morales even get into the act, both drawn onto the page along with Grant’s wife Kristan, and join in. Knowing what I do about Morrison and his affinity for “group sigil magic,” I wouldn’t be surprised if Morrison was indeed trying to cast some spell and perform a planet-wide exorcism.
Because if you’ve read Morrison, or at least read my reviews of his run on ACTION, you know one of the subjects he returns to over and over again is the battle between good ideas and bad. With Superman being the epitome of the “good idea.” ACTION COMICS #13 was the first time I really got what Morrison was saying, as I wrote then “The pages where Superman takes control of Xa-Du’s suit, and the captions explaining that Xa-Du was suddenly overcome with the inescapable idea that good really is stronger than evil really made my day. It’s almost like we are all “ecto-suits” existing in the real world, with our own Xa-Du and Superman fighting for control and influence.”
That’s what was going on here. It was Morrison who was requesting we all join in and help him banish the devil, but those demands the Little Man was talking about, the one’s he said Superman made on us, and that “Vindictive” begs us to ignore? Those are Superman’s simple requests that we do the right thing, always have faith in others, never give up. Essentially, all Superman asks is that we each listen to our own inner supermen and superwomen and make the world a better place.
Morrison even goes one step further, and has Superman own up to his own darker nature, meta-textually facing the fact that, at the end of the day, Superman is nothing more than a franchise, owned by a “heartless multi-national corporation,” who only exists for the express purpose of duping us “fanboys” out of our hard-earned money. Superman takes that self-knowledge in stride and says “Yeah, maybe I am that. But I am also SO much more than that.” And he’s right. He is.
Sholly Fisch’s backup attests to that, with the little alien boy standing up to bullies after being inspired by Superman’s story. We may not all have superpowers, be able to push mountains or juggle planets, but we can each use our own talents to help each other and make a better world. By owning up to his own contradictory nature, both a cash-cow and an inspiration, Superman allows us to accept our worst aspects and move beyond them.
“Yes, I may be THAT. But I am also so much bigger than that. There’re whole dimensions to me, and THAT is just one small part.”
In the end, I’m sad to see Morrison go, but I think he said what he came here to say. He added a ton of new characters and concepts to the mythology, leaving me begging for a return from Adam Blake’s Wanderers and the Anti-Superman Army (even though a lot of them died…). He retold Superman’s origin in a way it hadn’t been done before, finding a way to reflect Superman’s real life journey from “socialist strongman” to “transcendent alien messiah” and all stops in between. He had Superman face his own darker nature and showed us how to do likewise.
All in all, not a bad 19 issue run (0-18).
So let me ask you: Did you say your name backwards aloud? Why not post it in the comments section? Here, I’ll get you started:
A COMIC BOOK BLOG RATING
|Strong finish to Morrison’s run||Might take a few read-thrus to fully get|