Now that’s a reboot. In the original Action comics, Superman was something of a bully and something of a jerk. He thought little of threatening criminals to coerce confessions and thought little of roughing them up to teach them a lesson. Over the years, as he increased in power, he stopped treating ordinary people this way. It eventually became part of his character that he treated everyone as well as he could, using the force necessary to apprehend or stop them, but nothing more. Even after the last major reboot of Crisis on Infinite Earths in the 1980s, Superman retained this high standard to the point that he was frequently referred to as “the boy scout”.
Back when Superman was created, he was standing up for people who were frequently brutally oppressed by both government and criminals. It was a very different time and Superman was frequently about dispensing justice where government couldn’t be bothered to or trusted. More importantly, he was new. He treated criminals and the others he opposed as most fictional adventurers of the time did. The Superman of today has had over 70 years of character development to establish his standards and ethics. Despite the reboot, people expect Superman to act in a particular way.
This reboot has returned Superman to the original Superman. He’s lower powered, though the story implies that his powers are increasing quickly. He’s employing the same tactics and methods that he employed when he was just starting out and it is jarring. He’s inexperienced and it shows in some of the things he’s attempting. He’s also willing to put himself at risk to protect innocents and that’s consistent for both the original and more recent incarnations of the character.
Part of what bothers me about this reversion to his earliest attitudes is the current American willingness to torture, to abuse, to coerce, to execute. The last thing we need Superman to be is just another thug. They do establish that the government is out of control and is willing to endanger civilians to exert control in the name of security and that Superman is opposing them, but it is a tricky line to walk and I hope they manage it well in upcoming issues. General Lane and Luthor are set up as the villains and represent governmental and corporate corruption and abuse, but the issue begins with Superman threatening the life of a crime boss, keeping the methods of both sides closer than they might be otherwise. I’m hoping the distance between them increases quickly.
Clark starts out in this latest incarnation living in a cheap apartment building and while he knows Lois and Jimmy, he is working for a rival paper. This could be a fun twist and is certainly interesting. It is odd though, that they all work for newspapers, given the decline in the newspaper industry over the last decade or so. Perhaps they’ll be shown to be working for more modern aspects of the newspaper industry as time goes on. It is a little disappointing that with all the other changes, they didn’t try to update this as well.
Since his powers seem to have developed recently, it is unlikely we’ll get to see Clark as Superboy. I don’t know if this is part of the inane legal battles surrounding Superboy, but it is disappointing whatever the reason. I’m hoping that his rapid power development parallels a rapid ethical evolution. When Superman originally made the transition in power levels and in character, it was in an era of no continuity. What happened in one issue rarely carried over to another, when they made the changes they made, they did it to fit a story or at whim. It could be very interesting to see the changes as an actual development in the character. By starting out so low powered, they can take their time introducing things like Kryptonite and Magic as weaknesses. These things didn’t get introduced for years originally and it’d be nice for it to take years this time.
I’m thinking his powers are going to increase rapidly since he seems much higher powered by Justice League #1. Unfortunately, he still seems like quite a thug in that issue. Action has potential, it could develop into a good series, but this first issue seems rushed. Like Justice League #1, they seem to be trying to establish too much at once. Action is much better than Justice League though and on the whole, balances my disappointment from that issue.
Since they are starting back at the beginning, I’m hoping we get to see some of the other original villains. While Luthor is the first of the old villains appearing here, Lane is fairly recent. I’m hoping to see the Ultra Humanite, for one. I’m also hoping it isn’t all retro and we get some new villains.