Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel Breakdown! (New 52)

Hey Everyone, welcome back to my New 52 breakdown series.  We have already taken the time to discuss the events that happened in Zero Year (Batman Vol.4, DC Comics: Zero Year ,Batman Vol. 5, Batman/Superman: Crossworlds) but with this volume we begin both Year One and start the publication beginning of the New 52. This doesn’t mean that we are going to be reading in publication order from this point out, I like to have certain groups in mind when selecting what is next. For the next several weeks we will be looking at what is going on with our Justice Leaguers during Year One.

Action Comics Vol 1: Superman and the Men of Steel, takes Superman from his origins in Smallville all the way to a fully suited and flying Superhero in issues #1-#8. Not only that but is the set up for several of Superman’s most notorious villains.

In issue #1, we start with Clark Kent working for the Daily Star and attempting to take down the powerful Glen Glenmorgan. Superman bust into a meeting that the police were going to raid anyway and hold Glenmorgan over the edge of the building until he confessed to his crimes. Of course, the police are more concerned with stopping Superman than catching Glenmorgan. Superman even allows them to test his bulletproof-ness. This prompts General Lane to seek the help of Lex Luthor to find a way to neutralize Superman. Lex’s plan involves the use of steel soldiers.

Later, Superman saves people from a building that was being torn down while they were still in it. This though was a set up to lure in Superman to then attack him with tanks. However, it is the people that then stand in front of Superman to protect him.

That night Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane’s photographer and Clark’s good friend, calls Clark to let him know that one of Glenmorgan’s men is on the same train as them. Clark though knows that this train shouldn’t be running and warns them not to get on. Lois thinks that this is a stunt to stop them from getting a story. Superman shows to stop the train that was rigged to blow and derail, which was a set up by Lex Luthor to capture Superman. General Lane isn’t too happy with Lex since Lois ended up on that train.

Lex then begins the brutal experimentation on Superman. I like the part where they bring in the deformed calf and is told that this is a Kryptonian’s true form. The explanation for the calf comes in a later issue. However, Clark at this point doesn’t know that he is from Krypton, he only knows that he crash landed on Earth. Doctor Irons ends up leaving upset about the measures they are using on Superman. After some time, Superman can break the binding on him letting Lex know that none of this worked on him, he was just resting the whole time.

Lois shows at the base to talk with her father and defend Superman, noting that he saved her life. We also learn about Sergeant Corbin’s love for Lois, something that will be important later. Once Superman escapes the chair, he looks for a way out of the base and comes across the pod that brought him to Earth. The pod recognizes him as Kal-El and is activated, but Superman is going to have to come back for it later.

At another location on the base the Steel Soldier suit it put to the test by Professor Vale. John Corben is selected to enter the suit. Then to add another layer, we have Lex talking to some ship in outer space when Issue #2 ends.

At the Start of Issue #3, we have the fall of Krypton with the attack from Brainiac. This isn’t just a back story for us though, it is Clark’s dream right before his apartment is raided by the police for his coverage of Glenmorgan. Luckily Clark’s landlord snatched up his cape before the police could find it. However, this leaves her knowing that he is Superman. 

Clark meets with Jimmy and talks with him about moving to the Daily Planet. Clark denies the opportunity because he believes that Perry is in the pocket of Glenmorgan and denies the offer. Then Clark speaks with his mysterious Glenmorgan informant, Icarus. He lets Clark know that the train was all a set up to kill Glenmorgan’s men that were lose strings. The ones that Lois and Jimmy saw. He also tells them that Glenmorgan now plans to replace that train with a new Robotic train built in the “Factory of Tomorrow”.

Before Clark investigates this, he saves a girl from getting hit by a truck and in turn is attacked by a mob who hate him. This pushes him to no longer want to be Superman thinking that he has failed. However, he still looks into the Factory of Tomorrow on the lead for his story. There he also runs into Lois and Jimmy. This lines up with the exact moment that John Corben is fitted in the Steel Soldier suit. Brainiac now puts his plan in motion as he infects both John Corben but all the robots at the “Factory of Tomorrow”. The breakdown here is that Lex put in motion the robots at the Factory of Tomorrow for Brainiac on the deal that Lex would not be harmed in whatever is Brainiac’s plan. The best part is now it seems that the world needs Superman after all.

Superman moves in to fight Corben and the Robots. Lois also offers her assistance trying to talk down Corben, but he is not in control, he is under the power of Brainiac. Doctor Irons shows at the base because he was part of this project and uses another suit that is not under the power of Brainiac. Even with that, Superman is not enough to stop Brainiac from taking a sample of Earth, part of Metropolis for his collection, along with Lex Luthor, Glen Glenmorgan, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen.

With a chunk of Metropolis bottled and in space this has Superman leaving Earth to follow and recover this piece. Dr. Irons fights Corben and coincidentally sends him to space as well. For several issues now we step back from this main story and get some back story and origin. First off is the decision to send Kal-El in a pod to Earth. Jor-El, Superman’s father’s first plan is to enter the Phantom Zone together but with all the big bads of Krypton locked up there, it isn’t an inviting place. This has Lara sending Kal alone in the pod to space.

His pod lands on Earth as John and Martha discuss the future of their family and their inability to have a child. As if their prayers are answered, they find Kal in the wreckage but must immediately leave when the government moves in. They explain the missing being in the ship by giving their deformed calf as if he were an alien. This explains Luthor’s thoughts that the calf was the true Kryptonian form.

The next story is a mix of past present and future with the Anti-Superman Army find Superman’s pod in its present and vulnerable state and steal the engine that can be used to create Kryptonite. The removal also would allow for Brainiac to return to Earth which is explained at the end of the volume. The Superman in this story is from five years in the future and he appears with the Legion from the 31st Century. They came to him with the warning of what was stolen and that it will be used against him, although Superman remembers that the pod was always just fine in his past. They locate the Anti-Superman Army in Superman’s head (weird) and then shrink themselves to also enter Clark’s head and fight them. They secure the engine but not before the kryptonite is separated causing Superman to experience some intense pain.

The biggest issue outside of Superman’s head feeling like it is going to explode is that Brainiac’s return will happen in a matter of moments if he doesn’t get the engine back with the pod. Superman realizes that with the engine in his mind, his connection with the pod should stop this. He makes the connection with the pod stopping Brainiac just as the Legion returns with the engine. Superman then returns to his time, as does the Legion.

After that story there is a story about Lana his friend from Smallville and then of Dr. Irons cleaning up some of the mess left by Brainiac as Superman fights in space. On Brainiac’s ship, Superman looks for part of his city and is met with the choice to either save his people of Earth or to save the remaining piece of Krypton. Superman finds a suit from Krypton and puts it on, but instead of choosing he instead challenges Brainiac. He will destroy the whole collection or return the piece of Earth. Brainiac here gives Superman a spoiler about what is to come by telling him that he is saving Earth because the Multitude is coming but Superman doesn’t really understand the meaning of that. Instead he uses his pod that has been miniaturized and flicks it at Brainiac while also fighting Corben. Superman knows that the pod is probably invulnerable, and it is able to overpower Brainiac’s system. This then leads to the creation of the original Fortress of Solitude.

After the defeat of Brainiac, both Superman and Dr. Irons are flagged as superheroes with Superman revealing to the world that he is an alien. Glenmorgan turns himself in after his experience in the bottle and Corben is heavily sedated. We discover the Icarus; Clark’s informant is Lex Luthor himself which is ironic. Then, Clark and his land lady make the agreement that she will hold his secret.

All in all, I really enjoyed this Volume of Action Comics. I think it could be a little confusing at times especially with jumps to the past and the involvement of the Legion. However, these become easier to understand as Superman’s story unfolds over the next few volumes or if you have past knowledge of Superman.

Next week, we will breakdown Justice League Vol 1.: Origin, which picks up after the events of Batman/Superman Vol. 1. It was important to put Action Comics Vol 1. in between to understand the change in Superman from Batman/Superman to Justice League. See you next week!

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