Superman’s origin story is one of the most well-known stories in pop culture. Almost everyone on the street knows the basic details of his beginning. Dying planet, desperate scientists, loving farm couple, leads one to become Superman. The story has been re-told so many times, that many people prefer just to skip it.
Action Comics #5 is the DC New 52 version of his origin story, and it has all the familiar elements. Jor-El, Martha and Jonathan Kent, and even the Legion of Superheroes all make an appearance.
The exception of this re-telling is that it was written by Grant Morrison and complimented with dynamic art by Andy Kubert. This re-telling is anything, but stale. Action Comics #5 turns everything old new again by making Superman’s origin exciting, epic, and engaging.
When re-telling an old story, one can add a new element to it by simply switching the perspective of who tells the story, which is exactly what Morrison does. We get to see the origin through the eyes of a character that has never been voiced before in any version of the Superman mythos. We get to see the Superman origin through the perspective of his ship, the one that flew him to Earth.
In Morrison’s origin, Superman’s ship has A.I., and it generally cares for the young Kal-El. Its dialogue comes off as alien and machine like, but through the small paragraphs of prose, the ship expresses its duty to carry out its mission. It’s this fresh element that truly makes Krypton for the first time ever truly alien, and not just an Earth-like copy.
This story intercuts that story with the tale of Jonathan and Martha Kent. We learn more depth to their story through the back-up story in this issue. It’s a sad, heartbreaking tale of a loving farm couple that desperately wants to have children, spending their life savings on in vitro fertilization and adoptions, only to have each one fail. This just makes their finding baby Kal-El all the more poetic.
Morrison doesn’t stop there. He adds one more element to this story, time travel. The issue ends with the Legion of Superheroes and a future Superman failing to stop the theft of his ship from the Fortress of Solitude. In their new costumes, designed by Andy Kubert, the Legion of Superheroes has never looked this cool. Like the best mysteries of serialized television shows, this time travel mystery gives the origin story a cool, epic twist that it has never had before.
Action Comics #5 continues to be the best book of the DC New 52. Grant Morrison weaves a modern day Superman tale that is not dated but cool and epic. It is one of the few comic books that I look forward to each month. You are doing yourself a disservice if you are not reading this book. When the next issue blurb reads, “When Superman Learned to Fly,” how can you not read it?
Action Comics #5 Grade: A+