Review: Action Comics #4

The secret of the Terminauts is revealed, and the debut of Steel turns into a weird afterthought.  Here there be spoylers.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Action Comics #4

Grant Morrison has sort of revealed what the heck's going on in Action Comics #4, but not entirely.  But we know it anyway. 

Ever since the end of #1, where we saw a big satellite speaking in green balloons to its business partner Lex Luthor, we've pretty well suspected Brainiac.  Now, it's looking as though the fabled Bottled City of Kandor is reverting back to its pre-Crisis origins as being collected and preserved by the nefarious Kryptonian artificial intelligence.  Technically, the creatures in control of these marauding Terminauts plaguing Metropolis are as yet unnamed.  But come on.  It's Brainiac. 

It's an interesting development, this thing where the Terminauts are trying to preserve Metropolis in the same way as Kandor, invading the city not to kill its people, but to preserve their artifacts, while shrinking the city down to bottle-size.  However, the storytelling in Action Comics #4 is poorly laid out.  The cover touts the awesome debut of Steel, but as soon as he shows up in the book, he is immediately rendered an afterthought by shoving his whole fight with Metallo into a back-up story written by Sholly Fisch.  To Fisch's credit, the fight does make Steel look cool when we get to it, but for the story, it's jarring and bad to have John Henry Irons triumphantly show up only to immediately say "This fight doesn't matter!  If you give a damn, read this other story!  Focus on the white guy in the white shirt instead!"

Yes, for some reason, Superman's crappy t-shirt and jeans outfit is even crappier, because he's wearing a white t-shirt with his S-logo instead of a blue one.  Why?  Who knows?  You could explain it away in the story by saying 'hey, this is rookie Superman, trying out new looks, yadda yadda,' but really, this feels like the blatant cash grab that is the random and pointless NFL throwback uniform days.  Sure, it's kinda neat to see the old looks on the field again, but all they're really doing is selling you more and more jerseys so you're not content with just one.  Superman in a white t-shirt feels like it's just trying to sell more white t-shirts with S-logos.

It's kind of fun seeing Lex Luthor completely freaking out about alien robot invasion and not being in calm, cool control like we're used to seeing him, but it's still weird.  Just like Lois Lane trying to talk John Corben down from Metallo-possession by referencing their former relationship.  If you want to get us to dislike Corben more, tell us his favorite band is the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Is that really anybody's favorite band?

Rags Morales' artwork is still pretty good, and his Terminauts are fun, weirdly old-timey rudimentary robots, but one of them is giant with a tank for a head, and you can't go wrong with that.  Brad Walker's art on the Steel backup story is just fine, too, although the design for Steel really makes us miss the slick, clean look of the metal guy with the cape we were used to.  Hopefully, we're still in 'crappy early design' stages for these looks – and nicknames.  If Irons is really going to call himself The Steel-Driving Man, it brings to mind The Steel-Jacketed Man from Astro City who eventually just became Steeljack.  Much cooler.  Plus, he looked like Robert Mitchum.

Anyway, Action Comics #4 is all right.  It's not great, but there's a bit of fun and cool to it, and some iffy stuff to cast the stink-eye upon.  That's mostly what you get with the New 52.