Returning to a concept first introduced in his Final Crisis series, this issue of Action Comics reintroduces us to Calvin Ellis. He appears to be an ordinary African American man but is secretly the Superman of Earth 23. Ellis balances his duties as Superman with those of his day job - President of the United States of America.
Fresh off a victory against his arch enemy, Calvin confronts a mysterious trio who appear suddenly from a portal. The two male figures are badly burned and the one female figure is missing an eye. She explains to Calvin that they created a device that enabled them to make thoughts real as solid sound-waves and that they attempted to sell the device in order to promote their idea for an idealized guardian of good - a Superman. But the Superman concept was diminished in an effort to commercialize it to the masses until a new Superman - a brutal, pitiless monster - was turned loose upon its' creators. A monster traveling to Earth 23 even as they speak...
There is no reason for a story like this to work nearly as well as it does, as it can be read several different ways. Straight comic book story? A parable about creators' rights? A warning about the dangers of corporate culture controlling the creative process? It works on every conceivable level. This isn't the first time Morrison has merged elements of the textual and metatextual made manifest into a script but the spin here is a unique and interesting one.
Gene Ha pulls the art duties this time, filling in for Rags Morales. Ha proves an able replacement, offering a grittier, darker style than Morales but one that fits this darker, stranger story perfectly. Credit must also be given to colorist Art Lyon, whose prefect palettes further define Ha's pencils and inks.
No less enjoyable is the back-up story by Sholly Fisch, which details a day in the life of Calvin Ellis as he attempts to balance both his duties as a member of Earth 23's Justice League and President of the USA, negotiating with the leader of a terrorist nation over the phone even as the JLA is destroying the secret labs where said leader is building weapons of mass destruction. The story raises some interesting ethical questions and I'd love to see more stories done with the Justice League we see here. The art by Cully Hammer (most recently of The Shade mini-series) and colorist Dave McCaig is top-notch.
Action Comics is one of the best values for your comic-buying dollar for sheer variety, if nothing else. It is superhero comics done right and a must-read for any fan of the genre.