Action Comics #2
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
Grant Morrison's approximation of the Superman created by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel is stylistically incongruous with the character's other appearances in the New 52 lineup. No surprise there, since his source of inspiration was a left-wing, rabble-rousing figure who tossed suspects from great heights before Batman trademarked the move, took on war profiteers and crooked politicians alike, and resisted arrest whenever the cops showed up. Fight the Power! Morrison at least gets his rebellious appeal, imbuing his own Superman with the appropriate swagger when facing close-minded authority figures. This issue starts with him being detained by the military and tortured for information, due to the events in the previous issue. But it isn't long before he regains his bearings and starts punching through the walls of his prison, reducing his would-be captors to hapless bystanders.
This issue features the first confrontation between Superman and his arch-nemesis Lex Luthor within the New 52 universe. Unlike the rogue scientist or evil CEO of the past, this Luthor works for The Man. He's an insufferable middle manager, which means he assumes the role of head inquisitor to Superman. The reader learns a few things about the character. While he's still a brilliant scientist, he isn't quite the master manipulator, at least not yet. He also retains the speciest beliefs he's being spouting for the last twenty-plus years. In an obvious reference to the War on Terror, Luthor has no problems torturing Supes because (a) he's not human and therefore not subject to human rights, (b) he might be an agent sent to Earth for nefarious purposes, (c) how can it be torture when the alien doesn't seem to get hurt anyway? The comic's most important plot twist implies that Lex may be more intimately aware of Superman's origins than he was in past incarnations, which fuels his paranoia. But the bottom line is that Lex gets egg on his face for calling his foe "semi-intelligent".
Superman's physicality is a major selling point here. While he may not be as impervious as Luthor makes him out to be, the comic is constantly throwing him against large and heavy objects. And it looks like it hurts, a lot. His enemies are at first amazed at how much punishment he can take. And then they run for cover when he starts trashing the place. At one point Lex even assumes the same pose as the fleeing figure in the original Action Comics #1 cover. Actually, it's kind of funny to look at. But for Lex, that was one really bad day at the office.
This is an entertaining, if slight, story with some revealing character interaction from not only Superman and Luthor, but in the relationship between supporting characters Sam Lane, his daughter Lois Lane, and John Corben (the future villain Metallo). Like those early stories by Siegel and Shuster, Superman seems to be the only superhuman around, a fantasy element sticking out in a mundane world. But his fate is already sealed. It's only a matter of time before the Morrison version of the character, looking like a cosplayer that put in the least amount of work possible, will morph into the full-powered being dressed in that terrible Jim Lee ensemble that premiered in Justice League. He's only fought earthbound antagonists so far. But there are already indications in this issue that future threats will come from more fantastic milieus.