In DC's 'The New 52,' we have two different Superman comics, 'Superman' and 'Action Comics.' Besides a different title, the Superman inside each has a distinct feel. Taking place in two different time periods, the books have a clear difference in tone and direction.
With so many new DC titles, many readers have asked how they can keep up with each book. Some have even asked if it's necessary to read both Superman titles. In the past, the different Superman titles told similar stories only with different villains each month. Based on the first issues, we get the immediate impression that readers will be able to choose one over the other depending on what flavor Superman they prefer.
We've already seen the changes Superman has gone through in Action Comics #1. Because that series takes place in an earlier time period, there's obviously more changes that will occur in between the two series. The two titles may eventually end up on the same page but looking at both titles, is it essential to read both titles at the same time.== TEASER ==
In the 80s, there used to be four different Superman titles. One came out each week and the story from one continued into the next. Each cover had a number telling you the reading order in case you missed out on one. That's obviously not the case with 'Superman' and 'Action Comics,' since 'Action' takes place in Superman's early days.
This isn't quite Superboy but it has that younger/brasher feel to it. We're seeing Superman in his beginnings. He's not brand new to the game because the people of Metropolis know who he is. He isn't as powerful as we're used to seeing him. He leaps over tall buildings instead of flying over them.
As he gets used to his powers or they slowly build up, we're going to see a Superman that has to do a little more thinking. He won't be able to just fly in and carry the bad guy away. In the first issue he's going up against the brilliant mind of Lex Luthor. The experienced Superman can simply fly around at super-speed or use his strength to defeat his enemies. Seeing this Superman learn to deal with the dangers around him will be interesting.
He also has a bit of an attitude which gives him more of a human feel. A common complaint has been that Superman often comes across as unfeeling. As Clark, he is supposed to be more human than other characters. But when Superman is portrayed as all-powerful, he can get a little...boring.
This Superman also jumps into the action. It's almost as if he's seeking out the trouble rather than sit around and wait for the cries for help. It's a fine line he'll be treading as he would have to be careful to not become a judge, jury and executioner. This Superman is more spontaneous. You're not sure what he's going to do. He's willing to take it on but not quite ready to. And that's not going to stop him.
The current Superman is closer to what we've seen recently. He has his powers but feels like he's suffered some sort of loss. Superman was the people's hero but here, you get the impression he is keeping to himself. Whether it's the changes at the Daily Planet or friendship/relationship with Lois Lane, he feels a little distant.
Along with distance, it was mentioned that he wasn't around Metropolis for some time. We don't know exactly how long or what he was up to. This also adds to the feeling that something has driven him away. Most likely it wasn't a Justice League threat because he's always managed to serve the League and still watch over his city.
What should be the case in this title is the opportunity for Superman to go up against his bigger villains. Because of Superman's great powers, writers always had to give him huge threats. Since he has less power in 'Action Comics,' we probably won't see him face a Doomsday-level villain anytime soon.
Superman might have pulled back from Metropolis and his strong sense of being there for the city but this title is more likely to give us something closer to the Superman we've been reading the last few decades.
Which is More Essential?
This is the tough part. The big question is what kind of Superman do you want? It might be unfair to make a drastic decision based off of one single issue but with the vast number of titles that come out each week, sometimes one issue is all a reader is willing to give.
'Action Comics' feels like it has more heart. This is a Superman learning to be a hero. He won't do things perfectly but he has the enthusiasm to jump right into the action. Being at a lower power level, he won't be able to take on the big villains. He also won't have run ins or team-ups with other heroes since we saw his first encounter with Batman and Green Lantern in Justice League #1.
'Superman' will have a more familiar Superman. He's in his new suit and is at full strength. We will see more of his presence and connection to the rest of the DC Universe. There is more of a chance for guest appearances from other heroes if that's something you want to see outside of Justice League.
When I first saw the covers and solicits to these first issues, I thought I would prefer 'Superman' over 'Action.' It turned out my liking was the opposite of what I expected. Of course I'm going to continue to read them both but based off of one single issue, I'm far more interested in 'Action Comics.'
Superman fans should be reading both. We'll have to see if 'Action' stays in the past or eventually catches up to the current time. It could also be fun to see what connections the two books could have, assuming there will be a lot of coordination in both titles. For example, something first seen in 'Action' could return in 'Superman' with different results. I like the idea of seeing Superman in two different stages. 'Action Comics' has won me over and I expected more from 'Superman.' Hopefully my first impression of 'Superman' will be proven to be premature and next issue will knock my socks off. There is room for two Superman comics. I just want them both to be...super.