(p) Brad Walker and Rags Morales
(i) Andrew Hennessey and Mark Probst
Action Comics has been a bit wonky recently. Yes, Grant Morrison is a weird writer, and yes, his entire take on Superman since issue one has been alternative, to put it lightly. But something about the past few issues ha been even more fractured and seemingly unconnected than usual. I didn't much like last month's Action Comics #14 because it dealt with a situation with which we, the readers, had no prior knowledge or backstory. It felt very much like Morrison simply dropped a story he wanted to tell right in the middle of an already complex and highly cerebral storyline. Mrs. Nyxly has been a mainstay in Action Comics since Clark Kent first moved to Metropolis in the first issue and rented a room in her building. New readers to either Superman or Grant Morrison would not have picked up on the significance the odd name at first, but fans knew immediately that this would have something to do with Mister Mxyzptlk, a longtime supporting character/villain of Superman's. Action Comics #15 reveals a lot about not only Superman's early days, but also about Morrison's run with the Man of Steel and the 'New 52' universe at-large.
Basically, Mxyzptlk is a 5th dimensional magician capable of producing new dimensions on a whim. Old Mxy created a bunch of three-dimensional universes with which to produce heroes for him to challenge and defeat, all in an effort to please the King-Thing Brpxz of Zrfff. Turns out Superman is the favorite of this multiverse because he's the only one who has ever won against Mxyzptlk, and has done so repeatedly. Of course, being a 5th dimensional being means Mxy's challenges aren't necessarily direct or even perceivable in the third dimension--all the hardships throughout Superman's life have directly or indirectly come from Mister Mxyzptlk's interference. Clark continues to "win" because nothing can keep his spirit down--he can persevere through anything Mxy throws at him. If you strip away the layers and layers of thick mythology, you find a simple tale about overcoming obstacles and becoming stronger for it.
There's a lot more packed into Action Comics #15--the meaning behind the golden angels from last issue being one of the most interesting for me--that brings Grant Morrison's vision closer to fruition. It makes sense, as his run is coming to a close with Action Comics #17 in February. The Man of Steel has never been weirder. Well, alright...he was weirder in All-Star Superman, which was also written by Morrison. There, Morrison had the freedom to do literally anything he wanted with Superman without repercussions because it didn't exist in the main DC continuity. Here, with Action Comics, Morrison received a similar amount of freedom, except this time the task wasn't to simply tell the best Superman story possible--it was to create Superman anew from scratch. And while that meant having to adhere to some modicum of new continuity, having his run set in the past has given Morrison the ability to make the 'New 52' universe as weird as it can be.