Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Review: Action Comics #1009

Action Comics #1009 came out this week and continued what I am calling a prologue to the Event Leviathan big summer blockbuster. Written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Steve Epting, the issue nudges the overall plot forward a smidge, giving us a few crumbs to whet the appetite. There is even a good cliffhanger to make me want more.

As usual though, the big win for this issue was the character moments. There are a lot of good exchanges in this issue, giving us some insight into characters' motivations and feelings. In particular, Lois Lane is a force in this issue as she stands up to Amanda Waller, one of the most powerful people on the planet. At first I thought maybe Lois' ire felt a little too amped up for the situation. But on second read, I think Lois has every right in the world to feel the wrath she is feeling.

Epting's art is appropriately grounded for this spy story. We don't need fantastical elan to see two intelligent people discussing a mystery. His Superman is a burly sort, reminding me a little of Lee Weeks' version. And this whole thing has a spy novel/film noir feel to it and Epting's use of shadow to hide people's faces works well when we are questioning people's motives.

Add in some side scenes with The Question and Alfred as well as a little peek behind the curtain of Leviathan itself and you have a nice hors d'oeuvre as we wait for the main meal to come.

On to the details.

We open with a 'desk shot' as has been the theme of this whole Action run.

This time it is the computer monitors at the Fortress, sounding the alarm for all the destruction around the country. Seems like the world knows about the ARGUS explosion, the devastation of KOBRA, and even that Amanda Waller (of Task Force X) is missing.

I guess I have never really thought about how widely known all of these groups are. Would the average citizen know about ARGUS (I guess they have a building with their logo on it). But I would think that someone like Amanda Waller would be an unknown to the public.

Regardless, the news is big enough that it has made international headlines.

No surprise given the opening splash, we are in the Fortress. Jimmy is still sound asleep. Amanda Waller has just started to stir from her unconscious state. And Lois isn't happy.

That top panel, in shadows over Waller, assuming almost a kidnappers look there, she berates Waller for coming to their door, leading danger to them. And then, when Waller is informed she is in the Fortress, Lois lets out with a snark that Waller shouldn't tweet out their location.

So yes, immediately, you see that Lois is not happy.

Superman tells Lois, in essence, to tone it down.

That is an interesting exchange. Does Superman think Lois is out of line? Is that Smallville manners overriding the situation? Should he be telling his wife not to have the feelings she is feeling?

We flash back to the end of last issue where Waller arrives at the Kent doorstep and collapses. But before she loses consciousness, she says that Leviathan is on her tail.

With a quick scan (a viewpoint we saw Ryan Sook use in Action Comics #1006) Superman both sees and hears no immediate threat.

I love this art. We see each floor below, with icons we get a sense of the conversation topic. It just works. I wonder if those people are discussing fashion choices for the S-shield or their personal takes on Superman.

Lois continues her verbal scourging of Waller. How dare Amanda not only bring her problems to the Kent apartment *and* voice their secret, something she shouldn't know.

I suppose it makes sense that someone like Waller would know the secret identity. And I also like that she has kept it a secret so far as opposed to using it as leverage.

What doesn't make sense is Lois yelling about how important the secret is with Jimmy napping nearby. Also, I will blissfully forget that in the Yang/Romita time she revealed it to the world. I am pretty sure that Rebirth/Reborn erased that.

The size of the Leviathan problem becomes evident. Superman sees groups disappearing or going silent.

Waller reveals that she left General Lane in order to escape. She stayed long enough to see that Leviathan didn't kill the General. Superman takes off to check in on Lois' father.

That leaves the two women to engage in a war of wills and feints.

Lois wonders how Waller knows about Leviathan.
Waller wonders why Lois has taken her to a hidden place.
Neither seem to trust the other. Why should they!

I love this interaction. Who'll blink first?

Well, it turns out that Lois will punch first.

It seems a little over the top. But Lois is filled with wrath.

I can't help but contrast this to the (for me) muted response to Jon being gone with Jor-El. Lois didn't seem this mad over there.

At the hospital, in General Lane's room, Superman is pleased to see the General in stable condition. He is surprised to see the Question in the room.

The Question is tracing Leviathan and everything leads to the DEO and Lane.

So a lot of suspects are being hinted at. Although I doubt Lane is behind Leviathan.

Then the Question wonders if Superman is Leviathan.

Of course, the biggest and most interesting thing is that the Question has noted that there are no bodies at these scenes of great destruction.

Now that is fascinating. Maybe Leviathan isn't destroying these groups. Maybe Leviathan is absorbing them. Maybe there aren't bodies because Leviathan is taking these zealots and agents and training them, inculcating them into that group. A big group absorbing other big groups would truly be leviathan.

When Superman head to Talia Al Ghul's Leviathan headquarters, he finds it deserted except for a note saying that Leviathan and Superman want the same thing. I presume that thing is order.

As this is Talia, Superman heads to Gotham. Batman is gone but Alfred says what I assumed all along. This Leviathan isn't Talia.

So who is it?

I am still going for an Earth-0 version of a Watchmen character. I'm currently leaning to Dan Dreiberg.

With Leviathan checked out, Superman heads to the demolished DEO.

There he finds Mr. Bones slipping into a rhyming speech pattern, the kind he used way way way back in the Infinity Inc. days. I suppose he is so stressed that a verbal tic like that might resurface.

Bones is the perfect anti-hero. He has mostly done 'good' these days, albeit with warped means. Here, suddenly adrift without the DEO, he loses his cool. If Superman can't help him then Superman (and Supergirl) are Bones' enemies.

I prefer a slightly unhinged Mr. Bones. Let's see the villain return a little.

Back at the Fortress, Lois lets Superman know that the problem at hand has cooled her interactions with Waller. Jimmy still seems blissfully ignorant of the secret identity (although back in the Yang/Romita series Superman revealed it to Jimmy. I suppose Rebirth/Reborn erased that.)

A pulse check on all the spy groups is done. Spyral, another large espionage group, has gone silent. Could Spyral be behind it all?

It reminds Lois that she and Clark had fake identities they used in the past to infiltrate Spyral.

It is time (with the help of some Kryptonian tech) for Andi and Chaz to come in from the cold. Not a bad hook.

I suppose the identity of Leviathan is going to be the mystery of the summer. And when you are dealing with a bunch of spies, it is hard to know who to trust. Perhaps Leviathan is actually one of those groups?

I understand Waller knowing Superman is Clark. It makes me wonder how many other people know that. I guess I can roll with that for now.

And the Question scene is the one that I will mull over the most. Is his line about Superman being Leviathan a clue? Could we be talking about some other Superman persona, like Ultraman? That would jibe with the 'want the same thing' note. And the information about the lack of a body count is meaty.

This was a nice end to the prologue and beginning of chapter one.

Overall grade: B+


Martin Gray said...

Great review, this story is a lot of fun. I have to admit, I loved Lois punching Waller... it's not like DC would let Supes belt a non-powered gal. Waller is so vile in post-2011 continuities, she's lost all nuance.

This being a Superman book, I posit that all roads lead to Luthor, and he's behind Leviathan. What if the explosions aren't absorbing folk in terms of employment/ideology, but physically?

What a gorgeous Manapul variant!

Martin Gray said...

(Excuse me, posting a one-line because I forgot to tick the 'notify me by email' box!)

Anonymous said...

With Lois calling Superman "honey" and "baby" within his earshot, Jimmy seems surprisingly dense or oblivious.

Maybe Waller can say "I saw tech I don't understand, abstracted by chaos aimed to distract me," and maybe she knows what she meant by that. And maybe everyone else knows too. But I don't know what that sentence means.

Lois is an articulate writer; I wonder why she didn't say "Um, what?"

Bendis is in his element here, and here's hoping Leviathan develops into a very engaging event.

Now I'm curious, how does gold kryptonite work? Not like it used to! Didn't it used to permanently take away Kryptonian super powers? But Lois refers to it as technology, so let's assume its power has been harnessed.

I got the main Epting cover. Really enjoying his art.


Anonymous said...

" I wonder if those people are discussing fashion choices for the S-shield or their personal takes on Superman."

Maybe... Or maybe they are discussing Superman and Supergirl and it's because that the shields are differently colored?

"Then the Question wonders if Superman is Leviathan."

And Superman answers: "That's too much paranoid, even for you."

I agree with Superman Alfred does NOT get enough credit.

That Mr. Bones scene makes me wonder if Bendis is referencing Supergirl's Orlando's run.

Epting's art is fantastic, and Bendis is doing so far a good job hyping the Leviathan threat.