Monday, July 1, 2019

Review: Action Comics #1012

Action Comics #1012 came out this week and continued the tremendous momentum that Brian Michael Bendis has been bringing to the title in recent months. Yes, Event Leviathan is a huge story involving the Superman family and the DCU as a whole. But Bendis shows that life goes on for most people. So this issue shows that even with Leviathan is looming over everything like a shroud, crime and day jobs are still happening. These sort of issues enrich a universe, making it feel more realistic and three dimensional.

This issue also brings in an updated Rose and Thorn, a character who occasionally crossed my path in the Bronze Age, but not enough to have me feel attached or very knowledgeable about her. This hew version seems a bit more addled than the original, and more violent than I recall. Her pending story is very interesting.

But the real revelation in this issue is the new artist Szymon Kudranski. Kudranski has a great sense of  'cinematography', taking advantage of the medium by overlaying pictures, bringing in fascinating panel borders, and switching from the bright lights of the Fortress to the blood soaked bars of Metropolis. In particular the Thorn scenes have a bit of Michael Lark sensibility, reminiscent of Daredevil.

On to the book.

The book opens on the Daily Planet's Chirper page, the DCU version of Twitter. We know Clark is looking here given the IM box. (How many of us struggle to remember 'lede'!)

I love how Superman is in their banner. They know their brand. But I wonder how ethical that is. I also love that the site doesn't follow Cat Grant, Jack Ryder, or Vicki Vale. No need to see your competition.

But the key here is that Leviathan news is starting to leak out into the world's news feed. Spyral's destuction, the Red Hood being implicated, and the ARGUS disaster are all up there. If only my personal hashtag - #LeviathanTheory - was up there, the world would be complete.

As I said, while Leviathan is dominating the news world, the Invisible Mafia sees an opening.

Using such Noir nicknames as Pretzel, Gummy, and Mr. Strong, these lieutenants discuss using the uncertainty of the time as well as Superman being preoccupied to release a new drug called Apocalypse onto the streets. And they feel pretty confident about this given how the Red Cloud was able to hold off Superman in battle.

The scene is perfect for once more showing how this group operates in the city. They are careful about their words, adding Bermuda and Triangle to the list. And the shadowy hiding hole showcases how well Kudranski can handle these more street level scenes.

Meanwhile, in the Fortress, Superman and Lois enjoy a little hanky-panky. There is a sort of playful, smoldering romance between these two. I like how, despite being together for some time, Bendis has them very affectionate and loving. I like how she calls him Smallville and he calls her Metropolis. I like the hand holding and snuggling.

This conversation about what she thought of Clark when she first met him is a nice wrinkle. She says she was wrong about Clark which makes me think she didn't like Kent at first.

Given that the car from Action Comics #1 is in continuity, maybe Bendis is going all the way back to that?

It was somewhat weird to have this little diversion conversation in the midst of the craziness happening in the world. But character beats and strengthening a foundation for this couple is always appreciated.

As I have said before, my favorite parts of Action Comics so far has been the Daily Planet scenes, especially those in the 'pit', with the reporters working on stories and talking to Perry.

Here Robinson Goode has some info, a shot of the Leviathan Enforcer in the ARGUS attacks. She sees that Sam Lane was 'spared'. It is a story, perhaps shining some suspicion onto Lois? And Perry is intrigued enough to send Goode to the site.

Goode is fascinating as a character. She certainly has grown as a reporter over her short time here, learning from Lois and getting knee deep into the news.

She also has a scene with Trish Q where they discuss a photo of Lois kissing Superman, a story point we saw months ago. Back then, I questioned why Lois and Superman would kiss in public, surrounded by onlookers grabbing pics. Both feel sorry for Clark. (There is something horrible about Trish calling Robinson 'Robin', as if Trish didn't know Goode's name.)

But this was the big moment. Goode gets a call that someone wants to meet her. In the midst of the conversation, her hand becomes 'Red Cloud'. The look of surprise on her face shows she didn't mean to. Perhaps she is using her powers so much she is losing control?

It certainly would be tragic if she lost control, became mist, and simply dissipated.

Robinson meets Rose and they discuss the dual nature of Rose and Thorn.

This interaction grabbed me. Rose and Thorn were always dissociated personalities. So Rose is not Thorn; she doesn't know what Thorn does.

Interesting that Goode says she knows, really. I don't think the Red Cloud is another personality or being. I wonder if Goode is starting to realize that she is living two lives. There is this Robinson, a young reporter doing good, growing in stature, and shining a light on injustice. And then there is the other life, as Red Cloud, murdering and working for a crime boss.

It is hard to justify those two lives as being in synch. Even her looking sideways shows that she is pondering her own choices.

And I love the borders here, leafy and flowery because Rose is in charge.

But then Thorn manifests and we hear more.

Thorn has been beating her way through the underworld. The 'Invisible Mafia' has been releasing Apocalypse on to the street and she won't have it. She has been battering and splattering her way through the ranks. And the Metropolis PD looks the other way because, perhaps, they approve.

So much to say here.

One, with Metropolis being 'Superman's City', the police probably have to mirror the squeaky clean mode of their hero. So maybe they don't want to break out the truncheons and wade into battle, even when called for. So why wouldn't they like someone breaking heads on their side. This is a very intriguing story line.

Second, Kudranski wows here, a double page spread, at a Dutch angle to give a sense of chaos, as Thorn claws her way through drug dealers.

But the real star here is colorist Brad Anderson, who steeps it in reds and oranges so much, implying the blood-soaked nature of the brawl. Reminded me of Suspiria!

Goode is shocked that Thorn knows about the Mafia.

And even Rose knows that the cops are turning a blind eye to Thorn's activities. Again, the banners work well, switching in and out of thorns and roses depending on who is in charge.

But there is more to be told ...

Of course, Mama Leone loves the idea of police corruption, turning their head on brutality. She can use that to further de-power the authorities.

And since the Mafia owns the Planet they can use that as their media arm.

As much as Levithan is consuming my brain, this plot thread has grabbed me. How will Superman respond? Why hasn't he noticed Thorn's shenanigans. It is, as if, the day to day stuff is below him. An Invisible Mafia and a vicious vigilante have been running around in his city. Hmmm ...

And is Gangbuster still in continuity?

But Rose did have one more bomb to drop.

She was recruited by Leviathan!

He doesn't want Batman. He doesn't want Green Arrow. He wants Batgirl.

He wants Thorn?

Maybe he sees some potential there?

The fact he says 'We are Leviathan' makes me wonder if he is also a split personality? Perhaps he sees a bit of himself in the split Rose? This doesn't necessarily jibe with my Leviathan Theory. But that is the only explanation I can think of to explain why he would want someone as volatile as Rose/Thorn in his new world order.


The super-books are really clicking right now. And I am a very happy reader.

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Great review. This is such a terrific series.

I assumed Trish calling RG ‘Robin’ wasn’t her forgetting her name so much as shortening it, the diminutive being intended to imply a friendship that’s just not there.

Well done on highlighting the cleverness of the changing plant panel borders, I missed that!

William Ashley Vaughan said...

I can't help wondering what will happen now that the Invisible Mafia knows who Rose and the Thorn are. The original Robert Kanigher series from Lois Lane vol. 1 was one of the best things he ever did, a landmark of the 1968-1975 DC renaissance and a classic case of the back up story being better than the lead feature. DC really ought to collect them in a trade if there isn't one already.

Professor Feetlebaum said...

I think "Leviathan" at this point can refer to either the person and/or the organization, like "Alice Cooper". That, I believe is what he meant by "we".

Or maybe Leviathan is using the royal "we" here: "Her majesty said 'we are not amused!'"

Anonymous said...

Since Mama Leone has already elevated Goode to full partner, I don't think "there is the other life, as Red Cloud, murdering and working for a crime boss" is the whole story. Goode, as Goode, is already entirely invested in crime. (Goode is -- bad.)

Though I wonder what came first - Goode engaged in crime, or Goode becomes Red Cloud and then decides crime is the best way to use her new skills.

Certainly she must have had the talent and motivation to get through journalism school. That's a lot of work for someone with powers like hers to bother with. The powers must have come to her later.

There's a Secret Origin of the Red Cloud that I'd like to read! Is the Red Cloud masquerading as or inhabiting Goode? Or the other way around.