Friday, July 27, 2018

Review: Action Comics #1001

 Action Comics #1001 came out this week, the first issue in the Brian Michael Bendis run on the title, and it was very close to an excellent comic. The problem is it simply doesn't stick the landing and as a result, the last thing I remember about this book is the thing I liked the least.

No big surprise, the thing I like the least deals with Lois Lane. Despite promises that Bendis made that he was not going to undo anything that Dan Jurgens and Peter Tomasi did on their runs, Bendis has torn apart the super-family. And frankly, that was one of the things that brought me the greatest joy in the Rebirth/Reborn era. Now, Jon is gone, soon to return as a scarred older teen. And Lois is angrily typing away at a keyboard, apart from her husband who doesn't even know she is on Earth.


Before that, we had a very solid issue of Superman investigating the fires that have been plaguing the city. We see him trying to figure out who is behind it. We see the Planet staff working on the story. We see the exhausted Fire Department not knowing where to turn. We see the entrenched organized crime within Metropolis responding to the fires. And all of that is written very well with great dialogue and strong artistic beats. I was eagerly turning the pages.

Patrick Gleason is on art and brings his strong style to the proceedings. His Superman is larger than life, broad chinned, barrel chested, and powerful in his symbolism. But the seedier scenes, the grimy Fire Station, the meeting of the mob, also work well.

We were so close to a great issue. On to the specifics.

'Invisible Mafia' starts out with a splash page of someone's desk.It is littered with energy drinks, snacks, an Orko figure, a Dial H dial, and Superman images. While we don't get a name plate, this has to be Jimmy Olsen's desk in the Planet pit. The camera and the photo of Perry waving him off seems to clinch it.

The caption boxes are a quick rundown of what has happened before. I don't mind recap pages but I love when they are more than just text pages. Here, we get a glimpse into Jimmy's mind.

Now I don't think Jimmy is writing those caption boxes. He doesn't know everything in them. I have loved the Planet scenes so far so this peek into Jimmy's world is pretty slick. Maybe this will be a running theme (like the globe opening pages in Man of Steel). Maybe next month it's Trish Q's desk, probably a neater place.

We then jump to Superman thwarting a robbery at a LexCorp building.

It is a funny scene as a rather blase Superman stymies the crooks. One empties his machine gun into Superman's chest. (I do love how we see Superman catching all the bullets around him so they don't cause ancillary damage.) He then throws his gun at Superman.

As a kid, I used to laugh when I saw the crook throw the gun at George Reeves after the bullets did nothing. Here, even the boss crook thinks it ridiculous.

But as this unfolds, Superman is just asking if these burglars know anything of the fires. He is trying to get information any way he can.

At the Planet, we see Perry holding court in the Pit. I love these scenes.

Jimmy, as the veteran here, comments that while Superman is in the city and stops the big crimes, street level crime (shenanigans and malarkey) still happens. I am intrigued by the idea that Superman has his eyes on macroscopic events and not microscopic, street level crime.

And then the bomb drops. Robinson Goode reveals that a boy has implicated Superman in the fires.

I keep hoping that we'll continue to get Planet scenes with Lois. Hoping.

A bit surprised by this revelation, Superman heads to the Fire Department to talk to new friend and Lana-LMD Melody Moore.

Moore looks exhausted, weighed down by her equipment and life (great work by Gleason here). She isn't sure if she should open up to Superman since he is being investigated. But when he says that he is there because people are being hurt, and when she sees the massive S-shield, she relents.

I like that the iconography of the S-shield is so powerful. It is massive. It means something. It can't be ignored. Nice run of panels there.

Moore and Superman track down the boy who said Superman started the fire. He admits that a bald man gave him  $300 to lie about Superman. 

There is a fun interaction where Superman says the boy has to work at a food bank as his penance, a task which is much less than what the boy's mother would have given him. I like Superman teaching some lessons like that.

But Moore gives a good point. Superman can no longer openly investigate the fires because he is also a suspect now. While she admits arson is 'small' for him, she knows he can't muddy things by sticking his nose into things.

I like Moore's gumption to point this out. And you have to give it to the crook. It works. He can't get involved.

It leads Superman to think about all the bald people who might want ill done to him.

Luthor, Brainiac, Parasite, Hugo Strange ... sure thing.

Dan Didio? Definitely.

I am pretty sure the last shot is Bendis himself who I think needed his eye covered recently, secondary to illness.

Finally Lois gets named.

Trish Q continues to try to needle Clark to give her the story. She warns him again that he could get in front of this break-up by telling his story before Lois tells hers, before a gossip rag uncovers it on their own. It is an ominous foreshadow.

I do like that the going theory about her going missing is that she has left to be with Superman. There is some story there to mine, people investigating this possible romance which could endanger all the secrets.

Clark remains tight-lipped.

And then we see the Invisible Mafia from the title. In a two page spread we see a man behind innumerable monitors tracking Superman as he leaves the city. The mob has major surveillance on Superman to know when they can act and where.

With Superman gone, the heads of the six families meet in a large lead pipe in the basement of 'the Don Corleone' stand-in.  This head gangster wants to know which family is lighting the fires. Because he doesn't like it.

None of them admit to it. But they all think the fires keep Superman occupied. And the head on the far right admits that he paid the kid.

And Metropolis has a very diverse crime syndicate!

 Remember Fritz Lang's classic movie 'M'? In that movie, someone is murdering children. The police are so hell-bent on catching him that it is interfering with the mob's daily work. As a result, the mob decides to hunt for the killer too.

I get a feeling of that here. This Godfather is not happy with these fires. And he knows that now that a kid has pointed the finger at Superman, there will be more scrutiny than ever. He calls in his 'button woman', the Red Cloud, who kills the errant mobster. Again, Gleason amps up the horror here.

I am pretty sure the gangter is the person Robinson Goode met at the end of the DC Nation #0 story. So is this Goode?

So up to this point I was very impressed. In particular, the idea that an organized crime network is operating so fully in Metropolis is a very good hook. I like that idea a lot. How can they stay hidden? How does Superman not notice?

But then we get the last page. A narrow-eyed, rather sullen, almost frowning Lois is tap tap tapping away at her keyboard. Gleason sells her mood.  We see her possible titles written on a pad. 'Truth, Justice, and the Kryptonian Way'. 'I married an Alien.'

Ugh. Remember when everyone hated Lois revealing Clark's secret in The Truth? Remember when people hated the New 52 for keeping Lois and Clark apart? Remember when people were happy that Lois and Clark were back together?

Why mess that up?

This seems terrible.

And that is how the book ends. It was like a punch to the gut after enjoying a fine meal. That isn't a good analogy.

So 95% good but 5% really off-putting. And very solid art throughout.

Overall grade: B-


Anonymous said...

Most of moments were very good. Superman confronting the crooks, investigating the fires, the chaos in the Daily Planet, the idea of criminal gangs developing alternate ways to conduct business in the of the omni-seeing, omni-hearing alien...

And who else thinks Red Mist sounds better than Red Cloud?

The final page, though... My stance is "Wait and see". I don't like but I'll hold judgment until I've seen where Bendis is going with this. I don't think he's going to split them up (we know thanks to Doomsday Clock they'll be together in the future anyway). I think he merely wants to stir drama. I can put up with occasional couple drama.

Emphasis on occasional.

But, yes, Lois exposing Clark was proved to be a bad idea. I hope it doesn't happen.

Martin Gray said...

Great review, and I'm with you, enjoyed it until the last page. I'm another who's tending to believe Bendis simply won't break them up and that they'll be back together and Jon will de-age and de-scar. Meanwhile, it seems we have a deliberate attempt to upset/annoy/unnerve the readers.

Lana-LMD Melody Moore - love it. And good call on that desk being Jimmy's, I just assumed Clark, but why would he have energy drinks? And an H Dial is very Jim.

M is such a fantastic film, Has Rob done it on the Film and water podcast yet?

I had to look up 'button woman', never having made it through more than 20 minutes of the Godfather.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind the Lois bit. To me that seems the most interesting part at the moment. My problem was the invisible mafia. I didn't get the least bit interested in them. I will put this title on hold until their arc is done.

Anonymous said...

I think Lois is certainly an imposter. The secret origins page of Red Cloud - which appears in every book - suggests that as among the 4 possibilities they toss out. I suspect those are all red herrings.

Could be J'onn J'onzz or Miss Martian; some other kind of mind-melding morphing alien who has left Lois, Jon and Jor-El stuffed into some alien zoo in a red sun solar system; or Lois is lost in her mind somewhere; or this isn't our Lois; or this is our Lois but stuck on an alternate Earth. Or, shape-shifting Matrix is back from Bete Noire or Hell or wherever she ended up!

I'm going to count on this being a mystery to solve and not the end of a marriage.

The rest of the story was excellent, artwork terrific.

Anj said...

Hmmm ....Lois as an imposter is fascinating! I can only hope!

I liked the mafia bit.

Hard one to grade ... hoping this Lois but straightens Out.