Friday, November 30, 2018

Review: Action Comics #1005

Action Comics #1005 came out this week and was a crackling good time. This issue was a perfect sort of middle chapter for what we have been reading here, pushing forward all the plot threads organically, giving us new information, and making me want more. From its inception, Action Comics has been my favored Brian Michael Bendis super-book and issues like this is why. After last month's Lois problems, this issue righted the train.

Certainly Superman/Clark has a huge presence. He is the straw that stirs the drink. But the real power of Action is the supporting cast. From the individual mob leaders in the Invisible Mafia to the Planet staff, everyone builds on everyone else.  I want to learn more about these people and their motivations. I want to know the answers to the mysteries we have been teased with. This is an ensemble book with a superstar center and I love it.

Of course, the book is profoundly helped by the achingly fantastic art of Ryan Sook. Sook's stuff just leaps off the page. From the action sequences to shadowy crime meetings to seedy clubs to swanky affairs, Sook's page layout, panel design, and figures are about as perfect as you can get. I know he is working on some secret future project with Bendis but I need him on the super-books now and then. How about he is the perrenial Annual artist?

And I usual am horrible about not mentioning the rest of the artistic team, something I need to remedy. Brad Anderson's colors also help tell the story. The psychedelic colors of the opening scene evoke the 60's/Ditko-ness of it all. The bright colors in the posh party stand in contrast to the inkiness of the mob meeting held in darkness. And the letters by Josh Reed, especially the sound effects, add to the action.

Okay, enough gushing. On to the details.

We start out as usual with a Daily Planet desk shot. This is Robinson Goode's desk and you can see some information here that helps inform us a little about her. One thing is that the story on the monitor about the Phantom Zone debacle in the Superman book means things are sort of happening at the same time. It looks like the name on the coffee cup is 'Robinfen'; trust me 'Anj' gets mangled by baristas all the time. But it's a 'red eye' drink ... perhaps a hint of who Goode is?

An open email we see just a smidge of is about her Green K purchase, all in code.

But the most interesting thing on the desk is the fact that Kate Spencer is calling her. Hmmm ...

The book opens in a nightclub where mob family boss Miss Gummy is trying to purchase a 'Hero Dial' so she can defend herself from Superman should she need to. The guy selling it is clearly nervous and almost desperate. But hearing him explain the dial and its powers were fantastic. "Sometimes you get a name." Where is Spinning Jenny when I need her!

The dial is a fake. Gummy doesn't get powers. Instead she sees the seller and her button men beaten up by the Question, a rather Vic Sage looking Question at that! I'd prefer Vic remain in Hub City but I have also always thought that Metropolis needs a street level hero. The Question would fit the bill.

It's a meaty 5 pages, reading like a crime comic, and wonderfully noir. 

There are those Anderson colors really brilliantly showcasing the story. And check out those Josh Reed letters. For those of us old enough to remember rotary phones, I know what 'rmmmmm' is sounds like!

My favorite part of the Action book has been the Planet scenes, especially stuff that happens in the pit. We get a nice overhead shot of the reporters around their desks.

Here Clark is helping out Robinson on one of her articles. She is writing about the rumored Red Cloud killer. But she doesn't have much to go on. So her article is less facts and more flowery. As a journalism veteran, Clark calls her out on it.

One thing I loved in the scene is this small moment where Clark takes off his glasses in front of Goode as he talks about reuniting with Lois. See, it isn't just the glasses that hide his identity. It's everything. So he can take them off and not out himself to everyone. It is a little subtle thing and therefore successful.

The tough thing is we know Robinson isn't a good soul, working for the mob and trying to undermine the Planet.

Gummy heads up back in the safety bunker to talk about the current mob situation. With Superman 'in space', they can meet in their secret oil tank.

Gummy isn't happy. The Red Cloud killed one of them and is apparently working for Mr. Strong. No honor among thieves, I guess. Maybe the Hero Dial was to protect her from the very organization she works for. And we still don't know who the woman is behind the curtain. (I still say Talia Al Ghul.)

We get a new face, Kumquat, a sly devil filling in the vacuum of 'Candy'. But boy oh boy, does he look like Matches Malone, Batman's gangster alter ego. I wonder if the guy lighting up in the bottom panel is a hint.

Again, check out the colors here by Anderson. This is a scene cloaked in blackness. But the subtle yellows and ochres work, giving it a solid feel. And that orange of the match just stands out.

Clark had been pulled away from Robinson's desk by a phone call from Melody Moore. Meeting in a back alley, face hidden in her hoodie sweatshirt, she tells Clark of an uncomfortable recent party.

At some swanky uptown affair, the Mayor basically tells Moore to stop investigating the arson that is happening around town. And she definitely needs to steer clear of Superman and other supers. The presence of a vigilante muddies the ethical waters and any investigation is tainted, at least per him.

The mayor seems like a lecherous guy, enjoying the riches of his position and willing to look the other way. Perhaps he is on the mafia payroll.

But check out the art by Sook as he effortlessly gives us all the shots of the opulence we need. I swear, Bendis' script must have said 'draw a Howard Chaykin party'. Moore alone drips sexiness in that form fitting gown. And she certainly stands out even more thanks to Anderson's colors, her navy dress cutting through the golden environment.

Armed with that info, Clark decides some super-investigating of the Mayor is in order.

I don't know what to make of this panel.

Is the Mayor dead? Was he killed?
That bottle of pills near him implies that maybe he was reaching for meds and had a heart attack?
Or is he just passed out?

My guess is he was killed by The Red Cloud for being so blatant in his discussion with Moore. And then the pills were placed there to confuse the situation making it look like a natural death.

I assume the Red Cloud did it because ...

Immediately afterwards, the Cloid attacks Superman.

Turns out it's hard to fight mist.

Despite some super-breath (with a great 'shoo' sound effect by Reed), Superman can really escape and seems to be harmed by the cloud. He has to take off at high speed.

I suppose we'll eventually see him spin around at high speed and dissipate the Cloud. But not yet.

And she is quite pleased with herself knowing she can go toe-to-toe with Superman. Maybe she didn't need Green K back-up.

Yep, Red Cloud is Robinson Goode. I suppose by taking on the story of 'Who is the Red Cloud?' she can control the data stream a bit. Interesting. Sort of Clark writing about Superman in a way.

But how did she get these powers? What are her motivations?

I'm intrigued by her!

So overall a very good issue with action (hence the name), plot advancement, great dialogue, character moments, and some of the finest art (on all levels) you can find.

I hope everyone is reading this.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

Yes, this was a great issue.

And, yes, a villain having a secret identity as a reporter working for the Daily Planet is an interesting inversion. So I have to congratulate Bendis here.

I'll give him this: whatever you may think about his writing style or characterization or diallogue, he is passionate about his current work, and he hasn't neglected any of the facets of Superman. I'm worried about Jon being prematurely aged (DC can't think of another Jon plot other than: "What if Jon goes evil or crazy?"), but one thing doesn't take away the other.

Although regarding Jon, I've just found a piece of fanart condensing DC's treatment of the Superman Family since the 80's... and Ouch! I'm beginning to think Superman's greatest failure wasn't his inability to redeem Luthor or save Krypton... but his inability to protect his own family.

Martin Gray said...

Seeing Kate Spencer mentioned is intriguing but Bendis has said in interviews that while some of these desk doings are related to Action Comics, and some hint at future DC projects, others are just red herrings. Just maybe, though, the secret Bendis/Sook project is the return of Manhunter... it’s totally in Mr B’s wheelhouse.

I love the head stars around the Question-bashed chappie. I expect he’s just here for a visit, Metropolis has a fair few street level types, such as Gangbuster and Guardian.

The business of Clark sitting over Goode seems wrong, you simply do not get to work for one of the best papers in the world without being able to get a story, organise the facts on the page and write with flow. She’s coming across like a work experience kid.

I wonder, is/was the mayor necessarily bad, or just very, very political?

Lovely review!

Anonymous said...

"Glad" to see DC is continuing to introduce new WOC characters solely as villains.

How long till Bendis uses his kids as prop against his casual racism again?

I'd rather go back to the worst of the New 52 at this point instead of watching people flail to pretend this isn't crap.

Martin Gray said...

Women of colour only as villains? What about the upcoming Naomi comic from Bendis?

Anonymous said...

""Glad" to see DC is continuing to introduce new WOC characters solely as villains.

How long till Bendis uses his kids as prop against his casual racism again?"

That is funny. Bendis has introduced a lot of non-white heroic characters during his career. And he has announced he is creating new DC heroes who aren't white.

But because he has introduced one black person who happens to be a villain and because one out of I-don't-know-how-many-henchmen happens to be black, Bendis is racist. Right.

Let me explain you one little fact: black people are PEOPLE. They aren't impersonal, dehumanizing acronyms. They are and must be treated as persons. And persons can be good or bad, regardless ridiculous distinctions as race.