Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Review: Action Comics #1017

Action Comics #1017 came out last week and was an interesting and enjoyable read. But I feel for writer Brian Michael Bendis.

Right now, concurrently in the DC Universe, the following things are happening.

1) Leviathan has completely destroyed the espionage community and is trying to wrest control of the world.

2) The Batman Who Laughs has infected six heroes and is trying to bring Doom to the planet.

3) Perpetua, the dark force of creation, is trying to destroy the universe.

That is a lot of universe shaking stuff happening. And not surprisingly, it all seems to impact Superman. That means his own titles are going to have to respond. You can't have a world changer, a world destroyer, and a universe destroyer all eyeing Earth and pretend it isn't happening.

So we get Action Comics #1017 in which somehow Bendis is able to give us all the supporting cast Superman stuff I love in this title and somehow bring two of those three storylines into this book. I have loved Action for it's Daily Planet-centric feel and this issue is no different, even though we are dealing with all that heaviness. Serious kudos.

This issue also marks the start of a John Romita Jr. run on art. Frankly, I have never seen the appeal of his work. Everyone looks like boxers who have had multiple broken noses. But I know I am in the minority.

On to the book.

We open with Superman cornered by the major players of the Legion of Doom. He seems beaten but not broken. He says he will surrender. But Apex Lex (ugh) wants more. 'Genuine surrender.'

How did we get here? Didn't we just see Perpetua stuff the non-Lex villains into a giant chair to act as engines? And do I really care?

I guess I care. But I am more into the Leviathan story than this. And I care about the Batman Who Laughs even less.

Well, we don't know yet how we got there. Because we flashback one day.

We see Clark interviewing current Planet owner Marisol Leone. He asks standard interview questions trying to get a little information about her background. We learn she lived in Suicide Slum in her youth and raised herself out. But she seems a bit less than forthcoming. No surprise given she runs organized crime in the city. She chalks it up to being uncomfortable.

In fact, she seems to be trying to get information on Lois and Clark.

I am a little surprised she would reveal herself like this. You would think she would have a shell company and someone else there as her proxy. For someone so concerned with anonymity and secrecy, this is a bold move.

The interview is interrupted by a comet/fireball streaking through the city, right past the Planet building. Clark disappears. Superman suddenly is one the case.

I do like this voice over by Jimmy. He says that things like this and the attacks by Leviathan are sort of a new strategy to take on Superman. New rules.

And he thinks Superman both likes the new rules and doesn't like them. I love that line.

Remember how Grant Morrison said Superman would be the most relaxed guy in the universe? I wonder if Superman gets sort of bored with the usual villain fare. This is a new challenge. But that also means new risk.


The fireball turns out to be a Leviathan teleporting weapon, sending Superman to Gorilla City.

There, despite some great speech by him ('Good soldiers of Gorilla City'), these apes aren't happy to see him and decide to dogpile. How great that Superman seems to know the local culture and vernacular to say it that way.

Are these Gorillas that are loyal to Leviathan? Or is there a new anti-Superman sentiment in that place?

Shortly after, Clark returns and begins typing in earnest, looking sullen and quiet.

Again, you think that Clark is always sunny Smallville. So I also liked this tiny character moment that Jimmy has. Jimmy says when Clark is like this it feels like the sun won't shine. It means Clark is an influencer. But it also means Clark has moods like this enough for people to know how they will respond.

And we learn that Robison Goode has been missing for three days.

My guess is Goode is stuck in her blaze form. Never make a deal with the devil. And never make a deal to become a devil!!

Even Leone is surprised. That also is meaningful given Goode is working for Leone. Red Mist has gone off the ranch.

But there is little time to rest for Superman.

Clark spies an explosion across town and goes to investigate.

There we find Chief Moore, someone we haven't seen in a while, battling an inferno in the Invisible Mafia's nightclub, the one we saw Red Mist and Thorn scuffle in recently.

This isn't a gas main explosion. It is something else. And Moore think she knows what.

But who would blow up a club owned by organized crime? Who would dare?

And even more interesting, we learn that the building itself was actually invisible to Superman. He never knew it was there. Hmmmm ....

In one of the best scenes, Superman heads to talk to Lois about the days events.

Why would Leviathan teleport him away to Gorilla City?
And why would, as it seems, Leviathan attack the Invisible Mafia by blowing up this club?

It seems that somehow this attack will bring Leviathan into conflict with Luthor.

I love this scene and in particular this page of the two investigators working through what Leviathan could be trying to do and coming to the same conclusion. I'm not necessarily a fan of the art but the layout is perfect.

I suppose someone like Leviathan would want to remove Lex from the board. And after his 'one fell swoop' take over of the spy agencies, he is probably flush with confidence! So why not go after the big fish.

So despite all the Year of the Villain stuff, this was really more of a character issue. We got some plot progression. But it was more the interactions of the characters which I liked here.

Hopefully all these dark, universal storyline wrap up soon so we can get back to some normalcy!

Overall grade: B+


Anonymous said...

Romita is nothing if controversial. My opinion is he draws such grotesque faces and blocky bodies that it's hard to even consider whether his composition and layouts are any good. Such a weird-looking Lois! So many lines scratched on peoples' faces. He's like the anti-Romita Sr., drawing only ugly people where his father drew only beautiful faces (including the iconic reveal of Mary Jane).

But if you can get beyond that, I think many of his layouts are good. Or at least there's nothing wrong with them.

I did especially like the 4 pages of Superman chasing the energy blast fireball thing through the city, his red blur trailing behind.

Romita also seems to me to have blown the *whole point* (!) of the acetate cover thing. All the other November acetate covers - and I somehow bought 16 of them - were strategically drawn so that some carefully chosen elements of the underlying regular cover showed through the transparent areas of the acetate layer, to cleverly give the impression of a cohesive image on top. Elements like characters, buildings, smoke, lights etc. were placed creatively to foster this effect.

But Romita's cover? Almost no cohesion at all. Except for the smoke on the right side, which is done right, the other transparent areas of the acetate layer all show completely random elements of the underlying drawing, basically showing stray body parts. And one area where the acetate clearly could have been fully transparent is the lower right corner, but instead Romita drew the identical gray rubble on both layers (and, signed both of them).

This suggests to me that Romita either didn't understand the art direction for these covers, or chose to ignore it. He just went his own way, JRJR style. He essentially drew 2 standalone covers.

DC kind of blew it anyway. Nobody has been paying attention to the monthly degradation of the logos through the progression of YOTV, as the logos have slowly deteriorated, or were integrated into the action, or fell to the bottom of the page, or been fully eliminated in this month's "hostile takeover." This month people wondered what this "Lex Luthor" comic is. While I think the acetate covers are beautiful, I think they will actually damage sales. DC barely tried to explain what they were doing over the last 3-4 months with the YOTV cover branding, and the vague explanations could only be found if you searched hard. Just a terribly executed marketing strategy. What it comes down to, I guess, is your art department is doing one thing, while your marketing department is either oblivious to it, or knows but isn't impressed enough to do anything with it.

Bendis probably did the best anyone could trying to juggle and integrate YOTV, Leviathan and Invisible Mafia, and somehow we were spared the Infected. But I'd rather just see more of Red Cloud, and read more street-level crime stuff, and see more development of Fire Chief Moore.


SimB said...

For the most part I haven't enjoyed JRJR's art in years and his opinion about Lois should never be with Clark/Superman when he jumped over to DC certainly rubbed me the wrong way as well.
Although his Silencer work somehow worked for me.
I'd prefer any of the other artist that have been on this book to have stuck around.

Steve said...

Is Romita really all that popular or are people buying his stuff because the story, character, or comic is the impossible thing to resist? I don't recall his issues of Silencer selling well but things like Action leading into the ID reveal or Miller's mini would sell gangbusters and give the illusion of popularity and get him more work in such titles. It's a vicious cycle...