Friday, January 31, 2020

Review: Action Comics #1019

Action Comics #1019 came out this week and surprisingly there was very little Superman in this issue. Instead we get a sit-down and ultimately a team-up between two of the heavy hitters squaring off against the Man of Steel. As the cover says Luthor AND Leviathan now stand together against Superman.

Now one thing I have openly questioned on this site is my confusion around the DCU timeline right now. The Legion of Doom teaming up with Perpetua and trying to rewrite the universe? The Batman Who Laughs infecting heroes and trying to bring a satellite into our universe? Event Leviathan? How could they all be happening simultaneously? And if not simultaneously than in what order?

Writer Brian Michael Bendis gives us some answers in this issue. Event Leviathan happened while Lex was working with Perpetua. The current climax of that story in the Justice League is happening now.

Now people know how invested I was in the Event Leviathan mystery. And while the reveal wasn't who I thought, I have come to like Leviathan as a villain. He is trying to do good; he just is using the wrong means to get there. In this issue, I love how completely unimpressed he is with the Legion of Doom members. Who cares if they are trying to bring down the universe. He has his mission and he is sticking to it.

The one down side to this issue? The art. I know I am not a fan of John Romita Jr. But in this issue, his art is pretty painful. In particular, he should shy away from drawing animals or were-creatures. His Grodd and Cheetah look pretty rough.

On to the issue.

 As always I am amused by the Daily Planet 'twitter' page. In some ways, it reminds me of the old Daily Planet comics that were in the backs of magazines back in the Bronze Age. Yes, this is used as a recap page. But it is also a sort of advertisement, keeping me apprised on other things happening in the DCU.

Like where is that Robot convention from?? I love that I see Ilda from Star Hawkins there.

Still no #LeviathanTheory in the trends.

 Right off the bat we are told that the bulk of this issue is a meeting between the LoD and Leviathan from last week. That is post-Event Leviathan and pre-JLA climax. So at least we have a rough timeline.

While most of the members of the Legion are either uninterested in Leviathan or want to gut him, Lex is more intrigued. After all, despite all the machination of this Legion, working with universal power figures, Leviathan slipped in unnoticed and upset the apple cart of the world. Lex seems almost impressed with this move.

I like that. If Lex is impressed with you, that means something. It immediately puts Leviathan on an upper tier of villains.

 Leviathan teleports into the Legion's headquarters and instantly lets them know he really doesn't think much of them.

When Luthor tries to put Leviathan off a little by calling him 'Mark', Leviathan retorts quickly with a 'Sure Lex.' Leviathan isn't beneath Lex. They're equals.

And he wasn't taken aback by the reveal of his identity to the world by Lois. It was planned.

And the Legion of Doom, in particular Brainiac, have a lot of questions about Shaw's abilities.

How did he get all those agents to turn? Drugs? Hypnosis? No answer.

How does he have all that tech? Did he steal it? Design it? Implied it is both. Cobbled together from the spy agencies and killer engineers.

But I love, despite being in the presence of these A-list villains, newcomer Leviathan is as cool as the other side of the pillow. He isn't here to puff out his chest. It must be irritating to the Legion to be treated as ... gasp ... equals.

 He even threatens and insults the members, talking about burning Grodd, calling Grodd 'Mighty Joe', and even telling Sinestro that he'll banish him.

And we get a little bit of Leviathan's credo, for those who didn't get the mini-series. He can't abide by secrecy. He can't believe that super-heroes would defend all this spying and unshared information. And he wants the world to become something better. He doesn't want to rule. He wants to live in a better world.

You know, it doesn't sound that bad.

 And to prove his point, he teleports everyone to Leviathan Island, an apparent paradise of technology and community.

Is this the place near Iceland? Or somewhere new?

Looks pretty cool.

But the Legion finally is able to get through to Leviathan on one point.

He can't release all the information, razing the world community, and that leave it to chaos. Whether he likes it or not, he needs to be part of the post-reveal solution. He needs to help the world rebuild.

That sounds like advice Luthor would give. But it also makes sense.

 Somehow, that little nugget proves pivotal.

Leviathan decides to team up with Lex.

And they first person they visit to recruit is the Red Cloud. I was glad to see that Robinson Goode can still become human (we hadn't seen this since her power up by Lex).

Goode is out of her depth here. She started the impending gang warfare. She is sort of on the run. So she seems to accept the offer given to her by these bigger guns than the mafia. She'll kill Superman for them.

There is a lot to unpack in this scene.

One, I like how Leviathan is standing on this level even though he hasn't received a 'gift' from Lex. He really is his own person, earning this level of authority.

Second, this is the first time we have seen Leviathan openly voice a threat about Superman. Remember, he was all about recruiting Superman. Maybe he has given up on that goal? Decided he needs to remove those standing in his way? Hmmm ...

 And the plot thickens.

Throughout this flashback, we see the ongoing physical battle happening in Shuster Park in Metropolis. Turns out this is simply a way to weaken Superman so Red Cloud can swoop in and finish the job.

It did seem a bit tawdry for the Legion of Doom to simply wade into a battlefield and throw hands. They seem somehow above such ruffian tactics. But now we know it was a way to soften up Superman. Not only physically ...

But also mentally. Because the villains also know Superman never wants to unleash all his power in city limits. He cares too much. So keeping the fight there means Superman won't go full throttle. From above we see just how devastating the fight has been. Metropolis has been eviscerated!

Now ... will Red Cloud work for the villains? Or reject them?
Does Leviathan really want Superman dead? Or is he playing Lex for some reason?

If anything, this read like an epilogue to Event Leviathan. We got the reveal of Mark Shaw and then ... poof ... it was over. Now we get to see how he inculcates himself into the DCU proper. Starting out on Lex's level is a show of respect. Amazing.

Overall grade: B+


Bostondreams said...

Great issue, though I agree. I cannot stand Romita's art...

Anonymous said...

I already posted this idea in Martin's blog... but here goes.

Maybe you're right that Leviathan is playing Lex. But when Lex tells Leviathan his plan won't work unless he makes himself "the solution," and Leviathan says "I am appreciating this. Go on.", it looks to me like he's getting tempted to the dark side. The age old story of the charismatic idealist that becomes the next autocrat. He already has that within him; it just needed to be coaxed to the surface by the master, insightful manipulator, Luthor.

In this way, Bendis could be transitioning his project from a kind of narrow threat of "potential revealer of secrets" into a broader threat to the wider DCU, consistent with how DC has been, for a while, counting Bendis's pet Leviathan as a significant bad actor.


Anj said...

Good thought TN.

At one point, Leviathan says 'I ...' then corrects himself to 'We ...'

catching himself from making this his way and not the way of the organization.


Anonymous said...

Good observation, I missed that.

I notice one Trending Topic is #Supergirlwiththebadhair. Not a likely hashtag, but that's very funny. 458K people are chirping about it.


Martin Gray said...

Nice review, you liked this one a lot more than me!

Ilda and Star Hawkins are in last week's Metal Men, I reviewed it, go reac at once!