Friday, July 24, 2020

Review: Action Comics #1023

 Action Comics #1023 came out this week and was a standard middle chapter in an arc, this one being The House of Kent. The pieces are in place. Conner has joined the family. The Invisible Mafia is not so invisible. Everyone knows Clark is Superman. That's some turmoil. A middle chapter should nudge the story along but also let us know what the stakes are. And this issue does that in a big way.

We have seen throughout writer Brian Michael Bendis' run that The Red Cloud is a serious threat. In this issue, we see she is a deadly threat. It has been interesting to follow the story of Robinson Goode who has gone from young hotshot reporter to supervillain in training to demonic presence willing to leave a wake of dead bodies behind her.

And Bendis does a good job hearkening back to prior elements of this Invisible Mafia story, giving us a little bit of closure. He also has to balance a story with one Superman and two Superboys. Conner is a bit gruff in this issue, maybe a bit grittier than I am used to. But it is a good balance in comparison to Jon, returned from the squeaky clean future.

The art is by John Romita Jr. Overall, the work is standard Romita work. There are lots of scenes with Red Cloud with fog and tendrils. Romita just doesn't jibe with me. But there is nothing terrible about the work.

On to the book!

 I do like the use of a recap page in these books. I had forgotten that the last issue ended with Jimmy and Lois being sent to the Invisible Mafia headquarters.

I have to commend DC for giving us art with the info dump and not just a text page with credits. This scene of Superman and Conner being evaluated in the Fortress and Kelex giving us the exposition adds something to the story. And it is a nice riff on last month's title splash page.

Comics are $4 a pop. I deserve art and words on every page.

 In the Leone mansion, Red Cloud is about as bloodthirsty and scary as we have seen her. This is a little bit of a change from the last time we saw her when she wasn't helping Lex and the Legion of Doom. Back then I wondered if she was going to turn a new leaf. That clearly isn't happening.

Here she says that she won't kill Lois because Clark would never 'come back' from that. But Red Cloud doesn't feel that reluctance when it comes to killing Jimmy. Jimmy's death might be a good message to send.

One thing I like here is that a 'Lois Death' has been a trope used by many Elseworlds stories as the thing that would make Superman retire, become a fascist, go on a killing spree, or head into space. So why not mention it.

Way way way back when Bendis first took over, he made a big deal about how certain words would never be said by the Invisible Mafia as they would flag Superman's super-hearing. They wouldn't say 'Lois' or 'Superman'.

Why not pay that off by having Lois say a word which does trigger Superman to fly in. Here it's 'Smallville' as a high alert.

Superman does show up with Jon and Conner in tow.

One thing that does feel new is Red Cloud's sudden political stance that Superman is an alien who should leave Earth. Also she says Superman is the reason Metropolis is always threatened. These are new words to hear from her. And I didn't think Leviathan felt that. Didn't Leviathan want Superman to join the ranks. Hmmm ...

Also interesting that Jimmy figured out that Red Cloud is Robinson. 

 We have seen Superman try to disperse Red Cloud with his super-breath and not be totally successful.

So what about three super-breaths?

Yes, it does disperse her ... seemingly driving her off.

But only seemingly ... she comes back again, almost killing Jon.

I would love some more background on Robinson's powers. Because they seem almost magical given how they effect our heroes.

 I also didn't understand this panel unless Jimmy is making a joke.

In Superman Heroes, Jimmy implied he knew all along.

Hmm ... thoughts from anyone?

I am a fan of current creators acknowledging the prior legends who work on characters. So an Officer Jurgens in the Metropolis PD is a nice nod to Dan Jurgens.

After this long battle with Red Cloud the Supers try to settle down Lois and discuss the Invisible Mafia house.

I would like to see more of Jon and Conner coming to grips with each other's existence. I think they'd be good friends. But it is interesting that Conner is a bit more gritty saying that mobsters only understand mobster language. That means he thinks you need to use mob tactics to fight the mob.

Careful Conner. Battle not monsters, lest ye become a monster.

But they do use some more cutthroat and intrusive methods.

Superman/Clark arrives to the Black Label Club, the club that makes a profit for the Invisible Mafia. And, in silhouette with just glasses and S-shield visible, he shuts the place down, having everyone leave the place.

I like Superman saying 'drugs are bad for you'. That's a Superman thing to say.
I actually like the Clark/Superman amalgam look. This is a new reality. It somehow works for me. A little scarier than more unsettling than Superman just showing up.
I like that the initial drug dealer thinks Clark is a cosplayer. 
And the Black Label Club has to be some riff on the DC Black Label imprint, letting us know this is a darker place than the usual sun-dappled Metropolis scene.

With the place cleared, Conner enacted his 'mobster' retaliation.

Jon did 'The Kandor', shrinking the club. Okay, I chuckled.

It's all coming to a head. The Mafia is out in the open and on the offensive. And they look like they are ready to throwdown with Superman, even kill if that drives Superman away. The threat is real.

So the arc proceeds. The stakes are known. And this looks like a brawl with the fate of the city on the line.

Time for some Supergirl!!

Overall grade: B


Bostondreams said...

I did like the bit near the end where Red Cloud says they need to revisit the 'words you don't say'. Ha.

I just cannot enjoy Romita's art. :/

Martin Gray said...

You’re much kinder on the art than I was in my review, Anj. It looks all the worse for following an issue inked by Danny Miki.

Steve said...

Jansen has never done Romita any favors. Sal Buscema types benefited because Jansen enhances rather than finishes. If an artist (Romita) doesn't do finished pencils, you get a mess.

I reiterate too my theory that TBTB are misinterpreting sales on Romita work. If they keep putting him on books like Bendis' Superman it'll look like he's a draw. They should look at Silencer, which he was pulled off of because his page rate was too much for sales. The Romita books that get good sales because would have with or without him...

Anonymous said...

Hello from a french fan of supergirl,

I was hoping to see supergirl but i laughed well.

Brainiac with the tractor
Red Cloud who asks if superman is cloning
Lois who finds conner looks like a baby of superman and lex.

I like the word "baby" because it reflects reality. I never understood why they said "clone" when it was wrong. A clone has only one parent and conner has two parents.

Kinofreak said...

Clark in the dark looks like the Eradicator...