Action Comics #1004 // Review
Readers finally get to see what happened between Lois and Superman in Action Comics #1004, by writer Brian Michael Bendis, artist Ryan Sook, inker Wade Von Grawbadger, colorist Brad Anderson, and letterer Josh Reed. Unfortunately, the conversation isn’t going to make fans very happy, especially if they enjoyed the Rebirth-era status quo.
Clark pitches his Red Cloud story to Perry, but Perry has news for him as well--the new gossip columnist, Maggie Q, has pictures of Lois Lane and Lex Luthor together. She wants to make something dramatic out of the whole thing, but Perry won’t let her. Clark thinks back to the night before and the time he and Lois spent together, as she reveals to him why she’s come back and what’s been happening to Jon. Back in the present, a villain named Copperhead breaks into the Daily Planet building because of a story that Maggie wrote about her. After dealing with that situation, Superman flies back to Lois, where she is mulling over Lex’s offer. Will she chose her family or a new opportunity from her husband’s worst enemy?
It’s an understatement to say that Bendis’ Superman books haven’t exactly been making fans very happy. Fans had just gotten used to having post-Crisis Superman back again and were enjoying the Kent family as a unit, and Bendis did away with that almost immediately. It took something that added to the character, that fans connected with, and took it away. This move soured a lot of fans on the run before it had a chance to pick up any steam. In issue #1002 of Action Comics brought Lois back into the book, and this issue readers get let in on what happened between and…well, if readers were mad before, this conversation isn’t going to make them any happier. Lois tells Superman that because of the extraordinary circumstances of their family, they can never have a “normal” life together, even though that’s pretty much what happened during the Rebirth-era of the books. Tomasi, Gleason, and Jurgens were able to combine the mundanity of the Kent’s family life with the craziness of their lives as the first family of the DC Universe. Bendis is using Lois as a mouthpiece to tell readers that thing they liked “couldn’t” work, even though they read two years worth of stories where it did. The only silver lining to the whole thing is that he doesn’t break the couple up completely.
Other than that, not very much happens in this story and what does happen isn’t very interesting. Bendis put a little spotlight on Maggie Q, but plays her as a typical gossip columnist, and the attack by Copperhead basically gives her some comeuppance immediately, but feels a bit preachy and unearned. Instead of building the character into a stop-at-nothing journalist willing to lie to get juicy gossip in her column, Bendis rushes the whole thing. It feels a little like he knew what he wanted to do in this issue wouldn’t meet the page count, so he threw this part in. Another strange story decision is that he never shows readers what happened between Lex and Lois, instead just having Lois vocalize the choice Lex gave her. Back at Marvel, Bendis was famous for skipping the fight to cram in more talking, but here he skips a confrontation that could have been very exciting and replaces it with nothing.
The art by Ryan Sook, Wade Von Grawbadger, and Brad Anderson is the only good part about this book. Sook’s character acting sells what is happening on the page, and his Superman just screams “super.” He’s able to capture both aspects of Superman, the powerful titanic superhero and the man going through a lot of emotional turmoil because of the separation from his family. There’s a great full-page spread of Superman flying over to Central City to foil an attack by the Rogues, and it’s the highlight of the book. This is a spectacular art team and they deserve better than this story.
Action Comics #1004 is the worst issue of Bendis’ run so far, and it doesn’t bode well that it’s come so soon. The issue kills all of the momentum of the Invisible Mafia storyline, chopping it up to foster cheap drama and make readers buy another issue to see what happened between Lois and Clark. The only interesting thing about the story is how wrong Lois, and by extension Bendis, is about the Kent family, and that’s only interesting because of the rage fans are going throw at this one. Tack on the fact that he skips over the Lois and Lex confrontation to throw a little spotlight Maggie Q.’s way, and this issue would be an unmitigated disaster if it wasn’t for the quality of the art. Even taking the quality of the art into consideration, this is going to be one readers point at to highlight how wrong Bendis is for the Superman titles. It’s ironic that over in Superman, Bendis is writing a great Superman story, while here, in Action Comic, he’s writing a boring mess. At least that mess has had great art, but that doesn’t save it, and this issue is no exception.