Action Comics #1001 // Review
Action Comics #1001, by Brian Michael Bendis, Patrick Gleason, Alejandro Sanchez, and Josh Reed, jumps right into the deep end, introducing new threats and setting up a new status quo at the Daily Planet. Bendis’ first issue of Superman was a success in the storytelling department, proving that Bendis’ deft characterization of Superman in The Man Of Steel wasn’t a fluke, introducing new concepts, and leaving readers with a story that hooked them. Can he do the same thing here?
After foiling a robbery of LexCorp Tower as Superman, Clark Kent recounts what happened at a Daily Planet editorial meeting. New reporter Robinson Goode lets everyone know that Superman is now a suspect in the city’s arson, according to witness statement to new fire chief Melody Moore. Superman goes to investigate these claims, talking to Moore and then finding the boy who made the accusation. Superman and Moore find out that a bald man paid the boy to point the finger at Superman. The next day at the Planet, gossip reporter Trish Q interrupts Clark as he scans mugshots of bald criminals, trying to get more info on what happened between him and Lois, but Clark brushes her off. In a mansion overlooking Metropolis, a group of people meet in a lead room. The subject of the arsons come up and it ends badly for one of them, as a new member of their group punishes him for his role in the arsons and collaring Superman. Back at the Planet, Trish Q works late into the night, constructing her story about what happened between Lois and Clark.
Bendis has set up Action Comics as the Superman and the Daily Planet book, and it works very well here. He alternates the story between Clark Kent’s two jobs and how one affects the other. Kent gets to be the chief propagandist, for lack of a better word, for Superman, while also using the resources at his disposal to help him in his work as Superman. Clark might not be a detective like Bruce Wayne, but he’s a reporter, so he knows how to follow a story. One of the funnier moments of the book is when Kent is looking at pictures of bald bad guys. One of them resembles Dan DiDio and another looks like Bendis himself with an eyepatch. The idea of a group of criminals operating in the city under Superman’s nose is also very intriguing, in that it shows the flaws in Superman’s approach. Kent can use the info the Planet has access to as a way to begin his investigations, but he doesn’t have the same access to other information someone like Batman does. A group, operating in the shadows, making sure to keep their manipulations secret from even their lackeys, would easily be able to blend seamlessly into the background of Metropolis. The book also introduces a new villain, the Red Mist, and it will be interesting to see how Superman handles her and her gaseous powers.
At first glance, paying off the arson storyline this soon in the book seems like a mistake. It looked like Bendis was perhaps going for a “turn the city against the hero”-sort of thing, like he did in his Daredevil run, which could have lead to some different types of Superman stories than readers have seen. Bendis subverts this expectation and in the long run, it’s better for the book and the character. Superman isn’t the shadowy protector of a city. He isn’t a brutal vigilante; he’s a symbol of hope and all that’s good in the human spirit. Story about the city thinking Superman has turned bad could be interesting, but it would just end in a predictable way, with Superman redeeming himself and the status quo being restored. Using this arson plotline as a way to introduce a secret group of criminals operating under Superman’s nose, and a new villain, is a better use of it. Does the comic industry really need another story sullying a hero’s reputation and then showing their redemption? Not really, but subverting what readers expect and giving them a new villain and an explanation of why crime still exists in Metropolis, even though the existence of Superman in the city should stamp out any idea of organized crime in the city, will pay dividends in the future.
Patrick Gleason’s art is a lot stronger than it was in the latter half of his and Tomasi’s Superman book. His line work would sometimes get sketchy on that book. The art was still good, but it would get simple and sketchy. In this one, it stays strong throughout and makes his character acting way better. There are a lot of reaction shot panels in this book, and they work better because of Gleason’s linework. Alejandro Sanchez’s colors are gorgeous. Like any colorist worth their salt, they enhance Gleason’s work. The design and powers for the new villain should afford Gleason some novel artistic opportunities. His Superman is still iconic and powerful. There have been a lot of changes from the Rebirth books, but keeping Gleason and Sanchez on art was a great choice.
Much like Superman #1, this is a near perfect first issue. It sets up a few plot lines, the art is great, and works to hook readers in. At first, there seems like there are some weird story choices, but Bendis is playing the long game here. Instead of doing what readers expect and going back to a well that he’s gone to before, he instead focuses on building intriguing plotlines and a new back-up cast for Clark at the Daily Planet. Whereas Superman is poised to be the big Superman in the greater world book, Action Comics is being positioned to be the Superman in Metropolis book. It’s up to readers to decide which style of Superman book they prefer, but to get a full picture of Superman’s life, both books are necessary. Readers who are more interested in the big flashy Superman adventures will still find lots to love in Action Comics #1001.