Action Comics #1003 // Review
Action Comics #1003, by writer Brian Michael Bendis, penciller Yanick Paquette, colorist Nathan Fairbairn, and letterer Josh Reed, continues the “Invisible Mafia” storyline. On the surface, not very much happens in this story, but there’s a lot in it to unpack and it makes for a more satisfying read than it should.
The Invisible Mafia’s mole in the Daily Planet is given a shard of Kryptonite, and brings it to work with her. It affects Clark adversely until she leaves. As she passes an alley, Batman snags her purse and asks her why she has it and where she got it. She gives him an excuse about it being for a story, and he lets her go. She runs back to her contact to tell them that they have a leak, and Superman shows up. Finally, in a Metropolis hotel room, Lois Lane gets a most unexpected caller.
The Kryptonite drama is the centerpiece of the book and it’s played rather well. It opens up a whole new can of worms because, not only does it give a Superman a clue to look into with the Invisible Mafia, but it also gives the mole an idea of Superman’s secret identity. In the last few panels with Superman, there’s a moment where it seems she might have who he is figured out as well. A lot of the time, Bendis’ penchant for actionless drama in his books can be kind of annoying, but it works for this issue in this instance. He also indulges his fondness for decompression by not revealing why Lois Lane has returned, but it’s not as bothersome as it has been in some of his other works. Readers know she’s back, but they don’t why, and not knowing will keep them coming back. Plus, her visitor at the end of the issue opens a lot of interesting possibilities, especially since this character’s status quo has changed in recent months.
The Batman appearance is the weak point of the book because it’s not really explained at all what he’s doing in Metropolis. Clark didn’t know about the Kryptonite or have enough time to call him while he was surrounded by his co-workers at the Planet, but he must have called Batman in at some point, and the book never explains that. It’s just sort of a surprise and a very weird one at that. Bendis is definitely enamored with writing about the Daily Planet in this book, but he very easily could have set this up if he cut a page or two from either the Kryptonite sequence or when the mole gets the Kryptonite. Probably the latter; it’s one of those classic Bendis conversations between two characters that meanders a bit too much and doesn’t really add anything to the sequence it’s a part of.
Yanick Paquette takes over as artist in this issue and, while he has some big shoes to fill, he steps up very well. His line work is consistent and strong, his character acting is on point, and he doesn’t skimp on the detail. His acting is what gives the impression the mole has maybe figured out Clark is Superman, and it’s so wonderfully subtle. He captures the sheer size and physicality of Superman and Clark very well. Another great thing about the art in this book is the way Nathan Fairbairn’s color palette changes to fit the mood. When the mole gets the Kryptonite, when she later goes back, and when Batman shows up, it’s dark and shadowy. The scenes in the Planet building are bright and well lit. There’s a great panel when Superman enters the bar the mole’s run to with a beam of light from the outside coming through behind and around him, as if he’s bringing the light into a dark place.
Action Comics #1003 is a marked improvement over the last issue. Bendis uses some of more annoying tropes to good effect here, but he still finds a way to mess up the story a little bit because of them as well. Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn’s art make up for that, though. The pencils are detailed and expressive and the colors fit the mood of the various shots perfectly. It’s not a perfect book, but it has a few moments in it to keep the reader on the hook for the next issue.