[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Ryan Sook
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letters: Josh Reed
After last issue’s not very surprising reveal of Robinson Goode as the Red Cloud, we already knew she was up to no good (ha ha!), the issue deals with some of the fall out of that and what Melody Moore learned about Mayor Hopkins and the fires around Metropolis.
It opens with an entertaining splash page of Trish Q’s desk. There are some humorous elements and interesting references, take the time to get out a magnifying glass and check out the details. From there Clark attempts to confront Mayor Hopkins about Deputy Chief Moore’s information about the investigation about the fires and Robinson Goode, a la Clark Kent, writes up her encounter with Superman from last issue as a news article. Perry seems mostly unimpressed with the content and execution.
Jimmy is trying to ask Clark some questions about A.R.G.U.S., while Clark is preoccupied with spying on the people in the building. He’s clearly scanning for something, the Red Cloud? But, the scene is particularly odd in that he apparently is getting into their minds? Or at least something not physical. It’s not clear what’s going on and is a true head-scratcher. Jimmy also has a comment about “sleeping with Talia al Ghul.” It’s out of nowhere and it is unclear if this is a reference to Damian Wayne, Batman’s son with Talia, or something else entirely. Or is it just Jimmy’s attempt to get Clark’s attention with a wild statement.
The scene shifts to Melody Moore being attacked by the Red Cloud and being saved just in time by Superman. Superman makes a classic overture to her attempting to get her to turn her life around. While it is in character, it’s a bit out of nowhere, as he’s barely interacted with the character. The super-save leads to a hug between Melody and the Man of Steel.
The issue ends with Robinson meeting with Mr. Strong boasting of her exploits against Superman which leads to her meeting the real head of the Invisible Mafia. On the way to the last page we learn just a little about this woman and her motivations for taking on Superman. Don’t worry, she’s a new character, so there’s no real surprise, but on the final page we see the car from the cover of Action Comics #1. What the heck is that doing there?
The two best things about this issue are the first and last pages. Everything in the middle is either boring, confusing or just out of place. Trish’s desk is a fun and playful use of the splash page despite the tabloid love triangle subplot on part of it. The reveal on the last page of the issue, the green sedan from Action Comics #1. This is awfully clever and a compelling tease on Bendis’s part. But, will it amount to anything more than demonstrating the Invisible Mafia was born when Superman arrived in Metropolis? (It’s stated as such as well, in the text.)
The story is another meandering chapter of this very decompressed arc. While we do find out one level further up the chain of the Invisible Mafia it’s really neither surprising or interesting. It’s a brand new character so there’s no way one can be surprised. Her own admitted motivations are not particularly interesting either. What does seem to be very odd as well is the notion that the Invisible Mafia has been working behind the scenes, hidden from Superman since his first appearance. The fact that Superman knows nothing about them is almost an indictment of his awareness of Metropolis. It’s obvious that Bendis wants to tell a story that doesn’t involve Superman using his powers to win the day, but it ends up not feeling like a Superman story. It’s Superman’s Court of Owls. Curiously, Mayor Hopkins even suggests to Superman that his interference in the investigation of the fires is not a job for Superman.
It’s not entirely clear what Bendis is trying to do with Melody Moore. It seems like he wants to build her up as a romantic interest for Superman, but that’s a ridiculous notion. Marital infidelity is not an element of a good Superman story, or even the temptation. He’s playing this tabloid style plot out in the book with Lois and Lex and Clark, as well as Lois and Clark and Superman. It’s a double triangle that is obviously of the classic Lois/ Superman/ Clark triangle that existed when Lois didn’t know Superman was Clark Kent. It’s not as if he’s going to have them actually cheat on each other so it’s just a fairly tedious exercise in futility. Even though Bendis confirmed in a recent interview that Lois is hiding something from Clark, we can be certain that it’s not marital infidelity. What would be interesting is an infatuated fan that Superman has to deal with. How does the Man of Steel handle that situation?
Robinson Goode is another one of Bendis’s new characters that leaves a lot to be desired. He showed that she was up to no good when she was shown buying Kryptonite, so it didn’t come as a huge surprise that she was the Red Cloud. If this reveal had been shocking or startling it would’ve had more weight and might actually have had an emotional impact. Even if he’d made Melody Moore the Red Cloud it would’ve been significant since it would have been unexpected. With this issue, there’s no further development of Robinson’s motivations to make this character three dimensional. While she learns a little bit about the hierarchy of the Invisible Mafia it doesn’t do anything of significance for her character.
As a mystery, this whole arc seems to be told either out of order or at the very least strangely. Usually, the reader learns more and more along with the main character and in this case, Superman is still in the dark while the reader knows more and it doesn’t function very well as a mystery. Speaking of mysteries, the Question’s absence from this issue is another mystery. Why was he introduced last issue?
Bendis’s unimpressive run on Action Comics continues as the plot spreads out and makes the whole storytelling style questionable. The slow pace makes it hard to find much of interest especially as those things are left by the wayside in the next issue. One wonders what won’t be addressed in the next issue that could’ve potentially been interesting. Superman and Lois’s relationship continues to be a low point for the Superman titles as the direction just doesn’t make sense for the super-couple either in tabloid suggestions of infidelity or Lois’s continued secretive behavior.