Review: Action Comics Vol. 1 – Invisible Mafia

[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]  

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artists: Ryan Sook, Patrick Gleason, Yanick Paquette, Wade Von Grawbadger

Colors: Alejandro Sanchez, Brad Anderson, Nathan Fairbairn

Letters: Josh Reed

 

Summary

A street-level threat has infiltrated Metropolis! As the Daily Planet investigates a new string of mobster murders without the help of their star reporter Lois Lane, Superman has to find out what he’s overlooked in the back alleys of Metropolis.  Who is this new criminal mastermind known as the Red Mist, and what are they doing in Metropolis? Meanwhile, Lois Lane is back on planet Earth, but what is she up to, and does Lex Luthor have anything to do with it?

Positives

Beat Superman?  In Metropolis?  Nah.  Impossible.  Can’t be done.  You can’t just defeat Superman, out-hit him, or brute force your way to victory (unless you’re Doomsday).  Finally people are catching on and switching to new tactics.  They’re trying alternative methods, such as defamation and underground organized crime.  Big, flashy, and violent is no match for the Man of Steel, but can evildoers get away with doing subtle, carefully timed little things to gradually gain power?  With the daily planet at the center of this new organization’s plans, Superman must keep his ear to the streets while going back to his roots as Clark Kent: investigative reporter.

Brian Michael Bendis, along with a slew of artists, colorists, and letters, are telling a different kinds of story that brings the Kryptonian watching over Metropolis down to street-level for a bit of organized espionage and human connection.  It puts the man in Superman, and its doing a great job.  From the mysterious Red Cloud to the secrets behind the return of Lois Lane, this arc demonstrates how relationships have kept Superman in everyone’s hearts for the past 80 years while telling a fresh, new story with an age-old character.  It takes Clark out of the routine and thrusts him into the brave unknown; the world of intrigue.

The story picks right up from the Man of Steel mini, a useful read for anyone looking to get primed and prepped for this run.  Superman easily busts a robbery in progress before rushing off to the Daily Planet where Bendis really starts getting into his stride with some new characters.  Its been quite some time since the Daily Planet wasn’t just Clark, Lois, Jimmy, and Perry White.  Let’s give a warm welcome to Trish Q, a gossip columnist who doesn’t always know when to stop looking for dirt, and Robinson Goode, a news reporter who thinks she has it all figured out and has a bit of a fixation on Superman.  These new characters help flesh out the life of Clark Kent, a persona often used to provide a sense of humanity and familiarity but who represents half the man.  The Daily Planet isn’t just a place where Superman can recharge or where the world gets told about Superman’s latest accomplishments, it’s a living, breathing, enterprise filled with people who matter besides Lois and Clark.  Then there’s Deputy Fire Chief Moore who has to deal with the day-to-day emergencies that Superman isn’t always able to respond to, but what happens when Superman becomes a suspect?

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If one were to combine Adventures of SupermanLois and Clark: the New Adventures of Superman, and Superman II and force them into the modern era, Invisible Mafia would be the result.  Bendis, Gleason, Paquette, and Sook do a great job providing purpose and drama to Clark’s life at the Daily Planet.  For once Clark has deadlines, expectations, and coworkers to hold him accountable at the job we all take for granted, because Clark Kent isn’t an alter-ego or a disguise; it’s half the person.  This is the foundation for an arc driven by relationships and trust.  Is Clark’s trust in Lois unwavering?  Can Lois trust Luthor?  Can Deputy Fire Chief Moore trust Superman?  Can the Invisible Mafia trust anyone?  It mystery to a routine of saving lives that Superman has had for years.  It examines his routine in the past and present and flips it for the future.  Superman’s been taking down criminals and writing up stories ever since day one, but the criminals have been learning.  A group of powerful individuals have discovered what they can and can’t get away with and are using it.  It’s a brilliant idea that closes the gap and limits some of Superman’s advantages.  It makes trust a powerful theme in this arc and fails to disappoint as long as readers put that same trust in Bendis.

 

Negatives

This book has a lot of story lines and discussion points that are left hanging for quite some time, even beyond the scope of this arc.  Readers are going to have to be very patient with Bendis and trust that everything will follow through.  Unfortunately some detail get dropped on occasion, but this new direction is well worth it.

 

Verdict

Bendis, Gleason, Paquette, Sook, and the rest of the collaborators craft a fantastic first arc that disrupts the normal routine of Superman and turns Action Comics into a glorious mystery thriller.

 

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Ari Bard

I am currently a Sophomore at Case Western Reserve University studying mechanical engineering. I have been in love with DC since I saw the animated series and movies in the early 2000s. I started reading comics regularly at the start of Rebirth. My favorite character is Martian Manhunter.