Review: Action Comics #1016
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Szymon Kudranski
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
Naomi helps Superman in a battle against the Red Cloud.
The most interesting thing about this issue is Bendis’s method of describing the fight between Superman and the Red Cloud and Naomi’s arrival for the assist. The bulk of the issue is citizens of Metropolis who were front and center for the fight describing what they saw, and their interpretations of the events. While it may not be a good idea to do an entire issue like this, I’ll give Bendis credit for a clever approach.
While Kudranski’s draftsmanship may be questionable at times, his layouts, pacing and scene setting are very good. Just the right blend of closeups and longshots. He does an especially good job with body language of the citizens of Metropolis who are recounting their version of the battle.
There are lots of questions about the Red Cloud that remain unanswered. While the readers know she’s been powered up by Lex Luthor, it’s apparently news to Leone. Bendis is trying to use the Red Cloud as a villain that really challenges Superman physically. While there’s as seed of a good idea here, it feels rather erratic. They’ve tangled a couple times now and this plotline has not progressed much. This issue itself actually points out a few of the weaknesses in the Red Cloud’s story.
Two of the observers wonder aloud why the Red Cloud is trying to make his/her name against Superman? A seemingly impossible task. Another citizen, specifically a nun, mentions that the Red Cloud has been causing trouble in the neighborhood for months. Really? The anit-climactic reveal of Robinson Goode as the Red Cloud occurred back in Action Comics #1005. This issue points out that there is a real lack of motivation for Goode. Why is she doing this? We know that she is working with The Invisible Mafia, but Leone herself is shocked to see she’s gone rogue in this issue. Even she can’t understand her. While it’s arguable that it’s just another layer to be peeled back, so much has transpired since issue #1005, that learning Goode’s motivation has sort of lost its impact.
Furthermore, the nun indicates that Goode has been a problem for months. Really? Doing what? Knowing this, building this plot element would’ve been an interesting development in the Red Cloud/ Superman showdown. It feels like an afterthought here. It seems Bendis wanted us to know this, but didn’t understand how it could’ve improved the drama of the situation if it had been developed along the way instead of being dropped in at the last minute.
This issue paints Naomi as a powerful character who is the one saving the day. While it’s a bit odd to have a new character shove Superman out of the spotlight of his original title, it’s not unheard of. It comes down to this: Is Namoi compelling enough of a character? If you were reading her comic and were invested, probably. If you are reading Action Comics for Superman…probably not.
Negatives Cont’d Again (damn, how bad is this issue)
Naomi’s appearance and presentation feel forced. Last issue, she appeared to be a Supergirl analogue. This issue, the scene with her mother and Batman and Superman feels stilted and devoid of real emotion. It’s ironic that Superman comments on the “obvious” love Naomi’s mother has for her. Batman’s comment that Naomi “has what it takes,” despite his caveats, is far too approving with such little data. Batman makes a couple other throw away comments that are sort of weird… “I’ve almost run out of Robins.” What does that even mean? It’s not something I can see Batman ever saying, let alone in front of a new, untested, untrusted Naomi.
Taken together, this comes off as Bendis’s in story anointing of Naomi by Superman and Batman. There’s nowhere near the data for the World’s Finest duo to make these statements. It just doesn’t feel real. They’ve know her for an hour. Ultimately, it’s Bendis validating his creation. Don’t drink the Kool Aid….
Despite some technical positives, Action Comics #1016 is a bit of a mess. If you’re all in on Bendis you’re probably buying two copies, but the more astute reader will see the flaws right away. While the Red Cloud could be a compelling challenge for the Man of Steel, Robinson Goode comes off as underdeveloped and somewhat forgotten. It doesn’t help that Bendis seems more interested in validating Naomi than telling a good Superman story or making sure Batman appears in character. You should like Naomi because…, not because she’s actually unique or interesting.