Review: Action Comics #1021
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: John Romita, Jr. & Klaus Janson
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
The anti-climactic conclusion to “Metropolis Doom” puts Superman’s fate in the hands of the Red Cloud, but what will she choose?
The single best thing about Brian Michael Bendis’s tenure on the Superman comics is the Invisible Mafia. That’s the case in Action Comics #1021 as well. Leone and the Red Cloud are still a mystery Superman hasn’t figured out, but they are a mystery that he hasn’t really had a chance to figure out. Is this storyline finally going to come to fruition?
The fact that the Invisible Mafia have been lurking around in the background for nearly two years is disappointing. Bendis sidetracked his most interesting addition to Superman’s world with the Leviathan storyline immediately after revealing the Red Cloud’s identity in Action Comics #1005 and teasing Leone’s “Superman memorabilia” in Action Comics #1006. Any momentum that was generated in that initial arc has faded. Bendis’s desire to connect everything has resulted in a messy conglomeration of plot lines and characters that don’t fit together seamlessly.
Like last issue, we know the outcome of the “Metropolis Doom” arc. Luthor’s not going to beat Superman. The Red Cloud isn’t going to kill Superman when she has the chance, because we’ve already seen the day after this story ends in Superman #18. There’s no weight to this encounter because we know the outcome from a comic that came out three months ago!
There’s some particularly bad dialogue in this issue as Bendis tries to make this issue feel important. Superman’s generic “You’re a monster, Luthor!” is fairly cringe-worthy as is Leviathan’s soliloquy. He makes little sense as he seemingly explains something…. And it’s generically bombastic. I presume it’s supposed to make him seem enigmatic, but it just makes him appear tedious and pointless. I’m still not sure why Leviathan is supposed to be interesting. Bendis is playing him down the middle, but unable to really give the readers a connection. Perhaps, if you read Manhunter and Checkmate back in the late ’80’s it’s more accessible. However, for most readers “The Janus Directive” is not a storyline that is widely known today. Relying on readers being able to connect Leviathan to that is not a good storytelling move. It’s not a significant storyline like “The Death of Superman” that’s going to resonate with enough readers to be meaningful.
I didn’t think after last issue’s effort by Romita, Jr. and Janson that the art could get any worse in Action Comics #1021. Unfortunately, it has. Gorilla Grodd is completely unrecognizable, is it Bigfoot? What are the weird lines on Superman’s face in nearly every panel? Save for a few figures here and there, the art appears rushed, sloppy and generally unappealing.
There are times when a comic is so bad it’s begging to be cancelled. While Action Comics isn’t going to be cancelled, it’s definitely past time for a change in creative teams on the Superman titles. While getting Romita, Jr. off the book fixes part of the problem, it’s really going to take a major move on DC’s part to let Bendis know his services are no longer required on Superman. The character was in much better hands with Tomasi/Gleason and Jurgens. With too many plot lines, Bendis single best idea is not only unrealized, it has been diluted with other ideas that are also having trouble finding a footing.