It’s part six of the Invisible Mafia storyline and Superman gets a step or two closer to learning about Metropolis’ dark underbelly. The past few issues have seen a clutch of killings by new super-villain the Red Cloud, at the same time as the city has been hit an ardent arsonist. In this situation, it’s his Clark Kent self who can make inroads into solving the mystery via some good old- fashioned doorstepping.
Mayor Hopkins admits nothing, but some super-eavesdropping outside his car does let Clark know the man is in the pocket of some very bad people, if not actually whom. Soon, he’s changing to Superman to fly back to the Planet.
At the office, he and Jimmy Olsen pump one another for information, and it seems the cub reporter has been mixing in very dangerous circles.
And across town deputy fire chief Melody Moore, who put Clark onto the Mayor’s shenanigans, is attacked. Faster than a speeding bullet, Superman is on the scene, but while he gets Melody out of immediate danger, he doesn’t continue last month’s inconclusive fracas with the Red Cloud. Oh no…
… this is wonderful writing from Brian Michael Bendis, with every issue I like his Superman more. Red Cloud is new on the scene, and while she’s held her own so far, the Metropolis Marvel knows that she must know that, eventually, he will best her, so why not offer her a way out?
Action Comics #1006 also introduces us to the person running the Metropolis Mafia and it’s…. no one I’ve ever heard of. Dang! It’s a terrible cliche but I love it when a master planner is unmasked as a member of the regular cast. Still, courtesy of artist Ryan Sook, they have a great visual, and Bendis gives them a sparky personality, as well as quite the Superman souvenir.
While the cover teases a big role for the Leviathan criminal organisation from the Batman books, the nearest we get in the actual story is a bizarre moment that seems to be saying Jimmy Olsen has had a one-night stand with Talia al-Ghul. Come on, I know he’s courted space princesses, fifth dimensional imps and alien monsters, but an international assassin and the mother of Batman’s bundle of Boy Wonder, Damian Wayne? Someone is having him on.
That scene with the kid in the GL shirt is priceless – in the Sixties, Superman would have hypnotised him to forget seeing him change from Clark Kent, but he instinctively knows this is a superhero fan he can trust. (For a second I wondered if, after last issue’s Dial H For Hero nod, Bendis was introducing us to the upcoming Teen Lantern from Wonder Comics, but the character seems to have been male at the early publicity stage, and is now female.)
Clark on the street and asking tough questions is great, mind, he’s seriously off his game if he thinks he can write a story with the kind of information in it that only Superman could know.
Great Puffa jacket, though! And look at how Clark’s suit hangs in the Daily Planet scenes – Ryan Sook really does understand how to drape fabric on a comic character. It’s sterling art all round from Sook and colourist Brad Anderson. From tiny details like kids on swings to a fantastic spread showing Clark using his x-ray vision to examine several floors of the Daily Planet, this is stunning work. OK, I don’t actually understand the cumulative meaning of the glyphs shown in that Planet spread, but that’s likely my age… one of you kids can explain! The neat lettering from Josh Reed sits well on the art, with good use of lower case and italics.
And then there’s the variant cover from Francis Manapul, which is heart-warmingly gorgeous. Happy New Year indeed. Sook’s mass market cover is also a winner – anyone recognise that paper knife?
Much as I’m loving the main storyline, the lack of Lois is getting to me – it’s a couple of issues since Clark found her hiding in Chicago, and we still don’t know what the new status quo for their relationship that was teased, is… or was it apparent to everyone else and I missed it? This issue we see references to her abandoning Clark on gossip columnist Trish Q’s (extremely amusing) desk, and the mayor has a pop at Clark about it. What’s happening with my favourite couple in comics is the elephant in the room, and distracting me from what is presumably meant to be the A-plot. Can’t we just be told out loud that Lois and Clark are on a break – which I’d hate – or whatever?
Perhaps all will be revealed next month…