One of the small pleasures of a new issue of Action Comics is guessing whose work station will act a recap page. We’ve had Lois’, Clark’s, Perry’s, Jimmy’s – even new gossip columnist Trish Q’s… surely we’d be at the Daily Planet canteen bulletin board by now? But no, this time we begin with the Planet website, choc full of recap, story hints and in-jokes.
It’s a lot like the one my employer has, but with fewer annoying ads and no sad request to turn off the ad blocker…
The big surprise is that the DC Universe’s Twitter substitute, Chirrup, has been around since 1984. Which seems appropriate and, well, they do say Metropolis is the City of Tomorrow.
Today, though, the generals of the city’s Invisible Mafia are meeting. As ever, they are, incongruously and hilariously, huddled inside a still, its lead-lined coating protecting them from Superman’s X-Ray gaze. And as ever, they’re avoiding key words and names bound to pique the interest of the Man of Steel’s super-hearing. The subject of the oh-so-secret conversations? Leviathan, the mystery person taking down the world’s top secret organisations.
In the Fortress of Solitude – apparently, prior to the previous scene – Mr and Mrs Superman are having post-coital small talk.
Soon, Superman goes off on that interstellar mission, and Lois gets down to investigating Leviathan. But are her ears burning, because in Metropolis Trish Q and City Beat reporter Robinson Goode are chatting away?
But not for long. Goode, secretly underworld enforcer Red Mist, gets a tip-off to meet an off-duty Metropolis vigilante.
Older readers will instantly realise Rose & the Thorn are/is back. OK, the surname has always been spelt ‘Forrest’, and Rose has had short blonde hair, the auburn mane being a wig, but the latter is almost certainly a story point – the barriers between the dual personalities are coming down. Indeed, the Thorn makes a surprise daytime visit and tells Goode something very interesting – that the local cops are turning a blind eye to her regular attacks on criminals. If this isn’t a news story, it’s something that could be useful for her criminal partner, Ms Leone… also the Planet’s new owner.
Goode tells her something even bigger – Leviathan has tried to recruit Thorn.
Now that’s interesting. Why would someone who seems to deal in plans with no room for improvisation want an agent with a schizophrenic condition? A wildcard to throw at the opposition? Or someone who could threaten their goals, a potential enemy, who should be kept close? We don’t learn what Thorn’s response to the offer was, but writer Brian Michael Bendis likes to keep readers hanging. It’s only this issue that we get a follow-up to Superman scandalously kissing Lois in public, and that happened at least six months ago. Given Event Leviathan is now at the heart of the Superman books, I’m sure Bendis will tell us how Thorn responded sooner rather than later. For me, Rose & the Thorn, who starred in a back-up strip in the latter years of Lois’s solo title, in the early Seventies, are another intriguing ingredient in a very fun mix as Bendis fleshes out the Metropolis scene.
As ever, this issue is full of bits of business that may not be hugely relevant to the big picture, but are of themselves delightful, such as Clark calling Lois ‘Metropolis’, and ‘Wayning’ as the DCU equivalent of ‘Googling’. Even the odd headscratching moment is fun, such as Lois referring to Superman glowing – I have a vague memory of that being a screen Superman reference. Actually, almost all the Lois and Clark banter is very rewarding, with only Superman’s comment about ‘reverse-engineering nonsense’ going over my head. Oh, and I’ve long since given up on trying to make the timeline between this series and Superman work.
Nope, I’m just having a ball with the rich tapestry that is Bendis’s big story, replete with fascinating, fun detail and played out against an ever-more interesting Metropolis. Having Rose & the Thorn enter the fray, following the Golden Guardian, gives me hope that we’ll eventually see other minor Metropolis heroes, such as Gangbuster and Agent Liberty.
This exchange intrigued me.
Is the hackette hinting that Red Mist is a different persona? It seems unlikely, we’ve seen ‘Robin Goode’ be pretty wicked when not in glowing red mode… but what if the change is incremental, and with time, she could become a truly good person? Perhaps she could exile herself for her crimes, walk into the future on discovering her misty form makes her immortal…
Probably not! But I love that a comic makes me wonder about a character, consider bizarre possibilities for their future.
That art’s rather gorgeous, isn’t it? OK, Szymon Kudranski doesn’t give us Thorn in all her spiky hot-panted glory, but look at the way he draws people, naturalistic yet dynamic. Then there are those plants. And if all those birds flapping around the panels aren’t a plea for a Hawkman gig, I don’t know what is. Kudranski has popped up around the DCU over the past several years, with a Batman here and a Green Arrow there, here a Green Lantern, there a Talon… I think this is his first work on a Superman title and I really hope it’s not the last. Every page is a pleasure, from the terrific storytelling to little details such as the wicker chairs at the plant shop and the Planet passers-by.
Brad Anderson and Josh Reed, regular contributors both, do their usual cracking job with colours and letters respectively. The former especially impressed with tones and lighting for the still sequence, while the latter’s easy-on-the-eye work is a joy.
Bendis’s partner on Naomi, Jamal Campbell, contributes a lovely cover… the sense of movement, the intelligent colouring – check out the contrast between real clouds and Red Cloud – and overall beauty make it a winner.
There’s lots more to say about this comic, but I’ll nix my notes for now. What did you think?