Action Comics #1014 review

Some people read Action Comics and dream of being Superman, high-flying hero of millions. Me, I want to be ageing newsman Perry White. This week, anyway, as he finally meets the new owner of the Daily Planet.

An actual increase in the editorial budget? That never happens in this age of abandoned print editions and ‘digital transformation’. Perry is so thrilled he ignores the fact that the offer is too good to be true. Reporters Clark Kent and Lois Lane, though, are a little more clear-headed after they’re offered hefty wage rises.

Perry will wake up to the fact that the bewitching Marisol Leone – I think this is the first time we’ve heard her forename – is no Girl Scout, but let’s allow my fellow journalist to dream awhile.

It’s an interesting day all round for Clark who, in his other identity of Superman, must rescue the scientists at STAR Labs from the Monster of the Week.

For once, though, they’re not being attacked by outside forces, this is a beast they’ve been hiding in the heart of Metropolis. And Superman isn’t happy, leading Clark Kent to expose the dodgy doings in a piece for the Planet.

Elsewhere, the Mayor’s hopes of illicit pleasure in his downtime are wrecked by a fighting-mad Thorn who, like Superman, has lately been preoccupied with uncovering the true face of Leviathan, the masked mystery person who has been taking down the world’s covert organisations – and who tried to recruit her.

This being Metropolis, there’s always someone more powerful around…

This chapter of Brian Michael Bendis’ ongoing Invisible Mafia/Leviathan storyline closes with the arrival of next month’s guest star, and it’s a nice capper on another hugely compelling issue. While the Leviathan mystery doesn’t progress much – hey, it has its own mini-series – there’s so much goodness that I feel thoroughly satisfied. Ms Leone’s desire to use the Planet to expose Leviathan is fascinating; stepping out of the shadows of her secret criminal empire, she’s exposing herself to the spotlight, a move which could see her losing everything. She’s such an interesting character that I really wish she’d do a Morgan Edge and stay with the book in a reformed capacity (OK, the original Morgan Edge didn’t actually reform, he was never truly bad, just hidden away by a Darkseid doppleganger and finally freed to annoy Superman throughout the Bronze Age). And as drawn by Szymon Kudranski and coloured by Brad Anderson, she’s utterly charismatic, ridiculously elegant and composed, like a statue newly brought to life

Perry also earns his page space, showing that he’s the heart of the Planet; knowing that even a gossipmonger like Trish Q has the journalistic chops to match anyone on staff.

One reporter who doesn’t put in an appearance is Robinson Goode, but we do meet her not-exactly-better half in the shape of Red Cloud, newly upgraded courtesy of Lex Luthor, who’s flittting about the DC Universe in hologram form with deliveries from his eeeeevil Amazon-style drones, declaring 2019 the Year of the Villain.

Seeing that Ms Leone doesn’t fool Lois and Clark for one minute – and Lois doesn’t even meet her – is a neat reminder that these are two of the best investigative hacks on the, no pun intended, planet. The scene also reminds me that Lois is supposedly writing a book about her life with Superman, a subplot I’m more than ready to see bubble to the surface. If you’re reading this review, Mr Bendis…

The synergy between writer and artist is remarkable, given Bendis and Kudranski haven’t been working together long; Kudranski understands the sophisticated urban mood Bendis has been building and amps it up on the page. There’s terrific subtlety to the ‘acting’ and when the emotions rise, the intensity is a thrill – look, for example, at the mania of the Thorn. The storytelling is first rate, with even the panel borders adding to the visual experience. Anderson knows when to go naturalistic and when to bring on the neon, emphasising the drama, while letterer Rob Leigh adds the finishing touches with his sympathetic approach to the presentation of dialogue.

The cover illo by Brandon Peterson is a grabber, and I love the melting masthead, a Year of the Villain trademark – that’s good work by the DC Production Department.

Everyone involved in this issue, from the creators I’ve namechecked to editors Jessica Chen, Mike Cotton and Brian Cunningham, should take a bow. It’s another superb chapter in the Never Ending Battle. Don’t miss it.

3 thoughts on “Action Comics #1014 review

  1. Good review – maybe because I agree with it :). Really enjoyed it.

    I preferred Red Cloud’s original Human Torch-like flaming form and her less defined visage, or even the design drawn on the cover, before Luthor upgraded her. Her newly more defined form, and especially the horns – well, if that does turn out to mean that Goode is inhabited by a character we’ve seen before, then it’s justified, otherwise it somewhat disappoints vs. a cool (well, burning hot) look.

    If Red Cloud has truly burned up Thorn, that’s too bad. She and Rose were especially interesting characters and haven’t been around for long. But Red Cloud says something a bit inscrutable to her: “People like you WANT powers.” As if Red Cloud would prefer to not have them and can’t believe anyone would? She does say she’s wiping Thorn out, and she’s had no trouble burning people up before, and thanks to Lex may have more power than before, but — sorry to see Thorn go. Does Thorn have any way to survive this? I doubt it. Not unless Red Cloud stops before it’s too late.

    Star Labs will be an increasingly big factor unless it is an increasingly big red herring. There are plot threads left dangling from before, though mentioned again here, like their Phantom Zone mishap. But it might take Bendis another year to really dig into it. And might instead just send dispatch the whole operation to the future. Or into one of those – well, temporal power surges, or alternate earths, or dimensional planes, take your pick, because Bendis mentions all of them in the span of a couple of panels.

    What is a plane vs. a universe? And still one has to ask, where the heck IS Power Girl? Stuck somewhere between here and there, whatever here and there are. (She’s also been on several covers over the last year, which is just ridiculous.)

    Of course don’t alternate timelines create different universes? Or not. Nobody really has that one down. If you change our timeline, does the timeline change everywhere else? Dark Opal seems to think so, as they decided every crisis over here messes up Gemworld. But what are crises? Timeline changes, alt universe changes, both together, and maybe just ,,, Imaginary Tales!

    T.N.

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      1. Thanks for the brilliant comments, TN. I do think that’s Blaze in there with Robinson Goode, meaning there’s plenty of wiggle room for her to retain to her blurrier form later – we shall see! Meanwhile, I’m a sucker for four-armed characters. I don’t think we’ve had one in Superman since Towbee.

        Great point about Red Cloud saying Thorn wants powers; given that in art previews of the Millennium book she does seem to be the current day DC character who discovers she’s immortal and ‘walks us up to the front door of the Legion clubhouse’, this could well be how she gets bonkers longevity… an encounter with a metahuman/demon combo.

        I hope STAR Labs is only temporarily dodgy, I grew up with them as the good guys and they should stay that way. Bring back Jenet Klyburn.

        Deep questions about DC planes and dimensions… if only I knew, but yes, we need Power Girl – both of ‘em – back post-haste. Is no one looking for them? Tanya had a mention in Deathstroke recently, but Karen? She should be back by now.

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