Action Comics #1019 review

Superman is being attacked by Legion of Doom members Luthor, Brainiac, Grodd, Sinestro and Cheetah.

In flashback, we see Luthor and ‘friends’ recruit Leviathan, appearing for the first time since his big event.

And in a more recent flashback, Luthor arranges a meet/cute between Leviathan and Metropolis bad girl Red Cloud.

The Legion of Doom are piling on Superman this issue and I know how he feels. I’ve been reading these things a long time. I can handle multiple strands. Heck, some of the best times I’ve had are with comics juggling an A plot, a B plot, a subplot or two, and setting up a future A plot. What I don’t like are chunks of narrative that have been thrown into some story bag, jiggled around and rearranged in time for no obvious reason.

Seeing Luthor’s machinations with Leviathan and the big Metropolis fight as a back and forth muddies the reading experience. What is writer Brian Michael Bendis positing as the most compelling aspect of Metropolis Doom part 3? In the absence of any emotional heft, I’m all at sea. This comic is the most Marvel of any since Bendis came to DC; it reminds me of those issues of New Avengers in which villains stand around exchanging entertaining zingers while the point of it all lies half a trade paperback away. Not bad as a time passer, but ever more frustrating by the page.

Here, Luthor and Leviathan discuss the best way to achieve the latter’s hopes of a better world. There’s reference to a dangling plot thread from the Event Leviathan mini-series involving all the world’s secrets being revealed that’s a head-scratcher, to say the least. And Luthor wants the newly up-powered Red Cloud to deliver the killing blow once the Legion of Doom has softened Superman up. The other villains stand around, making the odd cutting comment, but being far too passive for a bunch of arch nemeses.

And why is Luthor faffing around with Superman at all? Over in Justice League, for what seems like years, he’s been plotting the end of things with galactic girlfriend Perpetua, having decided his now half-Martian state was above the petty rivalries of everyday supervillain-dom. Superman has been busy fighting him in the team mag, crossing realities in a bid to save Creation. Where does this Action Comics storyline fit in?

It doesn’t help that John Romita Jr and Klaus Janson are providing the art again this month; I won’t rehearse everything I’ve said previously, just reiterate that they wouldn’t be my first choice for a Superman story. They do give us the odd arresting image, such as that splash spread involving the tussle between the League and the Legion, and I like the attitude they give Robinson Goode, Red Cloud in her downtime.

Goode provides one of my favourite moments of the issue, as she chews Perry White out over the phone – she’s awfully cocky for a newcomer to the Daily Planet.

Another fun sequence sees Sinestro, who’s been around the block a few times, challenge Leviathan’s stated intentions.

And there is a new element this issue, as we get our first look at Leviathan Island, where the mastermind – now known to be former Manhunter Mark Shaw – hides the spies he’s recruited. It looks like a rubbish place to live, less Utopia than vacuum cleaner.

Superman, the star of the show, is virtually absent, seen in just a handful of panels. On the cover – which is, shall we say, unprepossessing – he’s simply a silhouette with an S-symbol.

I’ve been enjoying the Bendis era of Action Comics a great deal, so a mediocre issue seems all the worse. Having Lex and his fellow goons here beyond the editorially mandated Year of the Villain issue is a mistake – the Legion of Doom makes everything worse. The Invisible Mafia/Red Cloud story Bendis has been building, coupled with the compelling crew at the Daily Planet, is more than enough to keep me happy.

And maybe the odd scene with Superman. That’s good too.

13 thoughts on “Action Comics #1019 review

  1. Well, it’s Romita so it’s not like you can do anything subtle with the art. So much of Bendis’s story to date has been aided and abetted by the art teams. They have all done wonderful facial acting and allowed less text because you can also see body language. Romita? You get stiff stock poses and two and a half facial expressions (the half is the underdrawn faces he likes). If I had been told I was being saddled with Sharpie art for X amount of issues I’d probably decide to make them serious content light since there was no way we were going to get it drawn to look like serious content!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. Bad enough that for the first time I’ve had the thought to give up Action, and with it probably Superman, and that means giving up on all the upcoming Bendis one-shots and minis. All of it. To heck with it all?

    So, here is the pivot away from the original Leviathan “misguided but sort of good-guy” (“Superman, I like you buddy, we want the same thing”) story of making the world a better place by exposing all secrets, to a brand new goal for Leviathan, who is apparently now just your regular old egomaniacal villain.

    Luthor tells him his secret-revealing plan won’t work, and he ought to proceed instead by making it all about him. Leviathan is clearly ripe for the switch to Evil Autocrat (“I am appreciating this. Go on.”) Boom – new story, newly motivated villain. Leviathan’s ego has been stroked and he relishes ruling the world. Everything is reset in one panel. (Obviously there will be double-crosses later. Luthor isn’t going to bow to Leviathan. And Leviathan may just be playing along. We’ll see – if we keep reading.)

    Is there a way to reconcile this version of the Legion of Doom with the one in Justice League? Did these events occur long before those? Maybe, but I wonder instead if the last few pages of Justice League #39 “justify” all of the apparent divergences in Bendisville. But I won’t write more about that now, in case you put up a review of Justice League.


    1. Brilliant thoughts on Leviathan, thank you. I don’t think he’s necessarily joining the megalomaniacs’ club so much as sussing out the obstacles to his dream – he wants a peaceful world and supervillains aren’t conducive to that.


  3. I tend to like Romita’s art more than most people. I know I’ve defended him at least once on this site, maybe more. And still, I have to say, this issue has one of the single worst illustrations of Gorilla Grodd I’ve ever seen…and I’ve read a LOT of Grodd stories.


  4. There’s one other artistic bit I want to talk about — what looks like a visual joke on Romita’s part. On the last page you present here, there are two panels of Sinestro at the bottom right. And it looks like Romita drew out his entire face in the uppermost panel, and then forgot to erase his chin when putting the panel lines down.

    …but then I realized, no, that’s not Sinestro’s chin, it’s his widow’s peak! EXACTLY WHERE HIS CHIN WOULD BE in the upper panel. And while that was definitely distracting to me, I also found it hilarious.


    1. Ha, that’s hysterical. I didn’t notice that. It’s drawn squared off like the bottom of Sinestro’s goatee, not pointed like his widow’s peak is, but the way they line up… it is surely Romita’s joke, which Janson and Anderson went along with of course.


      1. You sure? The way Janson does so much of the heavy lifting finishing Romita’s art it could just as easily be his joke…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I see what you mean about the beard, Rob, you’re so much nicer than me, I’d assume that was just a lack of imagination when it comes to moving the ‘camera’. You’re probably right!


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