What a difference an inker makes. Danny Miki steps in to embellish John Romita Jr’s pencils and all is right with the world. I’ve been a fan of inker Klaus Janson for decades, but for some reason the teaming with regular partner JR Jr on Action Comics hasn’t worked; the characters have looked too blocky, with random scratches on their faces – you can see it this time on the cover, which is a Romita/Janson collaboration.
Open the issue, though, and the difference is palpable – Conner Kent and Superman are delineated with a softer touch, their facial expressions are no longer harsh, they’re sensitive.
Miki brings out the best in Romita, allowing his talent to be seen – the body language of Superman just sitting, listening to Conner on the credits spread, is perfect. I hope Miki sticks around for as long as Romita is drawing Action Comics.
Superman and Conner are trying to work out just who the latter is; he’s recently been brought back to Earth after a stay in the fantasy land of Skartaris, but this world isn’t quite the one Conner left. Superman, for example, doesn’t remember him, and Conner, a clone of Superman and Lex Luthor grown by Project Cadmus, seems to have forgotten his own origins.
And then, unexpected guests arrive at the Fortress of Solitude, with one telling the other a colossally funny joke.
Meanwhile, at the Daily Planet, editor-in-chief Perry White gathers his reporters after finding that the paper’s new owner is a big time gangster. Feelings are running high but the veteran newsman is determined to keep putting out a paper until the FBI says otherwise.
Elsewhere in the City of Tomorrow, said gangster Marisol Leone plots with henchwoman Red Cloud, aka Daily Planet journalist Robinson Goode.
At the Hall of Justice, some of the DC Universe’s great minds face a challenging revelation as they try to help Superman solve the mystery of Conner Kent.
And when Superman, Conner, Jonathan and Brainiac 5 drop in on Jonathan and Martha Kent in Smallville, things only get weirder…
After several issues of Legion of Doom-bashing, with the storytelling moving backwards and forwards in time to no obvious end, this linear respite issue is a delight. Writer Brian Michael Bendis gives us page after page of fine characterisation among three generations of Kents, while moving the Invisible Mafia/Daily Planet story forward. Plus, we have the multiversal mysteries centred on the arrival of Conner Kent; I love that while the big boffins are having their minds blown at the notion of having been rebooted – an entirely reasonable response – Superman is chilled to the point of being blasé.
The book’s one off-note is Clark’s initial reaction to Jon’s arrival.
All the years father and son were apart after Jon took off with Jor-El, and now they’re separated once more with Jon at ‘31st century college’, and Superman sounds nonplussed and looks ticked off? Where’s the massive hug the moment merits?
That same opening sequence, though, contains my favourite exchange in the entire issue.
Bendis’s Superman is just the kindest guy.
I don’t get why the new-look Steve Lombard is so angry with Perry in the meeting scene, but Bendis certainly captures the vibrancy of newspaper life – Trish Q continues to get better with every utterance – while Lois and Jimmy on the job, later, is a terrific bit of business.
Whatever happened to Lana Lang? She had a surprise entrance several issues ago but we’ve seen neither hide nor ginger hair of her since. Did she blip out of the universe in exchange for Conner returning? I think we should be told! I’d rather she had been at the Daily Planet huddle than the surprise guest we do get.
This is the first issue in awhile that doesn’t open with a recap page, but it doesn’t need one, it’s a pretty new-reader friendly story but with no one sounding like Basil Exposition.
If you jumped off this series during the interminable Villain of the Year or whatever business, it’s safe to come back – Bendis is at his best and, thanks to Danny Miki, Romita Jr is better.