Action Comics #1024 review

Good as symbolic cover images can be, I do like it when a book shows a moment from the story. And that’s what John Romita Jr, Klaus Janson and Brad Anderson’s shot here is, a beat from Brian Michael Bendis’ current serial. Unfortunately, it’s one from last issue… meanwhile, the cover copy seems to relate to the upcoming issues in which Jimmy Olsen, as per his recent, brilliant maxi-series, is revealed as the new owner of the Daily Planet.

It’s probably some modern art project I don’t understand.

Inside, things are nice and straightforward. Well, straightforward at least; it’s far from nice for deputy fire chief Melody Moore, sporting a horrendous new haircut, as she meets Metropolis super-hood the Red Mist.

And Red Mist’s boss, Marisol Leone, isn’t thrilled that she’s been outed as head of the Invisible Mafia and has Superman, Superboy, a second Superboy and Brainiac 5 looking for her.

Lois Lane, meanwhile, is being chewed out by FBI agent Cameron Chase, who seems to hold her personally responsible for Leone having recently bought the Daily Planet.

No one is having a good day, but there is a moment of brightness as Supergirl arrives just when Superman needs her most.

This moment made my day. After the year Kara has had – see recent issues of her just-cancelled series or, better still, don’t – it’s great to see her together enough to lend emotional support where needed. Bendis has consistently treated Kara well, which is why I’ve been nagging him on Twitter, pleading for him to invite her into the safe harbour that is Wonder Comics. For now, she’s back in Action Comics, the book that was her home in the character’s earliest years, as part of the House of Kent storyline.

It’s wonderful to have Supergirl drop by, just because. She’s reacquainted with ‘nephew’ Jon, meets Conner for the first time and is introduced to Brainiac 5, after seeing him from a distance when the Legion of Super-Heroes recently dropped by from the 31st century. Character dynamics are what Bendis does best, and he’s on great form here, with such subtleties as the way the Super Cousins both use the Silver Age exclamation ‘Great Scott’.

For a second, I thought Kara was being a tad insensitive, her attention having been distracted from her cousin’s need for a hug by the super-teens. What I think is actually happening is that after giving him the hug, she recognises that Clark needs a moment, some space, so gently distracts everyone. Bendis is giving Supergirl her emotional intelligence, something she hasn’t had for a while.

Way back when, Kara and Brainy had a thing and I’ll be interested to see if there’s a spark between them in subsequent issues. For now, Brainy is in love with something else entirely, as seen in a truly adorable panel.

That’s a moment totally sold by the art team. The visuals this issue are better than in recent ones. It’s John Romita Jr pencilling with Klaus Janson inking once more, but the art isn’t quite so blocky as it has been. The Supergirl pages are especially good, and a spread featuring a massive panel of the Planet staffers is really well blocked out. A deadly determined Superman scanning the city with super-vision is also superbly presented, as Janson pulls out some Letratone effects left over from the Seventies. And then there’s a marvellous spread towards the end, which I won’t spoil, but it’s simply terrific, with the illustrators and colour artist Brad Anderson bringing all the drama out of Bendis’ script. Letterer Dave Sharpe doesn’t get much opportunity to get fancy, but boy, do I like how friendly his lettering is; sounds weird, I know, but I mean it – it just sits so nicely on the page, inviting us to read it.

Something that sticks out this issue is the lack of a page one recap – Bendis has, perhaps, been spoiling us with imaginative Story So Far pages. Here, though, page one is a bit of art cheekily extracted from the 2-3 spread featuring the brilliantly creepy criminal watchman, Whisper… perhaps there was a deadline crunch.

Certainly, it didn’t affect my enjoyment of this issue – Bendis moves the story along with real skill, the art team sells his vision and we look set for a powerful resolution. While I’m sad to say goodbye to one character, I’m beyond thrilled to have Kara around, not simply to dilute the testosterone levels, but to show non-Kara fans how great she can be.

Now, where’s that Krypto?

8 thoughts on “Action Comics #1024 review

  1. Loved the writing, hated the art. Surely there’s a different popular comic they can ship Romita to. At least they could replace Jansen with Dan Green. He at least finished Romita without overpowering him like Layton or covered up what was missing with tons of black in like Jansen. I also loved the way Green would make hair look so scrumptuous you wish you had a head of it just like he drew!

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    1. I decided to take a month off from morning about the art, I figure Romita is here for the whole of the House of El. I did, mind, post the horrific spoonface Chase from page nine, panel two… nightmare! I can’t remember how Dan Green made hair look, I’m off to check out some of his solo Marvel work… that would be Dr Strange and, Namor?

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  2. As you say it is a great moment for Supergirl, bring help, hope, and compassion. That scene where she hugs Superman, looking like he is holding him together while he falls apart, is brilliant.

    I do think that this story does bring a couple of characters to the end of their story. One, I mourn Melody Moore as I like the idea of superman being a friend to someone in a first responder occupation. Plus she was tough as nails. Killing her off seemed superfluous. He already had plenty of reasons to go after the mafia.

    Secondly, having Red Cloud kill Melody pretty much ends any redemption arc that might have been building here. She’s a villain now and always will be.

    As for the cover, I think ‘meet the new boss’ is a line from The Who song Summertime Blues. It is followed by the line ‘same as the old boss’. I think this just means that this Clark/Superman hybrid look is a sort of new boss in town, but it is really the old boss Superman. At least that was my take.

    Great issue. A brill review as always.

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    1. Yeah, there’s no going back for Goode now, she’s made her bed in digging Melody’s grave. I want her locked up now. I do think she’s gone mad due to the experiment forced on her, but still, the character she is now needs putting away.

      Thanks for the explanation of the cover line, still, it’s weird they should use a scene from last time.

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  3. Boy, the death of Melody was a gut punch. I really didn’t expect that. I asked Bendis about it online, and he said that it wasn’t his original plan for the character, but since about a year ago, this death has been in the works. I’m definitely hope he talks about why things changed on his next Word Balloon.

    That whole scene with Superman discovering her body really moved me. Just incredible storytelling from Romita and Bendis. We never see the body, but we know exactly who it is, and it becomes even more horrible in our minds — especially reinforced by Clark telling John to stay back. And then his reaction, flying up into the sky in tears, and Kara being there to comfort him… This is one of the highlights of this Superman run for me.

    And yet…

    We never DO see a body, do we? She’s not even named.* And Melody Moore wasn’t Clark’s only friend…Robinson Goode was a friend, too. And now, while we see Red Cloud later in the issue, and Marisol calls her Robinson… there’s at least a slim possibility, via comic-book sleight-of-hand, that it’s Melody under all that cloudyness now.

    It’s unlikely, I know. And if it IS a twist, I’m not sure how I’d feel about it.

    Except brilliant. I’d feel brilliant for figuring it out, because it’s such masterful misdirection, full of heart and emotional power.

    But frankly, I don’t want either Robinson or Melody to be gone. They’ve both got so much promise.

    *Counterargument: Superman *does* say that the victim was “a really good person,” and he knows Goode is Red Cloud, and wrapped up with the invisible mafia. But if anyone will see the good inside her, it’s Superman. Still, the events of this issue are probably exactly what they seem to be, and not showing her or saying her name is more likely a technique to make her loss more FELT, letting the readers put the pieces together themselves. Like I said, masterful.

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    1. Oh Rob, you mad genius, you. You and Anj are going to form a club, the Mystery Analysts of the Blogosphere. Let me in, I had some Leviathan theories too. OK, they were pants, but still…

      I will be applauding if you’re right, it’s such a clever theory. And who knows, Melody is a resourceful person, perhaps she someone turned the tables of Red Cloud and is indeed impersonating her. Maybe she’s a telepath of some kind. I dunno, I just love your theory!

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  4. I thought Whisper’s “report” on page 1 did bring readers up to speed about where the book is at.

    Thanks for drawing my attention to the screentone. And now that you mention it, I see it in a few spots on the double-splash of the Planet newsroom.

    Also interesting horizontal blue effects on the 3 closeups of Whisper’s screen, but not on the large wide shot, as if he loses resolution when he zooms in. I suppose Romita drew that and Anderson colored over it, but perhaps it is all Anderson’s idea.

    I’m very said about Melody, a good person whose scenes I always liked. Maybe “if you don’t see a body, they’re not dead” will apply? We’ll find out.

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