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?