Under Brian Michael Bendis, these last two years, Action Comics hasn’t strictly lived up to its name. And I’ve not minded a bit. It’s been hugely enjoyable but it’s the quieter moments that steal the show – the Lois/Clark chats; the Daily Planet conversations; the clandestine meetings of Robinson Goode and Marisol Leone.
Not this issue, though. Action Comics #1023 is the slammiest, bangiest issue in ages as the Superman Family faces a massive inter-dimensional parasite. In fact, it’s the Parasite – the original, from way back in the Silver Age, evolved.
And that’s pretty much the whole issue. The ‘House of Kent – Superman, Supergirl, Superboy Jon, Superboy Conner and house guest Brainiac 5 – vs an energy-sapping powerhouse. Watching from a few blocks away is the Invisible Mafia’s enforcer, Red Cloud aka the aforementioned Goode.
And at the Daily Planet, there’s a different kind of drama.
Seriously? Is there a law in DC’s America that you can’t come from a parallel world? Given the amount of Crises that have hit this particular big blue marble, you could argue that everyone was from some other reality before the current version of the world was squidged together.
Marisol really is coming across as desperate here, and – how ironic – she herself is from another Earth. I’m surprised that Lois is being sucked in by her nonsense, just ignore the daft gangster granny!
More impressive this time is Supergirl, who takes charge as Superman gets lost in the intense emotions he’s feeling, his friend Melody having just been murdered by Red Cloud and Conner almost killed by the Parasite.
Superman winds up in a big fight with Red Cloud who, for the umpteenth time, manages to hold him off; I’ve asked previously and I’ll ask again, what exactly is the nature of her powers? She looks like a spiky fart, how can she hold her own? Her origin involved unidentified multiversal matter, and she had a boost from Lex Luthor which seemed to be mainly cosmetic. Is Goode channeling red sun energy, that would certainly give her the necessary power. Answers on a postcard.
Another question I might ask again is, what the heck has happened to John Romita Jr’s art? It gets ever scratchier, blockier. I heard him on a podcast – Word Balloon, always worth a listen – recently, saying his strength was his storytelling. And I agree, he can come up with some very effective layouts. As well as the sequence above with Superman shielding his cousin, we have this.
Extra points if Romita came up with the tumbling narrative boxes gimmick.
Good layouts, though, aren’t enough when you’re lucky enough to be drawing the world’s greatest superhero. We need attractive characters, charm. Romita can do a lot better, he shouldn’t be relying on inker Klaus Janson – who actually appears to have given up – and colourist Brad Anderson, who does a lot of heavy lifting.
Letterer Dave Sharpe lays out Bendis’s sharp script with his usual style – heck, he’s probably earned his salary by the end of the genuinely informative recap page.
Sometimes I regret dramatic blurbs covering up glorious cover art. All I can say about the Romita/Janson/Anderson effort here is… more copy, please.
So, art, could do better. Story, top notch. Overall, I’d rate this issue a hit.
What did you reckon?