Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Action Comics #1020 Review

Two Superguys are Better Than One

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: John Romita, Jr. (Pencils), Klaus Janson (Inks)
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: February 26, 2020

It’s Part Four of the “Metropolis Doom” arc, and the Leviathan-augmented Legion of Doom has decided to lay waste to the DC Universe’s shining city on a hill in the hopes of drawing out...and defeating...Superman. Let's get it on!

We kick off the issue with the Young Justice team assembling at the Hall of Justice.  Connor Kent is looking forward to introducing himself to his clone technology-spawned half-father (Superman and Lex Luthor sharing genetic responsibility for the lad), but formalities are thrown aside when Superman lands and goes into full battle mode.  It’s time to protect the Hall, alert the (adult) Justice League and go save the day...and the city!

But that was 40 minutes ago.  Did I tell you what happened thirty-one and a half minutes later?  (Bendis likes jumping around, chronologically speaking, but you always know when scenes are happening!)

That’s when Superman is making a direct frontal assault on the Legion of Doom, and the Legion -- buttressed by Leviathan’s alien technology -- literally blasts him across the galaxy!  Talk about a bad day. But Superman’s one resilient guy, so he speeds back to earth in a single comic book page, returning to a Young Justice team that is ready to pounce into action.

Superman, however, assigns the youngsters to the task of tending to the people of Metropolis rather than fight -- and likely lose to -- the Legion of Doom.  They get to save the people and property at the legacy tributes to past DC Superman creative greats: (Joe) Shuster Park, (Otto) Binder Elementary and (Dan) Jurgens Shopping Mall. 

(At this point, I can see Dan Jurgens seeing his name dropped in with a couple long-gone creators and thinking, “I’m not dead yet!”  And with good reason - he's writing Nightwing and Batman Beyond, not to mention that he wrote and drew a Legion of Super-Heroes short in a recent Walmart 100-page giant.)

*** Maybe he thinks this makes up for grabbing this book right from under him! - Jim ***

Superman takes a moment to talk to Connor and, after hearing the Kent name and perhaps noticing the Superman logos on the lad’s shirt and jacket, performs a quick x-ray scan and discovers he has another Super-person at his disposal.  Romita and Janson use a great artistic technique to show x-ray vision with pastel circles around Superman’s eyes and the subject being examined. 

So off you go, Young Justice...while Connor sticks with Superman to fight the Legion.

Our Super-guys survey the damage in progress from the air and determine that they might avoid a trap and have a shot at victory if they both fight the Legion.  The Doomsters hadn’t counted on two men who are faster than a speeding bullet, etc., so Superman draws the Legion’s attention away while Connor throws blow after blow against the floating Legion headquarters.  The one-two punch approach causes considerable damage in a truly fantastic fight scene. In the end, Connor knocks the Legion HQ out to sea while Superman fights the Legion members...and not too successfully...until the Justice League finally answers the call and arrives on the scene.  Just in time, too, as Superman looks like he’s had enough pounding.

And with that, the battle royale begins and the Romita/Janson art kicks up a few levels.  With next to no text supplementing their art, they show Brainiac blasting the JL’s approach vehicle (a Bat-tank?), Superman getting blasted by Sinestro and a wickedly cool, armored Batman attending to Superman -- all while Leviathan and his followers look on from afar.  I would have loved to see this scene stretched a little as the Justice Leaguers show up only to catch the wrong side of a Brainiac explosion, but there is merit in dispatching the heroes quickly both to demonstrate the Legion's heightened powers and to move the story along.  But, oh, the visuals we would have had!

The scene sticks with Leviathan’s point of view through to the end, where it’s revealed that Leviathan has been using the Legion of Doom to further his goal.  What’s that, you ask? It appears that Leviathan wants to place a giant piece of his floating city into the hole in Metropolis that the Legion cleared out. Which leaves us at the genuinely interesting cliffhanger ending.  Is Leviathan really going to drop his city right on top of the ruins of central Metropolis?

Whew!  Quite a book, and one that I enjoyed.  Bendis appears to enjoy having a grand story like Metropolis Doom to play with his different creative toys like Superman, Leviathan, Luthor and Young Justice.  His scripting feels much tighter than his more conversational books of late, something I attribute to the battle/crisis nature of the story not lending to small talk. (And smart move in refraining on the small talk during the battle.  Few things in comics make me shake my head more than soap opera backstory being discussed in the midst of explosions, chaos and mayhem.)

There were a couple eyebrow-raisers, dialogue-wise, especially when Bendis scripts the villains. Luthor has come off as something less than a genius mastermind ever since Leviathan entered the scene, and Leviathan is just a little too jocular for my tastes.  These villains are among the smartest and shrewdest in the DC Universe, and I wish they could be handled as equals who play on a higher plane than the rest of us. They need to be scripted with gravitas, and I'm not sure it comes across as well in this issue.

The Connor Kent/Superman introduction wasn’t the most satisfying, but that’s easily explained by the battle going on around he and Superman.  (See the above Few things in comics... sidebar.)  I do see that more open, emotional introduction coming in a future issue, easily.

Bendis again shines when scripting dialogue for the Young Justice teens.  It’s clear that he loves writing the kids.  Yes, Naomi, you're strong enough to lift a bus.  Who knew?  😃

Lastly, Bendis stepped back and let Romita and Janson take over during the melee.  It was such a great choice as the visuals were so very strong.  Sometimes the power in writing lies in what in not explicitly said, and Bendis shows that he knows when to say when.

On the visuals: Romita and Janson’s art feels radically different than most everything else offered by the big two comics publishers right now. But the combination of Romita’s straightforward layouts and characters combined with Janson’s trademark inking has grown on me.  I see character designs harkening back to Romita’s X-Men run and inking that reminds me of Janson’s glory days on Daredevil and Batman over Frank Miller’s pencils. The combination is unique, certainly...and probably a bridge too far for the folks who grew up on the Jim Lee/Rob Liefield style.  Personally, it's a welcome change of pace.  I applaud DC for presenting something different from this legendary creative team.

Bits and Pieces:

A rocking wild issue, fitting for the name of “Action” Comics.  The hits keep coming as the Superman world we knew (Clark Kent's secret identity, the gleaming city of Metropolis) is shattering, leaving readers wondering where this story will go next.  Bendis offers a solid plot and tight script while Romita, Jr., and Janson dish up some spectacular visuals in their inimitable style.  I don’t recommend picking up the fourth issue of an arc by itself, so in this case, I’d strongly suggest readers mine the recent back issues to get the first three issues of the Metropolis Doom storyline as well as this one.  I am finding this storyline to be lots of fun and hope you will, too.


1 comment:

  1. Well I actually enjoyed this book for a change. The story actually progressed somewhat and Superman and Connor "met" finally. But Superman still doesn't remember Superboy so this is still pre-Doomsday Clock I guess. And it must all be before Justice Doom War since Cheetah, Grodd & co. are still themselves. And I'm hoping an upcoming issue of YJ will lead into this issue since that would also mean were finally going to get a conclusion to the current storyline in that book. And this issue mentions Jon Kent not being around and Supergirl being off planet so does this series take place before Jon returns in The Unity Saga? You'd think with Bendis writing both books the continuity would be a little tighter. And now the Kents will be revealed to be alive in next week's SM: Villains so I guess that's pre-Doomsday Clock so is his revealing his identity before of after Supergirl is infected? Will the new DC timeline explain all this? Or will there even be a new timeline/5G now that Didio is gone (And good riddance)? Is anybody else besides me asking these questions?