Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art and Cover by: Ryan Sook
Colors by: Brad Anderson
Letters by: Josh Reed
Variant Cover by: Francis Manapul
After months of being kept in the dark about Red Cloud’s true identity, we finally know who she is. True to form, Brian Michael Bendis keeps his audience on tenterhooks until the very last page of the issue.
Full disclosure—I am and always have been a Superman fan. After taking a hiatus from reading his comics during the New 52, I’ve been generally pleased with the direction DC has taken with the character in Rebirth. This was the Clark I knew and loved, a kind and sometimes dorky farm boy who just happened to have superpowers, who, alongside his wife, Lois Lane—who used the equally extraordinary power of journalism—fought for truth, justice, and the American way. Dan Jurgens, Peter Tomasi, and Patrick Gleason built their runs upon the relationship between Lois and Clark that has been the heart of the mythos for 80 years. That relationship was further developed with the introduction of Jonathan Samuel Kent, their biological son. The family dynamic was both familiar and new, and the presence of the ten-year-old Superboy, Jon, breathed new life into the franchise, with the added bonus of drawing a crowd of new, younger superfans.
I’m sorry to report that neither Lois nor her son are featured in this issue other than Clark telling Robinson Goode, Lois’s replacement at the Planet, that he saw his wife the previous night (see Action Comics #1004). Jon is, as Lois stated last issue, still in space with Grandpa Jor-El. The goddess of journalism is in a hotel room in Chicago writing her memoirs.
The Question scares some of Strong’s posse and demands to know who the Red Cloud is. Clark Kent meets up with Deputy Fire Chief Melody Moore, who gives him the scoop that the Metropolis mayor advised her to back off of the mysterious fire investigation. Promising to dig into it, he changes into his Superman costume and decides to pay a visit to the mayor, but thinks better of it when he sees him passed out, presumably from drinking too much. The Red Cloud appears and leads him on a chase throughout the city, and on the very last page, the cloud dissolves to reveal…
…The Daily Planet’s very own Robinson Goode.
I can’t say that I was surprised by this, given that the same Robinson Goode procured a piece of kryptonite and was working with Strong, the mobster allied with Red Cloud. Still, it seems a little bit of a wasted opportunity. I found Bendis’s injection of his original characters into the world of Metropolis both intriguing and frustrating, and Robinson initially fell more under the former category than the latter. As a Black woman, I found it exciting that The Daily Planet now had someone who looked like me in their newsroom. What disappoints me is that she never had a chance to work with Lois Lane, which could have been an opportunity to give her someone to mentor—something we often see Clark doing with other heroes but rarely have seen Lois do with other journalists. Making her the villain presumably takes that possibility off the table, but I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.
The art, as usual, was fantastic. Ryan Sook continues to deliver, and Brad Anderson’s colors make the vibrant city of Metropolis come alive.
Bendis writes a fairly good Clark, but I’m not sold on his Lois, who we haven’t seen since last issue. “Baby” aside, I find it hard to believe that an investigative reporter of her caliber finds solace in holing herself up in a hotel room—in a completely different city, I might add—to write a tell-all book. I also found the identity crisis that Bendis has written her as having to be disingenuous. Other writers, such as Kurt Busiek and Greg Rucka, have proven that Lois Lane is completely comfortable with being the amazing reporter she is as well as being a wife and mother. She has never been forced to choose between one or the other, and the suggestion that she finds it difficult now seems to have come out of left field. Bendis’s reticence to return Lois to her element, The Daily Planet, is equally concerning. These events read as much more plot-driven than character-driven, which presents a rather disjointed narrative.
Additionally, the fact that Jon is in space also allows Bendis to do away with the family narrative that has characterized both Superman titles since Rebirth started, which I find to be unfortunate. Much of the emotional gravitas of the mythos is set to the wayside when Clark’s family are essentially out of these pages and out of his life. Both Lois and Jon ground Clark, and despite Lois’s claims to the latter in the previous issue, their charm is that they are like any other family, but special in that it’s a family of two different but beautifully blended worlds.
The plot of this issue was straightforward, and as I mentioned, I believe Bendis has a good handle on Clark and his dialogue, but without his world, it’s difficult to get excited about the story. The Question makes a cameo, and there was a neat nod to the Fleischer shorts from the 1940s. It was nice to see Clark doing street level journalism, as he has since the beginning of this run, but it would have been so much more effective if we actually saw him working alongside his wife, who is canonically the better journalist. In this day and age, when journalism is more important and more powerful than ever, Bendis has the opportunity to use his platform to exhibit the lives of investigative journalists like Lois Lane. Given his comments in the past about how much respect and appreciation he has for the press, I can only hope that our favorite star reporter returns soon.