Action Comics #1022
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller: John Romita Jr
Inker: Danny Miki
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Action Comics has been a completely different title than the other self-titled “Superman” book. Action Comics has focused mostly on The Daily Planet, The Red Mist, Leviathan, and not Superboy (Conner Kent). This title has always been a bit dense and overwhelming at times. This issue trims some of this away by leaving the Leviathan plot thread behind. The Red Mist has recently beaten Superman and even had a chance to kill him, but spared his life. Conner Kent has finally introduced himself to Superman and their complicated and confusing history (and continuity) is being addressed. It seems like this issue starts to bring these disparate threads together in a meaningful way.
There is no “action” to speak of in this issue of Action Comics, as it focuses on explanation and some fairly interesting reveals. The issue is split into thirds. The main story, and the bulk of the issue, deal with Conner Kent. Superman doesn’t understand where he came from, or how he even has the “Kent” last name. When he learns that Conner Kent was raised by his parents (check out old 90s Superboy comics, that have been wiped from continuity, for the backstory here) he does not understand how this could be possible. Making things a little more complicated is that the “current” Superboy, Johnathan Kent, returns from the 31st century with Brainiac 5. The meeting of the Superboys shows off how strange this new continuity is and provides for some fun moments (Johnathan Kent feels that Conner is much cooler than himself). This culminates in Superman bringing Conner to his parents to see if they remember him, and this leads to a fairly interesting twist in the story. The other parts of the comic deal with The Red Mist and The Daily Planet. The Daily Planet continues to struggle with the idea that they have Superman on payroll, and have been recently outed as being bankrolled by a criminal organization. Perry White decides to continue reporting the news and supporting investigative journalism until they are shut down. The Red Mist is answering to her boss about the reasons for not killing Superman. She deflects this by suggesting it was because she did not want to do Lex Luthor’s bidding instead of having any real mercy for Superman. It is in this exchange the reader learns that they come from an alternate Earth. Combining this knowledge with the fact that Superboy’s story also deals with alternate timelines and the multiverse, it seems that these two storylines might come together. Overall, this is one dense comic packed with story.
Usually, when I am summarizing the “story” of the comic I can do it in a few sentences. As you just read, A LOT is going on here. Yet somehow, I found this to be the most engaging issue of Action Comics in a long time. The Superboy story is compelling and interesting, especially since I am a fan of the character. Also, DC has always done best when they allow themselves to get a bit meta with their multiverse and continuity. One of the big shames of modern comics has been the erasure of legacy superheroes and sidekicks. Having Conner Kent come back has been a breath of fresh air. Bendis seems to understand the character, and even created some fun moments between the two Superboys. The entire interaction between Ma and Pa Kent and Conner was heartwarming and a reminder of what made the 90s Superboy title so much fun. I hope this is leading to a fun reintroduction of timelines and some universe hopping. The Red Mist has also now finally become compelling. Learning that she is also from an alternate universe has to be tied to Superboy’s story, and thus gives it more meaning. I know that this issue might not be for everyone but if you are a fan of Conner Kent and the multiverse you will have fun here. It is also an example of Bendis’ wordiness serving the story in a meaningful way. He can go deep in the weeds with explanation but this is an example of it being necessary and interesting. Also leaving Leviathan behind has made the book far more approachable and worth reading, as it was always the weak link in the Action Comics story.
John Romita Jr returns on art, and I have to say this is the best-drawn issue, of his, to date. It may be the new inker, Danny Miki, or it could be the subject matter here. There is not a bunch of action or multiple things for JRJR to juggle here (and thankfully no Gorillas for him to draw) so he can focus on a select number of characters. Everything is far more clean and dynamic than they have been in past issues. Superman, Superboy, and The Red Mist just look better than he has ever drawn. This is the JRJR I have been a fan of in the past. It is a return to form and a reminder of why he is a continuously popular artist.