Action Comics #1025
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller: John Romita Jr
Inker: Klaus Janson
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Brain Michael Bendis will be finished with Superman this December. So, it is only natural, he spends the time tying up loose ends in his run. Going back to the start of his DC career, he introduced The Red Mist and the shadow organization she was working with. This “Invisible Mafia” is the driving force of this comic, and it seems they have been working behind the scenes even during an arc like the Leviathan Event. However, now Superman is not alone taking on this organization. He now has both Superboys (his son and his clone), Supergirl (his cousin), and Brainiac 5 (from the Legion of Superheroes of the 31st Century). This confrontation is not just affecting Superman but his life as Clark Kent as well. The Daily Planet was a tool for The Invisible Mafia (The Red Mist secretly worked there) and the entire organization is now under an FBI investigation. Basically, nothing is going well for the title hero and this issue is a confrontation on all fronts.
Right off the bat, this comic introduces some new ideas for The Invisible Mafia. There is now some direct references to the multiverse and this shadowy organization is clearly from an alternate Earth/timeline. The Superman Family even faces a force from a parallel Earth (their version of Parasite) that is under the control of The Invisible Mafia. The comic also touches on the FBI and their investigation into the Daily Planet. Beyond it is a fairly quick read (aside from one part to be touched on later), that pulls back the curtain more on the force driving Action Comics since The Bendis “reboot.”
This comic takes one step forward and then takes one step back. Much like Bendis’ run in general, it is full of good ideas mixed with very strange choices. In the end you get another mediocre comic. For example, the comic opens with a flashback to members of The Invisible Mafia and their origins. This is where the reader learns they come from a different Earth. This hook Bendis has created is interesting, dynamic, and really effective storytelling. He can get so many ideas through in just a few pages. Then the book goes to a double page splash of the Superman Family, and it is filled with narration boxes. All this narration is dry and just recaps everything that has led up to this point. If I’m honest reading, those two pages seemed much longer than the rest of the book combined. This duality of Bendis’ style is so apparent here. He can show us he has great idea, and great characters, but can squander it all with his overly wordy writing style. A good comic should not have to explain the previous 25 issues, it should stand alone (even in the middle of an arc) and make the reader want to find the older issues. It is a waste of space and storytelling. But Bendis has some fun ideas again with his alternate Earth Parasite. This villain is a cross between Parasite and Doomsday (at least thematically) and it is a great imposing force in the comic. Also, because the antagonist is a force of nature, it allows Bendis to just plot some action, and give the reader a much-needed break from the heavy dialogue and narration. This back and forth makes this book seem like a great comic and a poor comic has been stitched together, which is a fairly adept analogy for Bendis’ Superman run.
John Romita Jr. is honestly not as bad here. In fact, I would argue, some of the work here is great. I still don’t think he is the best match for a Superman title (his style just doesn’t jive with the content), but this is the best he has done so far. Give JRJR a big bad villain to draw, and you can tell he starts having fun. The action sequences really pop in this book. There is a reason he feels more at home on a Spider-Man title with a cast of costumed heroes and colorful villains. So having something more akin to that, than problems at the Daily Planet, just helps this book look better. The art is still not perfect, but it is not the ugly mess his work can be when he is mismatched on a title.