January 19, 2022

Gabbing Geek

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Comic Review: Action Comics Volume 1

What kind of organized crime pops up in a city with a Superman? The invisible kind, of course.

So, longtime Marvel scribe Brian Michael Bendis is working for DC these days, and on, of all things, Superman no less.  Does he have anything all that interesting to say, particularly to someone like myself who more or less burnt out on Bendis’s work ages ago?

Maybe.  I opted to try the first volume in his Action Comics run, subtitled Invisible Mafia.

Superman is on his own.  His son Jon and wife Lois are, as far as he knows, touring the universe with his father Jor-El.  That’s a bit of a problem for Clark Kent because everyone wants to know where Lois is and automatically assumes the worst about their marriage.

They needn’t bother there.  Lois is still hanging around, and she does have a reason to be away from Clark for the time being.  They aren’t breaking up, but I’d leave it to the individual reader to decide if Lois’s reasoning for being away from Clark constitute a good reason or not.  For me, it made a certain amount of sense while still feeling like a silly reason.

But the big thing in this trade is the Invisible Mafia.  Bendis often puts organized crime elements into his superhero stories, but this one raises an interesting question:  how does organized crime operate in a city with a Superman?  They do so by being very, very discreet, operating under the silliest of codenames, meeting in lead-lined chambers, never saying certain words out loud that are likely to get Superman’s attention, and limiting meetings to time when they know Superman is out of town.  And with their new superhuman enforcer Red Cloud, they may have a meta that can, if not defeat Superman, at least be too difficult for the Man of Steel to really defeat.

There’s also an interesting idea here that superheroes investigating more “normal” crimes can taint investigations.  I don’t know if Bendis is going anywhere with that or if it’s just something people say to get Superman to back off, but that’s an interesting idea.

So, the bottom line is, I actually somewhat like Bendis’s take on Superman.  This is a guy who will make a smiling “shush” action when he goes to change in an alleyway and sees a boy reading a comic book before he flies away, or will offer all his enemies a chance to surrender gracefully and be a better person than they currently are, knowing they won’t because they mistake his empathy for weakness.  I’m not completely sold on this creator on this character yet, but it’s a good start.

8 out of 10 unsurprising Red Cloud identities.

Yeah, learning who Red Cloud really is wasn’t all that shocking given everything that came before the reveal.

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