Brian Michael Bendis lets exposition get in the way of real deal heart in Action Comics #1024 (opens in new tab). Unburdened by the Leviathan affair and his ongoing troubles with his secret identity, Superman now fully turns his sights toward the Invisible Mafia. Better still, he has backup in the form of Brainiac 5, Jon Kent, and the newly returned Conner Kent and Supergirl, who makes her return to the 'main titles' here in this issue.
But while this family reunion and the fallout of the Red Cloud's latest attack on Metropolis infrastructure generates great pathos for the title, the exposition Bendis wraps the plot in saps energy away from the forward momentum.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, and Brad Anderson
Lettering by Dave Sharpe
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Artists John Romita Jr, Klaus Janson, and Brad Anderson also lose a bit of pep as well, settling into static expository scenes. Though the trio lay them out in splashy, highly detailed double-pags splashes, none of the scenes really pop as well as they should. Nor are the art team allowed any real set pieces for this newest issue. So while it has heart, Action Comics #1024 gets lost in the plot.
Starting with the good, I feel as if Brian Michael Bendis has a full grip on the Super Family now. Using the full 'House of Kent' (also the name for this arc), Bendis bounces each hero off of each other nicely. Supergirl, returning to Earth after her extended solo title sojourn in space, just adds to the nicety, providing both Clark and Jon (and Conner a bit) a new, infectiously energetic foil for this issue.
This reunion also provides the issue it's best moment; Superman learning of the death of his human ally Deputy Fire Chief Melody Moore, one of the few longrunning original co-stars Bendis introduced for his 'Invisible Mafia' story (opens in new tab). The scene itself is just a small one, with the Kents and Kara learning of the chief's death in real-time, after being attacked by the Red Cloud. But the quiet intensity Bendis brings to the scene, as well as the silent pain that Romita, Janson, and Anderson detail Superman in, really elevates it above the more nakedly expository scenes.
And speaking of which, these are the true failings of Action Comics #1024. Starting with essentially a recap of the last several months of Action and what people might have missed from Event Leviathan, Bendis packs the opening scenes with scads of dialogue. Most of these scenes are basically just watching a telephone conversation, one between the enigmatic Whisper and another while Melody Moore is being interviewed by another news outlet. While an effective way to deliver exposition, seeing the scenes back to back robs them of their import which is taken away further as the script shifts to the Daily Planet and more exposition. This time in a more open-air setting.
The drag of the exposition also, unfortunately, extends to the artwork as well. Though, as I said, the trio attempt to jazz it up a bit by spreading it across double-page splashes (like Whisper's monitor dominated hideout and the main bullpen of The Daily Planet) it doesn't do much to pep up the issue.
It is also far more noticeable when compared to the scenes of the Kent family reacting to the news of Moore's death. This scene in particular I feel is a wonderful example of how emotive and quietly powerful Romita can be when truly activated. Janson's thick inks and Anderson's sunny colors hone the edges of the pencils, fully selling Clark's anguish and anger at the news as well as the rest of the family's reactions as well. Unfortunately, none of this detail is offered to the splashes, making them look drab and lifeless compared to the major heart of this particular scene, which is then compounded by Bendis' font of exposition that flows through these sequences.
Though it has real heart and keen visual edge in parts, Action Comics #1024 gets tripped up by its own over-explained story threads. Should Bendis and company start to move away from that and cultivate more of the emotions of the Kent Family, then Action Comics could see a real upswing, but for now, #1024 does a lot more telling and not enough feeling.