Brian Michael Bendis’ tenure with Superman comes to a sweet, if a bit busy conclusion in Action Comics #1028. Poised as the final bow on the hanging plot threads of the returned Conner Kent, the ownership of The Daily Planet, and the power vacuum left by the House of Kent’s takedown of Metropolis’ Invisible Mafia, Action Comics #1028 has a great deal of ground to cover.
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
And Brian Micheal Bendis’ script rarely is allowed time to breathe, pinging Clark, Jon, Kara, and Conner from scene to scene, neatly, but sweetly wrapping up each plot in hyperverbal vignettes, given a blocky, stonily emotive look from John Romita Jr, Klaus Janson, and Brad Anderson. While the speed of the issue somewhat clashes with the finale vibe of the issue and the artwork slightly muddles it’s cast, Action Comics #1028 provides a fun, flighty final story for the "Bendis Is Coming!" Era of Action Comics.
We open in trademark Bendis media res. Perry White has just been made aware of the Olsen Family Fortune and subsequent buying of The Daily Planet. Like most things in the Bendis era of Action Comics, the idea is solid, but the execution leaves something to be desired. Effectively walking Perry (and the audience) through the larger beats of Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber’s Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, Bendis and the art team render the page in a single six-panel grid page - essentially a monologue from Jimmy, Bendis, and the art team. The final result is a sweet, but largely kinda wooden sequence in which Romita Jr delivers a basically static run of faces from Jimmy while Bendis delivers just a bunch of set-up for a fairly middling, but still vaguely sweet punchline (Jimmy only wants a cubicle, despite now being basically everyone’s jobs).
The other two still unresolved plots, Conner Kent’s tangibility on Earth-Prime and the post-House of Kent state of Metropolis, are given a bit more consideration and room to move on the page. But not by much, unfortunately. After the scene at the Planet offices, Action Comics #1028 rarely stops moving from there, bouncing from the Hall of Justice to Kent Farm to the whole of Metropolis in the mere span of panels.
Some of the scripting choices here are very strong. Things like Clark’s decision to allow Conner the use of Kent Farm has his new home in order to reacclimate himself to his new status quo (complete with shoutouts to previous Action Comics and Superboy runs in which Conner was also positioned at Kent Farm). And also the issue’s final beat, which finds Clark and Jon just "taking the afternoon" and rushing back and forth to various city-bound emergencies and crimes in the wake of the Invisible Mafia’s fall. But while moments of the issue stands out, it all moves too fast to really coalesce as a single issue.
Action Comics #1028 preview
Unfortunately further still, the classic looking artwork of John Romita Jr. keeps it all from truly shining as a finale. Though handsomely colored by Brad Anderson and given a keen definition in the linework by inker Klaus Janson, it is with the models of Romita where the issue falters. Mainly because under the pens of Romita it is truly hard to tell apart the models of Clark and Jon. Sometimes even with the same panel, despite their different costumes. The only time the two are easily told apart is when they share panels with other heroes or Lois Lane, but only for the sake of their differences in height. It is a frustrating turn, and one that saps away some of the goodwill JRJR garnered during some of the more kinetic moments of 'The House of Kent' arc.
So, though graced with a few shining moments and imbued with Bendis’ own clear love for the title, Action Comics #1028 feels somewhat hollow overall as a finale. Had it been graced with one of Bendis’ trademark artwork jam sessions or had a more focused central story, the story might have been different. But as Perry White even says in the issue "these are today’s stories. We need tomorrow’s stories". Action Comics #1028 sets up those stories at the cost of a single issue experience; a somewhat lacking, but decent enough final bow for the Bendis era of Action Comics.
This is also the end of the John Romita Jr. era of Action Comics. How does he rank for you as a Superman artist? Check out our list of the best Superman artists of all time.