Superman seeks out the origins of the fires that have been occurring across Metropolis in Action Comics #1001. Is it good?
Action Comics #1001 begins with a humorous exchange as Superman stops a pair of robbers with ease. Writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Patrick Gleason have an absolute blast with this sequence, as one of the robbers is clearly embarrassed by the actions of his more violent counterpart. Gleason and Bendis capture the ease at which Superman is able to deal with these ordinary threats as he catches bullets while seeming to stand still and speaks with the robbers without resorting to violence himself. The way Bendis frames the conversation makes it clear that Superman is not angry, but disappointed in their actions.
It’s revealed that Superman is after knowledge about the fires that have been raging across Metropolis. Interrogating criminals is only part of his investigation. Bendis does a nice job contrasting Superman’s approach to this type of work with the way you’d expect Batman to handle it. Superman is out in the day, speaking openly and honestly with people and collecting knowledge from them as opposed to gathering evidence in the shadow of night.
Patrick Gleason’s artwork throughout the issue makes for an immersive read. At multiple points, Gleason blurs the backgrounds, giving the art a photographic sense of focus on the characters, which adds to the realism. This extends to his treatment of Superman, as Gleason ensures that Superman’s trunks do read as trunks rather than underwear briefs. Gleason also makes sure that Superman’s physical actions appear effortless. His body is rarely put in a strained position, and even when he is, his facial expression conveys ease. These details not only help convey Superman’s strength and speed, but also provide a nice point of contrast for the scenes in which Superman investigates the fires. The physical work is easy – the challenge is the detective work.
This attention to detail in Gleason’s art extends to the supporting characters. When readers first see Deputy Chief Moore, she’s slumped over on the side of her fire truck, covered in ash. She’s taken aback by Superman’s arrival, and is understandably a bit cautious in discussing the case with the primary suspect. Gleason shows this through her body language – looking down, supporting herself with her hand on her back – readers can see that this is just one more thing on her long day. It’s those details that really make her come alive as a character.
Alejandro Sanchez’s color art is sublime. The backgrounds, even when obfuscated, feel absolutely real, and Sanchez brilliantly keeps the majority of the comic brightly lit in a naturalistic manner, avoiding some of the bright yellows and golds of the sunlight. Sanchez does a beautiful job capturing the details in the faces of the characters; the subtle pink in Clark’s cheeks when Superman is named a suspect of the arsons during a Daily Planet meeting helps to show both his concern and his ability to mask himself.
If there is one place that Action Comics #1001 feels a little rough, it’s in the transition between Clark leaving the office and the final scene in the issue, which introduces the villains. Both scenes are well executed, but the drastic difference in tone between the clandestine meeting of the bad guys and the rest of the issue makes for a bit of an awkward read, as if the audience were suddenly in a different book. After spending the majority of the issue with Superman, it’s jarring to suddenly jump between three different sets of characters right at the end. This may have been intentional, but it comes across more as confusing than intriguing.
Is It Good?
This minor issue aside, Action Comics #1001 does a great job picking up on the loose ends from the Man of Steel mini-series that Superman #1. Brian Michael Bendis clearly has a strong direction for both series, and it’s interesting to see how he explores different aspects of Superman in each book. The artwork by Patrick Gleason and Alejandro Sanchez is superb, capturing the down-to-earth aspects of the Man of Steel.