Action Comics #1002 continues to explore the conflict between a crime syndicate and Superman. At first glance, regular criminals would seem to fall under Superman’s radar, but Brian Michael Bendis has creatively staged the way this war is being waged. Continuing where Action Comics #1001 left off, this issue opens as tourists look up in the sky to see a man travelling through the air. What starts off with some light humor based around the famous “It’s a bird!” gag quickly gets serious as it becomes clear that a man is falling.
From there, the comic quickly turns into an investigation into the man’s death and the allegation that Superman is the one that dropped the man. This of course, is the type of news that grabs the attention of Perry White, who tasks both Miss Goode and Clark Kent with covering the story from different angles.
Brian Michael Bendis and artist Patrick Gleason do a fantastic job with this “ear-to-the-ground” tale. Gleason’s clean linework and brilliant facial work (see Clark’s expression as he gets tackled by a drunk gang member) really sell the smaller beats in the story. If this were a Batman story, one would expect the artwork to be darker, with more gothic imagery, but Gleason and color artist Alejandro Sanchez give Action Comics #1002 a classic film noir aesthetic (see the use of the window blinds in Perry White’s office). Sanchez’s use of rich colors creates a heavier tone for the story without completely losing the vibrancy one expects from a Superman book.
In addition to building the conflict in The Daily Planet’s office, Bendis also gives some background on Red Cloud and Mr. Strong. These are two criminals who originate from Metropolis and resent Superman’s impact on their criminal business. As fans of the character, readers have come to view Superman and Metropolis as permanently intertwined entities, but Bendis uses this to the story’s advantage by acknowledging that there are powerful criminals that predate Superman’s arrival in Metropolis. It gives a unique element to the villains that would otherwise be missing.
Is It Good?
Action Comics #1002 takes Superman out of his larger-than-life comfort zone of interstellar warlords, Lex Luthor, and natural disasters and instead pits him against villains that can’t stand and trade blows with him directly. These are characters who would rather operate in the deep shadows caused by his heroic light and it’s fascinating to read this story as Bendis and Gleason have crafted it. This is a page-turner that hits especially hard with the cliffhanger.