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Action Comics #1010 review: Agents of Spyral

Director Bones! Spyral! Leviathan!

Brian Michael Bendis
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“I have purpose.”

Leviathan’s slow ascent continues as Event Leviathan draws ever closer, with Action Comics being the essential buildup. Emerging from Brian Michael Bendis’ initial conversations with Dan Didio, the entire espionage world is building to a key moment where things change for good. The DC Universe is populated with a massive array of espionage organizations which all operate to do a lot of similar things and few remain distinct enough to justify the clutter at points. While all of them have their distinct appeals, it’s undeniable that in practice many are almost interchangeable in their narrative usage, with some key exceptions, of course. Want an organization that handles metahuman related incidents? Why, there’s A.R.G.U.S., there’s D.E.O., there’s Checkmate, there’s Cadmus and even more. What makes them all strikingly different? It hasn’t been displayed, at least not yet.

And so now A.R.G.U.S. and D.E.O. are both gone, as is Kobra on the villainous end. And someone’s behind it all, clearing up the clutter, restructuring, reorganizing and reshaping the DC espionage world. Someone’s seen the issue and means to fix it to change the world. But who is it? That’s the question.

Leviathan is the name of the new foe, we’ve even gotten a glimpse at their Doctor Doom-esque visage, cast in pure crimson. And Leviathan seems to have a presence everywhere. His unstoppable Destroyer-esque machine of death is one instrument, but there’s evidently many more. The entire conceit of secrets, shadows, darkness and death is emphasized quite beautifully and brutally by the art team of Steve Epting and Brad Anderson. The former continues to do stellar work, framing small conversations in dynamic fashion and nailing the subtle shifts in power, emotion, expression and more. The story being told necessitates a certain elasticity and versatility in the artist, whether it be a subdued, creepy smirk or a scene of cosmic action on massive double page spreads. Epting is able to pull off all that with relative ease and he has Anderson as his partner-in-crime to help.

Anderson bathes the book in blacks and blues, leaving room for the more brighter shades to fit in as well. This isn’t a “gritty and real” book — it’s emotionally grounded, but it’s still about the DC Universe with a talking skull man for a spy master and Superman in disguise as a bearded British super-spy named Chaz. That’s not a world that you limit with your palette, you accommodate for all of its wondrous possibilities while maintaining a distinct visual identity that balances various elements while fitting the narrative. And that’s precisely what Anderson does, with his choices almost always elevating and enhancing the moments of bright color in the book via sheer contrast. One of the fun choices Epting makes is in how he colors The Leviathan Destroyer, which is a deep black, surpassing the shade of virtually anything else in the book. It almost looks like the absence of light altogether, being the impossibly rich black it is. And Epting’s depiction of it as this massive hulking figure is eternally a delight, with the Thor Destroyer commonality being the cherry on top.

The issue also follows through on the last issue of the Chaz and Andi Donen reveal to showcase Lois and Clark undercover. They’re still very much the loving, close couple we love we’ve always known, performing roles in very careful ways to make things work. Bendis and Epting even establish a long sense of continuity here for the two characters, flashing back to the mid 2000s Greg Rucka and Grant Morrison DC espionage world era. Even the story title buried in there is a glorious delight, though the moment suffers from a crucial error. Kathy Kane, the original ’60s Batwoman, revamped under Grant Morrison, is the Head of Spyral. But in the moment shown in the issue, Kate Kane, the new Rucka spin on the ’60s character, Batwoman, is instead shown as the head. They’re two entirely different characters, one much more benevolent and heroic than the other. And they look vastly different too, with Spyral’s Kathy not sharing Kate’s pale look and red hair.

Apart from that error, the issue remains a joy. Josh Reed returns back to the book after an issue off and fits right in perfectly. It’s fairly obvious that Bendis and Reed are having a blast, with a laugh out moment in the issue being crafted between Chaz, Andi and their Spyral contact, who is none other than Tony, The Tiger King of Kandahar. The Grayson character is a fun and much needed addition to any big DC espionage story like this and he does serve to speak to some of the ideas Bendis is striving to hit. Spyral was built on the premise is mistrusting superheroes, which is a faulty premise and thus doesn’t last long term in the DCU, Leviathan was formed by the same creator, the man behind Spyral, so that the former could face the latter when they weren’t busy with caped crusaders. Thus you have a circular loop, an Ouroboros, agents being pit against one another in meaningless conflicts, the futility of which is now evident to Tiger. The reveal in regards to the nature of these groups came ages ago, but Tiger only knows now, which makes for fun progression. In the end, Spyral must go, too. And to an extent, so must Leviathan, unless it evolves. And from the look of things, it seems to have.On the other end of things, Epting and Bendis’s Jimmy Olsen remains standout, bugging Amanda Waller for humor’s sake, whilst dropping huge revelations in a matter-of-fact fashion. Their Olsen is almost a chilled out Tintin or perhaps a man who pretends to be chill in lieu of a nervous breakdown. In any case, the often underestimated, underutilized journalist is as good as ever and it is a joy to see. And if his instinct about Waller being Leviathan proves true, a lot may change very quickly. That holds great implications.

Action Comics #1010 continues the ramp up to Event Leviathan while telling a satisfying tale of spies, skeletal men and teleporting robots. Bendis, Epting, Anderson and Reed are very much a special team and it shows consistently. Things haven’t been this exciting for the DC Spy world since Grayson and Midnighter came to a close.

Action Comics #1010
Is it good?
Bendis, Epting, Anderson and Reed continue to kill it as a team building a thrilling espionage epic full of skeletal men, sci-fi destroyers and a Chaz Superman. What's not to love?
The DC Spyworld is changing and the changes ahead are very, very exciting
Chaz and Andi are fantastic and the way they're integrated into Clark and Lois' long journalistic pasts is fun
Epting and Anderson continue to be a terrific duo, creating one of the most gorgeous big two titles out there
It's great to have Reed back again, he was missed and nails Bendis's dialogue better than anyone
This take on Jimmy is an absolute delight. Bendis and Epting's Waller's a lot of fun as well
The sense of humor the book has, despite the global stakes, is perfect and never breaks tone. It elevates the material. The team is clearly having fun here.
The Kate/Kathy Kane error is one that really needs to be corrected. They're vastly different characters with key roles and shouldn't be conflated
9
Great
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