“You can turn this around…I know you can.”
Ryan Sook and Brian Michael Bendis’ collaboration has been one of the great joys of the past year in comics. Teaming up originally during the Man of Steel mini-series, the pair hit the ground running, proving to be a perfect match for one another’s strengths. While the former will be moving on from Action to another special project with Bendis after this issue, especially due to how well they worked on this title, their collaboration is one with spectacular results. Factor in Brad Anderson’s magnificent color palette and Josh Reed’s thoughtful lettering and you’ve got what is easily one of the beautiful books coming out in the entire market on every level. This is a team that really strengthens one another and works seamlessly, giving off the impression that they’ve always done so despite the recency of this team up.
#1006 is the final issue of the current Invisible Mafia arc, before the book delves into the espionage realms of Leviathan and the various DC spy organizations. And as such, it bears the responsibility of satisfyingly bringing this tale to a momentary close, as the story’s far from over. In a lot of ways, the arc thus far has set the table for explosive events and payoffs down the road, with readers being introduced to a whole slew of new concepts and being re-familiarized with older ones.
The opening is really a succinct encapsulation of all the wondrous charm and passion at the heart of the book. We see everything from Hal Jordan’s cute cursive signature with a heart to impossible Martian sex footage, trunks rankings, Kamandi mentions and even a tease for a Greg Rucka Lois Lane project. This is clearly a creative team that’s enjoying the project as much as any reader, as the feverish grin of excitement that went into producing the work is palpable on the page. From there we’re given a bit more to the mysterious Hopkins, the Mayor of Metropolis. He’s a character we met in a previous issue and here we get to see Clark question him briefly about his comments to Melody Moore, the deputy fire chief, in regards to the fires. Letterer Josh Reed delivers brilliantly here, as we’re shown the distant anxious muttering of the Mayor in his car as he’s being driven away. He’s shaken by Clark’s inquiry and Reed depicts Hopkins’ distant rambles with lovely white bubbles with a series of yellow lines surrounding them, giving the reader a sense of the ringing, echoing words Clark must feel. And that’s what’s remarkable about the team’s clever approach to the book and character: they do not disregard the vast prowess and iconic status of Clark and manage to humanize him and place the reader in his shoes perfectly, providing a relevant and resonant interpretation of the hero. Sook’s beautiful, nuanced depiction of Clark, from every slight grin to movement is hugely important in this regard, as even on this page, we see his expressions shift and change in key ways as certain situations present themselves.There’s also a gorgeous page with Clark changing into Superman with a boy watching on and it’s, once again, a fantastic display of the team’s grasp of Big Blue and the fundamental appeal he has. The way Anderson colors every little element, from the trees in Metropolis to the management of lighting, the red streak of Superman flying and the shadow effects of the young boy watching, is marvelous and it makes for an immersive read with a reality that you believe exists. This is a Metropolis with texture, a setting with a distinct look and voice and nowhere is it better reflected than in this page with the hero and the boy. This is what Superman’s city is, at its heart, at its best.
Following that, Sook also provides readers with one of the most visually stunning and challenging spreads of the Daily Planet to date, nailing the perspective and utilizing a precise layout that really makes it work. Once more, Reed and Anderson work their magic here, as with every page. Jimmy Olsen’s in this page, briefly setting up the Leviathan arc to follow with his connection to Talia Al Ghul and mention of A.R.G.U.S, but the book keeps its focus strong as we then get to the next pivotal moment in the book.
After how shaken the Mayor was, the Mafia’s enforcer, Red Cloud arrives at Melody Moore’s doorstep, nearly killing her. Superman arrives just in time and with his super-breath, consistently holds her off, succeeding where he’d failed the last time against the foe. This is a Superman who’s been here for ages; he’s seen it all, done it all and he conducts himself with a certain weight and confidence that radiates warmth and assurance. Offering Red Cloud a chance to tell her story, that no matter what, he’ll help her, Superman displays his incredible well-spring of compassion, while also making it clear that it is not to be mistaken for weakness. It’s a particularly powerful moment, as the words strike with impact and Red Cloud leaves and Superman embraces Moore to comfort her. There’s a gentleness to Bendis and Sook’s Superman that feels just right and he’s very much a father figure, which is at the heart of this take. It’s really remarkable how much nuance the team has managed to pack into the character, building a complex character that feels like he’s a natural product of his rich, vast history spanning the ages. Every classic element feels re-energized and fresh in the hands of the team, as even the rendition of the super-breath, with Reed’s lettering is incredibly dynamic and stylish. It’s classic yet contemporary, which may be the best way to describe this lens on Superman.
From there, we’re finally given the big boss, the mastermind, behind The Invisible Mafia. It’s a woman going by the name of Leone, who began poor in the Suicide Slums and is now here. Bearing a golden moon pendant (a fun choice to juxtapose Superman, given his solar symbolism), she talks of her vast resources, the many slew of scientists and others she has working for her. Sitting down with Robinson Goode, she talks about the hardship of having to accept Superman’s presence in her city. It’s at this point that they discuss a new plan, one that will help them go back into the shadows to do good business as they once used to be able to. The book then cuts to a big double page spread, with Leone revealing she’s bought the Daily Planet and is the much-teased new owner. But beyond that big truth, the big focus of the spread of an old retro, green car that’s been smashed up in the front and damaged. And what could it be but the car from 1938’s Action Comics #1? Bendis, Sook, Anderson and Reed have brought things back full circle for this arc celebrating Big Blue and DC’s history past a thousand issues across a multitude of decades. It’s a fitting choice and it’s nothing short of the biggest of reveals one could hope for. History is coming, the things discarded or forgotten, the things one isn’t even aware exist and thus the issue concludes, teasing things to come.
Action Comics #1006 is another joyous and intriguing addition to the current ongoing Superman saga, which not only concludes the arc in a stellar fashion, but provides fresh elements as a standalone reading experience. This is a book with vision, one with a deep sense for its history and grand legacy. Bendis, Sook, Anderson and Reed clearly have a lot to say about Superman and his world and they’re doing it in impeccable fashion. This character-specific crime saga has places to take us and this is merely just the starting point.