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Action Comics #1011 review: Hunters and Guardians

Secrets of Spyral! Manhunter! And Leviathan!

Brian Michael Bendis
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The DEO. Gone. ARGUS. Gone. Kobra. Gone. Cadmus. Gone. Spyral. Gone.

A shadow has fallen over the DC Universe and time is running out. Everywhere one turns for answers, a single murmur: “Leviathan.” Every clue and hint pointing in the direction of this ancient organization and yet few seem to know anything for certain, if at all. And at the center of it all, one mysterious individual. Someone that has adopted the name of this organization, someone who prefers to operate in utmost secrecy, avoiding any and all confrontation, relying on disguising technology, utilizing distraction tactics and other careful maneuvers. Thus far, they’ve approached Barbara Gordon and Oliver Queen, amongst the heroic community (in the pages of Maleev, Bendis and Reed’s short story for Year Of The Villain!) and they’re making big plays. Wiping out the espionage agencies, both good and bad, in a single day, while trying to recruit heroes to their cause, they’ve clearly got a design in mind.

And thus the question, the one that’s about to echo through the entirety of the DC Universe fairly soon: Who is Leviathan? They clearly have ties to the espionage community in some fashion and boast a skillset that many spies have, operating in strict secrecy, making quick work and trying to turn any potential targets, all the while utilizing disguises to go about their business. The previous installment of the story saw them do this with Kate Spencer’s identity, where in they infiltrated the safety of DEO Chief Director Bones and killed him. And thus, as one might expect, in this issue, Spencer receives the blame for that which she did not do. A crew of special cops come after her, led by Maggie Sawyer, leading to Kate inevitably having to take them down to flee for her safety.

In a lot of ways, this is the culmination of a lot of the mystery threads that have been building in the book, which is to be expected, given this is the final issue of the arc, leading into next week’s Leviathan Rising 80-page special (featuring the talents of Greg Rucka and Matt Fraction, among others) which then sets the stage for DC’s event of the year, Event Leviathan. But before we get there, there’s clearly a lot of work to be done and that’s what this issue does, bringing each little thread together to set up a larger picture that’s going to be dug into. Picking up where the last issue left off, Superman and Lois reunite, with Lois having broken her cover with Tiger during Superman’s duel with the mysterious mech-behemoth and gotten vital intel, digging deep into Spyral and the world of espionage. With the power couple back together again, Lois begins to prep her article covering all the intel, only for Perry to ask for a second source to ensure the veracity of what Lois has been given. From there on, the creative team brings Huntress into the picture, playing off her past as a Spyral agent to get confirmation. Clearly the creative team has Grayson fans.

Meanwhile, Leviathan, whoever they may be, approaches Guardian, who we saw get injured in the very first arc of the run, Invisible Mafia and asks him to join their cause. Letting him know of all the societies that have fallen, they speak of how when dawn breaks, when the night is over, change awaits. Real change, the kind that heroes like Guardian have been forever hunting. For Leviathan is, as they claim, no enemy to heroes, as they very well may be one of the heroes themselves, someone we know. Teasing that there have been others who’ve already joined the mission, Leviathan makes big promises. The art team of Steve Epting and Brad Anderson particularly nail this exchange, steeping everything in blacks and perfect darkness, visualizing the nature of the story and setting the tone appropriately. They’ve done that this entire arc, perfectly balancing the light and darkness in key moments, from cosmic clashes full of gleaming blues and Kirby Krackle to vibrant reds and oranges, but it’s always worth discussing, as the approach blends spy fiction and superhero flair to stunning effect.

On the heroic end, Clark and Lois’s return to the Fortress yields some interesting results. Amanda Waller’s escaped, having beaten up Jimmy after him inquiring her being a part of this entire mess, which casts great suspicion on her, but most importantly, our heroes get to some detective work. Leviathan could’ve taken out the actual people funding or aiding the espionage groups, in the government or otherwise, but they didn’t. They solely went after the spies and the terrorists, the groups themselves and most importantly, they made them all vanish in blue energy. There were no bodies whatsoever. Meaning, you cannot assume death. Given Leviathan’s teases and hinted motives, it makes sense that they didn’t all die instantly and were instant warped away elsewhere to serve the machinations of the antagonist. A good number may have been turned, convinced and shifted alliances and causes too. All remains in the dark, as the night grows longer, with the morning promising something massive.

Bendis and Reed as a combo really work here, with the latter continuing to marry the efforts of the former with that of Epting and Anderson. Epting’s Superman is a gloriously classic rendition, with a Jerry Ordway-esque sensibility that’s perfectly contemporary while feeling timeless at the same time and with Bendis’ voice for the character, the iteration of the hero feels as true and well handled as any one might come across in an ongoing. Using the backdrop of spies and spy fiction, the book cuts to the core of Superman’s core facets, secrets and secret identities in a context and belief system that espouses truth above all else. That fundamental contrast, that almost crazy divide and contradiction that makes total sense for the hero, they’re intrinsic to the character. So this approach, throwing him straight into a spy thriller that is about truth, in a world full of secrets and secret identities, as playing across the wider context of the DC Universe? It not only makes total sense but is inspired.

Action Comics #1011 is a solid conclusion to the arc thus far, although much less of a proper conclusion and a more tie-up leading straight into a summer event and its prelude. It’s definitely the best issue of the run, however, paced a lot better than the issues prior and packing in a lot more to bring the threads together for what’s set to arrive soon. From teases like Elongated Man’s arrest to plenty more, the issue is loaded with intrigue and questions, as the DCU descends into unexpected territory in this one night, with dawn bringing about terrifying change.

Is it good?
Action continues to be an effective blend of spy fiction & superhero flair, exploring truth in a context of secrecy and secret identities across the wider canvas of the DCU
Being the culmination issue, it's definitely the most packed issue in the arc and it's paced the best so far
'Truth' explored in this context of superspies and the larger DCU canvas of secrets and secret identities is really interesting
Leviathan makes for a compelling enough antagonist and the motives, while mysterious, certainly draw instance
Epting's work is as good as ever, paired perfectly with Bendis' voice and Anderson's colors
While this is the best issue, the conclusion is very much an event-lead in and in general, the arc could've been paced slightly better
9
Great
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