Unexplained fires have been destroying buildings all over Metropolis and no one knows who’s behind it. When a small child walks into a local fire department and points the blame at Superman, the Man of Steel is forced to clear his name of an absolutely ridiculous accusation. There’s a new force of evil at work in this city and Superman is completely unaware of how far it reaching.
First of all, let’s give a quick round of applause for DC and Action Comics as this is now the longest running super hero comic of all time. Over one thousand issues is no small feat.
Now, how does issue #1001 stack up? Well, I’m not crazy about the fire storyline as it seems beneath Superman and his abilities. He’s practically a god and he’s chasing down an arsonist? The full extent of this is revealed by the end of the issue and it does bring up some interesting ideas. It’s not quite street level, but it’s something akin to it that could present some nice obstacles for the Man of Steel.
I’ve been critical on writer Brian Michael Bendis‘ run on the character so far. Action Comics #1001 has more of the same quippy dialogue Bendis is known for, although it seems a little out of place here, like Superman shouldn’t be this funny. He’s basically living in an Aaron Sorkin screenplay where everyone can go on and on with the best, most witty dialogue. That lacks the heart that the character has come to represent.
This extends to some sight gags as well. There’s a point where Clark’s only clue is that the guy who set him up was bald, so he goes through a series of mugshots including notable follicly challenged characters such as Lex Luthor, Mr. Freeze, and Brainiac…then you get Dan Didio and Bendis with an eyepatch. This is the writer literally winking at the reader. Come on.
Artist Patrick Gleason has already delivered some incredible work with Peter J. Tomasi over on Superman, so his talents are a welcome addition to Action Comics. He creates the perfect juxtaposition between the Man of Steel and his mild-mannered alter ego. Superman is the epitome of strength and power while Clark Kent, while large, is a slouching, quiet man in a suit. It’s no wonder Lois Lane didn’t know his secret identity for all this time.
The new villain shown at the end of the issue is as impressive as she is creepy. She immediately shows her strength and ruthlessness so I’m very curious as to how she’ll fight Superman down the line. Letterer Josh Reed gives her these demonic word balloons, swirling like clouds of brimstone. This entire sequence is like something out of a horror movie. Colorist Alejandro Sanchez amplifies the tension with some dark reds that work well with the shadows surrounding the other folks in the room.
While Superman appears to be punching below his weight class in Action Comics #1001, there are elements that look to rise to meet him. Bendis presents an organized criminal angle that knows how to play Superman against himself. It’s not hard to figure out how the big blue boy scout will react to certain things in his city. You can’t go out and rob a bank, but there are other ways to get away with crime here.