THIS WEEK: In Action Comics #1028, writer Brian Michael Bendis wraps up a run on the Superman comics that spanned more than 50 issues and several titles, while elsewhere the DC Universe barrels toward its next era.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller: John Romita, Jr.
Inker: Klaus Janson
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
I should start by noting that I came into writer Brian Michael Bendis’ Superman run in 2018 sharing some concerns that were going around the Comics Internet at the time. Would he undo the Superfamily? Would he sideline Jon Kent and Lois Lane? These were questions I was hearing constantly, and I must admit, I started to ask them myself. See, the preceding run — primarily masterminded by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason — had gone all in on Superman as a dad, telling a series of very safe stories predicated on that concept. Maybe a little too safe, but that’s a topic for another column.
Anyway, some folks on the Comics Internet have certainly continued to complain (shocking!) about this run, which wraps now with this issue, having spanned 50+ comics across two titles and a mini event (more if you count Supergirl, Legion of Superheroes, Naomi, and Young Justice). I respectfully submit, however, that family has been the heart of the Bendis run, playing out in a more nuanced and interesting way than previous Superman comics that have hit readers over the head with it.
Indeed, in this week’s Action Comics #1028, Bendis and his collaborators — John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson, Brad Anderson, and Dave Sharpe — serve up a satisfying conclusion that reminds us family was the point of these stories all along. And it’s not just Superman’s nuclear family of Jon and Lois. This issue starts with the Daily Planet, with a scene drawn from the conclusion to Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber’s superlative Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen. Jimmy Olsen has come into money (his family is the same as Lex Luthor’s…go read that book!), and he’s using it to buy the Planet…because he loves working there so much. This scene is genuinely funny, but beneath the surface humor we’re reminded the Daily Planet newsroom is one of Superman’s families, replete as it is with long relationships, some friendly, others more fraught. But that’s family!
From there, we’re off on a jaunt through the skies of Metropolis, as our cast of characters touch on several of the ideas and plot threads introduced throughout the Bendis run, putting a bow on some while reminding us others are still out there, waiting to eventually be resolved, be it by the next Superman team or by Bendis himself as he goes on to write Justice League next year. Within this, Action Comics #1028 is a finale both hilarious and sweet, deftly reminding us of where we’ve been and the big beats we’ve moved past. It’s self-referential at times — Lois Lane defends her typos, a problem Bendis is said to be notorious for — and it’s also lightly antagonistic of some of the loudest complaints online — a rando on the street yells out that Jon Kent should only ever team-up with Robin.
The biggest strength of this run was evident again in this finale, which is that Bendis writes one hell of a Superman. His take on the character embodies all the ideals of the core concept. Bendis has said often he was inspired to take on this property by a visit to a Superman exhibit at the Cleveland Public Library, an exhibit in a city where both Superman and Bendis have roots. Perhaps it was this experience that sparked Bendis take on the character, which I think is undeniably strong even if you don’t like the story concepts Superman is navigating.
The Superman in this run is good-natured, he’s a little playful, he’s enamored both with his mighty power set and with the impact it has on people, but he’s never arrogant about it. He’s unwaveringly loyal, be it to his fellow heroes or simply to good people on the street he’s just met. He’s fully-aware of the responsibility he shoulders, rarely unsure of what his duty is or how it should be done. Bendis from the start has written Superman as a dynamic and well-formed figure, yet still a source of wonder, conveying that often by the reactions of the people who watch his heroics. It’s that impressed take on the character that I’ll miss most now that we’ve finished this run.
- This was kind of a light week, with the holiday on the way and DC Comics very much focused on the future of its line, rather than ongoing storylines. So many of the issues were finales for runs or fill-in story arcs. Within that, I thought Batman Superman #15 was charming and delightful, as the book has been for most of writer Joshua Williamson’s time on the title. Detective Comics #1033 also featured an election outcome that seems likely to be part of Gotham City’s status quo moving forward. Both of those books are worth checking out, the former being a nice standalone story and the latter a good run-capper.
- The other big release this week was the tie-in one-shot, Dark Nights – Death Metal: Secret Origin, which follows what Superboy Prime is up to during this current event story. This book is for the long-time DC Comics readers, filled as it is with years of continuity that come to bear on what’s happening presently. The other notable thing about this one is there’s a meta rant that essentially lambasts the event it takes place within, calling the Batman Who Laughs “some lame Batman wannabe” as Superboy Prime laments, “I feel like I’ve already read this story, but I understood it better.” Ouch, but I guess that’s what makes him one of the villains here? Anyway, this is a good-looking comic from start to finish, brought to life by a list of great artists that includes Jerry Ordway, Francis Manapul, Ryan Benjamin, and more.
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