A Criminal Conspiracy Unfolds Under Superman’s Nose In Action Comics #1002

by James Ferguson

A group of criminals are working in secret to pull off all kinds of heists in Metropolis. They’re accomplishing this by outsmarting Superman and keeping him distracted. Even with all his great powers, he can’t be in two places at once. The Guardian tries to step in where the Man of Steel can’t and ends up in a coma for his troubles.

Action Comics is presenting a not-quite-street level villain for Superman. This is interesting because they’re beating back the last son of Krypton with their brains instead of their fists. They know that Superman would crush them like a grape if he got his hands on them, so they’re outhinking him. You know this wouldn’t happen in Gotham, right?
These criminals have thought of everything. They even know what words and names to avoid saying so as not to draw the attention of Superman’s enhanced hearing. He probably monitors the chatter of the city for certain keywords in an effort to stop evil schemes before they happen. These guys found a way around that which has allowed them to create a pretty large operation.

Patrick Gleason’s artwork is always a welcome sight on a Superman book and Action Comics #1002 is no different. He brings a warmth to each of his characters that gives them real depth. You get a glimpse into their lives and what makes them tick, whether it’s a hardened Perry White holding a disappointing headline or a bumbling Clark Kent trying to stay out of the way.
The Guardian’s involvement is a nice touch and speaks to the street-level aspect of the villains. He shows up in a powerful stance that looks so very intimidating. Letterer Josh Reed delivers his dialogue in a strong, booming voice that practically pops off the page. The Guardian is quickly taken off the field, so it seems like he might have been a character on a low enough tier that he could be messed up and no one would really notice or care.

There’s one particular sequence in this comic that feels more than a little weird to me. Superman, arguably the most polite person on the planet that’s not from Canada, abruptly leaves while in mid-conversation with Perry White to go punch some asteroids in outer space. They were not posing any harm to the planet. It looks like he was just letting out some aggression.
While this looked cool, it feels like it was thrown in there to have an action scene. The creative team got that far without our hero punching anything, so they had to shoehorn this in. Digging deeper, it could be showing how Superman is dealing with the stress of his life right now. His family is out in space with no possible way to reach him. Fires are ravaging buildings in his city and he’s being blamed for it. There’s a nosy new reporter at the Daily Planet prying into his personal life.

Although I like this idea in theory, I have to wonder why this is the breaking point for the Man of Steel. He’s used to juggling multiple problems all over the world with his cape on, so why can’t he deal with these issues? Lois and Jon became his rock. Regardless of what crazy things he saw and did while in his costume, he could always come home to them and have some semblance of normalcy. Without them, he’s unbalanced. I wonder if this will lead to a more violent Superman, unchained from his human bonds.
This sequence does have some of the best colors of the issue. Alejandro Sanchez fills the final images with a violent red that intensifies with each powerful blow. It culminates in a gorgeous panel with Superman floating lifelessly in space with the sun shining behind him, casting him in a light so bright you have to squint to look at the page.

I’m still not entirely sold on writer Brian Michael Bendis‘ take on Superman, but Action Comics #1002 is a step in the right direction. It shows the character in a more vulnerable light, beat up by the world around him. The final page raises a ton of questions too, so I’m definitely still on board.
Action Comics #1002 from DC Comics is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

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