08th May2019

‘Superman: Action Comics Vol.1 – Invisible Mafia’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Written by Brian Michael Bendis | Art by Ryan Sook, Patrick Gleason, Yanick Paquette, Wade Von Grawbadger | Published by DC Comics | Format: Hardcover, 160pp


The devastating repercussions from the Man of Steel graphic novel still reverberate as Metropolis enters a new age as The Daily Planet teeters on the brink of disaster; and a new criminal element has made its way onto the streets of Superman’s hometown.

Superman: Action Comics Vol.1 – Invisible Mafia is the first volume in the new Brian Michael Bendis era of Action Comics, having taken over the title following his debut with the Man of Steel mini-series. As he did with the Marvel Universe, Bendis’ role at DC was clear – revitalise Superman and make him relevant in the pages Action Comics in much the same way he did the Avengers.

That revitalisation of Marvel, in particular with New Avengers, is actually what got me back into comics as a whole. Taking apart the Marvel universe with House of M and Avengers Disassembled, Bendis rebuilt Marvel’s avenging heroes as more of a street-smart team rather than the “clean-cut” heroes they had been: bringing Spider-Man, Wolverine, Clint Barton (as Ronin/Hawkeye) and Doctor Strange into the fold along with Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Woman and Luke Cage. This combination of heroes made for a more interesting, sometimes chaotic, book. And a book that, honestly, was probably the blueprint or what the Marvel Cinematic Universe became given that Bendis was the driving force behind the original Civil War story, the idea of a Superhero Registration Act; and he was also was the architect behind the Ultimate Comics line – another faction of Marvel comics which directly influence the billion-dollar MCU.

Of course when Bendis made the jump from the House of Ideas to their rivals DC it turned out to be both shocking and exciting in equal measure. Personally I was concerned that not even Bendis could bring Superman back from the brink of mediocrity – after all Superman, written incorrectly, is a bland uninteresting hero. One whose moral compass is as much a hinderance as it is a help. That concern was swiftly set aside after the first collection of Bendis’ Superman writing, The Man of Steel, hit stores. That book was filled with everything I loved about Bendis’ previous work: intrigue, action, happiness, sadness, and plenty of heart. But that was one book. I had to wonder if and/or how could Bendis keep up such great storytelling in the pages of Action Comics?

Well. It turns out he took a leaf from his New Avengers work.

This first collection of Bendis’ Action Comics run picks up where Man of Steel left off. Lois is gone, leaving Clark/Superman alone to continue to investigate the spate of fires hitting Metropolis and why Superman has been named as a suspect by a so-called witness. Turns out that witness, a  young boy, was paid to say he say Superman do it by one member of s brand-new criminal underground that is trying to take over Metropolis. And it is THAT team of underground villains is where Bendis’ prior workand influence clearly shows through…

This book takes Superman’s villains to the street-level in much the same way he did with the Marvel heroes in New Avengers. He also makes these villains smart. Like Norman Osborn in New Avengers smart. They meet in a lead tube so Superman can’t see them, they never mention him by name in case he hears them and they avoid any kind of keywords that might raise suspicion. Though these guys aren’t ALL smart – after all, one of them is responsible for all the fires AND for trying to pin them on Supes… Bendis also introduces some new villains into the mix, in particular Red Cloud the titular invisible mafia’s heavy, who – like Superman – has a secret identity.

In an interesting twist Bendis also brings back Lois but not to Clark/Superman’s side. Instead she stays in her own apartment, far away from the main story (in fact she’s not re-introduced until halfway through this book) in what is an obvious attempt to change the marital normalcy of previous Superman writers. Yes, whilst the pair are still married, Bendis has successfully managed to split the couple AND send their son into outer space! It will be interesting to see how long this new status quo will last… Speaking of status quo, the biggest challenge to Superman/Clark Kent is left to the closing pages of Superman: Action Comics Vol.1, as Red Cloud meets with the head of Leviathan, who reveals she has bought the Daily Planet. Oh, and then there’s THAT final page. The chilling appearance of one of THE most iconic symbols in Superman’s (more particularly Action Comics‘) history. A throwback over 80s years in the making that has me more than eager to see where this tale is headed!

So it would seem Brian Michael Bendis has worked his magic once again. I really enjoyed his work on Man Of Steel and his work here even moreso.. In fact not since the Death of Superman storyline have I been so excited to read more Superman – a character whose rich and storied history has never previously done any for this comics fan; and that’s got to stand for something.

**** 4/5

Superman: Action Comics Vol.1 – Invisible Mafia collects issues #1001-1006 of Action Comics and is available to buy now.


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