In Action Comics #1022, on sale June 2, writer Brian Michael Bendis’ secondary Superman series is back in a big way. This week’s issue launches an investigation that will drastically shift the status quo, both for Clark Kent’s world and the greater universe. Bendis strongly hooks the reader by planting the seeds for a massive inquiry into the temporal tampering that has affected the DCU since DC Rebirth.
Action Comics #1022
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: John Romita Jr.
Inker: Danny Miki
Color Artist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
“Who made you, Conner?” Superman asks his newfound ally, Conner Kent. The Man of Steel quickly asks this seemingly straightforward question on one of the issue’s opening pages. Readers already know that Conner is a hybrid clone of Superman and Lex Luthor. But Bendis complicates this knowledge as he adds in a curveball: Conner thinks he’s from an alternate version of Superman’s Earth. Naturally, this uncertainty leads Superman to seek out the DCU’s greatest intellects, from Mr. Terrific and Will Magnus to The Blue Beetle and Batman.
Seeing this impressive meeting of the minds is one of the highlights of the issue. At times, in either of Bendis’ Superman books, the writer doesn’t fully capitalize on the massive toolbox at his disposal; aside from occasional cameos and plugs for his Wonder Comics series, Bendis tends to work within Superman’s world. But here, in an encouraging change of pace, he brings in several fan-favorite characters. Though it’s only the first issue of a new arc, Bendis’ willingness to utilize other heroes is promising.
The dramatic meeting at the Hall of Justice is as can’t miss as it gets. Mr. Terrific and Ray Palmer scan Conner, desperately trying to figure out where he’s from. Penciler John Romita Jr. shows the technological might of the Justice League, as the gadgets they use are state of the art, if not beyond the real world’s capabilities. The beginning of this investigation shows that these heroes are already on the case. Will Magnus calls it a lead in their inquiry into the universe’s reboot, which terrifies Mr. Terrific, who’s alarmed by the potential ramifications of their digging. This meeting offers a preview of a stark ideological clash between Mr. Terrific and Superman.
Mr. Terrific and most of his peers are concerned about the universal reboot; they’ve been analyzing the effects of recent crises on their reality. Meanwhile, as always, Superman is optimistic to a fault. “The universe will do what it has to,” he says. “We’re all alive and well. There’s a lot of delightful news to unpack here.” In a world where the reboot ripped Wally West’s family way from him, that’s an excessively naive thing to say. Given the Man of Steel’s central role in Doomsday Clock, Bendis could be preparing a long-term journey for the hero, who will have to confront and change this passive view of the universe in order to battle its new puppeteer, Doctor Manhattan.
As it turns out, Conner’s appearance is an investigative lead, which takes Superman and his allies to Smallville. There, Romita and color artist Brad Anderson juxtapose the warm, inviting Smallville countryside with the cold, detached laboratory seen in the Hall of Justice. The grass is beautifully green, there’s not a cloud in the bright blue sky and you can practically smell the corn in the air of Romita’s landscape. It’s the perfect place for a reunion between Superman, his son, Jonathan, and Conner. Ma and Pa Kent are happy to see their boys, but the mood slightly sours when Superman feels left out of a startling realization. Romita shows the Last Son of Krypton turning his back away from his family, as the frustrated hero questions his place in the Conner-centered mystery. Unlike Barry Allen and Wally, Superman has no recollection of Conner. Bendis clearly suggests that Manhattan’s manipulation is even more complicated than we first thought, and we’ll have to wait and see the full scope of his involvement.
The intrigue surrounding DC Rebirth continues to unfold, even after Doomsday Clock wrapped up. Whether or not Action Comics #1022 actually leads to a substantive progression remains to be seen. But at least one thing is certain: Bendis hooks the reader with a compelling opening to this investigation, which could kick this series into high gear.
What’d you think of Action Comics #1022? What do you think will happen next?