Like I said for the previous issue: I haven’t been keeping up with Action Comics the past few months. But since a new arc, “House of Kent,” just started, I figured this was as good a time as any to get back on board. I mean, that’s why comic companies reboot every other month, right? Regardless of numbering nonsense, whether this issue was a #1 or #1000, Bendis’ storytelling is confusing enough on its own.
The delight of Action Comics has been how relatively mundane it’s been under writer Brian Michael Bendis. It doesn’t settle for being the B-grade adventures of Superman, though — it’s been an opportunity to delve more into Clark Kent and the side characters of the Super-verse that might be considered “too small” for the flagship title.
Unfortunately, there’s so much going on in “House of Kent,” this issue can only cram in a few plot points, awkwardly leaving the rest stranded. Remember Connor Kent searching for answers in the previous issue? Remember when young Braniac jumped in from the future? Yeah, that’s pushed aside for awkward Red Cloud antics in #1023.
A baffling creation, Red Cloud doesn’t come across as very intimidating or powerful compared to Superman (much less a baker’s dozen of them gathered from different timelines). So as if to compensate, BMB writes Clark as almost indifferent to the villain. After Red Cloud sort-of, confusingly threatens Lois, Superman bursts in, but doesn’t attack. They talk for a bit, Red Cloud escapes, Superman doesn’t bother to pursue…then Red Cloud comes back, only to leave again. Talk about stiff.
With such convoluted plotting, piles of exposition, and lowered stakes, it’s hard to fully invest or care in, well, anything. The best part of the previous issue was its inquisitive emotional stakes, but those qualities are hiding for now and the impact is noticeable.
Beyond the writing, the art is even tougher to swallow. John Romita Jr. has illustrated, especially with the help of inker Klaus Janson, some of the best comic art of the past several decades. But they’ve also done a lot of recent DC art that appears painfully rushed. Alas, this issue is one of the most blatant examples of shoddy craftsmanship from the duo in years.
Women are indistinguishable from men (especially their faces), faces are unintentionally terrifying and/or inconsistent, poses are silly (Superman’s in particular), backgrounds are skimped on, proportions are off, and there’s overall little depth or dynamism.
Overall, the plot is so overbearing, Brian Michael Bendis has cut off the circulation to his reserves of charm and heart he’s so often capable of pulling off. Action Comics has gotten so frustrating, it’s making me mix my metaphors!