Comic Review: ‘Action Comics’ #1021

The Man of Steel fights to save Metropolis from total destruction…

Action Comics #1021

Cover art by John Romita Jr (image credit: DC Comics).

Written by:  Brian Michael Bendis / pencils by:  John Romita Jr / inks by:  Klaus Janson / colours by:  Brad Anderson

What’s it about?

“Metropolis Doom!” Conclusion : as Metropolis crumbles, Superman faces-off against a supervillain team-up of seemingly unbeatable proportions – but help is at hand…

In review

A good but by no means great issue of Action Comics, issue #1021 concludes the “Metropolis Doom” arc which began back in issue #1017.  The good is furnished by writer Brian Michael Bendis with an entertaining, if packed, script and solid characterisation whereas the not-so-good is the result of the underwhelming visuals by penciller John Romita Jr.

Brian Michael Bendis produces some challenging stakes for the Man of Steel as he confronts the combined threat of Leviathan, the Invisible Mafia and Lex Luthor’s Legion of Doom.  Luckily, Superman has some help as the Justice League and Young Justice join the fight to save Metropolis from annihilation.  Bendis continues to demonstrate his passion and belief in the values of Superman in a classic take on the character that is both reverential and relevant, bringing strength and hope in a time of bleak crisis.  The support of the likes of Justice League comrades Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash and Green Lantern in addition to Young Justice heroes such as Conner Kent’s Superboy, Impulse and Wondergirl enhances the hopeful and upbeat aspects of the story.  It’s certainly ambitious and epic in scope but can also make thing seem a little overcrowded at times, there are some fun quips from the likes of Flash and Conner Kent in the heat of battle and there’s a lot of strong dialogue for Supes himself, maintaining the determination and morality we’d expect – even when the odds are stacked against our hero.

In terms of adversaries, Leviathan continues to be an intriguing and well-defined antagonist with an idealistic nature and identifiable motivations.  Bendis also continues to develop the increasing threat of the Invisible Mafia and the Red Cloud which has been building since the beginning of his Action Comics tenure, but perhaps it’s time to bring things to a head with Red Cloud/Robinson Goode and seek some resolution to that particular arc.  Once again though, Lex Luthor (in his ‘apex’ form) is the most formidable of opponents and the climactic showdown between Luthor and Superman is suitably tense and richly dialogued.

What really diminishes the quality of this issue – and indeed this arc – is penciller John Romita Jr who’s blocky, cartoonish characters and overuse of linework to accentuate shading is something of an acquired taste (it’s a shame that Romita Jr has maintained this style in recent years as some of his earlier work is actually pretty good).  It’s not totally awful, the visuals are improved by legendary inker Klaus Janson and veteran colourist Brad Anderson and to be fair Romita Jr does help construct some intense action sequences and is able to bring out the emotions of the various players, but it irrefutably pales in comparison to the exemplary work Ivan Reis is doing over on the also Bendis-written Superman.  Fans of John Romita Jr will likely be satisfied but one can only wonder how much more appealing and effective the story could have been if drawn by someone like Jim Lee or Jason Fabok.

The bottom line:  Brian Michael Bendis writes a fairly enjoyable, if overstuffed, issue of Action Comics that’s let down by some unremarkable visuals by penciller John Romita Jr.

Action Comics #1021 is published by DC and is available in print and digital formats now.

Images used herein are utilised for illustrative purposes only and remain the property of the copyright owner(s).

8 thoughts on “Comic Review: ‘Action Comics’ #1021

  1. I’ve not really followed Action Comics, but I’ve heard that threat of Leviathan ect, has been building for a while now. This does sounds a good action packed issue though, shame to hear its let down by John Romita Jr’s art, his work isn’t always that great. As you know I’m not a big fan of Bendis’ run, but I’ve a bit of Superman recently, and the one thing its always scored well on is the art – which has been constantly good. Shame they haven’t done such a good job with Action Comics. Great review, will be interesting to see how the Man of Steel will deal with all the threats he faces.

    • Overall I don’t find Action to be as good as the main Superman book (a big part of that is definitely Ivan Reis) although the “Leviathan Rising” arc was excellent with art by the great Steve Epting.

      Except for some of his older work (like Daredevil: Man Without Fear) I’m not really a fan of John Romita Jr and it really lets this story down… sadly he’s still on the title next issue.

      • I agree, John Romita Jr’s art can vary a lot, its not my favourite style, but his work on Action Comics has been especially weak. It sounds like Bendiis is trying to cram too many plot elements into Action Comics by the sound of it, and it makes it a less satisfying read as a result perhaps?

      • I don’t think so, it was just this issue that was a bit crammed really with incorporating both the Justice League and Young Justice and the various villains. Otherwise, Bendis’s Action Comics is fairly solid (and great, in terms of the “Leviathan Rising” arc) overall but I do prefer the main Superman book.

  2. I’m a big fan if Romita Jr. but I agree his work here feels off for some reason. Maybe it’s the way he draws Superman, but this doesn’t mean the artwork is poor IMO and I can think of other artists who would have submitted inferior art.

    Anyway, this was another great comic book review!

    • Oh I’ve definitely seen art that’s far more inferior, I just find it difficult to take to Romita Jr’s more modern work. I do however like some of his older stuff – Iron Man (from the 80s I think) and Daredevil: Man Without Fear.

      Thanks for checking out the review and appreciate your thoughts!

  3. Excellent review as always, Chris. I’m glad to hear that Leviathan continues to be solid to your eyes and that Bendis knows what he’s doing but man… I didn’t know that Romita Jr has taken over the artwork in this series! Like you, I have not grown to appreciate his style over the past recent years. I feel like I should just revisit his older stuff to fix my tolerance towards his artwork and then check out his ongoing stuff to not be too disappointed by what I see. I have some interesting new releases to be reviewed that you’ll probably be intrigued in though! I look forward to sharing them at some point in the month! 😀

    • I love all the Leviathan stuff – I’ve just recently re-read the “Leviathan Rising” arc (Action Comics volume 2) and in the midst of revisiting “Event Leviathan” now the hardcover is out.

      Yeah, its a shame about Romita Jr – I mean, he comes across as such a nice guy in interviews, but his art is always a big turn off for me. I tolerate it a bit more here as I’m really into Bendis’s Superman/Action Comics runs but it did spoil the arc overall. Unfortunately I see he’s still on the book next issue…

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