Writer Brian Michael Bendis has written one of the best runs of ACTION COMICS in recent memory. Part of that has been his take on classic characters, but it’s also been his unique additions to the Superman mythos. ACTION COMICS #1010 explores one of those additions: Lois and Clark’s secret identities as Agents of Spyral!

Leviathan Wreaks Havoc in ACTION COMICS #1010

This issue opens with Director Bones of the DEO being interviewed by Kate Spencer, also known as Manhunter. After a little back and forth, Bones figures out what it all is: a Royal Flush. The elimination of every major figure of every major espionage and surveillance agency of the DCU. He also realizes that Kate is not Kate, but the mastermind behind the attacks. The assailant seemingly finishes off Bones and walks away, her disguise disappearing to reveal Talia Al Ghul.

ACTION COMICS #1010 then segues into Lois and Clark, disguised as “Andi” and “Chaz” respectively. They arrive in London and talk a little about their adventures in these identities (including a great fake page detailing a past adventure with Nemesis). Lois pokes at Clark a bit for being uneasy with an undercover identity, as she’s much more used to going undercover on assignment (more on this later). Lois and Clark have left Amanda Waller and Jimmy Olsen in the care of Kelex back at the Fortress of Solitude.

ACTION COMICS #1010
ACTION COMICS #1010 Page 1. Courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Standoff in London

As Chaz and Andi make their rendezvous, there’s tension between them and their Spyral contact, Tiger. Tiger is skeptical of Chaz, as they’ve been looking for him for a year with no sign. Chaz insists that they called him in and he wants to get to the bottom of the Royal Flush. That tidbit about the Flush raises Tiger’s suspicions. Tiger begins to explain to Chaz that Spyral and Leviathan were created by the same person and that it was an elaborate shell game (Tiger is referencing to revelations made in BATMAN INCORPORATED, and the character Otto Netz).

Their détente is interrupted when Chaz notices that someone is approaching, and it’s not just any someone. The mysterious hulking figure happens to be glowing in blue energy. Similar to the ones that assaulted the DEO, Waller, and Sam Lane, he approaches the Spyral safehouse. Chaz tells Andi to stay with Tiger and then reveals himself to be Superman. He takes the figure into space, where it explodes. Superman returns to the safehouse; to find out what he sees, check out ACTION COMICS #1010!

Bendis Does It Again… and It’s Good AND Bad

I have personally enjoyed Brian Michael Bendis’ run on ACTION COMICS immensely. As someone who has read Superman comics every month non-stop since 1997, I have a fairly good handle on the character. Bendis has done an excellent job with Kal-El and his supporting cast, except for one key, vital aspect that is starting to bother me: his secret identity.

Time after time, Bendis has had Clark be very flippant with his dual life. Most notably in ACTION COMICS #1004, when Superman dives out of nowhere to pick Lois up and take her away. It made national news and the Daily Planet’s gossip reporter even hammered Clark on it. I thought it was a plot point Bendis was going to address, and he may still, but I find Superman’s characterization in ACTION COMICS #1010 to be egregiously off.

ACTION COMICS #1010
ACTION COMICS #1010 Page 2. Courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Superman Knows How to Keep a Secret… Right?

Kal-El has been trained by his parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent, since childhood to hide his powers and abilities above all. Due to that careful upbringing, Kal-El knows the value of a secret identity and knows how to maintain one. The entire charm of Christopher Reeve’s performance in SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE is the fact that he differentiates his Clark and Superman so much. With all of that said, undercover work should not make Kal-El uncomfortable; he’s done it his whole life! And he’s good at it. Kal-El doesn’t dramatically kiss his wife in public as Superman, like he did in ACTION COMICS #1004. Similarly, he doesn’t blow his identity in front of a renowned super-spy as he did in this issue. He would tell them to hide and then run outside before ripping his shirt open.

It’s incredibly frustrating to see either Bendis make an obvious mistake or Superman being deliberately careless. I’m not sure Brian Michael Bendis is making a mistake. He’s an experienced comic book writer who has written ground-breaking works and created entire universes. His writing on this series has been so tight, I’d rather think this has to be leading somewhere. All of that aside, this storyline with Leviathan taking over is very exciting and could potentially pull in the Justice League. I also really enjoyed the tidbit with Chaz and Andi’s origin, and I hope Bendis will somehow play with that more. I would love to see the alternate adventures of Lois and Clark more often.

Epting Delivers Excellent Art in ACTION COMICS #1010

Artist Steve Epting and colorist Brad Anderson have become one of my favorite Superman art teams in a short period of time. Since ACTION COMICS #1010 was an espionage-based issue, Epting’s dark moody art fit perfectly. Epting doesn’t just rely on shadows to tell the story, he fully fleshes out each panel, giving loads of detail on every page. Every bookshelf is full of books, and London is full of brick buildings, cars, and people. The amount of detail and attention Epting pays is amazing; he is truly one of the great artists working in comics today.

Brad Anderson‘s colors accentuate Epting’s work, providing the depth of color when needed. The Fortress of Solitude scene most notably contrasts with the dark nighttime streets of London. For a book mostly set at nighttime, Anderson manages to make the book as colorful as possible. He does a lot with that restriction on his palette.

What’s Leviathan’s Next Move?

Now that Superman has thwarted Leviathan’s attack on Spyral, how will they react? Will Talia attack Superman directly? What about Tiger and Lois? Or General Lane? As Leviathan rises, the safety of everyone they’re targeting is most definitely in question. ACTION COMICS is one of the most entertaining books out there, and I’m eagerly looking forward to what Bendis and Epting have in store for us!

ACTION COMICS #1010 by Brian Michael Bendis, Steve Epting, and Brad Anderson
Art
Characterization
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Summary
Bendis and Epting deliver an excellent, fast-paced story with ACTION COMICS #1010! Bendis' writing is great, although the fact that Clark keeps disregarding his secret identity is troublesome. Epting's art is terrific and incredibly detailed. One of the best teams in comics right now.
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