Updated: Aug 27, 2019
If you’ve followed our channel for any amount of time, or been following me on Instagram (@fireguyryan!), there’s a good chance you’re aware that I’m a major fan of writer Brian Michael Bendis. I discovered him very early on in my comic-reading career through Ultimate Spider-Man. This series had such an impact on me that when my good friend John held a video contest asking “which series would you recommend for younger readers,” I made a video explaining my reasoning for picking Ultimate Spider-Man.
But I’m not here to talk about Ultimate Spider-Man, that was just my gateway into the world of Brian Michael Bendis, who at the time (mid-2000s) was in the middle of his incredible career at Marvel Comics. Apart from helping create the new-reader-friendly, continuity-free Marvel Ultimate Universe - alongside creators like Mark Millar, Mark Bagley, and Bryan Hitch - Bendis was responsible for writing many of Marvel’s most important books, including Daredevil, Jessica Jones, X-Men, Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Moon Knight, and Iron Man, as well as writing such major 2000s events as House of M, Secret War, Secret Invasion, and Siege. To say he had a heavy hand in shaping the Marvel universe as it stands today is an understatement.
But to my surprise (and excitement!), Bendis announced in late 2017 that he would be cutting ties with Marvel Comics and working for DC Comics, starting with one of the stories in the landmark Action Comics #1,000 and taking over writing duties for Action Comics moving forward, as well as Superman.
Being the Bendis fanboy that I am, as well as a fan of the Big Blue Boy Scout, I was very much on board with this decision. When both series debuted their number one issues in July 2018, I took them home and devoured them. I was almost immediately disappointed with Superman. The art is terrific; Ivan Reis has been one of my favorite artists since his work on Green Lantern with Geoff Johns, and his depictions of Superman battling aliens in space are just as captivating as anything he did for Green Lantern, or his illustrations for the New 52 Aquaman run.
My problems with the Superman series are twofold: it’s heavily influenced by the preceding run by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason (two creators I enjoy, incidentally, based on their New 52 Batman & Robin run) and the continuity is thick. You will be a little lost if you aren’t familiar with the previous run. My second problem is more personal: I just don’t care as much for “large-scale” Superman stories. The first arc of Bendis’s Superman run involves Superman battling with the villain who destroyed Krypton. It takes place mostly in outer space, involving massive, destructive fights that nobody but Superman could even hope to have a chance in. To me, that’s boring. That’s barely more involved than a typical Dragonball Z storyline. But then I opened Action Comics.
I didn’t learn this until recently, but Brian Michael Bendis got his start writing indie crime comics, such as Goldfish and Jinx. Crime also just so happens to be one of my favorite storytelling genres (The Godfather has been my favorite movie since I was thirteen years old!). So when I discovered that Action Comics was a mix of Superman and organized crime, I was ecstatic.
The first story arc is called “Invisible Mafia” and deals with a group of criminals operating right under Superman’s nose in Metropolis. The police are finding the bodies of various organized crime figures around the city, and signs point to the Red Cloud, a new villain that nobody can pin down. The story is more about Clark Kent and his job as a reporter at the Daily Planet than it is about Superman flying through space and punching planets.
It’s easy to hate on Superman for being “too strong,” “too boring,” “too goody-goody,” and so on. Action Comics and Brian Michael Bendis seem to be addressing these critiques head-on by crafting a mystery that requires the brains of Clark Kent more than the laser-vision of Superman. It’s this focus on the lesser-explored aspects of Superman’s character that make Action Comics one of the series that finds its way toward the top of my reading pile every month. Even if you don’t like Superman (maybe especially if you don’t like Superman), you should give this series a shot and see if the fresh perspective makes you change your mind.
Thanks for making it this far in my blog post! It means a lot. Hopefully I haven’t bored you to death yet. If I have...my condolences to your friends and family.
-Fire Guy Ryan
Fire Guy Ryan (sometimes just known as Normal Ryan) is one of the co-hosts on the ComicTom101 YouTube channel (and podcast!). When he's not reading comics or talking about them with his friends Tom, Russ, Jeff and Eryn, he's most likely working his graveyard job at the hotel in Seattle or sleeping in the daytime, and those are the two reasons he's probably not answering you right now. He's a lover of storytelling - film and television in particular - and every now and then he tries writing his own screenplay. He totally didn't write this blurb about himself either.