Review: Superman: Action Comics Vol. 2: Leviathan Rising hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)


Brian Michael Bendis' Superman: Action Comics Vol. 2: Leviathan Rising is pretty astounding, about the best this title has been in a very, very long time. If you figure that the Superman titles were hitting the skids shortly before the New 52 came about, and then that decline continued (with occasional bright spots) through the New 52, and then the initial Rebirth run gave it a good shot but never ultimately quite came together — then Leviathan Rising's fairly straightforward and unironic use of Clark, Lois, Jimmy, and Perry is about as close to the classic days as we've seen in almost a decade.

Not to mention how well Bendis weaves in a bevy of cameos, making this Super-title feel distinctly on the front lines of the DC Universe (even despite the lead-in to a crossover event), and not to mention that Superman barely raises his fists the whole book, a throwback to Joe Casey's notable run or the "reporter first, superhero second" of ye olde Lois & Clark. For me, it doesn't get much better than what Bendis is channeling here, extended dialogue and weirdo Silver Age-y twists and all. Brian Michael Bendis is the best thing to happen to Superman in years.

[Review contains spoilers]

There will be some, I understand, who'll be unhappy with Bendis' deck-clearing, which now — two or so books in — we see clearly only consisted of removing Lois long enough to send Jon Kent on his way before bringing Lois back. Furthermore, it's a little dizzying to see yet another "return of Lois Lane" issue so soon after the start of the previous Rebirth run also had a "Lois returns after a big absence" storyline. But that established, and Jimmy coaxed out from under Lois' desk, it feels wonderfully like things start rolling again as they once were — Lois and Clark, married partners in superheroics, with Jimmy digging up clues in the background. If you're a fan of Superman 2016, you might feel like something's missing; if you're a fan of Superman 1992-ish, this is the book for you.

And there's a great mix here in a book that treats its characters very seriously and unapologetically, but at the same time isn't afraid to get a little silly. That's evidenced certainly in the banter between Clark, Lois, and the other characters, but also in what is undoubtedly this book's signature set of sequences, the introduction of Clark "Chaz" Kent and Lois "Andi" Lane, agents of SPYRAL. Even before Bendis teases a looney "untold story" of a team-up with an (alt-continuity) Checkmate, one can clearly envision Chaz and Andi on a Silver Age comic cover, with blurbs exhorting the reader to wonder where Superman is. And that's before "terrible actor" Clark comically pretends to be kidnapped by Leviathan, only to (in another old time-y twist) get imprisoned in a Kryptonite vest. Steve Epting delivers great visual comedy, that yawn and such.

In the infinite variations of Clark Kent, I think Bendis has a good one here, which I'd broadly posit as a nice balance between the Clark Kents of John Byrne and Geoff Johns. Byrne's new era Clark was a competent, muscular, and award-winning reporter who dated Cat Grant and wasn't all that objectionable to Lois Lane. Johns' Clark, roundabouts the "New Krypton" era, was the nebbishy Clark of old, where despite being married to Lois it was never quite clear that Clark's failure to fit in was an act.

Bendis' Clark is dumped on by his colleagues but respected at least by his boss, but in his relationship with Lois, we see a clearer intersection of Clark and Superman — that Lois teases him for his bad acting, that indeed he's more tentative in their undercover work than Lois is. Bendis' Clark isn't so awkward as Johns' (which was too much, it seems to me), but neither is he so in control as Superman that we can't see how the two identities can be the same man.

There's enough happening here — between Amanda Waller, Tiger, Director Bones, Huntress, The Question Vic Sage, Adam Strange, and the Guardian, at least — that Bendis resurrecting the Manhunter guise of Marc Andreyko's Kate Spencer goes by almost too quickly. Surely, again, if Bendis had not already given us enough reason to appreciate him — nodding to Greg Rucka's Checkmate, for instance — then actually using Manhunter (where Benjamin Percy, among others, has written Kate but had to sidestep Manhunter) must be the pinnacle. One hopes very much that when all is said and done with the Event Leviathan event, there's some dots to connect — that Bendis brought back Andreyko's Manhunter, that Bendis and Andreyko are former collaborators, that Andreyko is writing the companion Supergirl series to Bendis' Super-titles; surely Andreyko's return to his hard-luck lawyer anti-hero must be in the cards?

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Superman: Action Comics Vol. 2: Leviathan Rising

The worst part about Brian Michael Bendis' Superman: Action Comics Vol. 2: Leviathan Rising — because there is a worst part — is that someone had the sadistic idea to release this book in November, but not to release the Event Leviathan hardcover until next March (the miniseries itself started just a month after these issues). What danger of being spoiled between then and now! Among other things, we've yet to even appreciate Bendis' gutsy start to his Superman: Leviathan Rising special, collected here, with six pages of two villains we don't know all that well just talking. As I credited Christopher Priest's Deathstroke the other day, this too is a thinking person's comic and a Superman story, to boot — thankfully those two things must not be mutually exclusive.

[Includes original and variant covers, cover sketches and line art]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Superman: Action Comics Vol. 2: Leviathan Rising
Author Rating
4.5 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 2 )

  1. Grant Morrison's Action Comics was an instant classic!

    1. Agreed! Morrison was one of those I was thinking of when I added the "occasional bright spots" qualifier. Though Morrison's always seemed a maxi-series within a series, not an ongoing run.


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