Superman: Leviathan Rising #1 – Brian Michael Bendis, Greg Rucka, Matt Fraction, Marc Andreyko, Writers; Yanick Paquette, Mike Perkins, Steve Lieber, Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreira, Artists; Nathan Fairbairn, Paul Mounts, FCO Plascencia, Colorists
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Cautiously Optimistic
Ray: With Event Leviathan launching next month and taking over the DCU as the shadowy spy agency makes their move against the world’s heroes, Superman: Leviathan Rising #1, a mega-sized one-shot that has stories from the main Super-books – plus the upcoming solo series for Lois and Jimmy – coming together into a compelling and tense spy thriller that delivers in excitement but has some odd tone issues throughout.
Like most of Bendis’ Action Comics, it reads like a good comic but maybe not a great Superman comic. The first segment, with art by Yanick Paquette, is an enjoyably meta segment involving the mysterious Leviathan meeting with crime lord Leone as she breaks down to him why most moves on Superman fail. We haven’t seen Leone in a while since she met with Red Cloud, but she’s an interesting figure – a kingpin no one sees coming. I wonder why master villain Leviathan would immediately go for Lois if it’s as dumb a plan as Leone lays out, though. The plot to kidnap Clark Kent is a fun twist, and Clark’s decision to go along with it sets up an exciting second segment.
That’s where the art shifts to Mike Perkins, as Clark gets “ambushed” by the goons waiting in his apartment and maybe pretends to be in pain a little too hard. Soon he’s waking up in the secret lair of Talia Al Ghul, the head of Leviathan – or is she? But the story takes a dark twist when Talia sets Clark up with a Kryptonite vest to kill Superman when he arrives to rescue him – but is actually going to kill Clark, unbeknownst to her. That’s where Lois takes over, and we get our first taste of what Greg Rucka’s Lois Lane comic is going to be like. This is vintage Rucka noir, although I question if this is at all the Lois Lane we’ve seen over the last few years. This hard-edged investigator who stares down Batman with no problem is MY Lois Lane, certainly, but it feels like much like Bendis just did his own thing, so is Rucka. Rucka is one of the few writers to handle all three members of the Trinity in their solo series, so this team-up is easily one of the best parts of the issue.
Corrina: I like stories that center on Clark as a reporter and reference his need to get the story, which tends to go along with his curiosity as Superman. So many writers forget that and Bendis has through most of his run. But not here.
But, first, let’s talk about that opening segment. It’s meant to have a lot of weight and it feels like Leviathan (or its agent) is there to build up Leone, who is a Bendis creation. I’m not entirely buying that Leone’s organization has been built completely under Superman’s nose. (Not just Superman but also Clark Kent, too.)
And I still feel uncomfortable that Bendis has created two new female black characters and made them out and out murderers. It remains to be seen what his Amanda Waller will be like, given how badly she’s been used in Suicide Squad. I hope for an improvement to shades of gray, rather than the utter mess she’s been in that comic.
As we switch to Clark’s kidnapping, the story improves. Clark’s plan is a little bit too smart, yes? Though there is one big plot hole: if it’s too dangerous to kidnap Lois Lane, why is kidnapping her husband less likely to draw Superman’s attention? Or Lois’ attention, if they’re worried about that? I hope the answer is that they know Clark is Superman, which would make this a clever plan. But, in any case, it’s a good showcase for Clark in his civilian guise and Lois Lane. (Finally, she says.)
Ray: The third segment is where we get some real mood whiplash, as Clark is still chained to his death-vest and we cut over to Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber’s Jimmy Olsen story, which kicks off with him waking up in Gorilla City next to a mysterious woman he apparently just married. They’re both equally confused, but Jimmy becomes more so when his new wife Jix reveals she’s an interdimensional bandit on this world to rob Gorilla City, and her costume looks like something out of a sex dungeon. A bizarre cutaway to the time Superman and Jimmy were trapped in a cartoon world and a slapstick incident involving a stray cat tearing Jimmy’s clothes apart is pretty typical to this segment. At least, it seems so – until the cat’s identity is revealed and this segment takes a wide turn left into the most bizarre and funny story I’ve read in a while. I’m not sure if this will be for everyone and I think a year of this might wear thin, but Fraction cutting loose is something to behold.
Corrina: This is bizarre and nutty. It doesn’t quite fit in this event book. But this Jimmy Olsen series by Fraction should be a blast. I was thinking it reminded me of the insane Superman Family issues where Jimmy ended up investigating Cadmus which, for some reason, had created an army of Olsen clones. Jimmy’s partner in that adventure was Roy Harper, who was investigating his uncle, Jim Harper, the Guardian.
The Guardian’s costume is also referenced in this issue.
Which makes me wonder if Roy Harper has anything to do with any of this. Of course, he’s dead right now. But this is comics and that could change.
Ray: The fourth segment focuses on Supergirl as she returns from Earth to find just how much has changed since she went off to chase Rogol Zaar. The DEO and the Danvers apartment are no more, and in flashbacks we see Jeremiah and Eliza surviving the destruction of the base and dealing with the aftermath. While Jeremiah is horrified by the carnage, Eliza is more cynical, viewing the DEO’s sins as the root cause of this chaos. Their different perspectives seemingly lead to the end of their marriage and leave them scattered as Kara returns. This segment is probably the thinnest of the issue, mostly setting up how Kara’s going to be involved in the overall story, but I got a little thrill out of just seeing Manhunter show up in an Andreyko comic book story again. I hope he picks up right where he left off with her.
Corrina: Manhunter was good but this story was full of “everything you know about these people–Jeremiah and Eliza–is wrong,” hardly my favorite trope. I suspect Eliza’s joined Leviathan because she wants changes. Or something. If that’s the case, I mourn Kara losing her foster family. It’s been all downhill emotionally for the Girl of Steel since Kandor was destroyed.
Ray: Then it’s back to Clark to end the issue, as he gets an unlikely savior – Leviathan himself, as the masked villain shows up and releases him from his death vest. Does Leviathan know his identity? It seems like it, but he’s not giving any answers, and Clark trying to conduct an interview while minutes away from dying was one of the funniest parts of this issue.
After a bizarre rescue that pulls together characters from all the previous segments, we get a major power play from Leviathan, a possible new alliance between heroes and villains, and two of Bendis’ original villains forming their own cabal to oppose Leviathan. This is a really ambitious first issue, but you know what? Almost everything works, and it makes me much more excited for Event Leviathan than I was before this giant-sized issue. Mission accomplished for everyone involved.
Corrina: Again, I’m always down for Clark as a reporter, even while he’s dying. I’m firmly in the camp that Leviathan knows that Clark is Superman.
Pacing-wise, I’m glad we’ve gotten past the “rescue Clark” portion of the event. But it seems like half of this story has happened already. Leviathan has taken out various international spy agencies, they’ve manipulated Superman, and their endgame seems to be control of all espionage sources. Which they already kinda have.
I admit being curious about the back half of the story.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.