Criminal Conspiracy in Metropolis
As the Invisible Mafia arc continues, we realize that this criminal conspiracy in Metropolis goes way deeper than anyone could have ever expected. How can the Man of Steel protect Metropolis and the people who reside there if he can’t even see the threat right in front of his face?
As Clark Kent covers a press conference held by the mayor of Metropolis, he begins to question why the mayor has shut down the fire department’s investigation into the mysterious fires that have been plaguing the city since Action Comics 1000. Rather than directly answer the question, the mayor resorts to blaming superheroes for contaminating crime scenes. He then takes it a step further by calling into question the marriage between Clark and Lois (a constant topic since Lois was photographed at a hotel with Lex Luthor of all people. No. She isn’t cheating on Clark). As Clark listens while the mayor’s car drives off, he hears him mention the new fire chief, Melody Moore, and how much he’s had enough of her. After going back to the Daily Planet for a bit to check in on work, Superman springs into action.
On the other side of the city, Chief Moore is leaving the fire station when she is attacked by the Red Cloud, the newest addition to Superman’s rogues gallery (she’s literally a sentient cloud who just so happens to take the human form of Robinson Goode and works at the Daily Planet). As Red Cloud surrounds Moore to kill her, Superman is able to remove Moore from the fight and engaged Cloud. However, you can’t fight a cloud, so Superman settles for a peace offering. He tells Cloud that the gift she has is an incredible one and should be used better. He asks for her help in bringing down whatever conspiracy she is a part of. Red Cloud says nothing and dissipates into the night. She retreats to meet with who we learn is behind this conspiracy: a woman named Leone. She explains that after growing up in the worst part of Metropolis, she did whatever she had to do to make herself into someone important, but then Superman showed up and changed everything. She then reveals what could turn out to be the first step in a much larger plan: she has bought the Daily Planet. As this revelation is dropped on the reader, the final image we see in this issue is a green car with the front smashed in. At a glance, one would assume it is just like any other wrecked car, but then any longtime Superman fan would be hit with maybe the best Easter egg in comic history. That green car is the same car featured on the cover of Action Comics issue 1. The image that made the first impression of Superman to the world can now be considered canon to the mainstream DC universe.
To be perfectly clear, this arc has struggled to hold my attention. The fires have been raging with no end in sight, we had no information on this criminal conspiracy and Superman is fighting a cloud. However now, everything seems to be falling into place. This slow burn of a story seems to have been in place for one reason: to set up something much bigger for Superman to face. Now we know that this threat has been building since Superman first showed his face in Metropolis. Not only has Leone and her people been here the entire time, she has the car from one of the most iconic moments in the history of comic books. If they have that, what else are they hiding? It’s clear that the mayor is in the pocket of these criminals, but how deep does it go? Are other city officials in on it too? This whole thing just got a lot more interesting.
While I may not regard this as my favorite Superman story so far, I have to give credit to Bendis for the most important part of a Superman book: Superman himself. There have been so many times in the past when Superman was written as if he was another character, but not here. That’s not to say there can’t be different interpretations of how the Man of Steel acts, but so far this Superman just feels right. Even in the face of his wife and son leaving temporarily, a massive and expanding criminal conspiracy, fires tearing through the city and the Red Cloud bringing him to his knees in the last issue, Superman still has time to smile at a child in an alley before he flies off. Something about how he is written feels like the classic prototype for Superman but with modern issues underneath. Take for example a few issues ago when everyone found out that Lois had met with Luthor. The reader could see the pain on Clark’s face at the thought of his beloved wife with his mortal enemy, but that didn’t stop him from putting aside his own issues to save others. To me, that’s what Superman should be. He’s the guy that no matter what problem he has going on, you can count on him to put on the brave face and be…well…Superman.
Overall, while the arc is by no means my favorite, Bendis does such a great job with Superman that it’s hard not to enjoy at least a little bit. Add in some amazing art with these beautiful colors, and you have a recipe for a good book. My only hope is that all this setting up will lead into something truly special.