SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Action Comics #1001 by Brian Michael Bendis, Patrick Gleason, Alejandro Sanchez and Josh Reed, on sale now.
How does a city like Metropolis even have crime? Sure there’s your Luthors, your Parasites, your Toymen and Pranksters, but regular man-on-the-street crime? You’d think they’d all move to Gotham or Bludhaven or something. That’s not the case, however, as Metropolis has, and will always have, a thriving criminal underworld, usually in the form of Intergang; Darkseid’s own personal mafia who flood Metropolis with Apokoliptian technology capable of stopping even Superman in his tracks.
However, this week’s issue of Action Comics — Brian Michael Bendis’ first full issue on the iconic title — gives us our first look at the so-called invisible mafia operating in Superman’s home, right under his nose. The issue introduces us to the people responsible for committing crimes under the Man of Steel’s nose, how they get away with it, the man responsible for running the Metropolis crime families, what they have planned next and their secret weapon; a new villain capable of going toe-to-toe with Superman himself.
Before the issue gets around to showing how the criminals of Metropolis operate, it sets a standard by following some of the criminals who aren’t doing things the smart way via a group of armed robbers attempting to steal a safe from Lex Luthor’s tower. The scene allows Bendis to have a little fun with Superman and the robbers, but also highlights the ridiculousness of trying to stop Superman. One of the crooks chides his cohort for resorting to gunfire and seems more embarrassed than anything else that his cousin would even attempt to stop the Man of Steel with such conventional means.
On the other hand, later in the issue, we see that there’s a dedicated network of criminals with sophisticated means to keep track of Superman and operate a complex organized crime cabal right under his nose. A man named Whisper surveils Superman at all times, allowing the criminals to keep track of where Superman is in relation to Metropolis with a giant bank of monitors that would make Batman or Ozymandias jealous. This menagerie of monitors allowing him to inform his bosses where in the world Superman is and when it’s safe for them to meet, plan and commit crimes.
Overseen by a crime boss by the name of Mister Strong, the criminal leaders of Metropolis meet at his mansion inside a giant lead tube completely imperceptible to Superman’s super-senses. There seems to be five underbosses, although we only get the names of two — Lettuce and Yogurt. Yogurt has been busy setting fires to keep Superman distracted. He’s also the one who floated Superman’s name as a potential suspect, compromising the hero’s relationship and involvement with the investigation.
However, the rest of the group isn’t happy with Yogurt’s plan, which is far less sophisticated and high-tech than the rest of the operation’s usual methods to evade Superman. The crook meets his fate as a cloud of red gas appears from nowhere and suffocates Yogurt from the inside out, shocking his fellow underbosses and sending a message to them that doing anything which might put them on Superman’s radar is an instant death sentence. That’s because the red gas isn’t just deadly — it’s sentient and the newest member of their crew.