Brian Michael Bendis laid out his template for taking over the Superman franchise in The Man of Steel, following which it splits into two strands, this and the material collected as Superman Vol. 1: The Unity Saga.

While the cosmic stories occur in the other title, this deals with plots that focus on Metropolis, Clark Kent and the Daily Planet newspaper. One matter introduced in The Man of Steel is rapidly cleared up. It isn’t Superman who’s been starting fires all over Metropolis. You probably realised that anyway. However, it’s not the only crime he’s being fingered for. Bendis turns the spotlight away from the good guys long enough to let readers in on some of what’s happening and who’s responsible, introducing an ingenious way of ensuring the optimum time to go about criminal business in Metropolis.

Starting artist Patrick Gleason’s pages are slightly more stylised than the work of Ivan Reis on the companion series, but he’s also talented, pouring the seediness into the bar Clark investigates, and equally expansive on the Superman sightings. Yanick Paquette’s single chapter is more naturalistic, and so is the art of Ryan Sook on the final three chapters (sample art). He tells the story efficiently, and as good as the other artists are, Sook’s people have greater personality, which is down to the expressions on their faces and the way he poses them. He also provides notable clarity to a complex scene of Superman using his x-vision.

As might be expected given his past record, Bendis is strong on personality supplied by snappy dialogue, for which Daily Planet editor Perry White is a gift. An unsatisfying aspect of Invisible Mafia concerns the whereabouts of Lois Lane. It was a big plot point in The Man of Steel, which revealed where she was, yet here with no explanation she’s back, then she’s gone again, then she’s in a hotel room meeting Lex Luthor, then she’s gone again. It’s clumsy, but is explained in a thoughtful fourth chapter. It’s not signposted, but connects with Lois Lane, Enemy of the People. Compensating for that is a very clever twist likely to catch all readers unaware.

This isn’t a story complete in a single volume, Bendis guiding the plots smoothly into Leviathan Rising. Invisible Mafia is centred on a newspaper with the occasional superheroic interlude, yet Bendis is playing to his strengths by producing a crime drama that hits almost all the right notes. Readers are supplied with slightly more information than Superman himself, and the suspense that generates makes up for the slight clumsy moments. It’s more captivating than the straight superhero stories Bendis writes for the accompanying Superman graphic novels without the Action Comics subtitle.