Man Of Steel #1 // Review
Man Of Steel #1, by Brian Bendis, Ivan Reis, Jason Fabok, Joe Prado, and Alex Sinclair, is the beginning of a new era for the Man of Tomorrow. Who is Rogol Zaar and what does he have to do with the destruction of Krypton?
The story alternates between the past, with Rogol Zaar listing the crimes of Krypton to a past version of the Quintessence (DC’s council of cosmic beings) and asking for their permission to destroy the planet, and the present, with Superman in Metropolis busting Firefly and Killer Moth and then rescuing people from a building fire. Superman suspects the fire, which isn’t the first building fire in the Metropolis lately, could be part of something bigger, and the new deputy fire chief, a Coast City transplant named Melody Moore, agrees with him. Superman tells her to call Clark Kent if she finds out anything. In the past, the Quintessence turns down Zaar’s request. Back in the present, Superman is at home with Jon and Lois when a flash of white light hits them.
So, the big question surrounding Bendis’ Superman is how well he’ll be able to handle Superman and the types of stories one tells with the character and his supporting cast. If this issue is any indication, and it’s just one issue, so it’s hard to make a complete judgment on that, he’s got a pretty good handle on the character. One of Bendis’ big problems is that he doesn’t always use a character’s individual voice. At Marvel, he fell back on a Spider-Man-esque voice for most of the characters he wrote and there was a lot of fear that he would bring that sort of thing with him to DC. Again, this is just one issue, but he seems to understand how Superman sounds and the kinds of things he would say. There’s an exchange between Killer Moth and Firefly that’s classic fast paced Bendis dialogue and when Superman apprehends them, he gets in on it, but it doesn’t feel out of character at all. It’s an exchange that works extremely well. He also uses caption boxes to show Superman’s internal monologue, which is something that Bendis has eschewed in the past. It feels like in the move to DC, he’s moving out of his comfort zone in little ways and that’s a good thing for him.
An intriguing part of the story is Rogol Zaar’s listing Krypton’s so-called crimes. He posits that for their science and trade power to expand, they’ll have to begin conquering other worlds and bleeding them dry of resources. It seems like a bit of statement about current day America and also feels a little like Thanos’ origin in Avengers: Infinity War. The latter bit is an odd coincidence, but the former bit is smart commentary and a Superman comic is exactly the right place for it, seeing as how Superman represents the best of America and the actions that Rogol Zaar is against can be looked at as a representation of the worst of America and the hyper capitalist system that those currently in power believe in. Comics aren’t always the best place for political discourse, but if this whole things plays out like it very well, with Zaar coming to Earth and feeling the same about it as he felt about Krypton, it’ll place Superman in a very interesting showdown with a villain who he would probably agree with if his methods weren’t evil.
There are two wrinkles to the book, though. Bendis under utilizes Lois and Jon. Now, this could be because he was more interested in writing about Superman and setting up his plot, which is completely understandable. However, that wrinkle is sort of related to the second one, which is deputy fire chief Melody Moore and her crush on Superman. Another very real fear that fans of Superman have is Bendis messing with the Kent family. One of the biggest parts of the Rebirth Superman books was the inclusion of the Kent family and their dynamic. It humanized Clark in a way that readers had never seen before. Bendis is known for injecting cheap, soap opera-esque drama into things, but he’s also known for trolling readers, so this whole thing could be a troll. Time will tell, of course.
Ivan Reis’ art is a highlight on the book. Reis is a seasoned pro and it shows here. It also helps that he has his preferred inker, Joe Prado, and one of the best colorists in the industry, Alex Sinclair. There are two double splash pages in the book, one of Rogol Zaar speaking to the Quintessence and the other of Superman flying with Firefly and Killer Moth in tow, and they are wonderful. The Rogol Zaar one captures the majesty and power of the Quintessence and the Superman one is classic Superman, conveying the grandeur and wonder that is Superman. Jason Fabok pencils the last two pages and completely sells the cliffhanger with the Kents’ expressions making the reader wonder what they are seeing.
Man Of Steel #1 has a lot riding on it and it delivers. Bendis has captured Superman perfectly and set up several interesting plots. The cliffhanger ending is extremely effective in whetting the reader’s appetite for more. Bendis seems to get Superman and gets what makes the character work. If Man Of Steel can keep this up, it will be able to stand with the biggest and best Superman stories.