Man Of Steel #4 // Review
Man Of Steel #4, by Brian Michael Bendis, Kevin Maguire, Jason Fabok, Alex Sinclair, and Josh Reed, features the knock down, drag out battle between Superman, Supergirl, and Rogol Zaar and answers the biggest question readers have had on their minds: what happened to Lois and Jon? Bendis isn’t known for his action writing and has dropped the ball on his big reveals lately in a lot of his work. Will he be able to transcend that here?
Superman and Supergirl battle Rogol Zaar across Metropolis. Supergirl is angry over what Zaar did last issue and fights with abandon. Superman realizes that Zaar is using that to his advantage and decides to fight smart, trying to limit the damage done to the city by the battle. Zaar gets the upper hand in the battle, as seen in Action Comics #1000. Hal Jordan shows up to help look for Zaar, but his tech allows to hide not only from Kryptonian super-senses, but the Lantern ring as well. Superman goes to the Fortress of Solitude, where Zaar is waiting for him. As Zaar prepares to attack, Superman goes supernova.
The good news is that the action in this issue is very good. In a lot of his past works, Bendis’ action writing has been very lackluster. As a creator, he’s worked with a who’s who of the industry’s best artists, but only a few of his action sequences are memorable. While this one isn’t the greatest ever, it’s well paced and well drawn. Kevin Maguire is a big part of this. The veteran artist knows how to lay out an action scene. One of Maguire’s greatest artistic strengths are his facial expressions, and he uses that sell what’s happening in every panel. Even without captions and dialogue, readers would know exactly what’s happening in the heads of the characters.
Bendis does a good job of getting Superman’s reaction to the fight right. Superman is a physical titan, but he’s also very smart. He knows when to hold back and knows when he’s being baited. Superman fights smart. He constantly tries to move the fight away from Metropolis and limit the collateral damage. It doesn’t work very well--the fight still does a lot of damage, but Superman is able to keep the civilians safe because he thinks and punches. It’s a nice little character touch and it works to allay a lot of fears about Bendis and his treatment of the character. Another hallmark of Bendis’ work is ignoring what others have done with characters and writing them in ways that clash with their established character. In previous issues, Bendis showed that he had Superman’s individual voice down and, in this one, he shows that he gets Superman and respects who the character is. Anyone can write a big, bombastic Superman fight, but Bendis makes sure to show Superman’s work, as it were. It’s not exactly new, of course. Long time fans know how Superman would react to this kind of situation. However, it’s nice to see that he’s staying faithful to who the character is.
The reveal of who took Lois and Jon is interesting and plays into the story Bendis is telling, but it feels a bit underwhelming. It’s not bad, but it feels safe. It’s also going to take a big explanation of how this character is still around and why Superman would trust him, if the story goes in the direction this reveal takes it. Every time it seems like Bendis is transcending his weaknesses, something like this happens. It doesn’t ruin the issue and no one can say for sure that the explanation won’t work or that Bendis is ignoring continuity again to make his story work, but things like this play into those fears. Jason Fabok is still drawing the flashbacks, so even if the reveal itself is a little underwhelming, it looks great.
Overall, The Man Of Steel #4 is a very strong comic. Bendis and Maguire are able to lay out a great, kinetic action sequence that also shows Superman for the type of hero he is, one who is always thinking as he’s punching, trying to make sure his battles don’t affect the city and people he’s sworn to protect. The reveal will probably make sense in the long run, but it feels a bit cliche and lacks the menace that it seemed to be building towards. Bendis is giving readers an entertaining Superman and moving past a lot of the deficiencies in his style. He’s not completely past them yet, but The Man Of Steel bodes well for his future with Superman.