The Man Of Steel #5 // Review
The Man Of Steel #5, by Brian Michael Bendis, Adam Hughes, Jason Fabok, Alex Sinclair, and Josh Reed, continues the battle between Rogol Zaar and Superman. So far, Bendis has crafted an entertaining, action packed Superman story, and this issue is no exception. Will Superman be able to figure out Rogol Zaar’s plan in time to stop him, or will he lose his new home to the monster?
Zaar and Superman take their battle to the moon, but Zaar is able to get the upper hand and escape. In the flashback, Jor-El explain why he came to the Kents, and it causes turmoil for the family. In Metropolis, Supergirl helps put out another fire, and the Justice League comes to her to help with Rogol Zaar situation. Supergirl finds an unconscious Superman on the moon and takes him to the Hall Of Justice, and, upon waking, he realizes Zaar’s plan and races to stop him.
Adam Hughes on interior art is a rare treat, and it’s wonderful here. He does double duty on the book, coloring the pages as well with his characteristic slick, lush colors. The only exception is the fight in the beginning of the book. He uses darker shades and reds to underscore the violence of the battle. An interesting thing he does is always put Rogol Zaar in some kind of shadow. The effect works perfectly; Rogol Zaar is the shadowy monster of the Superman mythos, brought into the light finally but still clinging to the darkness. It’s admittedly a small touch, but it helps sell the character and what he represents. The opening page, with the people of Kandor looking up into Zaar’s eye is a masterpiece of perspective and also plays into this idea of Zaar as monster. Hughes’ artistic choices do more to hit home the monstrousness of Zaar than anything in the book so far, and it’s a shame it’s taken this long to happen. Jason Fabok again draws the flashback sequence, and it serves to whet the whistle for next week’s issue where he be doing pencils for the entire book.
Bendis and Hughes gel very well. Bendis gives Hughes some big set pieces to draw and Hughes knocks them out of the park. The Man Of Steel so far has been one of the Bendis’ best works of the past decade and easily his best in the last five years, because he’s writing out of his comfort zone. One of the biggest strengths of the series so far is pacing, and this issue is no exception. In the past, Bendis would go off on tangents away from the main plot to set up future plotlines, but that doesn’t happen here. He spends a little time with Deputy Fire Chief Moore before another fire, and it’s just enough time set things up for the future in way that doesn’t hurt the momentum of the main plot. The fight scene in the beginning of the issue is given the exact right amount of the page count. In the past, fights in Bendis comics have been either too short (the battle between the Sentry and Ares from Siege #2 springs to mind) or so long that they get boring (the last issue of Secret Invasion and House Of M #7), but he’s found a way to balance the action and the drama in a way that feels fitting. Everything gets just the right amount of time to breath.
His writing isn’t perfect. At the end of last issue, it looked like he had Superman use his supernova power, which usually results in him losing his powers for a day, but this issue opens with Superman towing Zaar into space to battle on the moon. It seems like Bendis can’t get away from his trope of ignoring continuity to tell stories. It sets up a great fight sequence, but it’s one of those things that worries Bendis-detractors the most. It’s strange, but it seems like he can only allow himself to get away from the negatives in his work so much. So far, readers have been getting the best Bendis they’ve gotten in a while, but every issue there’s a reminder of all the things that readers haven’t liked about his work.
The reveal of Jor-El and his reasoning behind asking for Jon makes sense, but it doesn’t fit with what readers expected based on Superman’s reactions. Subverting reader expectation is a good thing a lot of the time, but this subplot has become a bait and switch in the worst possible way. That said, it sets up some interesting things in the future, which redeems it a bit, but it’s a subplot that was set up to be one thing, revealed to be another, and that other thing doesn’t fit the set-up. It makes sense from a character standpoint, but the build up and the pay off didn’t match at all.
The Man Of Steel #5 continues this mini-series’ run of quality. Adam Hughes’ art is the MVP of the issue, and Bendis continues to balance the action and the drama perfectly, setting up things for the future without neglecting the main plot. It’s not perfect, but The Man Of Steel #5 still soars.