Superman #3 // Review
Superman #3, by writer Brian Michael Bendis, artist Ivan Reis, inkers Joe Prado and Oclair Albert, colorist Alex Williams, and letterer Josh Reed, reveals how Earth got into the Phantom Zone. Can Superman and his friends remove it from the Zone before irreparable damage is done to it? Strangely enough, Superman has been more of a action oriented book than Action Comics, and this issue keeps up that trend.
Superman goes to STAR Labs and discovers how Earth was put into the Phantom Zone, but not how to get it out yet. Elsewhere in the Phantom Zone, Rogol Zaar comes across the Kryptonian criminal Jax-Ur and some of this cronies, but is able to best them in combat. He gives them a new hope: Earth is here and that’s where their ticket to leaving the Zone is. Back on Earth, Superman and the Justice League work around the clock to stop all the havok the Zone is wreaking on the planet, while the smarter heroes figure out a way to work with STAR Labs to solve the problem. Before that can happen, though, Superman spots Rogol Zaar and his approaching army coming for Earth.
Again, the MVP of this comic is the double page spreads and splashes. Reis, Prado, Albert, and Williams do some wonderful work on them, from an opening one that captures the havok of an experiment gone awry to Rogal Zaar battling Jax-Ur and his friends to Rogol Zaar’s army on the approach to Earth. It’s pages like these that sell how epic this whole story is. The art team is firing on all cylinders here, and it shows everywhere in the book. They’ve proven themselves very comfortable with whatever Bendis’ scripts can throw at them, from designing alien beasts to capturing the heroes in action as they work to keep the world from falling apart.
Of course, without a good script, all the epic art in the world wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans, and this is a good script. Bendis gets how to write Superman as a character. There’s a certain sense of almost glee as he shoehorns so many DC characters into the story, including most of the Justice League, deep cut Kryptonian villain Jax-Ur, Superman villainess LiveWire, and STAR Labs. Adam Strange even makes a bit of an appearance for a nice little gag. Bendis enjoys playing with the toys of the DC Universe.
He’s built a story here that works very well for that sort of thing, while still highlighting Superman. This is an action packed issue, but not in the typical sense of the word. There isn’t a lot of fighting--after all, this is a Bendis book--but he makes sure to show the heroes in action, working to keep things together and save lives. He knows, though, that doing that can only take a story so far, so he brings Rogol Zaar and Jax-Ur together to present a more concrete threat to Superman. It raises the stakes of the whole thing, because readers know that Superman has been using a lot of power to race around and find out what’s happened and save lives as things have fallen apart on Earth. There’s no yellow sun in the Phantom Zone, and Zaar was able to manhandle Superman and Supergirl before when they were at full power. What chance does Superman stand now? It’s a good hook to keep things going, especially since Bendis reveals how the crisis started in this issue.
Superman #3 has a smart reveal while also raising stakes. The argument can be made that going back to the Rogol Zaar well this early in his run is a bad call, but, so far, this story arc has been entertaining. It’s managed to feel epic without tooting its own horn very much about how epic it is. It manages to be both action packed and full of good dialogue that moves the plot forward without repeating itself too often or relying on overly snarky humor, as are some of the main Bendis tools. The art team continually kills it, which is a huge plus. They’re perfect for the kind of story Bendis is telling here. Of the two Superman books he’s writing, this one has definitely pulled out in the lead. It feels more like a Superman book than Action Comics, and this storyline is a huge factor in that. It doesn’t seem like it’s going to be one for the ages, but it’s very much a solid Superman story, one that won’t disappoint long time fans.