Superman #9 // Review
Jon gets caught up with the Crime Syndicate in Superman #9, by writer Brian Michael Bendis, artists Ivan Reid and Brandon Peterson, inkers Joe Prado and Oclair Albert, colorist Alex Sinclair, and letterer Josh Reed. This issue continues the story of Jon's time away from his family, and it's very much a mixed bag.
Superman has a vision of a peaceful future that is interrupted by an attack by mystery villains before being brought back to the present by Lois. Jon continues his story, telling his parents how Ultraman of the Crime Syndicate imprisoned him in a volcano where no sunlight could reach him. Throughout Jon's time on Earth-3, Ultraman would visit him and talk to him, intimating that there was a reason Jon was on Earth-3. Eventually, Jon is able to escape and makes his way to the Crime Syndicate's fortress, hoping to find a way home, but is confronted by Superwoman, the evil Earth-3 version of Lois Lane.
The future vision is a jarring way to start the book, to say the least. It hearkens back to the vision that Zod had in issue five, but it's bizarre to start this issue with it since it really has nothing to do with anything. Zod's vision was his impetus to go and find Superman. This one is just there and gets explained away as Superman's subconscious coming out because he hasn't been sleeping… and then Superman explains why he doesn't need sleep. It's just a plain odd sequence. There's some clunky expository dialogue from Lois after the vision. Now, yes, every comic has the potential to be someone's first, but Bendis has been doing this for a long time and should be able to write much better exposition than this. The rest of the issue is pretty much a boilerplate Bendis book- a lot of words telling the story, but very little showing the story.
That said, readers do get to see Jon figure a way out of his prison, and that's nice. Bendis is trying to grow the character, and that's a good thing, but he's doing it in a very Bendis way. We're shown Jon's break out, but after that, Jon just describes his trip from the volcano to the Crime Syndicate's base. Bendis could have cut back on some of the Ultraman and Jon scenes that went nowhere and showed readers Jon's journey. This would have been a way more effective use of page real estate.
Ivan Reis and Brandon Peterson draw the present and flashbacks respectively, but Peterson's art is superior. It's immaculate and slick, with great detail and line work. Reis’ art is a bit muddled in places, especially on faces. There are a couple of times he draws a genuinely ugly Lois Lane, but the splash page he does of the meeting of the future superheroes in Superman's vision is pretty sweet.
Superman #9 is a Bendis book through and through, and that's it's the biggest problem. Visual storytelling is about showing, not telling, and Bendis has always ignored that lesson completely. This issue wastes a lot of pages talking about Ultraman visiting Jon, a plot point that seemingly goes nowhere, that could have been better used showing Jon's journey through Earth-3. Ivan Reis’ art is hit or miss, but Peterson is shining right now. There's a glimmer of some good characterization for Jon in this one, but Bendis wastes it. That glimmer and Peterson's art are the high points of the book, but they aren't enough to save it. This issue had potential, but Bendis squandered it by indulging his base tendencies as a writer.