The Man of Steel #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Joe Prado, Ivan Reis
Review By Sean Frankling
There’s been a lot of worried talk about what we’d see once Brian Michael Bendis started his run in Superman comics. Fans feared he might do anything from killing off Kal-El’s son to splitting up his marriage with Lois Lane in a bid to add some dark grittiness to the series. But if The Man of Steel #1 is any indication, Superman fans may not have reason to fear after all. The issue combines Bendis’ signature storytelling with excellent texture for an experience that leaves high hopes for the ongoing event series.
I’ve always been adamant that Superman is at his best when he has solid, real-world situations to play off of. It gives the audience a real feel for exactly how “Super” he is when they can see him stop a train. If you’ve seen a train in real life, you have a visceral idea of how heavy and powerful it is. And that lends a sense of scale to the superhuman feat of stopping it (for more on that, check out this twitter rant of mine).
You’ll be glad to know, then, that this is something Bendis seems to understand quite well. In this issue, he offers a brilliant depiction of Superman intervening in an apartment fire. The issue renders everything from scanning the city for the sound of the screams to the difficulty of prioritizing victims to save with a wealth of experiential detail. The result is a rare glimpse into how it must actually feel to have superhuman hearing, and what it must be like to make split second decisions with lives on the line.
Throughout all this, artists Joe Prado and Ivan Reis deliver dynamic visuals to compliment Bendis’ writing. They tackle the apartment fire action scene with appropriately explosive posing and rapid, flowing sequencing. Furthermore, their dialogue scenes deftly compliment sweet moments with correspondingly adorable gestures and expressions. Most impressively, though, they pull off that all-important high-flying feel for a Superman book. Their carefully-rendered cityscapes and excellent grasp of the spatial layout of their action scenes perfectly underscores Bendis’ experiential take on The Man of Steel.
It’s not all perfect, though. A hefty amount of The Man of Steel #1 is dedicated to setting up the event’s villain, Rogol Zaar. So far, Zaar has appeared to be an underwhelming “cosmic powerhouse” character–like Darkseid or Terrax, but with less personality. In flashbacks, he delivers fairly dull over-dramatic monologues about his desire to destroy all Kryptonians once and for all. Not exactly a new Gimmick for a Superman villain. With ill-defined powers and frankly lazy motivation, Rogol Zaar is already shaping up to be the weakest part of this event.
The Verdict: Wait And See.
This first issue is a well-executed, grounded action piece in its own right. And there’s even a cute little scene of Lois and Jon to tide you over. But I have a hunch The Man of Steel is going to end up being more and more about the cosmic battle against Rogol Zaar. I hope I’m wrong, because it’d be a real shame to leave behind Bendis’ capable take on Superman’s everyday life. But if I’m right, things are about to get real boring, real fast.