Years ago, a massive, battle-scarred figure appeals to a universal power known as The Circle. Rogol Zaar hates and fears the people of Krypton. He wants to end the threat he claims they pose to the galaxy.
Today, in Metropolis, two visiting villains from Gotham are having a spat. It seems Firefly has done a midnight flit with the proceeds of a job, and Killer Moth has come to retrieve his share. The bug-bandit is confident that Superman isn’t around.
Later, screams lead Superman to a fire in a city block. People need his help.
His reporter instincts tell Superman this wasn’t an accidental blaze.
Someone new in Metropolis arrives on the scene.
Flashback to a hell planet whose inhabitants and environment hone Rogol Zaar’s warrior ways. Guardian of the Universe Appa Ali Apsa arrives to deliver the decision on Zaar’s request that Krypton be put down.
Back in the present day, at an altogether more benign Planet, Clark is working on the fire story when boss Perry White arrives.
A picture of wife Lois and son Clark prompts the off-duty Man of Steel to think back...
After months of waiting, the first full issue by new writer Brian Bendis is here and it’s pretty decent stuff. I’m not a fan of the (not that new) idea that Krypton’s destruction wasn’t the result of environmental disaster and man’s hubris, but Bendis is only beginning his story, let’s see where it goes. A good sign is that the future Mad Guardian Appa Ali Apsa, representing what seems to be a version of The Quintessence, makes it clear Zaar has biased thinking and is mischaracterising the people of Krypton.
Bendis has obviously put some thought into how Superman would use his abilities, giving us moments such as his post-fire investigation. Who knows, Bendis may become the first writer since Kurt Busiek to remember that the Supers have powers beyond flight, strength and angry - sorry, heat - vision.
It’s good, too, that criminals are intimidated by the mere likelihood Superman is in the city, no superstition necessary.
Bendis isn’t quite there so far as our hero’s voice is concerned, he’s a bit too quippy in the opening scene, but it’s not like Superman has never has a sense of humour. Once Bendis gets Spider-Man out of his head he’ll likely be fine. What I really don’t like is the little rescued girl effing and blinding in an awed way; sure, there are kids like this is real life, and Superman does tell her off, but it’s cheap laughs and DC’s premiere hero deserves better.
As someone who entered journalism because of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, I’m excited that Bendis is excited to write the Daily Planet staff. Where Superman is a tad Spidey, though, so Perry White is a bit J Jonah Jameson. He’s probably known Clark nearly two decades at this point, if Clark thinks there’s something big coming from an arson angle, Perry’s not going to be nagging him for something bigger. And as I said in an earlier review, Clark calling Perry ‘Mr White’ is just weird. And why does Perry have a parade with him? Thinking on, they’re probably coming out of an editorial conference, explaining why the office floor was so bare on the previous page.
New Metropolis fire chief Melody Moore’s introduction is cute but I hope she’s not actually going goo-goo-eyed over Superman - we don’t want another Lupe Escadero, the SCU boss who threw herself at our hero in Greg Rucka’s Superman run. These women are professionals, they shouldn’t be chasing men in tights, especially Superman, who’s now known as a Super-Dad.
My favourite writing this issue is the page of Clark, Lois and son Jon at home before... something happens. While solicitations indicate a mystery surrounding Lois and Jon’s status after this issue, I tend to believe Bendis when he says he’s not going to do away with the family dynamic - just look at the fun he’s having with them.
Bendis’s handpicked penciller partner, Ivan Reis, is a smart choice. He’s been drawing the DC Universe for years and, with regular inker Joe Prado, has a handle on how it should feel. The scenes with Zaar have the intensity needed to convince us this guy is a big deal, Metropolis feels like the City of Tomorrow and Superman looks just wonderful - big but not intimating, warm but not cheesy. The fact Superman is smiling so much hints that whatever’s happening with his family isn’t so drastic that he can’t enjoy his job. The only thing I’d tweak would be the S-symbol, which is drawn (skilfully) in live-action style, with raised curves. I like my chest insignia flat!
Jason Fabok steps in to fully illustrate the final two pages and I couldn’t see the join, he matches Reis and Prado’s Superman with skill.
Alex Sinclair does a bang-up job on the colours, with Superman’s arrival in Firefly’s pad, all coloured speed lines, being a nice showcase moment - it’s subtle, but impressive. And the way he lights Superman in the razed building is first class.
Letterer Cory Petit does fine work, though I hope Rob Leigh hasn’t lost his gig as regular calligrapher on the Superman books - he’s done sterling service for years, especially on the title pages, and has earned a spotlight moment.
I keep forgetting what’s on the cover. Hang on... oh yes, Superman and the JLA. That’s surprising, I’d expect an iconic solo shot for a first issue, with optional floating supporting cast heads. I suppose the idea is that Superman is first among equals, the best of the best, but Reis, Prado and Sinclair give us so many more memorable moments inside. Ah well, can’t win them all. That awful Eighties logo, brought in from John Byrne’s Man of Steel mini-series, doesn’t help - those hard, metallic lines are Iron Man, not Superman.
As someone who’s not a big Bendis fan, I was rather dreading his take on Superman, but I enjoyed this issue. The Rogol Zaar business doesn’t excite me in the least but unpromising scenarios don’t preclude fun comics. The Bendis tics that annoyed me at Marvel aren’t here - this isn’t a comic full of smart Alecs who can’t finish a sentence... My biggest quibble is that he’s not quite got Superman’s voice yet. I suppose he could be making a conscious choice, making Superman chipper, but I hope not... maybe the Man of Steel is overcompensating for the (it had jolly well better be) temporary loss of his family. And the art is terrific.
I’m rather looking forward to next week’s issue.
Man of Steel #1 review, Brian Michael Bendis, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Alex Sinclair, Cory Petit, Jason Fabok, DC Comics, Superman