Man of Steel #1 review


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. 


Wrong. 

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. 

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Man of Steel #1 review, Brian Michael Bendis, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Alex Sinclair, Cory Petit, Jason Fabok, DC Comics, Superman 

Comments

  1. eye am surprised to see Sardath amongst the Quintessence but also wondering where is Highfather The Wizard Shazam eye think Zeus was in that splash page

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    1. They call it The Circle, so maybe it’s not the Q-crew... they just remind me of them, art angles and all.

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    2. ah but how did Sardath get to join this august group and is this Bendis' DC iteration of The Illuminati?

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    3. And how old is Sardath, anyway? That scene takes place probably before Superman was born. I guess he still looks like that so we'll recognize him.

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    4. Rann Super Science must be the key and this must take place decades before Krypton became Xenophobic and shut down all space travel and realized how costly it was Morrison said due their high gravity Space Travel was not fiscal for Krpyton

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    5. Well done on recognising Sardath, folks. I’m soooooo embarrassed!

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  2. I liked it. Thanks for your supposition about the editorial meeting -- I had no idea why everyone as arriving at the same time, either!

    I loved the Melody Moore bit, and like you, I hope she's not presented as any kind of romantic interest. But the bit with the super hearing seemed really natural to me, and made me laugh out loud.

    Like you, I'm not crazy about Rogol Zaar, and the whole Krypton plot. And he looks like such a raving loon on his first splash page, I wonder how he thought he'd ever convince anyone of anything!

    Looking forward to the next issue!

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    1. The super-hearing bit was great, as you say, natural humour. More of this would be great.

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  3. Great take Mart. I didn't mind the quips as it showed Superman can have some fun on the job, especially when dealing with D-level villains. He could have winked at the camera!

    I wasn't sure who all the people on that council were. I also thought it was Sardath but he would be ancient if this is pre-Krypton exploding. I also thought perhaps the more creature-like person might be a Parliament of Trees member?

    Moore strikes me as very Lana-esque. Hopefully the smitten Smallville boy doesn't get wooed.

    I thought this was very solid. It is only the Zaar storyline that still concerns me.

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    1. Look at it this way: Zaar is less controversial than making Jor-El a mass murdering loony tune and most think of Jurgens' run as good...

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    2. I was taking the non-human member to be some kind of ice person, Anj, but it could easily be a friend of Swampy. I liked the two beardy god types.

      Good point, Steve, though I always assumed the Mr Oz business was thrust on Dan Jurgens, it just doesn’t feel like something he’d originate.

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    3. Wherever it originated, Jurgens wrote and shilled for it, supporting it, in interviews. Jurgens owned that story and one massive terrible story doesn't seem to taint everything. Shenanigans like this have been going on since Action Comics #1. Remember the Superboy story drawn by Bob Brown that had Jor-El and Lara alive but ended with them trapped drifting in space in suspended animation? Zaar is small potatoes,,,

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    4. what the heck did that story really get published? must have been an imaginary story after all aren't they all

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    5. Nope. Not Earth Haney either...

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  4. That is a weirdly dull cover. It looks like something out of inventory.

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  5. I'm largely with you on this one. With his superbreath, he's leaning back toward Bronze Age power levels, no? Ms. Moore's reaction to Superman is bothersome, and his response can be seen as flirtatious, oblivious, or resigned as he's used to it, I guess. Flirting is especially unlikely for him as he's missing his wife (and son). We'll see.

    I'm still willing to give him the benefit of doubt as the event with Lois and Jon and Clark occurs as a flashback/cliffhanger, and he seems to have several ideas surrounding journalism and the Planet. It's 17% of a story, and I liked enough to keep reading. I'm blaming editorial for the lack of Lois, though. Bendis hasn't been around to see just how troubling this is as relative to Lois' treatment for the last decade or so. It seems like he's setting up something for her.

    And someone stop Jim Lee before he designs another character or outfit. Ugh.

    Maybe it's Sardath's father? Uncle?

    Rogol Zaar seems out of his gourd, and I'm hoping as revisions go that this winds up being that he merely triggered Krypton's destruction a little early (in most versions, Jor does seem surprised that the final quakes have come earlier than he anticipated). Wanting to take out the remaining Kryptonians should bring Kara and Jon into this as well, at some point, though I already hope we don't see more of him in the future.

    Basically, I'm encouraged by this first issue, but still cautious. Nice review, Martin.

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    1. Thank you, sir! I really don’t see Superman flirting -I see polite, friendly, professional respect... maybe he’s looking back at her as he’s flying away, maybe he’s looking out towards the city. Whatever, I read it that has been going through a tough time and he’s just shared a sweet, amusing moment, a little light spot among the prevailing gloom, one that could apply with a young guy as easily as a woman. Maybe I’m naive... nah, I’m a proper old tart at times, I love a good flirt, and I don’t see it here.

      (Don’t make me wrong, Bendis!)

      Maybe people in Rann are long lived... and it’s hard to tell how old a bald chap wearing shades is (and the scene is set just three decades, likely, before he met Adam Strange). He could have really good skin.

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  6. I enjoyed more than I thought I would. I'm not always a fan of big status quo changes when new writers come on board and with how great Tomasi and Gleason's Superman series was, I was very skeptical. However, it was very solid and the artwork was great. I did just start reading Bendis' New Avengers series for the first time too, thanks to iFanboy, so maybe I'm in a Bendis groove after not reading most of his Marvel work. Either way, I am definitely looking forward to #2...even if I'm looking forward to Justice League #1 and the next issue of Flash more.

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    1. I heard that iFanboy episode. They really loved that first Bendis arc, didn’t they? I never got through it, I was still seething from Disassembled. It’s fair to say I’m not a fan of his Avengers work.

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    2. I've continued to read that New Avengers run (up to #14 now). I wasn't invested in the book when Disassembled happened and maybe the fact it's years later allows me to read it almost as if it were new.

      Anyway, who's next week's artist on Man of Steel? I know Maguire is coming up, but I think that's #4.

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    3. I believe it’s the excellent Doc Shaner!

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    4. Well, that's fantastic.

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