Man of Steel #4 review


Superman and Supergirl are fighting mad. They’re face to face with the creature who destroyed Kandor and while their instincts are to pummel him, the alien brute has chosen Metropolis as the battleground, meaning every blow thrown puts lives at risk. 


While the monster whose name he doesn’t know is caught up with Kara, Superman takes a few seconds to assess the situation. 


Before Superman can properly parlay his greater knowledge of the power-giving properties of Earth’s yellow sun, though, his opponent goes into hiding. Green Lantern arrives on the scene, keen to help. 

And there’s more. Lots more in the best issue yet of what has been a much stronger mini-series than I expected. Once more, new writer Brian Michael Bendis proves he gets Superman, whether it’s our hero numbering his punches, rating them for likely effectiveness, or using that formidable mind to ‘play Batman’. 

And it’s great to see Superman’s constant concern for the public in a chapter that fits nicely with Bendis’s pages in Action Comics #1000. Two people he doesn’t consciously think about are wife Lois and son Jon - I suspect he’s trying to keep them at bay as he can’t currently do anything about whatever their situation is, and right now he can’t afford to be distracted by his emotions. But as the most important part of his world, of course they impinge upon his thoughts, meaning we finally get to see who appeared in the Kent apartment, presaging Lois and Jon’s absence from Clark’s life. 


Oh, that guy. All right, I hated the Mr Oz arc in Action Comics, but as the situation with Jor-El was never resolved there, and this storyline turns on the claim that villain Rogor Zaal murdered Krypton, it makes sense for him to show up. And if he’s taken away Lois and Jon for awhile, fine, he’s not about to hurt them; I can relax a little and look forward to their return. Mind, I’m not sure what to make of his apparently having forgotten he’s met Lois and Jon previously, or Lois also acting as if it’s their first encounter. Only Jon has his memory intact. 

Supergirl doesn’t have much to do this time, but she’s around, presented as Superman’s trusted equal, and that I love. Perry and Jimmy are present to see the big fight, and on good form. New reporter Robinson Goode, a spy at the Planet, doesn’t even try not to be annoying. 

It’s interesting that Rogol Zaar doesn’t say a word during the fight, as if Bendis is having fun with his reputation for chatty villains. But when the alien does speak...

Here’s my favourite panel. 


There’s Superman, frightened for the citizens of Metropolis. Supergirl focused on Zaar. Green Lantern as cosmic cop cum bureaucrat. Special Crimes Unit chief Maggie Sawyer trying to control the scene. And the public, somewhere between panicked and proud. It’s a fine Day in the Life of Metropolis vignette. 

And like most of this issue - Jason Fabok draws the Lois and Jon interlude, as ever, and does a tiptop job - it’s a moment wonderfully illustrated by Kevin Maguire, who brings his trademark mastery of emotions to a story that demands it. The last few pages are especially strong, so far as helping us into Superman’s head is concerned. I’m not a fan of wordless tales, but if Bendis had scripted a silent issue, putting poor old letterer Josh Reed out of work, Maguire could have sold it to me. There’s a nice pair of bookend splash pages mirroring one another, coloured with class by Alex Sinclair. It all bodes very well for Maguire’s upcoming work on the Supergirl series. 

This chapter does seem to end with the return of my least-favourite super-power but if Superman has indeed resorted to that, next week’s continuation is going to see him in a massive pickle. Excellent, let’s keep the stakes high, making Superman’s inevitable triumph all the sweeter. 

Once again, the cover is evocative more of Superman’s life story than a particular chapter, but I never tire of seeing he and Lois happy, and it’s a gorgeous image by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Sinclair. 

I’m enjoying this mini-series hugely, for its balance of action and character moments. I’m hoping for a satisfying wrap-up of the Rogol Zaar plotline, which we know acts as a springboard for the new Supergirl run. As for what’s next for Clark and co, I can’t wait to find out. 

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Man of Steel #4 review, Brian Michael Bendis, Kevin Maguire, Jason Fabok, Alex Sinclair, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Josh Reed, Superman

Comments

  1. I haven't read this yet, so I can't comment on it, but I will say this, Bendis really seems to get who Superman is at his core. He's not a battering ram, he is a man, full of cares and concerns that often trip him up as he tries to defend the people he loves and the general populace. Bendis really gets this aspect of the character brilliantly, just as the previous crew got Kal's paternal aspect brilliantly.

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    1. That certainly seems the case, I’ve been so pleasantly surprised. And as a parent, I’d not be surprised were he to ace that angle too. We’ll see - I hope!

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  2. A really good issue -- although the first caption, mentioning "slaughtered" Kandorians, had me crestfallen; I really thought that was a misdirect last week.

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    1. I’m hanging onto hope - that was Superman’s narration, maybe many survived and he simply doesn’t know it.

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  3. The appearance of Jor-El made no sense whatsoever. He was taken away by the blue guy before while he was making up with his son at the end of Oz Effect.

    Clark's reaction to his return makes it looks like the guy actually left with a "see ya later, bitches!"

    I'm not feeling this plot at all.

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    1. I wonder, is there any way this Jor-El could have come from before he first met Kal-El as an adult, before he was revealed as Mr Oz? That might explain why he seems to be introducing himself.

      Have I mentioned that I hate this whole Mr Oz business?

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  4. By the way: I'm just curious. Has your appreciation for Bendis's work on this series (and grasp of Superman) changed your feelings on the possibility that he might work on the Legion? I certainly could be reading too much into it, but he's spent the last week on his Tumblr posting basically nothing but Legion images -- from fan art to classic Silver & Bronze Age stuff to more modern takes to old Legion Outpost features.

    It's almost like he's trying to signal something that he's contractually obligated not to say yet.

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    1. I’d not thought about it. Thinking about it, Bendis isn’t a natural fit, he’s definitely better at solo characters than teams. But at least he’s not Jonathan Hickman, who may be a lovely chap but I really don’t like his glacially pace near-nihilist stories.

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    2. I'm in total agreement with you about Hickman. I know he's a huge Legion fan, but when the book restarts, I really want it to hit the ground running.

      Come to think of it, I think I agree that Bendis is better at solo heroes than groups, too. The group dynamics usually lead him (and a lot of writers) to pick a few characters to be "heels," and I'd prefer not to see that in the Legion. Although we've seen Cos, Sun Boy, and Andromeda all play that role in one way or another, with varying degrees of success. And frankly, it's really tough to argue that Legionnaires acting like jerks isn't in some ways baked into the property all the way back to its inception-- even your blog title attests to that!

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    3. Very true! So maybe a few jerks among a generally fine bunch in a fast-moving story would be just the ticket!

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  5. Great review as always. As you say, the internal monologue of Supes is wonderful. I like how you pointed out the numbering of punch power. Makes sense he would have some gauge inside to measure his strength.

    And like you I adored the street scene. Such a ‘day in the life of Metropolis’ Vibe.

    But you seem more easy going about the Oz reveal. That guy is an unhinged lunatic. No way I let Lois and Jon go with him without a fight.

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    1. Having read your insightful tweets on this issue, I’m really looking forward to Monday's review over at Supergirl’s Comic Box Commentary!

      I love that you’ve mentioned a certain hero so many times (me too!) that so-called-autocorrect makes ‘vibe’ into ‘Vibe’!

      It could be that next week’s Jason Fabok shows Jor-Oz going PLOP! and Lois and Jon are taken into protective custody by the Legion...

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