Review – The Man of Steel #1: New Writer, New Villain, New Characters, Missing….?

Man of Steel #1 cover
Image via DC Comics

The Man of Steel #1 – Brian Michael Bendis, Writer; Ivan Reis, Penciller; Joe Prado, Inker; Jason Fabok, Backup Artist; Alex Sinclair, Colorist

Ratings:

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Reserving Judgment

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW

Ray: Man of Steel #1 is here.

t’s still hard to comprehend that Brian Michael Bendis is a DC writer, given how long and stories his Marvel career has been. It was also controversial, of course, which made many people a little nervous when he jumped ship. His first two stories, setting up this Superman miniseries in Action Comics #1000 and DC Nation #0, were met with a mixed reaction, especially due to concern over the fate of Lois Lane and Jon Kent (although another comic this week seems to reassure everyone that anything that happens will only be temporary). His first full issue, though, puts a lot of my concerns to rest with an appealing story that gives us a lighter, more human take on Superman. However, before we can get there, the story takes a detour to long ago, as Bendis’ first original villain, Rogol Zaar, makes his debut. A ruthless “War Guardian” of sorts, he’s obsessed with the idea that the scientifically-minded, advanced Kryptonian culture is about to make a leap into conquest. He seeks permission from a council of cosmic elders (including mad Guardian Appa Ali Apsa) to cleanse the Kryptonian species from the universe. They reject his plea, which drives him further down the path to insanity. This flashback story is spliced into the issue and ends with him getting ready to make a move personally.

In Metropolis, it becomes clear that this is very much a Bendis comic as we enter on two D-list Gotham villains, Firefly and Killer Moth, as they take their rivalry to Metropolis. The issue does a great job of showing us how Superman operates – he narrates the issue, and as such he’s able to describe his powers in ways few writers show. Bendis tends to like deeply personal takes on his heroes, and it works with Superman. He also gives us a new resident of Metropolis – a deputy chief firefighter named Melody Moore, who meets Superman while rescuing people from a mysterious electrical fire. She’s the second original female character Bendis has already introduced, along with ruthless reporter Robinson Goode. Moore is a likable character, albeit maybe a bit too giggly and immature for a firefighter. I like that Bendis is trying to make Metropolis alive again – for the first time since the original Dan Jurgens run, a Superman writer seems to be concerned with the citizens of Metropolis and building a big supporting cast.

However, casting a shadow over Superman’s life and the book is the absence of Lois Lane and Jon Kent, the cause of which is shown in the last two pages. It seems like this is going to be a mystery for a while, both to us and to Superman, but it’s likely that Rogol Zaar has captured them somewhat. There’s a lot of unanswered questions here, but do I like the way Bendis writes Superman? I do. A lot.

Man of Steel #1 page 4
Here’s the villain for the arc, or so we presume. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: Bendis gets Clark Kent/Superman right, in that he’s not angsty or a loner but, at his core, a basically nice guy from a small town raised by a kindly couple, discovers his incredible powers, and, naturally, what he does with them is help people. (However, this may not last if he’s missing Lois and Jon and I do not look forward to issues and issues of mopey Clark. :sigh:)

Getting Superman would seem a simple thing but it’s not something all writers understand. Bendis obviously does, at least so far, though I reserve judgment on future issues. Like Ray, I like the focus on the people of Metropolis, as that is always one of the most fascinating parts of the Superman mythos. Superman without Metropolis is like Batman without Gotham City. New characters are great–once upon a time, Maggie Sawyer was a new Metropolis character–but they need to revolve around the basic cast.

And, yes, here it comes. My  “but…” with this issue.

Yes, it’s about Lois. But it’s about Superman, too.

If you remove Lois Lane, you’ve just pulled out an underpinning of the Superman mythos, meaning Bendis is starting his run with one hand tied behind his back.

Lois does what Superman does, save without powers. He’s a sounding board for her, and a touchstone to his humanity because he sees the awfulness of people. That’s tough for any first responder–but Lois never loses her hope that things can get better and, more than that, that they are the ones who can solve at least some of the problems.

It not impossible to write a great Superman story without Lois but…why would you want to do that?

What does a writer gain by sidelining Lois except reducing Clark to yet another sad guy who’s without the people he loves and struggling to survive and have hope? That might be Daredevil’s story. It is not Superman’s story.

This may be harsh on Bendis but I have no benefit of the doubt for him. Why? He was the one who created a Lois Lane analogue named Terri Kidder and then killed her off in the first issue of a short-lived series at Marvel. I picked that book up because it was going to be about newspaper reporters, Bendis had a fine reputation, and I hoped to be intrigued. Then the end of the first issue killed the most interesting character. Hard Pass.

Terri Kidder/ Lois Lane analogue
The death of Terri Kidder in Pulse #1, written by Bendis. (Image via Marvel Comics)

As for the originality shown in the creation of the new characters, Melody’s type has been done before. in one of the numerous Batman Beyond spin-offs over the years, a widowed Clark Kent (now a firefighter) became involved in a romance with a fellow firefighter. Melody struck me as a similar to the love interest in that somewhat obscure story. I fervently hope that Bendis has not set up these new female characters as dating material for Clark Kent/Superman because it’s hard to read that meeting with Melody as anything other than a meet cute. A role as a love interest would be a waste of Melody.

What is clear, though, is that Bendis might be splitting up Lois’ role in the story between Robinson Goode (reporter) and Melody (possible love interest.) Again, why would you want to put that kind of burden on new characters when Lois Lane is RIGHT THERE for that role. Making the Daily Planet newsroom more inclusive is a great idea. May I suggest Ron Troupe? Add in Natasha and Henry Irons as well as supporting characters, especially when a scientific touch is needed, and it will be now that Luthor is clearly evil again.

I can only conclude sidelining Lois and Jon is because Bendis wants to explore what Clark/Superman is like without her. GAH.

It’s not new to sideline/kill off Lois Lane. It’s been done over and over and over and over. Writing about a successful super-marriage that includes a Lois Lane with agency?

Now, that’s new.

Color me unimpressed, to say the least, that this is how we start this run.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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