The Man of Steel #3 – Brian Michael Bendis, Writer; Ryan Sook, Jason Fabok, Artists; Wade Von Grawbadger, Inker; Alex Sinclair, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Playing It Coy With Lois and Jon’s Fate
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: Man of Steel #3, the third issue of Brian Michael Bendis’ high-profile debut on the Superman titles is a definite step up from the second, although maybe a hair off the first. Bendis obviously likes the Daily Planet setting, but it’s been his weakest part so far, so it’s good that this issue focuses almost entirely on Superman – and brings in a pair of characters who are among his most important relationships. The issue opens with a near-silent segment as Rogol Zaar finally arrives on Earth, making his way to the Fortress of Solitude where he enters through brute force, destroys the remaining relics of Krypton (including the friendly droid Kelex) and then finds the Bottled City of Kandor. The story shifts to Metropolis, where Superman and Melody Moore are continuing to investigate the series of arsons in the city. This allows Bendis to bring in Batman, who he clearly has fun writing. His Batman is spooky, yes, but also self-aware and seems to have a bit of fun with his reputation. I expect we’ll see him under Bendis’ pen more regularly in the future.
However, the heart of the issue kicks off once Superman gets the alarm at the Fortress. There, he reunites with Supergirl as they discover the wasteland Zaar has made of their heritage. The reveal of the fate of the bottled city of Kandor is shocking, but that element of Superman’s history has been used so rarely in recent years that it’s blunted a bit. Still, Superman’s knowledge of all that’s been lost and Supergirl’s raw grief is extremely powerful. There’s another reveal about Lois and Jon this issue – they’ve been taken, yes, but it seems by someone unrelated to Rogol Zaar. Maybe to protect them? Either way, this definitely feels like a temporary thing. My main objection is that I want to see Bendis writing Lois Lane already! I really do like Bendis’ voice for Supergirl, although I wonder how much he knows about her status quo given some of her comments in this issue. The end of the issue shows off Rogol Zaar’s power, as the first big battle of the series gets underway. There are still a few bumps along the way, but I’m very intrigued by what Bendis is building here.
Corrina: I guess those who enjoy Bendis’ writing may have a reservoir of goodwill toward this story as it unfolds in odd ways. As I said last week, I can only judge by what’s on the page.
And I continue to find the narrative choices on the page baffling.
Let’s talk about the destruction of Kandor. No, wait. let’s talk about the genocide of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people.
That’s a helluva dark way to start a run on Superman. It’s so dark that I cannot see how it wouldn’t change Superman permanently, as he carries the guilt of those deaths on his conscience. It’s so dark that I can’t see a way for Superman to recover, emotionally, from this kind of occurrence. (Didn’t New Krypton get destroyed once as well? But at least Superman wasn’t the caretaker of that planet and the actions of its residents led to the destruction, sorta. Still, it was so dark, it’s been retconned away, which is good because that made Sam Lane guilty of genocide and that character was ruined by it as well. But I digress)
Superman was responsible for Kandor’s safety. He’s never going to be able to let these deaths go or, at least, he shouldn’t or he wouldn’t be the kind of man we know. I could guess this might lead to a serious depression on Superman’s part or maybe it’s a fake-out where Kandor wasn’t really destroyed. The first, well, you know how I feel about a depressed Superman. The second, a fake-out? I’d view this as a cheap narrative trick, much along the same lines as teasing readers with nearly the exact same panel of Lois and John’s disappearance as in the first three issues. We get it, they’re gone for a while and Superman knows they’re safe. So why play coy with it when Superman is going to naturally think where they are?
Superman avoiding thinking about where they are is simply to keep info from the reader, not something true to what the character would be thinking in the story. That’s why I say: cheap narrative trick.
Another baffling story choice. Batman investigating. Isn’t that something Goode could do so we’d see her investigative chops? Or Jimmy? (Or, you know, Lois if she hadn’t been written out…..) Instead, we have to bring in Batman from a city in arguably worse shape than Metropolis? I can only conclude Bendis wanted to write Batman and, indeed, his Batman is fine, but adding him in makes the Superman supporting cast basically useless, except Melody Moore. I did like her role in this, she’s a decent new character when it’s not a meet cute.
Three issues in and this is definitely an odd way to begin what’s supposed to be a grand and amazing Superman run. Neither of those words applies as yet. Save except for the art, which is amazing and grand.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.