The Man of Steel #4 – Brian Michael Bendis, Writer; Kevin Maguire, Jason Fabok, Artists; Alex Sinclair, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: The big showdown between Superman and Rogol Zaar is finally here in Man of Steel #3, and the artist to draw the fight is…Kevin Maguire? An unconventional choice, but a surprisingly effective one. Maguire is best known for his work on the offbeat, comic Justice League run with DeMatteis and Giffen, but he’s a very expressive artist and this issue shows that he can do darker material just as easily. From the opening page, which is a closeup of Superman’s eye as the mysterious villain attacks, this is some of the best art we’ve seen in the series. The fight is tense and fast-paced, as it becomes clear that Zaar is one of the most powerful villains Superman has ever encountered. He has a strength that matches Superman and even speed that seems to eclipse him. Supergirl is fighting alongside Superman, but her raw grief over the destruction of Kandor makes her unpredictable. I’m reminded of Superman’s initial fight with Doomsday in some places, as the issue shows the destructive impact that a fight between super-beings could have.
The persistent issue I have with this issue, and with Bendis’ work in the DCU so far as a whole, is that the dialogue sometimes just doesn’t match the gravity of the situation. The return of the young women from the diner in the initial Action Comics #1000 story leads to many more bits of Bendis-y dialogue, but it’s nowhere near as glaring as it is in the flashback segment that finally explains what happened to Lois and Jon. The identity of the figure in the space pod was both my top suspect, and sort of unexpected – I wasn’t sure if Bendis would be following up so immediately on that plot. However, the tension of that scene is broken by a weird bit of dialogue that feels almost vaudevillian. Rogol Zaar stays mostly silent this issue, but the real showdown picks up at the Fortress at the end of the issue. There are some persistent hiccups that need to be ironed out, but I’m still intrigued by everything Bendis is doing here, and I’m excited to see how the final third of this series plays out.
Corrina: The only thing remotely surprising about the figure in the white light coming for Lois and Jon is that it’s not surprising at all–Jor-El was one of the more obvious suspects, given his recent appearances. Over at the Fye website, there are advertisement-shirts labeled “Man of Steel: Sons of Krypton” and I have to wonder if that’s a spoiler for what will happen later in the comic or just something DC marketing is doing in relation to the Krypton television show. I guess we’ll have answers at some point. (I won’t say ‘soon’ because it’s taken for issues for the white light subplot to move two panels, so…)
If any part of this comic worked fully, I likely wouldn’t be so hard on it. But the villain doesn’t work, he’s simply another unstoppable force of nature like Doomsday with a more specific intent and, maybe, a backstory with slightly better motivation. But he’s more a shallow sketch of a character than anything else so far. We see his fear of Krypton taking over the universe but we don’t see his support for that fear. (Maybe history will reverse and we’ll see it? Who knows. That doesn’t make him any more interesting right now.)
In any case, the weak villain makes Zaar’s battle with Superman and Supergirl, as well-drawn as it is, read oddly flat despite what’s at stake.
The Daily Planet dialogue also seems off, as does some of the other dialogue. It’s like 70 percent of things work well but the 30 percent that doesn’t work really doesn’t work and it drags what’s essentially a good characterization of Superman down.
I remain baffled at Bendis’ story choices to begin his run of Superman, especially by the ridiculous tease of where Lois and Jon have gone, which has been far more annoying than intriguing.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.