Review – Superman #3: War in the Phantom Zone

Comic Books DC This Week
Superman #3
Superman #3 variant cover, credit to DC Comics.

Superman #3 – Brian Michael Bendis, Writer; Ivan Reis, Penciller; Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Inkers; Alex Sinclair, Colorist


Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: How Does This Concept Even Work?

Ray: As Brian Michael Bendis settles in on the Superman titles, the two books couldn’t be more different and it feels a bit distracting – they almost seem to be taking place in different universes. While Action Comics is character-driven and Metropolis-focused, Superman is an explosive thriller that never slows down. And it doesn’t get much more chaotic than all of Earth being thrown into the Phantom Zone. This issue opens with Live Wire escaping from her cell at STAR Labs and looking for revenge – only to find out that no one has any interest in fighting with her right now. Superman seems to instantly suspect her of causing the crisis when he shows up, which seems a bit dubious given her abilities. STAR Labs seems to have something to do with it, but everyone is as confused as Superman. And as if the debilitating effects of the Phantom Zone on humans aren’t enough of a crisis, Superman realizes that they’re now sharing a dimension with his new nemesis Rogol Zaar. And that means that Zaar is getting another shot at destroying Earth and its Kryptonians.

Bendis has had a lot of fun bringing in Superman villains from outside of comics so far, and his latest addition has a lot more credibility than Nuclear Man. That would be Jax-Ur, best known from Superman: The Animated Series. Here a deranged Kryptonian mad scientist who blew up the planet’s moon and is considered its worst criminal besides Zod, he quickly sics the zone’s criminal army on Zaar – only for Zaar to defeat them with little difficulty. But Zaar isn’t there for a fight, he’s there for a recruitment drive. He soon has a loyal army of Krypton’s worst fiends looking to march on the defenseless Earth, where almost all the heroes are incapacitated and Superman is occupied with countless crises. Zaar continues to be an over-the-top cartoon of a villain, and the dialogue from many of the cameos is off. It looks fantastic, but nothing in the issue is as compelling to read as the one tragicomic scene featuring Adam Strange returning to where Earth should be and coming out very confused. This is still a mixed bag of a book, but the cliffhanger sets up an exciting battle for next issue.

Enter Live Wire. Credit to DC Comics.

Corrina: There are two things that overshadow Superman doing what he does well–saving people–in this issue. One is Zaar, whose motivations are so one-note that I want to tell DC to stop trying to make fetch happen.

The second thing is the idea itself of Earth being in the Phantom Zone. It’s such a huge idea that it seems almost too big for a Superman arc. It’s a worldwide problem that is more for a Justice League story (yes, they are in this, briefly) and, also, I know the Phantom Zone doesn’t make sense, but it also doesn’t make sense that Earth could be transported to it and not know for a while. Because it seems like the transformation has been portrayed differently in the past.

But, Lois isn’t in this, nor is she out of character in it, so there’s that. It’s sad I’ve gotten to the point where I’m dissatisfied enough with how Bendis writes Lois that I’m glad she’s not even in the story. :sigh:

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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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