Written by, Brian Michael Bendis
Art by, Adam Hughes and Jason Fabok (pp8-11)
Colors by, Adam Hughes and Alex Sinclair
Letters by, Josh Reed
In the previous 4 issues of this 6 issue mini, Brian Michael Bendis has been developing several story arcs: Rogol Zaar, his destruction of Krypton, his war against its people, and his motivation for destroying Superman. Meanwhile, he’s introduced a new member of Superman’s supporting cast, deputy fire chief Melody Moore, through the investigation of mysterious fires that have popped up throughout Metropolis. However, he has yet to reveal the whereabouts of Lois Lane, and why she no longer works at the Daily Planet.
The issue begins, Rogol and Superman battle for the earth’s survival. Superman takes him to the moon. During the fight, he puzzles over Rogol’s motivations while having flashbacks of his son Jonathan, and his safety. However, his deepest motivation comes from the death of Kandor’s people and the responsibility he failed to meet to keep them safe. Superman’s own thoughts reveal his level of fear and concern that he will fail to stop Rogol. Meanwhile, the issue flashes to a scene back in Metropolis where Jor-El reappears to take Jonathan away. The sequence evokes anger and trepidation in Clark and Lois. Could they have known at that time why Jor-El was so intent on taking Jonathan and why Jor-El called Jonathan, “the heir of Krypton?”
Kara reappears saving civilians from another Metropolis-born fire. She asks Moore if she’s seen her cousin. The use of the familial title reinforces the drama and importance of the questions. Kara searches and finds Superman, who lays unconscious, on the moon. She takes him back to the Justice League headquarters. Wonder Woman educates the group on the wisdom of Rogol’s strategies so far. He’s calculating, never retreating, always testing his enemy. Superman wakes from his concussion, and Kara reassures him that she cleaned the Fortress of Solitude and retrieved several important items. However, Superman has an epiphany and flies away. Wonder Woman stops Kara from joining him, cautioning her that they cannot afford to lose both Kryptonites in this battle. Superman locates Rogol Zaar at the center of the earth where he’s begun preparations to destroy the planet.
This is another amazing issue. The battle between Superman and Rogol Zaar is epic. Bendis does the legwork to demonstrate Rogol’s power prior to this sequence, which makes the results believable. In addition, Adam Hughes’ art highlights this explosive story. He uses shadows, outlines, and shading to support the emotional tone of the book, which feels to be at a panic-level for the Kryptonites. Bendis does an amazing job of pulling Jor-El back into the Superman narrative and making the character feel useful. Perhaps Jor-El was hiding out on earth this whole time, not only to avoid his own capture but also for the opportunity to teach an heir the ways of El?
10/10 by Tom Zimm
There’s a lot to like about the penultimate issue of Man of Steel but alas, also some things that you will dislike. While talented and prolific, Brian Michael Bendis still has quite the challenge on his hands in getting existing Superman readers to buy in to what he has been setting up, while at the same time trying to bring in and keep new readers for the long haul. The series art has also been a mixed bag. At times it has been so well drawn that Ivan Reis just takes your breath away allowing you to forgive any story issues you may have, but then at other times it lacks punch and portrays an aesthetic that is unbecoming of such an important series.
It would not shock you to hear that Bendis’ writing in Man of Steel has been quite expansive so far, to the point where it can weigh you down a little upon completing an issue eliciting a feeling that you have just completed a mountainous task, which Superman comic reading should never be. In this issue however, there certainly seems to be a paring back of story and dialogue, which was an all too common complaint among many new readers when asked to elaborate on what they didn’t like about the series so far. Issue #5 moved along at such a rhythmic pace, and that made this phase of the story quite the most enjoyable read so far. The previous four issues had definitely garnered enough intrigue for the reader to keep going as there was a strong desire to know exactly who Rogol Zaar is and what has become of Jon and Lois in the near future, but those four issues also left you wondering if you would still care enough to read on after the final issue when Action Comics and Superman would resume and a longer financial and emotional commitment would be required.
It was also pleasing to note that not just the pacing, but the also humor was a lot better than in previous issues. Bendis found the right dialogue this time ensuring there were no forceful laughs or wry grins when he delivered his punchlines. This was no more evident than when Jon was in discussion with his parents and grandfather about his lineage and whether he should be allowed to leave with Jor-El for the sake of his own safety. Given all the worry and fear that Superman readers had about Bendis writing Jon out of existence, I found it quite ironic that Jon delivered some of the best moments of the issue. It wasn’t all home runs though as later on at the Hall of Justice there was a failed attempt at humor from The Flash that felt forced and redundant, so Bendis will still need a few more concessions from his new audience until he delivers a better strike rate. Anyway, enough about the writing because there is a lot to hash out about the art in this issue.
The art in issue #5 falls victim to the same problem that occurs with every ambitious weekly series. Just like in Snyder’s Justice League: No Justice issue #3 where the art quality dropped a bit, it has happened again here with issue #4. Adam Hughes’s art is not terrible by any means, some panels were actually great like the one where Superman is dragging Rogol Zaar into space, but if you put his art up against Ivan Reis and Jason Fabok, you are going to see a clear disparity of definition with an unfortunate tendency to over ink that washes away too much expression in the faces of the characters and a dulling of the surroundings. This was no more evident than in the exterior panels where the Justice League are helping the fire department put out a large fire in Superman’s absence.
DC would do well in the future with weekly series to just let an artist complete the whole issue on their own rather subject them to a comparison from a far more talented artist. If time is an issue, then longer deadlines should be made with a buffer placed in the middle to absorb any bumps in the road. Adam Hughes’s work would be fine for many titles in DC’s library, but he should have been given more time to finish and polish his work especially when Bendis and DC are attempting to make such a big statement and herald a new era for Superman and the brand overall.
Jason Fabok’s art cameo of 4 pages on the other hand, is just glorious. The man is a master of his craft and should be working on a monthly series for DC so we can see his work more regularly, but based on what can be gleaned from his twitter comments, whenever he is quizzed about regular series work, he points to the exhausting experience of working on Justice League: Darkseid War and how it took a lot out of him physically and emotionally, and the length of time it took to recover from it. If you have never read it, do yourself a favor and pick it up. His art in that whole arc is truly sublime, and the story from Geoff Johns ain’t bad either. In terms of new work, Fabok will be doing issue #6 which is out next week and will be reuniting with Geoff Johns for the long awaited Three Jokers story that was first teased in the aforementioned Darkseid War.
Getting back to Man of Steel, now that the story has turned a crucial corner and become more exciting – the final issue will hopefully build on all of that giving us a suitably climactic end that will leave you wanting more.
Don’t forget that Ivan Reis will back for the last issue, which means that the art can again shine equally alongside the story. Bendis still needs to do a lot in terms of finding the right voice for each character he decides to use, but that decisiveness and successful execution should come with more time, time that should be afforded to him given his long history of past success.
7.5 out of 10 by Jason Saba
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