Monday, August 13, 2018

Review: Superman #2

Superman #2 came out last week and was a decent issue moving the Phantom Zone story arc forward slowly while adding some information to the mystery of Rogol Zaar. It also was beautifully rendered by Ivan Reid and Joe Prado. But one thing I have to say is that it wasn’t exciting. And I don’t know if you want the second issue of your touted run to be that.

Here is the thing. I think Brian Michael Bendis gets the essence of Superman. There are character moments here, one in particular, that I really love. But there wasn’t any zing here, something I was craving.

And Rogol Zaar, the villain which launched Man of Steel, this title, and the impetus behind Supergirl’s space mission remains cipherous and one note. I want him to elevate and become the threat Bendis wants him to be. But we’re now 8 issues in the new direction and I barely know anything about him. At least throw me some crumbs.

As I said, the book is gorgeous. Ivan Reid and Joe Prado deliver a very detailed and lush book. Suoerman looks great. The pages and layout work. The opening scene is grand in scope and sings.

On to the book.

The book starts with a flashback. The Tamaranians have claimed a planet. The Thanagarians also want it. King Myand’r, part of the intergalactic council we saw debate with Rogol Zaar in Man of Steel, is there to rally the troops. The Planet is theirs and they’ll battle the Thanagarians if they must!

Then he sees that the Thanagarians have brought Rogol Zaar with them. Immediately on seeing Zaar , Myand’r orders the retreat. Reid and Prado give us a gorgeous 2 page spread of the battle that is lush.

So we are given some hints about this non-scarred Zaar. He is powerful enough to make a Tamaranian king nervous. He seems almost like a mercenary here, appearing unexpectedly on one side of a conflict. And at some point after this he becomes maimed.

But who is this guy?

Then we get a couple of pages which reinforce that Bendis understands the core of Superman.

We get a story about how Green Arrow asked if Superman and all his super-senses. Didn’t Suoerman witnessing the world that acutely make it seem like Hell? In a series of vertical panels showing Superman doing good, we hear how he witnesses the best in humanity, people helping others. It shows how Superman still has hope for us. And that is why he does what he does, to help.

I loved these pages. Again, just a sign that Bendis gets it.

But right now the Earth has been flung into the Phantom Zone and people are panicked.

One thing I am having a hard time grasping is the nature of the Zone. It was easy to understand in the Silver Age. It was limbo. People were ghosts. You didn’t age. You didn’t want. You just existed outside reality.

Now it seems much more physical. People are talking about Earth not being in the sun, not rotating. Suoerman talks about not getting yellow sun rays.

This sounds like a very physical plane. And dangerous.

Realizing that, Superman gets the League on psychic link through J’onn. I love this panel make up, Superman the axle the League rotates around. The lack of background gives us the mental landscape feel.

But I don’t know how to wrap myself around this version of the Zone.

Rogol Zaar is there as well lamenting his fate. He was hoping for a warrior’s death, not this existence. You get a sense of Zaar's character, a sort of military sense of honor.

Any time I can show Reid and Prado Supergirl I will. Heck, she was the hero of Man of Steel.

And then, in an odd twist, Zaar calls the Zone ‘Krypton’s trash can’ and runs into ... Atom Man?

No mistaking this person as the villain of Superman IV. He’s quite deranged. He’s wearing the El family crest. And he is easily vanquished by Zaar who squashes him like a bug.

Is Atom Man one of Krypton’s “mistakes”? Is he linked to the El family? Or is he just there as an Easter Egg for an old timer like me. Will we ever hear about him again?

It’s a cute inclusion. But if just there for the ‘hey it’s Atom Man’ moment, seems like a waste of pages.

Then Zaar sees the Earth is in the Zone. And Superman too.

This is an opportunity to fulfill his mission of killing all Kryptonians. He’ll raise an army. I guess he is ready to go to war against Earth and Superman. Having seen that opening scene, we know he is as vaunted in troop warfare as he is single combat.

Hmmm ... isn’t the Zone filled with Kryptonians for him to kill? Interesting he is so focused on Kal. Will he go against his own philosophies and team up with Kryptonian criminals to go after Superman?

Oblivious of Zaar’s machinations, Superman investigates why the Earth went into the Zone. He brings Barry, the ‘scientist’ of the League to the Fortress. There is only the on Zone Projector. It doesn’t seem big enough to send the whole planet into the Zone. So how did it happen? Who else could do that?

I do like Barry just guessing about big names who might have that ability. But it’s just guessing. I like Superman calling him out on it.

Is Flash really the preeminent scientist on the planet to bring? It should be clear that the projector has to be involved. Why not bring Cyborg? Also, Barry sounds awfully like Wally here.

And he looks like Wally. The hair color is wrong.

But being in the Zone is effecting everyone in Earth. Barry passes out. In what might be the most ridiculous thing I have heard him utter, Batman says that he feels a wild discomfort in his bowels. That just sounds odd.

So this issue went by a little fast. The Zone is a physical place, creating havoc on Earth and its people. Zaar was a known commodity in war in the past. Superman has faith in humanity. Atom Man existed. But this felt like a baby step forward. And right now I need a giant step. I need to feel excited about this book, eager to read the next part. I need to be brought into the world and the story like I have in other Bendis books like Alias and New Avengers. There is almost a tentative feel to this. I wouldn’t mind some risks.Maybe he is still getting acclimated to this playground?

All that said, it’s gorgeous. Reis and Prado's Superman is really iconic.

Overall grade: C+


Anonymous said...

Beautiful artwork.

Flash says "I think I forgot which Flash I was for a second." Yeah, him and us too. I sense that Bendis was heading somewhere with this, that Barry sounds and looks like Wally because... Bendis is trying to tell a joke about how mixed up everyone is, maybe while poking fun at how there are so many characters around these days named Flash? Not to mention Wally.

The scenes that Zaar is narrating mid-book strike me as flashback. My interpretation: the second part of the book happens first. Zaar sets off a nuclear explosion when he smashes Atom Man, and the explosion creates a fissure into which Earth falls. We see Superman floating above Earth, something he was doing in the first part of the book too (notably, the spash panel in the middle of the book).

That could explain the purpose of Atom Man in the story while also explaining how this is happening.

As for whether Phantom Zone is physical - seems to vary, doesn't it? Don't inhabitants hang out on rocks? (I guess they don't need cushions.) Wasn't Christopher Kent raised by Zod and Ursa in a prison structure in the Zone?

Martin Gray said...

This was the first issue I haven’t reviewed myself in years. Couldn’t be bothered. There were one or two things to talk about eg the stupidity of his Flash (Bendis is either doing JLU Wally or film Barry but he’s not doing DCU Barry - and why is the Flash ‘losing his mind’?) and yes, the changing nature of the Phantom Zone, but the whole thing felt, in the words of Charlie Brown, Blah. The Earth being in the Phantom Zone should feel huge, terrifying, but there’s no sense or urgency or danger.

Bendis keeps talking about how he loves newspapers, but he’s not a journalist and shouldn’t try and impress us with Clark’s prose, because he makes Clark sound like a bad writer, full of banalities. He has Clark tell us he can come up with a better way to describe the situation than ‘This day sucks’ but never shares what that is. Or he has Superman say something as dumb as ‘The ignorance sometimes never stops...’ Pardon? And why is Clark narrating this way, is this meant to be a running commentary in his head? Just bring back thought balloons and the omniscient narrator!

Lovely art, great Green Arrow anecdote, but it’s all very dull.

Anonymous said...

Great review of a very dull comic. I can admit the two double page spreads of the Green Arrow anecdote were alright but the rest of the issue was a worthless dud that was full of genuinely silly and stupid errors. Hawkman and Plastic Man being in the League's telepathic link when neither are currently on the League's roster, Barry looking like Wally, Rogol Zaar wanting to raise an army in a place filled mostly with Kryptonian criminals. And it was heavy on the 'Bendis speak' too which I cannot stand. Hopefully Bendis doesn't get to do a Flash or Justice League comic any time soon because his take on the League was wildly inaccurate.


Ema said...

Is Nuclear Man, not Atom Man 😉