Monday, November 19, 2018

Review: Superman #5

Superman #5 came out last week, written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado.

I have said in the past that Action Comics has been more enjoyable to me recently. But the last two issues, Bendis has really brought it. There is a lot here that I loved. There is humor. There is plot progression. Bendis picks up a plot thread that has been hanging for a while. Heck, I even like General Zod in this issue. I haven't been interested in Zod in about a decade. Just amazing.

Two moments stand out. There is a moment of Ma and Pa wisdom at the end which made me sit up and cheer.  And there is a Lois mention that showed me that maybe Bendis gets the Kent/Lane relationship at its foundation. They happen back to back at the end of the book and I was thrilled. Pitch perfect ... you'll see.

Add to that the usual stand-out art by the team of Reis and Prado. There is something so classic about their approach to the material. Whether gleaming spires or ruined zones, the two bring it. In particular, Superman looks pretty ragged here, appropriate given the fight he has been through. I also love Adam Hughes' cover, riffing on the classic Superman #32 cover from the 40's.

On to the book.

Now I will admit that I was confused when the book opened.

Zod and his family ask Kal and his family as well as the people of Kandor to come together to form a New Krypton, a gleaming paradise. Zod is so moved on trying to bring back his culture that he actually sheds a tear as he extends this olive branch. This is a rare moment of sentiment for the usually angry, frothing Zod.

But this is not where last issue ended. We were dropped in here.

I will say, I don't know if I am ready to see New Krypton again ... or ever.

Before Kal can answer, the dais erupts in fire. Everyone but Zod seems to die. The bruised and bleeding General looks up and stares into the face of Rogol Zaar.

And then he woke up!

Turns out this was all a dream. Zod, perhaps intoxicated from Jakuulian libations, has had this nightmare again. Ursa is worried.

It is a callback to Dan Jurgens' Revenge story. Back in July 2017, Jurgens had Zod and his family head off to a distant yellow sun planet to rule. That was waayyy back in Action Comics #984 here:

I do wonder why Zod sees Zaar. Did he know Rogol? Has Zod been aware of Zaar's role?

Then Zod learns that Earth has disappeared and flies off.

In empty space, he runs into Adam Strange.

Strange has had a great bit part in this story, a punchline of sorts. He's clueless.

This exchange is another humorous one. Zod arrives, towering over Strange. He looks like he's 10 ft tall. Strange, wide eyed and probably soiling himself, asks if Zod is of the Kryptonian Zods. As if there are any other Zods sporting pentagram family crests while floating in the vacuum of space.

Just fantastic.

But finally the Earth returns to its normal size as seen last issue.

I assume 'Kristin Bell' is Atom's clean version of 'F___ing Hell', akin to 'Shut the Front Door!' and 'Sugar Honey Iced Tea'. Amusing. And somehow perfectly Ray.

I also love how when Ray hears Adam Strange ask for a rundown, he asks if he miscalculated and Earth ended up near Rann. Awesome.

But before he can even catch his breath, Zod appears before the Atom and demands that Ray blast him with the Phantom Zone projector.

He does.

Talk about a zany 10 seconds.

I love this moment of decompression. Atom pauses, trying to wrap his head around what just happened. Then wonders if he did the right thing ... in all things? Was blasting Zod right? Is the planet normal again?

This was hysterical. I loved it.

I don't often post whole pages.

But this was the best page of the book.

Prior to this we have a two page layout of Superman slowly seething. Alone, on a rock in the Zone, he talks about how he hates days like this. He hates enemies like this. He should raze everything and kill everyone and just get it over with. As he voices this, his face contorts in anger, energy pouring out of his eyes.  As I read those pages, I was thinking 'boy this doesn't sound like Superman.'

And then you turn the page and witness the voice of the Kents in his mind. 'Tests are hard.' Yes, he could destroy everything but is that the right thing to do. The right thing isn't always the easiest thing. It is often hard.

Then we see Superman depower and lower his head, almost in shame, that he actually was thinking of crossing the line.


This also humanizes Superman. People often say that he is too perfect, too difficult to relate to, too boring. He is probably tempted like this daily ... heck hourly! To see that he can be angry just like us but knows the right thing to do is to rein it in is just fantastic.

Seriously, this is just a heartwarming page. A home run.

Then Bendis goes back to back with winners. After his moment of clarity, he realizes that he can't just keep trading blows with Zaar. He needs to understand Zaar, learn his secrets.

He asks 'what would Lois do'?

How fantastic is that?

He knows that Lois would get to the bottom of the story. And the best way to do that is ask questions.

Superman flies to Zaar and asks a great question. Why does he hate Kryptonians? Did a Kryptonian destroy Zaar's planet?

Zaar's response, another threat to erase all Kryptonians from the universe, somehow reveals something to Superman.

I think that comment about 'half breeds' is the key. I bet Zaar is grieving the loss of his family, the same way Superman might grieve the loss of Lois and Jon. We don't hear what Superman has figured out.

That's because Zod arrives.

Superman might not kill Zaar out of revenge. But Zod will.

Whoa. Nice cliffhanger. And look at how monstrous Zod looks! Almost inhuman.

Zod has to know who Zaar is. He has to have inside info.

Between the Strange/Atom humor, the Kent wisdom, the Lois nod, and this cliffhanger, this was a tremendous issue. Thoroughly entertaining.

Thanks to all involved!

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

"I will say, I don't know if I am ready to see New Krypton again ... or ever."

I think that, despite its glaring flaws, people is too hard with that crossover. I still enjoy reading those issues from time to time, and I wouldn't mind if it was back, even if in a tweaked fashion.

Moreover, NK being back in continuity means Gates/Igle's run back.

Moving on... I liked the dream sequence. And Supergirl was being counted as a member of the Superman Family! Too often she's disregarded like she didn't exist.

(Why was she wearing a battlesuit in Zod's dream, I wonder?)

I also loved that scene where Superman is actually considering to cross the line (and, honestly, who could blame him? Rogol Zaar destroyed his homeworld and not content with that, he slaughted the Kandorians and attempted to kill him, his family and his adoptive world... His crimes' list is long and bloody)... and he is so angry that his eyes aren't ngiving off heat but pouring fire... but then he sees his adoptive parents, and he calms down.

Tests aren't easy. That's because they ARE tests. Indeed, Pa.

Martin Gray said...

Thanks for a great review of a tremendous issie, Brian has more than found his feet.

I’m ready for an annual.