Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Review: Superman #6

Superman #6 came out last week and was a very entertaining read.

From formatting decisions to plot progression to knock down fight sequences to emotional beats, this whole thing gave me a lot to mull over when it was done. And that isn't even mentioning the highly anticipated and highly dreaded cliffhanger ending.

But there was a story-telling moment that I have to admit surprised me and therefore impressed me quite a bit. When this grizzled and semi-jaded comic reader is caught off guard, it needs to be mentioned.

All of that means I must extend my respect to writer Brian Michael Bendis who has somehow made me interested in this Rogol Zaar story. I started out shrugging at this whole thing and looking forward to Action Comics much more. But these last couple of issues have really been standouts.

Of course, equal credit rests on the art team of Ivan Reis and Joe Prado. The book opens up with amazing double splash pages as Superman's conflicted thoughts surround the slugfest between titans. The art is just stunning. This is one of those issues where I paused before turning the page to make sure I was drinking in all the artwork.

Anyways, there is a lot to mull over in the details so on to the book.

 Last issue ended with General Zod crashing the Phantom Zone party and bringing the fight to Rogol Zaar.

We pick right up there.

But we hear Superman's inner most thoughts as this war of the gargantuans unfolds.

First off, I like how Superman's initial thought here is always to try and stop a fight. He even surprises himself when he says his first instinct is to separate these two. Now that is both perfect and ludicrous.

But the thing that stuck out to me right off the bat was the lofty language Supes uses. A battle for THE LEGACY OF KRYPTON! That caught me off guard a bit.

 The battle goes on.

And Superman has to admit that his ideals of resorting to violence as a last resort isn't going to work here. Maybe the best thing to do is let Zod and Zaar kill each other.

But then he wouldn't learn what Zaar did. And if Jor-El was involved. And how does Zod know about him anyways?

Still, having these two monsters off each other is a tempting idea, isn't it?

And yet, no matter what gets thrown at Zaar, he always pushes through. Hmmm, could Zaar have a little Sebastian Shaw in him? Converting physical energy into power? Hmmm ....

Yet another moment I loved in this book is when Superman stopped thinking so clinically, so ethically, about this battle. He has a stake in this as well. He finally says the words only Supergirl and a few others have heard. He yells 'For Kandor' and joins in the brawl. He should be this angry.

It is a small thing but for Supergirl fans, the fact he is thinking about Kara in this was huge. They are family. They are both hurt by Zaar's actions.

 Throughout the fight, Superman continues his somewhat flowery speech. This is the fight for THE LEGACY OF KRYPTON. The time has come for the houses of El and Zod to put aside their past and join forces to put the epilogue on Krypton's story.

It is funny. As the issue unrolled and those big words kept being said, I kind of bought in. Okay, Superman realizes this is a big deal, perhaps the biggest deal. Time to roll up sleeves and begin the wet work of an old fashioned beatdown.

When you get this Sergio Leone close-up of Rogol Zaar's eyes, I knew it was on.

I turned the page ready to see another two page spread of a cataclysmic battle between three gods ......


The next page is Superman being rescued from the Phantom Zone.

No fight for me!

It was such a wonderful feint by Bendis, ramming the weight of this brawl down my throat for half the book, getting me ready for the final rounds of this battle. And then, when I finally buy in, appetite appropriately whetted, ready to see the bloody throwdown, Bendis pulls the rug out from under me.

Well played.

I have to say, I loved that. I love being surprised!

 Realizing that he had prepped himself for this fight, teaming up with Zod to end Zaar, Superman asks to be put back into the Zone.

But the Earth is still reeling from its trip in and out of the Phantom Zone. The Earth needs saving.

It is time to take a breath, let the violent adrenaline surge abate, and get back to the real business at hand. It is time to help.

Just earlier we had heard Superman say how he knew what was expected of him. The Zod/Zaar is not what people expect. Saving California? That is expected.

And so the job takes over.

I also liked this moment a lot.

 But the second most intriguing moment was this one after the heroes disperse to help.

Adam Strange knows who Rogol Zaar is. This shouldn't be too big a surprise since Sardath was in that initial circle commanding Zaar.

Funny how so many people outside of our hero know Zaar. Somehow Zaar never made it into official texts but Zod and Strange both know him.

I wonder if Strange is going to tell Superman all he knows or hold off.

 Meanwhile, back in the Zone, Zaar dispatches Zod. Dragging the bloody and bruised General behind him, Zaar cements his control over the gangs inside the Zone.

Funny how Kryptonian criminals would follow so blindly. You think somehow Zod would have been able to command these throngs to gang up on Zaar. Of course the speed of the battle might have made such pitches impossible.

Hmmm ... could Zaar gain strength from loyalty he breeds? Fear he elicits?

Ahhh ... then we get the cliffhanger.

Flying around, saving people and being super, Superman realizes that Jor-El has a lot of information to share. He knows Zaar. He'll know what Zod knows. It is time to run into Mr. Oz again.

On cue, Superboy arrives.

This looks like a late teen Jon, a far cry from the hair-tousled 12 year old we are reading in Super Sons. What happened?

I will admit I have some dread here. I loved Jon just the way he was. We only had him for a couple of years. I am hoping somehow Bendis can pull this off. But I'm worried.

Still, this was a great issue for me. The splash page battles building in intensity both physical and emotional followed by the abrupt removal of Superman was a brilliant writing ploy. Adam knowing Zaar. Zaar's powers being curious in nature. And now Jon.

And all rendered so beautifully.

That is a meaty read.

Overall grade: A


Stu said...

Unless Jon's age-up means he'll be heading into the future to lead a new version of the Legion, I'm not optimistic. Bendis wrote him horribly out of character before, and all of the solicits/covers portray him as a violent villain. Odds are greater that he'll be using the Mr. Oz codename instead of being a hero anymore.

At least we won't have to have Rogol Zaar crammed down our throats as an interesting threat anymore. But if it meant having a character I could share with my kids salvaged so they can still enjoy him & his stories, I'd take months of Bendis shilling his new boring baddie any day.

Anonymous said...

Reis and Prado's art is truly stunning. I usually don't condone comics that are mostly splash pages because I like reading my books, but this is one of those instances where it worked.

I was grateful for Superman mentioning Supergirl. Unlike other creatives, Bendis gets they are family and the love and respect each other, and Superman wouldn't act like she didn't exist, and I'm thankful for it.

Funny how Superman wasn't sure who to ally himself with. Two monsters he despises trying to kill each other. His first impulse is to naturally stop the battle before accepting that is not possible. It's interesting that he intentionally let Kandor's fate slip because he wanted to see Zod aiming his hatred and zealotry at someone else for once.

I'm conflicted over Superman leaving Zod behind, even if it makes sense he prioritizes saving innocent lives over helping a mass-murderer.

Now, Jon... I'm worried. The last time Superman had a son who was prematurely aged... well, everyone knows what happened to poor Chris Kent. I'm afraid this move will ruin Jon's long-term viability. Hardly a surprise since "What if Jon becomes evil?" is the only Jon storyline that DC can come up with.

Martin Gray said...

I'm unconvinced Bendis isn't ageing up Jon just for this storyline, he HAS to know what a great property DC has with young Jon, and he can't not know what a cliched plot 'twist' this is. So i'm taking a 'wait and see' approach.

The art, yes, totally fantastic, including the lettering and colouring.

Top spot of Adam's cursing, I forgot all about the Sardath business. I hate that post-Alan Moore, Sardath remains deeply suspect.

Anonymous said...

This was much more narration-heavy than prior issues by Bendis, but it worked seamlessly with the art and lettering design, which I found beautiful to look at.

How old are the kids in Young Justice, debuting next month in the new Wonder Comics imprint, going to be? Early teens? Supposedly the team will exist in the current DC continuity. There has to be some way to easily distinguish two Superboys in one DC universe.

Bendis is -- one heck of a busy man! He's writing at least these monthly/limited series titles: Superman, Action, Cover, Pearl, Scarlet, United States vs. Murder Inc; and will be curating Wonder Comics while co-writing its Naomi title.

Some of the Jinxworld storylines have probably been on his backburner for years, but he was seriously ill just when transitioning to DC and that must have set his writing back. But if so, he sure has roared back with a vengeance.

The man is a force of nature, and it's a wonder to see people utterly driven to create.


MattComix said...

Straight up? I'm worried they're gonna Jon into the next Superboy Prime situation. Rebirth got me back in the comic shop, grimdarking Jon will take me right back out.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments!

So interesting to hear everyone’s thoughts on Jon.

Fingers crossed.

Professor Feetlebaum said...

Something occurred to me...

What if this isn't Jon from 2018 aged up a few years?

What if this is Jon from several years in the future?

Stu said...

"Straight up? I'm worried they're gonna Jon into the next Superboy Prime situation. Rebirth got me back in the comic shop, grimdarking Jon will take me right back out."

Even in Rebirth, "Jon turns evil" was all they could think to do with him outside of Super Sons. It's bad when you can't give your kid a Superman book because there's a like-aged boy getting Clockwork Orange'd by a villain over three issues. But I seem to be alone in finding that story anything less than brilliant, let alone objectionable.

I genuinely don't get everyone being optimistic about this. Either you haven't read any Bendis, where he always does the most obvious & hackiest option (like in his X-Men stuff, where he decided to have young Hank McCoy go full mad scientist), or they just want to convince themselves it's secretly not bad. DC has wanted this "twist" forever, they have a long well-known record of being absolutely horrible to their non-JSA heroes having families, and now they have just the guy to do the most obvious, eye-rolling thing. He might be "driven to create", but so were Ed Wood & Uwe Boll.

Nothing good can come of this, and you can't just force it to be good by insisting it is through some seventh-dimensional false logic.

Anonymous said...

Besides the obvious dilemma of Bendis aging Jon up, another problem I had with this issue was Bendis' obscene amount of dialogue. Specifically, the 2 page spread of a bloodied Rogol Zaar rendered gorgeously by Ivan Reis is ruined by the amount of dialogue Bendis crammed onto the spread. I find it hard to believe that if this script had been turned in by any writer other than Bendis, the editor would have told them to rewrite the script. But because Bendis is a hotshot, he gets a free pass at overly bloated dialogue.

Furthermore, I didn't feel like this story actually resolved anything. We didn't get a Superman/Zod vs Rogol Zaar fight because Bendis took the cheap option of separating the two just when they were about to join forces. We don't know about Superman's new approach that Bendis was talking about in interviews beyond Martian Manhunter telling Superman to lead humanity into the stars. And we certainly know little more about Rogol Zaar's backstory or why he hates Kryptonians so much. Bendis' decompressed style of writing is terrible in a monthly format.

As for Jon getting aged up, you can bet your bottom dollar I'm worried about the long term viability of Jon. There was still so much more potential with 10 year old Jon being mentored by Superman as well as his dynamics with Damian in Super Sons. Bendis aging him up 4-5 years ruins all this potential and makes me fear Jon will suffer the same fate as Chris Kent after he got aged up during New Krypton.