Friday, September 11, 2020

Review: Superman #25


It's hard to believe but we are over two years into the Brian Michael Bendis era on the Superman books. 

That's two very solid years of Superman books on the shelves. As someone who loved the preceding teams of Dan Jurgen and Tomasi/Gleason, I think Bendis has surpassed them. Yes, not every story has been perfect. But this has felt like Superman. And for the first time in a while, I feel like the supporting cast has been loved as well. 

But apparently all good things must end. Bendis has said that his time on the Super-books is nearing a close. In fact, Superman #25 was the initially planned swan song. But we are going to get a few more months ... thankfully.

Now Superman #25 is an interesting issue. First and foremost, at least for me, it brings Lana Lang back to the super-books. I am an unabashed Lana fan and so seeing her in this book, still working for the Globe, still friends with Clark, still with a history as Superwoman. So that half of the issue is brilliant for me.

But the main story is the introduction of Synmar, another galactic level threat to square off against Superman. Bendis run began with the introduction of Rogol Zaar. We've had Mr. Oz. We've had Mongul. We've had Apex Lex. Now we have Synmar Utopica. If there is one thing that I wish we had seen in the Bendis run is a re-invigoration of some of the classic Superman villains. What would I do for a Prankster story!

Synmar at least seems like an interesting character. Bendis dubbed him the anti-Superman somewhere (or something like that). And there is an interesting wrinkle in his background seen here that makes me intrigued. More on that later. 

The art in the issue is just incredible. Ivan Reis and Danny Miki really outdo themselves with the unique look of Synmar as well as the Earth-level Lana bits. But it is Alex Sinclair on colors that really deserves a medal here. The book's colors sing, especially the bright Synmar segments.

Okay, on to the book.

In the past, the Synmar (a collective term for this race) note that Krypton has exploded. 

The seem to sit in judgment a bit over their corner of the universe. Complete with haughty titles, they observe and feel their Lords of Light are the foundation of truth and goodness.

There is a bit of The Guardians of the Universe here. It made me wonder why we haven't heard from them before. But interestingly enough, the Synmar talk about keeping their eye on Oa ... not the reverse.

Hmmm ...

The Synmar council also notice Kal's rocket speeding away from Krypton and heading to Earth.

There is a quick debate. They know that a Kryptonian under a yellow sun could become a light-god. Can they let such a potential threat go unintercepted?

But one of them says that Kal hasn't done anything wrong. They cannot intervene until they are forced to. As long as he is innocent, they cannot intervene. So they'll watch.

I do like how the Synmar size up Earth. We are a warring race, in love with war, and with violence. And how do they show that? A mushroom cloud, Wonder Woman (already established it seems in the new DCU) blocking bullets. And Alfred Hitchcock!

Beyond a 'Shadow of a Doubt', this makes me happy!

We then continue our look in the past. Clark is hardly a young light god looking to remake Earth into a New Krypton. Instead, he is striking out when he asks Lana to the dance.

This is actually a sweet interaction. Lana likes Clark enough, loves him enough, to know that she needs to tell him to move on. Girls always mature faster.

And, in another brilliant move, Brian Michael Bendis puts Brad in continuity. Brad who spills the equipment in Superman the Movie so Clark can't join Lana. Brad who pops up in Superman III. 

Uuuggghhhh .... Brad!

We then see the Synmar army mopping up some Thanagarians. This was another part of the plot that I sort of squinted at. First off, the Thanagarian army feels like a yardstick prop in comics. 'You know how tough ____ is? They beat up the Thanagarian army.' I have seen Lady Shiva and Prometheus become yard sticks. It is a bummer.

But more importantly, if Thanagar has been in a war with the Synmar, we should have heard from them by now. I think it might have been better to keep them way off in the extremes of the universe so they are truly unknown.

But with Superman looming, the Synmar President picks one of her soldiers, Eisno Alikor, to pick up a special mantle, to be the warrior that represents the Synmar.

Now nearing the present, we see that Lana remains a scientist and a Globe reporter. I am thankful that we didn't retcon this Rebirth Lana. I liked her Action Scientist role in the DCU.

And here we see her when she was hired. She'll be an on air personality, explaining science to people in a way that people can believe. 

So we get a sort of Bronze Age Lana here, a reporter on television. And we hear how she embarrassed Steve Lombard on air, also bringing me a Bronze age feel. Nothing wrong there.

As for the Synmar, they said they were going to watch Superman and they are.

They know that he has done nothing but good on Earth. He doesn't conquer. He doesn't blindly follow a nation. He is his own person and he always helps.

Much like the Hitchcock montage, I love the Superman montage ... maybe even more. Two Fleischer studio images, Kryptonite Nevermore chain breaks, and Action Comics #1 cover homage. Absolutely nothing wrong there. Great stuff by Reis and Miki.

Back in the present, Lana shows up at the Kent apartment to interview Clark. Given the problems at the Planet and his recent reveal, Superman thought another venue to cover his identity made good sense. And why not Lana?

I like how the long term relationship with Clark is shown here. She knows him. She knows how sweet he is. She likes how he watches Lois.

But she also sees how much Clark has grown. He is no longer that shy boy asking Lana to the dance. In pictures around the place she sees a confident man in love with Lois and smiling and laughing. I wonder if she regrets not seeing that Clark could become someone like this.

We even get a little flashback of a dual rescue that Superman and then Superwoman Lana did.

These three panels might be my fave of the issue.

One, Lana talks about how people who hang around Superman long enough get powers. And yes, that is true ... Jimmy could stretch, etc. But I also think she means that when you hang around Superman, you become a better person. A hero. That is a power.

And I also love how we see that to Clark, Lana is still that girl from Smallville he loved. You always love your First Love.

And yet, unbeknownst to Earth, the Synmar are making their own Superman.

That soldier before is now Synmar Utopica, their Superman. 

Great splash. And vibrant colors. Gorgeous.

But here is that wrinkle. 

Clark chose to be Superman.

Alikor was told to be Utopica. Yes, he agreed to it. But he didn't choose it.

Moreover, he knows that he has been a weapon in the Synmar wars. He has done things that he didn't think he should do. That all doesn't sound like Superman.

He is, in a way, an anti-Superman. 

And the art team sells his anguish!

The self-reflection doesn't last.

He is called to the council chambers where the members have been killed. The screens again show Superman, The President says Utopica hasn't been there Superman. And Utopica doesn't even know who that is!

I guess a throwdown is about to happen. Or maybe a hard lesson needs to be taught.

But after many major throwdowns over these two years, I don't know how excited I can get. There is a little Dragon Ball Z here, with bigger and bigger enemies coming to challenge the hero. At least Utopica's feelings give him a little sympathetic background. Maybe Superman will inspire. 

All this Synmar stuff aside, Bendis, as usual handles conversation well. The Lana pages sing.

So buckle up!

Overall grade: B


Unknown said...

Totally agree on your comments about Bendis surpassing Tomasi/Gleason and Jurgens. I was always a bit cold on the Tomasi/Gleason stuff, in fact, I'm the only person I know who liked the Jurgens Action Comics more! Both runs were certainly good though! Bendis is not always perfect, he has dead end storylines like Rogol Zsar who went on too long without learning anything about him besides a throw away line at the end. The second part of the Zandoth story last month also was meh after an amazing psychological breakdown of Superman's trauma during the run. For the most part he has been super strong. He always gets Clark and he has a stellar supporting cast and it just feels like Superman. Bendis is definitely at his best when he stays away from action and focuses on dialogue and character. Super excited about this new arc!

Unknown said...

One more thing: Praying we get some resolution to the Unity Saga arc in Superman during the upcoming Legion arc where we see Zsar and Zod's new Krypton Colony!

Bostondreams said...

" Praying we get some resolution to the Unity Saga arc in Superman during the upcoming Legion arc where we see Zsar and Zod's new Krypton Colony!"

Speaking of..honestly not thrilled with the reveal that Mon-El has been retconned to now be a distant grandchild of Jon...well, Clark too I suppose.
Much prefer him as a Daxamite and all that history.

Martin Gray said...

Nice review, I enjoyed this lots too, I’m very pleased Lana is still super-electrician and given the chat about stirrings with Clark, I’d not be surprised we’re Superwoman to get her powers back.

I’m not one to rank things generally, but as you raised it, I’d say I prefer the Tomasi/Gleason and Jurgens run to Bendis’. I adored the Kent-Lane family vibe, young Jon, the weird town of Hamilton... the sheer consistency.

Anonymous said...

Wow am I like alone here on feeling Bendis was about as right for Superman as Tom King was for Batman? I haven't really cared for his run at all, and if the rumors of Mark Waid taking over are true that just adds to my excitement.

Bostondreams said...

Well, if Waid takes over, here's hoping his dislike of the Clark and Lois marriage doesn't actually come into play!

Eddie Barksdale said...

Thanks for thiss blog post