Friday, June 8, 2018

Review: The Man Of Steel #2

 The Man of Steel #2 came out this week, the second chapter in this six issue mini-series written by Superman scribe of the future Brian Michael Bendis. I went into this series with some trepidation, wondering just what I would get from Bendis and just how much of the previous runs (bringing back a more classic Superman) was going to be left standing and how much would be razed.

Well, two issues in and I am quite happy.

Bendis is walking the incredible tightrope of having this mini-series feel fresh and current while at the same time bring a classic sensibility to the proceedings. We have a Superman who is devastated by the disappearance of his family, who is dealing with modern issues of journalism, who has well-meaning friends who are concerned but afraid to confront, and their is a planetary threat on the horizon. That's all modern comic fodder.

But we also get a smiling Superman taking on a giant toy. We get a Superman saving homeless people from a burning building. We get Jimmy and Perry verbally sparring. We get Steve Lombard and Ron Troupe pranking each other in the background. We have the Planet and super-heroics. That is all old school cool.

The only thing missing from both those elements is ... well ... Lois and Jon. But their plot is just beginning to surface and their presence like Rebecca in the Hitchcock movie and Sebastian in Suddenly Last Summer is felt everywhere, maybe stronger in their absence. I do hope the two return some point soon.

And that Rogol Zaar plot is the thing I am sort of dreading the most and it isn't in the forefront yet. With my liking the Metropolis action so much, I hope Zaar doesn't take the air out of the room.

The art here is predominantly done by two of my favorites - Doc Shaner and Steve Rude. Both bring a ridiculous economy to the proceedings. The art seems simple but is brilliant in execution, that whole new and classic thing all over again. Shaner and Rude and like peanut butter and jelly. Seriously, I love both their styles and they work perfect here.

On to the book.

 The issue starts with the announcement that Krypton has exploded.

Lord Gandelo, one of the Galactic Circle, confronts Guardian Appa Ali Apsa about the event. It can't be coincidence that it happened right after Rogol Zaar asked for permission to cleanse the universe of Kryptonians. But Apsa thinks it was a natural occurrence. The GL of the sector (presumably still Tomar Re) wasn't around to save the place. (We do learn that Sardath is one of this circle. He must be ancient!)

So at least for now there is the chance that Krypton died from it's own self-inflicted wounds. And I'd be pretty happy if that stayed true.

But then this interaction struck me. Zaar is a 'legendary creature of war' and, it seems, could overrun this council if he wanted to. Gandelo looks as if he fears Zaar. At the very least, this amps up Zaar. If a Guardian thinks he's tough, he's tough.

I wonder if somehow Zaar is going to be linked to Doomsday. Perhaps the genetic source of Doomsday's form?

Zaar isn't on his homeworld when Apsa investigates. So perhaps Rogol died when Krypton exploded.

My guess? Zaar goes to Krypton to deliver a payload only to have it explode on its own. Caught in the wake, he is horribly scarred.

 Meanwhile on Earth in the present, the mystery of Lois Lane's disappearance is all the water cooler talk at the Planet. Newcomer Robinson Goode, a reporter with nefarious leanings, asks gossip columnist Trish Q what the rumors are.

Q says no one knows although people wonder if Lois left Clark, taking Jon with her.

There is a lot to unpack here. From Robinson trying to get Clark's attention to Trish's retort that Clark is all Smallville felt right. Seeing 'The Pit' in the Planet was cool too. And Perry yelling about Lois' office being off limits just adds to tension.

Lois is the 800lb gorilla not in the room.

Can I also add that Trish reminds me a little of Velma on Scooby Doo. And since both seem to be scrappy seekers of truth, that made me smile.

 On the West Coast, Superman stops in Coast City to stop a rampaging giant monkey robot from ripping the place apart. It is clear to Superman that Toyman is changing locales. And Toyman says it outright. He doesn't want to mess with Superman anymore.

What do I love about this, the absurdity of it. And Superman smiling broadly as if he is in on the joke. Taking out silly villains like Toyman and Prankster is probably the fun part of the job and I am glad Supes seems to be enjoying it.

This is Classic Superman and that thrills me.

 Even during the fight, there is banter with Toyman insisting on being called The Toyman. Superman wonders why Schott just doesn't use his capabilities to make people happy. Superman trying to talk down his opponent is also classic.

But when Toyman throws one last volley of toys at Superman he's finally had it. There is only so much fun to go around. He asks him outright 'what is wrong with you?' The look of exasperation on his face perfectly captures the feeling.

And then Toyman's defeated admission that the idea of a giant robot monkey terrorizing the city made sense a minute earlier is also perfect.

Classic and modern.

 This is Coast City so Green Lantern shows up. There is a warmth to the encounter, like two old buddies unexpectedly running into each other. Remember the angst of the New 52 Justice League? Gone. These are chums who know and like each other.

And care for each other. Hal asks if Superman is okay. He hasn't been to JLA meetings lately. You can see the look of worry on Hal's face, but also some hesitation. I don't think he wants to pry.

If Lois is missing, the League knows it. But maybe they also don't know why. Maybe this is why Hal doesn't mention Lois by name. Heck, he's had enough romance problems to know when not to pick the scab.

I liked this scene a ton because it showed some humanity amid the superheroics. These are friends who are worrying about each other's lives, not just about the adventures. And maybe, just maybe, Superman is just putting on a happy face.

But Hal's questions do bring back Superman's emotional pain. In a flashback, Superman remembers Lois and Jon disappearing. We know see what caused the flash last issue.

Looks like I was wrong and it isn't a Clark doppelganger. Looks like, thankfully, it isn't Mr. Oz.

There is something Kirby-esque about this thing. Is it a ship? Or a celestial finger of some sort? It isn't screaming Fourth World. But it isn't *not* Fourth World either. Maybe it's a time travel device?

We switch to Steve Rude for the rest of the issue.

While Superman grieves on the moon, we cut to Taffey's West, a bar out in the universe somewhere. Ambush Bug is the maitre d'.

Inside, someone spots an S-shield necklace and is told Superman exists, the last son of Krypton. Hearing that a Kryptonian exists causes the guest, Rogol Zaar, to fly off in anger. He is coming.

But look, I had to include these panels because the bar is called Taffey's West.

Taffey was the bar owner in Blade Runner.

Maybe the bartender should have offered Rogol a drink to calm down? 'The man is dry."

 But there is time to grieve and time to move on.

Superman heads back to Metropolis where another building is on fire. Using his wits, he saves the people trapped. And then, he has to hold back a cascade of trash as the building collapses.

This is an attack of arson on his city and he isn't happy.

How I love these panels. Rude's work is just mesmerizing as we see and feel the effort of Superman. That second panel of him holding up the building is so freaking spectacular. The art just flows.

The book ends back in the Planet. Perry tells Clark that the Planet has been bought. He is unsure if it will continue. He bemoans journalism of the day, when someone with a cellphone has more clout than reporters painstakingly researching the truth.

In the strongest panel of the book (for me), we see just how much has changed in the career of Perry. From hand typewriters to electric to bulky word processors to his laptop, Perry has seen it all. And he has grown weary.

Clark says he'll help figure out who bought the Planet. But in walks Trish Q who says the Planet is sitting on a goldmine. Print the story about Lois' disappearance and the paper will sell a bundle. It seems awfully tacky for Trish to bring this up with Clark in the room. That made no sense to me. Wouldn't she have the sense to pitch this to Perry without Clark there?

A calamity with the Joker pulls Clark away before he can respond.

And then we see Rogol Zaar, on a space motorcycle, en route to Earth.

So all in all, a very solid issue. While there wasn't a ton of plot progression, there was enough for me to feel we were moving forward. But the strength of this issue is the character building throughout. We are establishing the players while the action slowly enfolds. With the players on stage, it most likely is time things will ramp up.

And the art throughout is simply dazzling. Even if you are turned off by the proceedings, you should buy it just to ogle the panels. Brilliant work.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

A very good issue. I'm pleased so far.

Bendis' run is being very inclusive so far. There're ongoing plots related to Metropolis and Krypton which suggest no side of the character is being downplayed. And Superman's quipping is on point so far. Unlike his haters believe, Superman HAS a sense of humour, but it isn't the same like Spider-Man's.

Poor Toyman -sorry, THE Toyman-. Moving out of Metropolis and he still ends captured by Superman. Of course, Toyman being a villain, he never thinks he'd stop having to deal with Superman if he listened to his adivce.

Robinson complaining about Clark never checking her cleavage reminds me of Cat Grant flashing Clark and getting angry when his eyes never leave her face.

Given Zaar's reaction upon hearing there's a survivor, it's clear he DID mean it when he told he'd cleanse the "plague". You'd think he'd reconsider his assessment about Kryptonians sooner or later conquering races is wrong since he'd never heard of said survivor before.

I can't imagine what his reaction will be like when he finds out there're two. I don't think he'll be happier.

Martin Gray said...

Great review. I loved this issue and you’re right, Lois and Jon are at the core of this story.

I wonder how many times the Planet has been bought over the years. Luthor, Lord Satanus, Luthor....

I love your idea that the giant head is the front of a spaceship.

William Ashley Vaughan said...

Not bad. Toyman's giant robot was a bit generic. It needed more absurd toy motifs like a sonic calliope to attack Superman's super hearing. I did like the contents of the cockpit. Did anyone notice the jack-in-the-box that looks like the second Toyman from the seventies. There was a period during that same decade when Winslow Schott took Superman's advice and retired from crime. There was also a terrific Amazing World of Krypton story about how Tomar Re did try to save Krypton and failed. Loved Trish's explanation to Robinson about how Clark Kent is respectful to women. That is right on the money for Clark and Superman both. More great work with Perry White. Last panel of the issue did make Rogol Zaar look a little like Lobo Zaar.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.
I did see Toyman’s cockpit with cookies, soda, and the Jack Nimbke toy. Pretty cool.

I have heard people comment in how Zaar looks like Lobo. But Czarnia is mentioned by the galactic circle in issue 1. And my guess is Bendis wants him unique.

Uncle Screensaver said...

I'm happy to read that so far Bendis hasn't "ruined" the character, although it's somewhat pretentious of him to change the long standing tradition of "L.L." to "M.M." As long as Lois and Jon come back, things will hopefully be all right. I don't like supporting Bendis, so I won't be buying this book, unless the final issue presents Kara in a positive manner.

The villain is about exciting as H'El, and he looks like a combination of him with some other big brute villain, perhaps Draaga or Terrax the Tamer with the axe.

At the very least, this "everything changes forever" storyline emcompasses the Superman Family as a whole, and not just Superman. The implication that this villain (Neo-Black Zero, Neo-Brainiac) was what caused the destruction of Krypton affects Kara just as much as it does Kal. So, while her newest story arc takes away from what we have had, at least it makes sense, and can be seen as her not just being Errandgirl.

Anj, I'm not sure if you covered it elsewhere, (sorry), but will you be picking up "Titans" now that Natasha/ Steel (who still supports an "S" symbol) will be a member?

Professor Feetlebaum said...

Well, that's 2 good issues so far. Looks like Bendis knows what he's doing. I hope I can still say that when issue 6 comes around.

Ali Appa Apsa was the Guardian who accompanied Green Lantern and Green Arrow on their journey across America way back in Green Lantern 76 (April 1970) by Denny O'Neill and Neal Adams. I'm glad Bendis used him instead of Ganthet, who is usually DC's go to Guardian.

I'm not sure that introducing a single "M.M." character counts as changing a long standing tradition. Now if Bendis proceeds to introduce Melody Moore's sister Michelle, her brother Mortimer, her Uncle Melvin and her Aunt Marion, then maybe.......

I agree that, so far, Rogal Zaar is nothing special as a villain. Since Supergirl winds up with his axe, I wonder if he even survives this series. Or if he winds up in the Phantom Zone, or some intergalactic hoosegow.

The art is incredible. Shaner would have been right at home in the Silver Age, while Steve Rude's Superman is Joe Shuster crossed with Max Fleischer.