Friday, June 22, 2018

Review: The Man of Steel #4

Man of Steel #4 came out this week and was an action heavy issue after three which have been spent establishing the environment that new writer Brian Michael Bendis is going to be playing in. 

I have loved the personal character scenes in the first three issues. From Batman to Kara to the Planet Staff, Bendis has a knack for dialogue and interactions. As a result, this brawl issue was just a tiny step backwards for me. Fascinating that a high octane fight would be a pump of the brakes for me. 

That isn’t to say there aren’t some character beats in this issue. We get to see the cousins interact. We get Hal. We get the citizens of Metropolis. And we get Clark’s own internal dialogue. These elevated the proceedings. And I very much appreciated how Bendis folded the Action Comics #1000 story into this issue. If you didn’t have that story, this reads fine. If you Did read it, you can fill in some gaps. 

Kevin Maguire is in art and his stuff just sings. As always, his expressive work is brilliant. You know what people are thinking even without them saying anything. But I am just as impressed with the melee scenes. From a kinetic feel to a sense of the energy rippling off the combatants, it’s wonderful. This almost feels like a anime in places.

On to the book.

We open up with an up close picture of Superman’s eye, Rogol Zaar reflected back at us. It sets up the scene nicely. Things in the reflection may be closer in real life.

But what I like as a reader is the use of the opening page as a unifying theme.

We have seen Krypton and Earth, so why not an eye, another globe of sorts. As a reader, I appreciate these sort of things to pull a story together.  But we’ll get back to this theme in a bit.

What we get on the next page is a reverse angle of the ending of last issue. The cousins are in the thick of it already, pounding Zaar in the kisser.

I cannot tell you how much I love seeing the cousins fighting together like this. It isn’t always true. So I have to love it when I see it.

And check out the art. You know how determined Clark and Kara are. She is livid. Perfect.

In fact, maybe she is too livid. She is described as having blind rage.

Supergirl being fierce in her pursuit of justice? Yes please. Maybe a bit impetuous? Sure. But blind rage?? Well, I suppose this is still the New 52 Kara, the former Red Lantern. And she has seen her people slaughtered. But I don’t want her to be too twitchy.

I also don’t know if I like Clark saying Cyborg has given him advice about battles and keeping control of your emotions. Shouldn’t that be the other way around?

Anyways, great punch Kara!

Supergirl is sort of swatted away. 
The fight really rages on in the city with Superman realizing that the power it’ll take to defeat Zaar will level the city. Maybe that is why Zaar chose here to fight. So Superman has to pull back a bit.

But then he realizes that maybe Zaar is getting powered up by the yellow sun and actually isn’t used to it. Maybe Superman can use experience to his advantage. This even struck a bit like the Man of Steel movie.

I love that top panel. That is Akira. That is Dragon Ball. That is fantastic.

It seems to be a stalemate. I love Superman’s inner dialogue, trying to outthink the hiding Zaar. Actually hearing Superman admit that he’d love to start throwing cars like artillery to flush out Zaar was refreshing. We don’t see or hear that side of Superman that much. It reminds me how restrained he is with his powers. And how easy it would be to scare people.

And again, it is great to see the cousins acting and reacting like partners who are used to each other’s fighting style. Immediately they go back to back. Sound practice.

It’s here Bendis gives us the entry point for the Action #1000 story. We see Superman battered just as we did there.

But now in his unconscious state, we see his mind head to Lois and Jon. And here we learn who is in that ship. Mr. Oz.



How I had hoped that somehow we wouldn’t get evil and alive Jor-El again. But here he is. And why would Superman ever let Lois and Jon go with this homicidal maniac? We better get a good explanation!

I have to say. I felt a bit deflated seeing him. 

Like I said, it was a nice touch to have the Action story slip in here, we see the diner waitresses from that story. They’re relaying all that happened to Green Lantern. Apparently, Zaar just ran off. I don’t know. Seems too easy.

I do like seeing Maggie Sawyer taking charge.

And Puzo Plaza! Inspired.

Again, Maguire captures so much emotion in his art. Brilliant.

And then a bit I found confusing. At the end of Action #1000, it appears Zaar has stabbed Superman in the chest. Superman seems fine. Did Hal flying in really scare Zaar off?

At least Superman remembers Zaar talking about cleansing the universe of Kryptonians and it doesn’t sit well with him.

As I said at the top, Bendis has such a knack for interactions. Even here, seeing how Metropolis responds to this combat is slick. Maggie clears the street. People are cheering for Superman even though he kind of lost. Supergirl has fans. This is bustling Metropolis at its best! The small moments mean a lot to me. 

Right after we see the cousins finally have a second to mourn Kandor. Perfect. 

It’s hardly over.

Supergirl flies off to find Zaar without a word. I wish there was some communication with Clark. She is angry.

Later Superman  flies to the Fortress to find Zaar waiting. Surprisingly, they don’t immediately fight, instead they start chatting.

Was Zaar taunting with the cleansing line? Supes thinks he means it. And that ticks him off. You can see it on his face!


Solar flare.

I never liked the flare power. I thought it overused. It seemed crude. But as a last ditch weapon to fight a stronger foe? Well, I guess now would be the time to use it.

And then that theme again. Another globe, this time of energy. Goodbye Fortress.

If starting an issue with a globe is a pattern, a comfortable way to bring readers in, then ending with a globe is something of a gut punch. It is a dramatic and thematic shift and it grabbed me. If you make me uneasy with a cliffhanger, I call that success.

So how do I grade this? Good Supergirl moments. Small character beats. A solid ending. Spectacular art. All good.

Mr. Oz? Solar flares? Superman being unscathed after the Action Comics ending? Hmmm.

Still, as a middle chapter, it did what it should do. Moved things along. Gave me action. And hooked me with the ending.

Overall grade:  


Anonymous said...

In spite of some issues I'd grade this issue high.

I've got no issue with Kara being blind with rage. Rogol had just killed God knows how many Kandorians. Now the only Kryptonians left are her, her cousin and irredeemable scum.

I wish Rogol hadn't beaten Kal and Kara up so easily, but I guess he'd not be a believable threat otherwise. But, hey, both cousins fighting back-to-back! That hardly happens!

I love that, when Superman merely suggests the streets aren't safe right now, Maggie decrees a curfew on the spot. It shows Metropolis folks are used to that kind of stuff.

(I was sorry for the old lady who was looking for her cat, though. I hope she finds it)

And Supergirl has fans! Well, and haters. A guy in the background is saying "Agh! It's her!" I wonder if it's a meta commentary on the Superman fandom. Some fans love Supergirl whereas others can't stand her because "LAST SON!!!!". Like some posters over Superman Homepage who were surprised she made an appearance in this mini (apparently it's shocking Supergirl is treated as Superman's family and important member of his supporting cast) and hoped she barely showed up...

I wasn't thrilled either with Jor-El's appearance. Maybe Bendis thinks he needs a redemption arc... which he actually does, let's think about it. Let's hope it pans out.

I loved the final scene. Maguire's art is incredibly expressive. You can tell EXACTLY what Superman is thinking, even when he isn't speaking.

And then, a solar flare. Maybe I'm weird, but I never had a trouble with that power. Perhaps it's because back in the Silver Age, both cousins displayed all kind of powers, and every single time someone gained powers, it was the Kryptonian pack. So an energy blast doesn't bother me.

Off-topic: As checking the Legion of Super-Heroes blog, I found out Legionnaires #61 has the Silver Age Legion showing up... including the Silver Age Supergirl! It's only a one-panel cameo -and I think her statue was displayed in the Hall-, but... a Kara Zor-El appearance! In 1998! Incredible. Hmm, Elseworld's Finest came out in 1998. I wonder if there was some kind of push to bring her back around that time.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I'm completely flummoxed by the "Jor El" is still alive thing, I didn't really pay attention to any of it up til now. So...and I'm discussing from a position of ignorance (what else is new for a comic book fan though) that what's Zaar gonna do when he learned Jor El is alive and apparently on extended holiday with his grandson and daughter in law?
As for Kara Zor El, she seems to have spent the issue in an impotent rage, smacking the bad guy around in a fury and getting swatted away for her troubles. Her willingness to back Kal El up though, is welcome at any rate and is only as much as we deserve as Supergirl fans.


Anonymous said...

The stabbing thing could be a continuity error.

Or, maybe it looked worse than it was in Action #1000. It hurt Superman, but it can't be that easy to penetrate Kryptonian skin. And then GL showed up and Zaar takes off before he can really finish the job.

The timing of Hal's arrival is unclear. On the one hand, Hal says Zaar took off before he arrived. But if that is true, and there was no threat, why did Hal put Superman in a protective bubble? And Superman thanks him for the "assist."

So one theory is that Hal saw SOMETHING from the distance and managed to get at least some minimal protection around Superman, whereupon Zaar instantly took off before Hal got close enough to see him clearly.

In MOS #4 at the moment Zaar is saying "Once and for all," there's a lot of shimmering energy encircling Superman's hands and in the surrounding air around his right hand. Looks a little like the edges of the green/yellow protective bubble that Superman was poking at earlier - again a focus on his hands reflecting the GL energy as he probes the bubble.

Well, that's a theory!

Funny how GL introduces himself as "Hi, I'm the Green Lantern of this sector." Do these women from the deli know what a "sector" is? Surely Bendis wrote that as a joke.

As for the Kevin Maguire art - as I wrote before, he spends time on faces, that's for sure. You can see the effort Superman puts into things. And I also found a lot of the action very dynamic. With some of it, though, you have to extrapolate a lot to figure out the action between panels. It's not always clear how characters get from one place to another, or even hinted at. Have to use your imagination.

But in some cases heads don't seem to fit on their respective bodies.

While he has nailed his own look for Superman's face, I don't think he has arrived at a consistent look for Kara's. Her face looks different in every panel it appears. I'm sure this will be resolved in his art when he draws her starring in her own book.

Martin Gray said...

Great review Anj, I did like the Puzo Easter Egg. And wasn’t there also a BENDIS car number plate?

Anj said...

Thanks fo comments!! Keep hoping the Joe-El thing turns out okay!

Love the idea that Hal helped save from the spear.

And I’ll have to look for the Bendis car.