The Hardest Part Is Acceptance (Superman #1 Comic Review)

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis

Art by: Joe Prado, Ivan Reis, Jason Fabok

Colors by: Alex Sinclair

Cover by: Joe Prado, Ivan Reis

The Large Picture

In the previous Man of Steel mini-series, Lois and Jon are nowhere to be found. As it turns out, Superman’s Dad (Jor-El aka Mr. Oz) has taken off into the deep reaches of outer space to teach Jon about his Kryptonian heritage. Meanwhile, Supes battles a fearsome war tactician named Rogol Zaar who pops up from obscurity to reveal that he was responsible for Krypton’s destruction.

 

The Run-down

Clark is on a mission to find Lois and Jon after their deep space communicator was destroyed in the battle with Rogol Zaar. For all of five minutes. His search is quickly interrupted by an alien armada of galactic conquerors known as the Dominators. He makes short work of them and by the end of the battle finally accepts Lois and Jon’s absence. This issue is trying to establish a lot in a short time. Clark shows signs of moving forward as he builds a new Fortress of Solitude.  Clark considers a proposition from a close friend that might shift his moral compass in a direction where even angels fear to tread. The end of this issue is sure to leave you on the edge of your seat. The Justice League guest-stars in this issue  Be sure to slide this in your pull list to find out the details.

 

Plot of the Panel

This issue opens with a sunburst shot of Superman flying past a starfield that stretches across the Milky Way. As he flies across Saturn, he lays waste to a Dominator armada with the greatest of ease. Sinclair’s colors create a fantastic texture to a sci-fi wonderland. Superman zips across the spaceways leaving a minefield of exploding Dominator ships. Reis’s artwork really elevates the narrative events throughout the issue. One highlight has to be the amazing iconography of Clark’s super-feats. Reis also focuses heavily on Superman’s muscular physique (who looks very Kai Green-esque in his quarter-turn and titan pose-shots). He shows Superman straight flexing his superior strength and invulnerability on the Dominators. Needless to say, Reis and Sinclair make an awesome team. So imagine if you will, this version/vision of Superman scripted to the voice of the DCAU’s Wally West (Michael Rosenbaum).

I can see the strokes that Bendis lays out for his version/vision of Superman. Make no mistake, this is an altogether different Superman/Clark than readers have seen recently. For me, Bendis’ characterization of Superman is actually quite familiar as the “emo-Clark” from the New 52. This version of Clark/Superman tilts and sways on the brink of being overly self-conscious (at all the wrong moments) and tries to use witty-quippy banter between teammates and opponents to mask his emotional fragmentation. That’s a huge shift away from the Rebirth Superman, which reestablished many of classic character tropes—self-confident, persistent, always engaging in new challenges to name a few—many have come to recognize and identify with Superman throughout the ages.

How did we get back here? Why Adult-“emo-Clark”? Is this DC’s way of silently retconning Dan Jurgens and Peter Tomasi’s Rebirth run, in exchange for a New 52 twist? Or is this Bendis’ attempt to blend seemingly old and new ways to make Superman appeal to a wider audience and new fans? Let’s go with the latter. This was the same point of the entire New 52, albeit on a company-wide scale for each hero.

The quick-witted quippy tongue that Bendis is used to with Marvel headliners (pick one: Ironman, Spiderman, Daredevil,  X-Men) might be attractive on the big screen. It definitely translates well to Marvel characters. But it doesn’t carry over well to DC heavy hitters like Superman. In place of an experienced, seasoned, and grounded Clark/Superman, Bendis establishes a narrative voice that reveals his “own” version of the Man of Steel. This ‘new’ (arguably) more appealing voice of Bendis’ Superman intentionally remixes the history, character, and identity of Superman in ways that supposedly extend the recent Rebirth renaissance of the Jurgens/Tomasi run. I’ve yet to see how. But let’s go with it and see where it leads.

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Damon Cagnolatti

Damon Cagnolatti

An avid comic-book reader and super-rap nerd, he draws on the transformative traditions of Hip Hop and comics culture to bridge the gap of cognitive dissonance to a funky rhythm kicked with "pen, coin, and voice". On the weekends, he enjoys growing fresh fruits and veggies; a real low-key farmer in his backyard.
Summary
I can see this will be a long struggle. Bendis apparently insists on telling multiple stories simultaneously. Readers ping-pong between various plots in each of the Superman tales he’s scribed so far, and this one is no exception. In this issue, Bendis plans some foundational pillars for a massive year-long epic narrative of new world building for Superman: 1). Superman is on his own, once again (not quite a bachelor, but more like a sulking Dad who’s home alone); 2).Clark is beginning to accept Lois and Jon’s absence; 3). Superman is considering to enter the galactic stage of politics as Earth representative. Each new pillar works to move Superman in a new direction. But in trying to portray the emotional struggle of a man who’s away from his family, Bendis’ Superman comes across as more emotionally distracted than iconic.
Good
  • Very cool heroic feats
  • Iconic splash pages and poses
  • Detailed artwork and imagery
  • Clean panel layouts
  • Cool, but quick guest features
Bad
  • Telegraphs upcoming conflicts without setting up key narrative elements
  • Too much going on in the first issue
  • Narrative events are loosely tied together
6.7
Fair
Art - 10
Character Development - 5
Cohesion - 6
Accessibility for New Readers - 9
Dialogue - 4
Creative Connections - 6
Written by
An avid comic-book reader and super-rap nerd, he draws on the transformative traditions of Hip Hop and comics culture to bridge the gap of cognitive dissonance to a funky rhythm kicked with "pen, coin, and voice". On the weekends, he enjoys growing fresh fruits and veggies; a real low-key farmer in his backyard.

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