As a huge fan of the DNA run of Guardians of the Galaxy, I was disappointed when Brian Michael Bendis came onto the book and promptly made it into everything else he’d written. I dreaded a similar situation when Bendis was named the new writer of Action Comics and Superman. DC already very strong teams of Dan Jurgens and Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason respectively. The Superman titles weren’t broke and DC really didn’t need to fix it. So how did Bendis fare with Man of Steel #1, his kick-off to his run?
Despite my apprehension, I came in to Man of Steel with an open mind and Bendis delivered. Bendis’ take on Superman respected what’s come before while adding some new wrinkles worthy of exploration. The biggest challenge for this Man of Steel special is working in new adversary Rogol Zarr and his possible ties to Krypton’s destruction. Bendis made Zaar’s flashback segments intriguing especially as there’s several questions that need to be answered.
Readers weary of Bendis’ style where every character sounds like they’ve taken a double shot of snark, there’s no need to worry. That’s largely absent here. Superman hasn’t suddenly developed this new edge and still sounds very much like the farm boy who can sit back and appreciate a quiet moment of someone singing. That might have been my favorite scene in the issue as it helped humanize Superman. Bendis showed even the great Superman isn’t above accidentally eavesdropping and being swept away by a great voice. There’s another nice nod to Superman’s past with the introduction of a new character that carries on a proud Superman tradition.
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The art was never in question. Ivan Reis is one of DC’s best and was the right artist to signal this new direction for Superman. Joe Prado’s inks and Alex Sinclair’s combine to make this one of DC’s best looking books in weeks. Jason Fabok knocks out the final two pages and if Man of Steel could call Fabok on for spot artist relief duty this is clearly an elite level event for DC.
While the cover prominently features Superman’s Justice League co-stars, they’re nowhere to be found in Man of Steel #1. It’s not so much a bait and switch since this was the first issue and throwing them in wouldn’t have served the story any purpose.
After this issue, I understand DC’s decision to give the Superman reins to Bendis. He’s got some interesting ideas and he’s not grounding Superman to the point he sounds like Daredevil, Jessica Jones or Luke Cage. If you’re on the fence, this issue just might win you over.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: DC Comics