Man of Steel 2: Discussion

by Michael DeLaney and Drew Baumgartner

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Michael: Batman is a subject that frequents many pages of my sketchbooks and I assume everyone else’s.  Unlike the versatile Batman, I find that Superman is a harder character to draw, especially in his facial features. The face of Superman has to simultaneously convey strength, joy and a decent amount of charm. Thus far, I am enjoying Brian Michael Bendis’ depiction of Superman, and in Man of Steel 2, he is joined by 3 artists who tap into that Clark Kent Charm.

On the one hand, I wish that Man of Steel was a monthly title instead of weekly, so we would at least get a single artist on an issue. On the other hand, we do get to see varying art styles and depictions of Superman from stellar creators. I appreciated the “gentle giant” approach that Ivan Reis made last week and likewise Doc Shaner’s in Man of Steel 2.

Maybe it’s because he’s fighting Toyman in a giant robot, or the inclusion of a more simplistic Gil Kane-y Hal Jordan Green Lantern, but Shaner’s Superman looks like he’s been plucked right out of the Silver Age.

In spite of some mysterious drama that Bendis has injected into Superman’s life, Superman remains his cheerful happy self for the most part.

Shaner brings Superman into the book with a confident smile, bursting out of the panel with rapid speed. Similarly, Supes is quipping as he easily quells Toyman’s attacks on Coast City. It’s only when Hal Jordan shows up to lend a helping hand that we see that not everything is business as usual for The Man of Steel. Supes dodges Hal’s personal questions, assures him that everything’s fine, and flies away.

After he flies into the damn moon, he realizes that Hal didn’t deserve the abrupt goodbye that he gave him. I appreciate the care that Bendis takes to not making Superman’s core philosophy change in the face of Lois leaving him/disappearing/selling their marriage to Mephisto. Superman is not Batman — he doesn’t brood, even when things are at their bleakest. He was still raised by Ma and Pa Kent so he knows what’s right and he knows the importance of good manners.

He notes that the way he ditched Hal “is a perfect example of me taking advantage of being Superman.” Thus far Bendis has depicted Superman as an effective model of superhero productivity. Clark is often running/flying off so that Superman can best tackle the problems that are immediately threatening Metropolis/the world. In theory, being Superman is the perfect excuse for dipping out of an unwanted situation. However, I don’t think Hal is buying it.

Clark puts out a few literal fires and is back at The Daily Planet. It seems that yet again the Planet — and traditional media in general — is in peril from the new fangled cell phones and the 24 hour news cycle. To be fair, The Daily Planet is also probably being sold, but I feel like we are past the point of “new media is killing the newspapers.” But what do I know? Maybe we aren’t. At the very least, it feels like a tired storytelling trope.

The gossip columnist Tricia Q pesters Clark and Perry White for the story behind Clark and Lois’ situation — at the suggestion of new employee and definite spy Robinson Goode. Perry chides Tricia for prying into Clark’s personal life as a story for the Planet, coming from a place of protection but also genuine disinterest.

He says “Lois and Clark aren’t the story” and I think he firmly believes that, which may be the larger problem for The Daily Planet. Most newspapers would jump at the chance to cover the drama between star reporter Lois Lane and her small town husband, but Perry is old school: he wants real journalism. Maybe that’s what Perry/Bendis is getting at with the threat of cell phones and…live TV (?). Critics of Superman often say that he’s not relatable, but it would seem that that applies more to his employer.

Drew what did you think of Man of Steel 2? Any thoughts on the Rogol Zaar stuff? How come The Guardians of the Universe are always assholes? Two cameo questions: is Ambush Bug hanging out in a space bar? Is that The Joker at the end terrorizing Metropolis?

Drew: I think that’s a yes on both counts, though I suppose there might be more of whatever Ambush Bug is out there in the universe, so that could just be one of his fellow bugs.

It’s obvious enough that Rogol has some deeper, more personal motivation for hating Krypton that we haven’t seen yet, but I’m not sure why it’s being withheld. Without that specificity to distinguish him from other villains, we’re left only with his design and attitude, which seems to be borrowing quite a bit from Lobo. You can’t put a hardboiled Superman villain on a space motorcycle and not immediately evoke Lobo.

Rogol Zaarnain

Throw in some mentions of Czarnia and the fact Rogol is apparently the last of his kind (?), and I don’t have a lot to actually distinguish these two. Also, how tiny is that planet in the lower right corner? Is Rogol Zaar several planets tall, or is that planet the size of a basketball?

Which brings me to the art on this issue. I love every artist’s work on this issue individually, but I’m not convinced they add up to a coherent whole. Specifically, I wonder if we’re supposed to make a connection between Rogol’s motorcycle in the above panel (drawn by Steve Rude) and whatever the heck it is that visits the Kent’s kitchen (drawn by Jay Fabok):

Seriously, Dad, what is that?

They don’t look the same, by any means, but there are some shared details that could suggest these machines are somehow related, perhaps built by the same character. But it’s hard to say, for sure. Rude and Fabok have such different styles and approaches, so the superficial similarities between these machines could be coincidental. I’m hesitant to draw conclusions here specifically because different artists handled these two sequences.

Michael, I’m with you on liking how this series is approaching Superman’s earnest charm. Which is actually why I’m okay with The Daily Planet’s slow decline into obscurity. I wish it were more specific — as you said, we’ve seen these broad strokes play out countless times already — but as a Newsroom apologist, I have a soft spot for a small band of “real” journalists standing against the tides of sensationalized clickbait. The details will have to flesh themselves out in rapid order, but I’m cautiously optimistic that Bendis means to give that plot line its due attention.

It’s a testament to the creative team’s skills that this feels so much like the platonic Superman even though basically every element of Superman’s life has been disrupted. We don’t know what’s happened to his home life, we don’t know what will happen in his professional life, and it’s possible Rogol Zaar will dramatically alter what Clark knows about his very origins, but we do know that this is Superman. That’s strong characterization, which gives me confidence that this series can handle just about anything.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

One comment on “Man of Steel 2: Discussion

  1. Drew you’re a Newsroom apologist?? Say it ain’t so!

    I agree that the art doesn’t really gel with the multiple artists – Shaner and Rude work better together than they do with Fabok. Fabok’s brief spread in Man of Steel 2 is actually a continuation of his sequence in Man of Steel 1. I’m thinking that as this Lois/Jon/Clark mystery unfolds issue by issue, Fabok will be the one telling that story and completing that flashback.

    And you are right on the money with the Lobo comparison – I immediately had the same thought.

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