The Man of Steel 5 Lets Superman Define the Symbol

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Early in this issue, Superman catches a glimpse of a symbol on Rogol Zaar’s chest, and while he gets a good look at it, he can’t quite make out what it’s supposed to mean. The symbol is one that writer Brian Michael Bendis and his collaborators have been playing with from the very first pages of Man of Steel — a perfect circle with something interrupting that perfection. Bendis’ various collaborators have cast a number of different circles and spheres to play the role of this symbol: sometimes it’s a collapsing Krypton, or a quiet Earth, or the reflection of Rogol in Superman’s eye. My favorite circle actually appears in this issue, as Rogol’s eye peering into the opening of the bottled city of Kandor. Bendis has been teasing meaning in this shape for so long that when Superman finally decides he is interested in divining that meaning, the character and the reader are united in purpose.

Superman is beaten less than halfway through the issue, putting a stop to a punch-me-to-the-moon fight sequence, and narrowing in on our characters’ quest to understand what they’re experiencing. Fire Chief Melody Moore tries to find meaning in the shape created by fire locations on a map. That ends up being sort of a preamble to Superman waking up and asking similar questions about this:

That’s the thing we’ve been asking ourselves — what is that? Of course, Superman’s friends are among the best detectives and analysts in the world, surely they can use their mighty powers of deduction to figure this one out. Right? Well, maybe not. I love this panel of three of the Leaguers trying impotently to make sense of that symbol.

I love seeing that Adam Hughes-ian detail on the faces of characters that are just sorta talking out their asses.

With no actionable reads on the symbol, Superman intuits that Rogol is out to destroy every place that serves as home for the Kryptonians, which of course includes Earth. This compels Superman to drill down into the core of the planet, where Rogol Zaar is waiting with some kind of (presumably planet-destroying) device. In so drilling, Superman once again creates “a circle with a thing in it”. We may not be any nearer to understanding what the symbol is but now Superman himself is working to create that meaning.

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

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