Clark Controls the Narrative in Superman 4

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Earth is trapped in the Phantom Zone and Superman is being attacked by Rogol Zaar and an army of Phantom Zone prisoners! It’s a dire situation, and not one that Superman has any confidence that he can solve by punching it. Instead, Superman has to redefine his terms of victory, drawing Rogol Zaar out of Earth’s atmosphere just long enough for Ray Palmer to shrink the planet and slide it out of the Phantom Zone. Clark is able to accomplish this because he controls the narrative, even as Rogol thinks he has the upper hand. Rogol’s tactics are better, but Superman controls the goals those tactics are meant to achieve. Artist Ivan Reis and writer Brian Michael Bendis fill the issue with examples of Superman controlling both the stories about him and the method and medium in which those stories are told. Continue reading

Full-Page Cutaway Gags Establish Tone in Superman 3

by Patrick Ehlers

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

Patrick: In its abstract, the story of Superman thus far is bleak. The Earth has been stranded in the Phantom Zone, everyone on the planet is suffering from Phantom Zone-related environmental poisoning (including the superheroes), and all the scariest Kryptontian villains have teamed up with Rogol Zaar to defeat Superman. That’s pretty dire, right? This thing is even dark down to its artistic team: Ivan Reis and Joe Prado work with realistically shaped and shaded characters, which sort of insists that all of this is happening to real human beings with real human physiology. Luckily, writer Brian Michael Bendis sets aside real and relevant space in the issue to make jokes and have fun with this Superman adventure. Continue reading

Ideologies Collide in Superman 2

by Michael DeLaney

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

Michael: Brian Michael Bendis continues to prove that he has an excellent handle on the mindset and disposition of The Man of Steel. Superman is a tireless force for good who refuses to see the glass half empty. This steadfast optimism even applies while he’s trapped in the Phantom Zone in Superman 2. Continue reading

Superman 1: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Patrick Ehlers

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

Spencer: One of the biggest criticisms I’ve seen thrown around about Superman as a character is that he’s “too powerful,” that nothing can challenge a man who can quite literally juggle planets. There’s a bit of truth to this, to be sure, but it’s a narrow criticism, one that only takes into consideration physical challenges; the most interesting Superman stories are the ones that challenge him morally, ethically, or in ways that make his physical abilities useless. Superman 1 is such a story, an issue that finds the character at his most physically competent, yet feeling more lost and helpless than ever before.  Continue reading

Not Quite a Moral Challenge in Superman 40

By Mark Mitchell

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

While Superman’s abilities to punch hard, fly fast, and jump high are the sizzle to his steak, the real meat (pardon the tortured metaphor) of Clark Kent as a character is his strong moral center. Comic books are lousy with characters possessing superpowers, but only a precious few represent truth and goodness like the man from Krypton. That’s why the Superman stories that really stick with us are the ones that find ways to challenge his moral certitude — and by challenging it, ultimately end up amplifying it even more. At multiple points, James Robinson and Doug Mahnke’s Superman 40 is on the precipice of testing the Man of Steel’s philosophical strength in interesting ways, but never shows any interest in doing so.

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The Big Brother of Steel in Superman 39

By Michael DeLaney

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

With DC’s recent announcement that The Man of Steel will be regaining his red trunks, it looks like they’re embracing the the classic Superman of yore. Another example is Superman 39, which centers around Superman spending the day with young cancer patients. If that’s not golden age wholesome, then I don’t know what is. Continue reading

Feeling the Crossover Blues in Superman 38

by Mark Mitchell

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

I consider a Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason credit on a comic book to be a mark of quality, almost a guarantee that the book I’m picking up will deliver a good time. Such a strong track record makes an issue like Superman 38, an issue that pretty much misses every mark across the board, a bit mystifying. How to account for such a discrepancy?
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The Power of Faith and Trust in Superman 36

by Spencer Irwin

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

Fans and creators alike often complain that it’s hard to find a proper challenge for Superman when the character is so unfathomably powerful. But as far as I’m concerned, the best Superman stories aren’t the ones that challenge him physically, but the ones that test his morals and ideals, his methods and resolve. Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s run on Superman has excelled in this respect, and issue 36 continues this streak, further defining Superman’s greatest strengths by showing what happens when he doesn’t live up to his own lofty standards. Continue reading

An Apokoliptian Mess in Superman 35

by Michael DeLaney

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

Superman 35 is the third chapter of the “Imperius Lex” arc, where Lex Luthor is trying to rescind his status as Lord of Apokolips. The Kent family has been separated across Apokolips, each dealing with the best of what Darkseid’s planet has to offer. It’s hard not to think of the last time Pete Tomasi and Patrick Gleason sent us to Apokolips in the pages of Batman and Robin. Unfortunately, this is light years away from that bombastic Bat-tale. Continue reading

Deathstroke’s Murky Morality in Superman 32

by Spencer Irwin

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

Superman’s moral code is not complex, and that’s a great thing about him as far as I’m concerned. Superman does good simply because it’s the right thing to do, and he never kills — Man of Steel nonwithstanding, he always finds a way to win without sacrificing his morals, because that’s just who Superman is. Deathstroke’s morality is far more murky, and that leads to some interesting juxtaposition in Superman 32. Continue reading