Visions of Something Greater in Superman 5

by Spencer Irwin

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

Brian Michael Bendis and Ivan Reis open Superman 5 with a vision. Zod fantasizes of a New Krypton, of a world where all of Krypton’s survivors have united, where Zod and Superman have made peace despite their “ideological divide.” Superman, too, experiences a vision in this issue, one just as lofty. While these two men may share visions of something greater than themselves, though, it’s those pesky ideological differences that continue to drive them apart. Just because you dream of something better doesn’t mean the steps you take to get there are justified. Continue reading

The Limits of Control in Action Comics 1004

By Spencer Irwin

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

“For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother, and the two will be one flesh, so that they are no longer two, but one flesh.”

Mark 10: 7-8

I love the concept behind this bit of marriage/relationship advice, but the problem is that it’s, ultimately, just a metaphor; a couple can try to act as one flesh, but they’ll always be two different people with two very different sets of needs, and that can be a difficult thing to reconcile. In any close relationship the pressure to be on the same page at all times is great, and the temptation to try to control one another in order to reach that point can be even greater. Ultimately, though, you can’t control people, and especially not the people you love, no matter how close you are. That’s the lesson Clark learns in Action Comics 1004. Continue reading

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

Scarlet 1 Bridges the Narrative Gap

By Michael DeLaney

 

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

The medium of comic books isn’t an ancient indecipherable text, but it does have its own language that is learned and acquired by readers over time. Along with the significant portions of sequential art, readers must become accustomed to multiple forms of word-based storytelling. In Scarlet 1, writer Brian Michael Bendis, artist Alex Maleev, and letterer Joshua Reed showcase an additional storytelling device not often seen in comic books. 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

Action Comics 1001: Discussion

By Michael DeLaney and Spencer Irwin

Action Comics 1001

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

Michael: The distinction between Superman’s two long-running titles, Superman and Action Comics, has never really been made clear. Besides the dollar and cents of it all, the two books exist simultaneously to give different creators the opportunity to tell their own ongoing Superman stories. But what happens when it’s the same writer plotting both books? 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

Superman Fails to Find a Better Way in Man of Steel 6

by Drew Baumgartner

Man of Steel 6

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

Superman always finds a better way.

Superman purist, Traditional

I’m paraphrasing pretty heavily here, triangulating a sentiment from the dozens of arguments I read (and participated in) in the wake of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, but the idea that Superman can always come up with a solution that doesn’t involve murder is a ubiquitous one in Superman fandom. And I agree with that idea as it applies to that film — Superman certainly could have at least attempted something else (or the movie could have done a better job convincing us that he had exhausted his options) — but something about “always finding a better way” doesn’t quite feel like Superman to me. His moral compass true, and he’ll never fail to aim for a solution that satisfies his sense of what’s right and wrong, but the thought that he always comes up with a solution would rob those morals of any real consequence. While some Superman stories might resemble Sherlock Holmes in that “seeing how he solves it is the fun” kind of way, one of the most interesting things about Superman having such a strong morality is that it might be tested or bear some emotional cost. That’s a point Brian Michael Bendis and Jason Fabok leverage twice in Man of Steel 6, as Superman fails to “find a better way” in both his superheroing and family lives. Continue reading

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. Continue reading