By Garrett Hanneken
Sometimes what makes Superman a relatable superhero is when he’s at his lowest. The Man of Steel is a symbol of hope and the epitome of what a superhero should be so when a story challenges his status we begin to see Superman as a vulnerable and human character. With that noted, the latest issue of The Man of Steel ditches the almighty demeanor of its titular character and gives us one who is powerless.
The issue kicks off with a battle between Superman and Supergirl against the series’ main antagonist Rogol Zaar. Although Superman does get his punches in, at the end of the day he was defeated. Besides taking a physical beat down, Superman also went through emotional distress. The recent ramifications of Kandor and the mysterious occurrence of Lois and Jon have Superman drowning in his own thoughts.
Which leads me to why this issue stands out. In recent issues, Bendis has portrayed Superman through his boy scout persona, but now Superman is in shambles. Not only do we see Superman take a beating, but we also see him struggle internally. For me, Superman’s inner dialogue is what stands out. For example, he is trying to figure out who Rogol Zaar is, he is trying to figure out how to defeat him, and he is still dwelling over the events of Lois and Jon. Although we are still not 100% sure as to what happened to Lois and Jon we know that it has become a burden for Superman. All of these factors add up to a Superman who is disoriented and is not on his A-game. Instead, his own thoughts become a hindrance leaving him vulnerable and weak for Rogol Zaar.
As for the fight itself, the city brawl was a joy to read, but I was still expecting something a little more violent. Superman did get his ass handed to him, but those moments only came in one or two big punches from Zaar. In that regard, I was hoping to see a brutal and fast-paced fight instead of one involving a couple of big punches thrown between the two. I suppose this hope still comes from the preview we got in Action Comics #1000, in which this issue references that scene but from a different point of view. Something that I thought was clever as I read the words, “It’s a cleansing” from Superman’s point of view rather than a third person one.
Lastly, I wanted to praise the artwork in this issue. I found each panel to be filled with life and emotion that I had to take a moment and really admire it. I am not entirely sure that I have read anything with Kevin Maguire’s artwork but after looking at this issue, I am definitely going to go back and find some of his comics. The art provided a distinctive poignant touch that fitted the issue wonderfully.
All in all, the newest installment of The Man of Steel may be Bendis’ best issue to date for the title. It shows Superman as a character made out of flesh and blood all while being enhanced by Maguire’s art.
The Man of Steel #4