Writer: Brian Micheal Bendis
Art: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Alex Sinclair
I’ve been reading Superman stories since I learned to read, and despite my extreme bias towards the character, even I can admit that many of the ongoing Superman issues end up being underwhelming. I don’t believe that’s due to the character being inherently flawed, I think it’s due to the unreachable expectations we place on him as a character. He’s important to us personally, and he is important culturally. So how do you make that character interesting and do something different without offending people? Short answer: you don’t. The only thing you can do is separate yourself from those expectations and treat the character like you would any other— like a person. Flaws and all, you just make Superman feel human and understand that he can have moments of weakness and make mistakes. I believe Bendis understands this, and it’s what makes a run so mired in controversy stand proud amongst other beloved Superman runs.
This issue marks Zod’s first appearance in the Bendis run. It opens with a drug-induced hallucination of Zod’s, showing a New Krypton led by the El’s, the Zod’s, and the Kandorians. That is, before it’s destroyed by Rogol Zaar. This scene is a great set up for where Bendis is seemingly taking Zod from this point forward. It appears that Zod is taking on a very Vegeta-like role, which could end up being a very interesting direction to take his character. I look forward to seeing that play out.
Later, we find Clark struggling in his battle with Zaar’s army. Clark’s defeat later informs his internal conflict that will come into play towards the back-end of the book. This conflict is what’s going to divide fans on the issue. It’s only a page or so before he overcomes it, but how he does so is very well done, both from a writing and art standpoint. Some are undoubtedly going to say, “Superman would never even think those things”, and that’s a fine interpretation to have, but I happen to think it was very humanizing. He feels overwhelmed, defeated, and out of options. With that in mind, I believe his moment of weakness is justifiable. Bendis writes a near perfect Superman, in my opinion, and moments like this one only serve to reinforce that position.
The art by Ivan Reis is as excellent as you’re imagining it is. I give DC’s “house style” of art a hard time, as I tend to find it boring, but Ivan Reis is clearly the top dog when it comes to that style. I do hesitate to call it “house style”, as Reis’ style is more distinct than most. Reis displays so much emotion through expressions, and you’re never left wondering what someone is feeling because you can always see it on their faces. This issue allows Reis to draw all sorts of landscapes and characters, and it’s a perfect showcase of his ability.
With all those positives in mind, the plot is still quite thin. I’m of the mind that complex character is more important than complex plot, which is why I’m still so positive about this book. Rogol Zaar and his continued conquest is clearly the weak link of this series, but that doesn’t erase all the good that Bendis is doing with his character work.
Superman #5 is another stellar issue of Bendis’ run. It has humor, heart, and art you just can’t tear your eyes from. Bendis’ voice for Superman is the best in recent memory, and his characterization of Zod is very promising. If this arc’s conclusion can meet the expectations set up by this issue, we’re in for a real ride next month.
Brian Micheal Bendis hangs another solid issue of Superman on his belt. Strong characterizations and fantastic Ivan Reis art make this worth picking up, despite its somewhat lacking plot.