It’s been a momentous year for the Last Son of Krypton. He has achieved a previously unheard of eighty years in continuous publication, Action Comics reached a landmark 1000 issues, and he got his red pants back.
Perhaps most importantly, the legendary Brian Michael Bendis made his debut at DC Comics, taking over the writing reins of Superman, having long been one of the star writers of Spider-Man, Avengers, Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy and X-Men for Marvel, as well as creating the acclaimed Netflix series Jessica Jones.
Bendis’ run began in Action Comics #1000. That special issue was an 80-page giant. It comprised several new short stories, but the best was saved for last – Bendis' The Truth, drawn by Jim Lee. In this tale, Superman is being helplessly beaten to a pulp by a new alien who claims to have cleansed Krypton. It ends with a black panel, leaving fans to wonder if Kal-El has been dealt a death blow by a Doomsday wannabe. The story continued in The Man of Steel, a six-part mini-series by Bendis which is collected in this hardback edition. But, fear not – if you didn’t pick up Action Comics #1000, this edition kicks off with a reprint of The Truth.
The Man of Steel takes Superman back to his best version. The clean cut, mild mannered, unfailingly polite superhero. He even wears his classic costume; a fact mentioned several times by peripheral characters in the story amid the action. Dialogue is a factor of Bendis’ writing that becomes endearing very quickly, often funny, overlapping, warm and realistic.
There are several factors to this arc, the main one being the alien mentioned earlier, Rogol Zaar. Imagine a cross between Doomsday and Lobo, with the worst character defects of both. He claims to have cleansed Krypton by destroying the whole planet, giving a chilling new aspect to Superman’s origin. So bent is he on his mission of ethnic genocide that he intends to destroy Earth because it has become contaminated by having Superman and Supergirl on it, as well as the Bottle City of Kandor. It’s a battle for the planet with guest appearances by the Guardians of Oa and the Justice League without being a retread of The Death of Superman.
Side stories of a serial arsonist in Metropolis and the disappearance of Lois and Jon Kent at the hands of another character from Kal-El’s past remain tantalisingly open for exploration in future volumes.
Bendis has made Superman both fun and exciting to read again, and long may he reign. The Man of Steel may well be entering a new Golden Age.
THE MAN OF STEEL / AUTHOR: BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS / PUBLISHER: DC COMICS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW