THIS WEEK: Brian Michael Bendis’s run helming the adventures of the Man of Steel is approaching its climax, and this week’s Superman #28 sees the end of his tenure on the eponymous Superman series with artist Ivan Reis. Did the team leave a lasting mark on the title?
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller: Ivan Reis
Inker: Danny Miki
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover Artist: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, & Alex Sinclair
Brian Michael Bendis’s time writing Superman has not been without its share of controversy. From the retconning of Rogol Zaar’s role in the destruction of Krypton, to the aging-up of Superboy Jon Kent, to Clark Kent revealing his secret identity to the world, if there’s one thing Bendis’s run has never been it’s uninteresting. This week see’s the first prong of Bendis’s two-part farewell to Superman (next week’s Action Comics will conclude his overall time directing the character’s adventures), as well as artist Ivan Reis’s departure from the series. Superman #28 sends them both off in a way that reiterates the strength of each of their takes on the character.
While Action Comics has by and large featured more grounded tales set in Metropolis, Bendis and Reis’s time on Superman has spotlighted the Man of Steel’s role in the non-earth-bound DC Universe. Much of the run has seen Superman (and frequently members of his extended family as well) out in the far reaches of space, first as part of the sprawling Unity Saga and then in its aftermath as an emissary of the newly-formed United Planets. The final arc of their run, “Mythological,” has again seen Clark pulled out into space, after having been attacked on Earth by the ‘defender’ of a far-off planet gone rogue.
The conclusion of the story is quintessential of Bendis and Reis’s Superman. Trapped in orbit around the planet, his powers fading under the light of an orange sun, Superman still possesses his greatest ability: empathy. Bendis’s Superman is always willing to listen, always desperate to understand who and what he’s up against, and above all else always ready and able to help in whatever way he can. The writer’s vision of the man of steel has been impressively crystal clear from the beginning, and if this was your first issue reading his take on Superman you would have no questions about what the character is really all about.
Of course, there comes a point when the helping involves fighting a superpowerful alien and protecting the innocent resident of a far-off planet, and that’s where Reis, inker Danny Miki, and colorist Alex Sinclair shine. Their Superman is imposing without being menacing, determined in battle without being enraged, and never without the look in his eyes that fighting is always his last resort. Reis’s action choreography is stellar, especially when it comes to being able to follow the movements of creatures of non-human anatomy and proportion, and Miki’s inks enhance Reis’s pencils without overtaking them. Sinclair’s colors also go a long way towards making things easy to follow during the battle, especially on the very colorful far-off planet featured in the issue.
By far the best part of Superman #28, though, is the last few pages, which I won’t go into in specific detail. The outerspace action of the issue is overlaid by narration from Lana Lang, delivering the radio story she’s been working on about her friend Clark and his role as Superman. While I found the narration occasionally clumsy and unlike any story I’ve ever heard on the radio, the final pages of the issue are a perfect ‘show’ of what Lana’s report told readers, to the point that they almost make the earlier narration unnecessary. They’re a beautiful coda to Bendis and Reis’s ‘final’ statement on Superman, and I almost wonder how anything in next week’s Action Comics will top them as a way for Bendis to say goodbye to the character.
I’ve always found Superman aspirational. I also always sort of thought of him as a ‘dad’ character, even before he and Lois had their son. There’s always been something that kept Superman at, if not a distance, at least arm’s-length from me being able to really deeply connect with him. Stories like All-Star Superman and Superman: Birthright made me appreciate the character, but I think Bendis – and particularly Bendis and Reis’s Superman run – has finally allowed me to make that connection. Their Superman doesn’t feel like a dad; he feels like how he described himself in the classic 1978 movie. He feels like a friend, and in a sense saying goodbye to this creative team almost feels like saying goodbye to a friend. They will be sorely missed on this series.
Final Verdict: BUY.
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