The end of the world is at hand as Earth itself falls into the clutches of the notorious Phantom Zone. Thus, in writer Brian Michael Bendis’ latest in SUPERMAN #3, the Man of Steel finds himself in a race against time to free the world he has come to call home and brace for a war led by none other than Rogol Zaar.

This third entry in the newest SUPERMAN run is surely an improvement upon its predecessor. Artists Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, & Alex Sinclair bring near perfect art to the pages of this issue, letting us in to witness the chaos of the Phantom Zone. However, Bendis maintains the pace he has established in prior issues, contributing to a work that has yet to make any substantial developments.

The World is on Fire

SUPERMAN #3 kicks off with Livewire initiating an attack against S.T.A.R. Labs. To her surprise, a much greater threat thwarts her attack: the Phantom Zone consuming the lab itself. In the ensuing chaos, Superman arrives. The employees of S.T.A.R. Labs state that they were simply running on mapping experiments on the Phantom Zone when everything hit the fan. Superman apologetically reveals to them that S.T.A.R. Labs isn’t the only place getting sucked into the Phantom Zone, the entire world is.

Additionally, the environment of the Phantom Zone is poisoning people across the globe, including members of the Justice League. Also, on top of all of that conflict, Rogol Zaar prepares to initiate war on Earth as he assembles an army of Phantom Zone prisoners. Overall, SUPERMAN #3 does set pieces in motion in regard to the overarching narrative. However, the series continues its struggles in characterizing its titular hero. Superman comes across as one-dimensional since he does not play much of an active role throughout the present story.

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SUPERMAN #3 page 3. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Additionally, the continuous reminder of the Phantom Zone’s consumption of Earth contributes to a narrative that feels repetitive. We are made immediately aware of the threat, yet no progress is made in the story in regard to it. Thus, I hope that upcoming issues in SUPERMAN not only pick up the pace of the series but also give Superman more dynamic activity.

The Many Hues of SUPERMAN #3

As aforementioned, the artwork of SUPERMAN #3 is absolutely spectacular. Firstly, the colors Alex Sinclair incorporates into the depiction of the Phantom Zone are captivating and vibrant. He instills a palpable energy throughout the issue through his hues.

Ivan Reis’ pencils are wonderfully detailed and juxtapose Sinclair’s colors flawlessly. I particularly enjoy his work on the final page of the issue where he depicts Rogol Zaar leading his army upon Earth. The detail within that image alone is epic and contributes to the world-building of the Phantom Zone in this SUPERMAN run so far.

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SUPERMAN #3 page 1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Finally, the variant covers of this run have been exceptional. SUPERMAN #3 featured variants from Adam Hughes and David Mack. I love the pops of color in Hughes variant as well as the image of Clark Kent watching the world burn as he transitions into his Superman persona.

Mack’s variants throughout this run have been consistently beautiful, evoking a watercolor look that brings some tenderness to the image of Superman. His variant for this issue is no different as it depicts a portrait of Superman, emphasizing the “human” behind the symbol of the Man of Steel. Thus, though SUPERMAN #3 hits many obstacles, its artwork proves to shine through all those obstacles and rise above.

What Lies Beyond

SUPERMAN #3 is a mixed bag. From start to finish, its artwork electrifies. The imagery allows readers to engage in Superman’s conflict as well as the environment of the Phantom Zone itself. Unfortunately, though, its narrative does not have the same effect. The pace is sluggish as the story struggles to develop itself.

Most importantly though, the story struggles to develop Superman himself. He remains a static character in a narrative that should push him forward. Much remains to be seen in this particular SUPERMAN run. Hopefully, all roads lead up from here.

SUPERMAN #3 by Brian Michael Bendis, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Alex Sinclair, & Josh Reed
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Characterization
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Summary
SUPERMAN #3 find its strongest aspect within its phenomenal imagery. However, the work's struggles to characterize its titular hero and establish a dynamic pace contributes to another installment that feels static and repetitive.
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