MAN OF STEEL #1 by Brian Michael Bendis, Ivan Reis, and Jason Fabok
MAN OF STEEL #1 is a really strong opening issue for Bendis' time at DC Comics. It has some issues with the plot, namely a lack of information, but this will be remedied in future issues. Bendis perfectly captured the beloved character and his intended villain, and the art by Reis and Fabok is some of the best in the industry.
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Brian Michael Bendis is known for reinventing long-standing characters, and his work at Marvel Comics has become nothing short of iconic. Despite some controversy surrounding a few of his narrative decisions, he is one of the most well-known figures in modern comics. Needless to say, his transition to DC Comics had a lot of people really excited. Helming MAN OF STEEL #1, Bendis and artist Ivan Reis promise to bring an explosive story to new and old fans alike. But does Bendis’ take on Clark Kent really strike true?

Does it honor the brilliant work that has defined the character in DC’s Rebirth?

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MAN OF STEEL #1 takes place across two different time periods. In the distant past, years before the destruction of Krypton, alien warrior Rogol Zarr petitions a mysterious group called the Circle to help him destroy Krypton. He believes that through their reliance on science, they will come to tyrannize the galaxy.

Despite his pleas, the Circle denies his request. Meanwhile, in the present day, alone Superman goes about his business in Metropolis. After stopping a major apartment fire, he learns that an arsonist has targeted buildings throughout the neighborhood.

Truly the Man of Steel

MAN OF STEEL #1, Page 1. Courtesy of DC Entertainment

MAN OF STEEL #1 truly shines as an examination of its two core characters. Bendis wholly succeeds in his vision of Superman. The way he delves into the character’s mind is entirely believable and incredibly interesting. He examines the character in a way that feels realistic. Superman floats above the city, actively listening to its people. He hears a girl singing cover songs and has a moment of clarity with it.

The use of his powers, while a bit heavy on the “comic-book-science,” feels very methodical and interesting. Bendis really captures what it would mean to have all of Superman’s powers in the modern world. More importantly, he focuses in on the most human elements of this superpowered giant. For that, he has my seal of approval.

I also have to say that Bendis really has me interested in Rogol Zarr and the Circle. While the plot elements here are a bit unclear, the characters are highly interesting. Zarr has a lengthy but brilliant monologue detailing why Krypton should be “cleansed.” While it’s a bit daunting and all-around terrifying, you almost come around to his way of thinking. Also, the dichotomy between this intelligent analysis and Zarr’s survivalist lifestyle feels really interesting. I’m excited to see where this character’s story takes him. Obviously, as we saw in ACTION COMICS #1000, he comes into conflict with Kal-El, but his trajectory to get there should be a spectacle.

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Sci-Fi Shenanigans

Man of Steel #1
MAN OF STEEL #1, Page 2-3. Courtesy of DC Entertainment

I have a certain admiration for Bendis’ plot in MAN OF STEEL #1. The story feels rather straightforward, balancing the past and present rather well. The everyday focus of Superman’s heroics gives this story a grounded appeal and lets the writer write. Bendis allows himself the room to do what he does best, i.e. delving into a character’s mind.

The events don’t need to be explained. Superman needs to save as many people as possible from the building fire. That’s it. I really enjoyed how this singular focus helped me slide into Bendis’ take on the character. I don’t want such a beige story structure for future installments, but for a first issue, it helped me into the flow of Bendis’ style.

With that said, I did have some problems with MAN OF STEEL #1. I can probably explain these away from the marketing structure of the story. This is a weekly series, meaning that Bendis has a little more room to play with cliffhangers. However, nothing important really happens in this issue.

The events with Rogol Zarr don’t immediately impact anything in the present day. While they are incredibly interesting content-wise, their context comes into question. Very little is resolved here. There is also the question of Lois and Jon’s apparent disappearance. Bendis hints at something darker at play. Lois and Jon are gone for a reason in this story, but Bendis never gets to why. Hopefully, we learn more next week. Otherwise, I think readers are going to have a problem with this structure.

Dark Beauty

MAN OF STEEL #1, Page 4. Courtesy of DC Entertainment

A lot needs to be said about the art in MAN OF STEEL #1, and all of it is positive. This book is one of the most beautiful to come out of Rebirth thus far. It is headed by some of the industry’s greatest talents. I have been a long-time fan of Ivan Reis. His work comes with a lot of brilliant crisp lines and acute action. His style is absolutely action-packed and gritty, with a lot of dark areas brought to life by inker Joe Prado.

Reis’ work drips atmosphere, and I have to say that Reis might draw my all-time favorite Superman. He instills the character with such strength, but he almost always smiles. This is the Superman that I always look for, one who looks like the symbol of hope and strength that he has become over the years.

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The praise doesn’t stop there, though. Alex Sinclair, known best for his work with Jim Lee, creates a visually stunning atmosphere. The fire and all around lighting effects that he adds to the story help to create the perfect atmosphere. This story has its dark moments, but it largely focuses on the hope Superman gives the world. Sinclair accentuates this element by giving the story a highly saturated color palette.

Jason Fabok also plays guest artist in the final two pages of this story. He visits the mysteries surrounding the disappearance of Jon and Lois. Even with so little room to work, Fabok proves why he is one of the most popular artists in the industry today. The anatomy is perfect, the visual storytelling is top of the line, and the characters (Clark, Lois, and Jon) don’t look like carbon copied stand-ins.

MAN OF STEEL #1: Final Thoughts

MAN OF STEEL #1 is a really strong opening salvo for Bendis’ newest series. It has all of the elements I want and need in a Superman story. It has fantastic art by Ivan Reis and Jason Fabok. The characterization of Clark Kent and Rogol Zarr feels nearly perfect, with a deep focus on the prior’s humanity.

More importantly, the story eases readers into a high science fiction narrative that, while missing important information, feels deeply satisfying. I can honestly say that this issue excited me for the future of Bendis’ run. I really want to see where he brings this property. As long as Jon and Lois will eventually return, I can see this series taking flight.

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