The Man of Steel #6

THE MAN OF STEEL #6 concludes Brian Michael Bendis’ inaugural miniseries as a DC writer and, for the most part, this issue will satisfy readers. In THE MAN OF STEEL, Bendis has demonstrated that he has a keen passion for telling stories with characters from the DC universe. While certain story elements from this issue fall flat, THE MAN OF STEEL #6 soars because of Bendis’ compelling and heartfelt interpretation of Superman.

The World Changes in MAN OF STEEL #1

The Death of the Family?

Any DC fan knows that Superman is a lot more than the sum of his powers. He’s a gentle and considerate hero who loves those around him. First and foremost, he loves his family: his wife Lois and his son Jon. It also appears that when Kal is with his family, he’s happy.

THE MAN OF STEEL #6 page 4. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Therefore, much of the drama around Peter J. Tomasi’s prior run on SUPERMAN didn’t actually pertain to the Man of Steel himself, but rather raising his powerful son, Jon. THE MAN OF STEEL seems to function as a transitional miniseries between Tomasi’s and Bendis’ runs on SUPERMAN. Bendis’ run looks to be focusing less on Clark with his family, but more on Superman himself. That is why Bendis required that Superman’s family be out of the picture.

In other circumstances, I’d find writing out characters as essential as Lois Lane and Jon Kent to be forced. However, Bendis grounds Jon’s decision to leave his home and travel the universe with his grandfather, Jor-El, in Jon’s own fear of his powers. While Superman might be wise, he knows nothing about raising a Kryptonian boy through adolescence.

Separating Superman from his family looks to be a clever move on Bendis’ part. It creates a more vulnerable and raw version of Kal-El. Throughout this arc, we’ve seen Superman lose so much of his home, heritage, and family. In MAN OF STEEL #6, he’s all but broken down with rage and pain. Seeing this side of Superman is shocking but, thanks to Bendis and his understanding of the character, it never feels fake.

An Uninspired Villain

My biggest frustration with THE MAN OF STEEL #6 is the villain of Rogol Zaar. Zaar should have everything required to make an awesome Superman villain. He has an unquestionably awesome and fearsome design. He’s also more than a physical match for the Man of Steel. It’s always a joy to see two superbeings wail on each other at top speeds in SUPERMAN comics.

Besides this, however, there’s just very little that’s intriguing about Rogol Zaar. What’s his end goal? To wipe out every Kryptonian! We’ve already had scores of Superman villains trying to do just that. Zaar’s reasoning for destroying Krypton is also far from compelling as well. How many times do we have to hear about “evolution having to stay checked” from him? Zaar is a zealot wanting to eradicate life that he deems unworthy to exist. However, Zaar never feels like a fully fleshed out person. Instead, he functions as a tool to usher through Bendis’ plot.

THE MAN OF STEEL #6 page 9. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Zaar sufficiently plays his part as a menace that Superman must thwart, but he does nothing more. So much of this comic is dedicated to Zaar that much of the plotline feels wasted on him. As the comic leaves many questions unanswered, much of the plotline concerning Zaar is unsatisfying in THE MAN OF STEEL #6. It’s a real pity that the blandness of Zaar really drags down the plot and prevents THE MAN OF STEEL from being considered a truly terrific Superman story.

Man of Steel, Heart of Gold

I stated the weakest part of this run and now I’ll hit back with the strongest. By far the greatest aspect of Bendis’ arrival to SUPERMAN has been his writing of the Last Son of Krypton’s character.

The Man of Steel Reaches a Crossroads in SUPERMAN SPECIAL #1

There’s one moment in this comic which so perfectly captures Superman’s disposition. It’s before he fights Rogol Zaar when he pauses to ask the mad villain about himself. See, Superman isn’t out to destroy even those he has every reason to hate, like Zaar. Superman is always out to understand his enemies, to make them see the error of their ways. If he fails at that, he still wants to see where their views arise from.

My favorite quote from THE MAN OF STEEL #6 has to be in this moment when Superman remarks to Zaar,

“You’re very sincere in your hate for me just because of who you think I am. The sincerity. I feel sad for you.”

In a culture so permeated right now by hate and judgment, it’s important to look to someone like Superman for guidance. Clark just witnessed Zaar destroy much of his heritage in the city of Kandor. Instead of outright dismissing him, Kal pities him. It’s moments like these that remind me why I love Superman so much.

Classic and Emotional Art in THE MAN OF STEEL #6

It was clever to call on Jason Fabok as the artist for THE MAN OF STEEL #6. Alongside colorist Alex Sinclair, Fabok provides a dignified, pristine, and classic look at the world of Clark Kent. I particularly adore any page featuring Superman in his classic suit. His cape, insignia, and trunks really shine with the bright colors Sinclair provides. Meanwhile, Fabok’s design for the character embodies all of the strength and power that I expect from this character. Fabok’s art definitely harkens back to prior depictions of Superman, especially Dan Jurgen’s DEATH AND RETURN OF SUPERMAN. The resemblance is surely on purpose, as DC has been slowly reverting Superman from his New 52 form to a more familiar and recognizable one.

THE MAN OF STEEL #6 page 10. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Fabok and Sinclair fantastically represent the bright and hopeful language of Superman. However, the art team also does an amazing job of representing some of the darker and more emotional moments of this comic. Whether it’s the small family scenes or Superman’s battle with Zaar, Fabok and Sinclair never lose sight of the drama in their panels. This emphasis on characters goes a long way in grounding THE MAN OF STEEL #6.

Look to the Future

THE MAN OF STEEL #6 isn’t a perfect miniseries, but it does a lot to energize me about Superman’s future. I love how different Bendis’ take on the Man of Steel is from Tomasi and other prior writers. I hope Bendis will inevitably find a story that will sufficiently satisfy skeptical fans of the character. So far, this plot with Zaar failed to truly take off in a spectacular way. As long as Bendis continues to understand the roots of Superman’s core values, I believe that his new SUPERMAN will enrapture its reader.

THE MAN OF STEEL #6 By Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Fabok, and Alex Sinclair
Brian Michael Bendis delivers an entertaining and heartfelt conclusion to his miniseries with THE MAN OF STEEL #6. While the plot leaves you wishing for more, Bendis' grasp of the character of Superman is more than ever on display here. Combined with the power of Jason Fabok and Alex Sinclair's art, Bendis is able to deliver a terrific end to a Superman story.
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Strong and Inspiring

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