Our boy in blue is back and boy-scout-ier than ever! Brian Michael Bendis’ prowess as a writer was never in question. One question that remained unanswered at the start of his miniseries was how much (if any) of the recent cannon Bendis would incorporate into his new vision. Fortunately, after reading “The Man of Steel,” it is abundantly clear that this writer is not only interested in respecting the Rebirth material, but expounding on it in exciting new ways.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. Under no circumstances did this series need a full six issues. While the insanely talented artists produce some truly admirable work, Bendis simply doesn’t give them enough material to warrant this length. Many story beats are repeated several times over and it’s difficult to feel a sense of progression when we have to backtrack every issue. Four would have served just fine and likely given the series a much needed sense of urgency.
My second complaint has to do with the main villain. Rogol-Zaar ended up being far more interesting than I anticipated. In fact, his story line quickly become one of the high points of the book. But here’s the catch: he’s not really a Superman villain. You’ll have to pick up the upcoming “Supergirl” series if you want the conclusion to that plot line. And I understand the marketing incentive behind it, I do. But come on – do we really need to spend that much time on a thread that will ultimately be left dangling in the wind?
And thus end the grievances. Now on to the real star of this show: Bendis’ Superman. As far as characterization goes, the writer has knocked it out of the park. His Superman is gentle and strong, confident before those he protects, but deeply human in his personal interactions. I have to imagine Bendis has been dying to write Supes for some time now, because this is a fully formed vision of the age-old hero.
What’s more, Bendis incorporates classic elements to Superman’s characterization while still retaining all the events that occurred in the past few years. The heart-warming family dynamics introduced by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason are still there, as are some of the shocking revelations Dan Jurgens raised but never quite brought to satisfying conclusions. Bendis is using every toy in his box, a pattern that promises to continue in his “Superman” and “Action Comics” runs.
All in all, “The Man of Steel” is everything it should be: a fine introduction for what’s to come in Superman’s life, as well as an extravaganza for an ensemble cast of artists. Had it been shorter, it would receive a hard “recommend.” However, at an increased $3.99 a pop, no one would blame you for trade-waiting on this one. One thing is for certain: The Man of Steel is in truly good hands.