Review: Man of Steel #3

While the previous issue focused on Clark Kent’s relationship to his co-workers at the Daily Planet, Brian Michael Bendis makes Man of Steel # about Kal-El’s connection to his Kryptonian heritage beginning with a tragic, nearly silent opening sequence drawn by Ryan Sook and Alex Sinclair of Rogol-Zaar wrecking the Fortress of Solitude, including the Bottle City of Kandor making its first substantial appearance in the DC Rebirth era. There’s also a Batman cameo that goes nowhere (Except for inspiring Superman to think more like a detective.), and the shadowy Jay Fabok drawn figure slowly emerges from the shadows in the Clark and Jon flashback. So, like most of this miniseries so far, it’s a visually stunning mixed bag as Bendis and Sook finally catch up to the story in Action Comics #1000 timeline-wise.

Man of Steel has been a mini filled with great artists like Ivan Reis, Jay Fabok, Evan Shaner, and Steve Rude, but Ryan Sook proves that he has the best storytelling chops of the bunch. He is equally adept at big, bombastic moments like Rogol-Zaar crashing into Earth’s orbit and the smaller, human ones like Superman politely waving to Melody while he and Batman investigate another arson in Metropolis, or Supergirl comforting her cousin while he mourns the lost Kryptonians of Kandor. The pages where Superman and Supergirl are in the Fortress is a master class in emotional progression that starts by the cousins walking around their Arctic shelter and surveying the damage before bursting into pure anguish when they see the destroyed Bottle and then flight. Then, in another double page spread, Superman uses his flight, super hearing, and X-Ray vision to check on his apartment, co-workers, and then focus on the thread at hand. Hey, Batman isn’t the only one with “detective vision”. And Sook’s few pages of action really pack a wallop with yellows and reds from Sinclair showing that Rogol Zaar packs a real physical threat to Superman.

Brian Michael Bendis’ use of Supergirl and Batman in Man of Steel #3 is a very quick study is how and how not to use guest stars in a comic book. First of all, their appearances both make logical sense. Batman is helping Superman investigate a mystery that is bothering, namely, how are all these fires happening under his practically omniscient and omnipresent nose? Because she is Kryptonian, Supergirl can hear the unique frequency of the Fortress of Solitude’s alarm and quickly sees if the place that is the last sanctuary and repository of her home culture is under attack. However, with Batman, it seems like Bendis is just checking off writing DC’s other big hero instead of using him in a meaningful way. Of course, his first line of dialogue is “I’m Batman” to slightly freaked out/fangirling Melody Moore, and then he spouts off something about patterns and something respectful about Superman because that’s the kind of relationship Bendis lets them have, which is cool. But Batman doesn’t add a set of fresh eyes to any of Man of Steel’s mysteries, including the arson, and definitely not the missing Lois and Jon one. In fact, Superman comes off as the better detective as he quickly finds and engages Rogol-Zaar after cutting a swath of destruction through the Fortress.

On the other hand, Supergirl’s guest turn adds more layers of emotional poignancy to the destruction of the Bottle City of Kandor, a place that Kara may have even remembered visiting, because she came to Earth much older than Kal-El. Her appearance in Action Comics #1000 isn’t just a random cameo, but as a friend, family member, and Kryptonian fighting against an enemy that wants to obliterate all remnants of her and Kal’s culture. Bendis and Sook lean into the Kryptonians as immigrant metaphor with the items in the Fortress of Solitude representing memories and heritage of the homeland. Even if he barely speaks in this issue and is still mostly a one dimensional force of destruction and genocide,  Bendis and Sook position Rogol-Zaar as an anti-immigrant villain. To go along with this, Kara even gets a great action moment swooping up a faltering Superman with some Sook speed lines and delivering a one-liner before the brawl begins. Rogol-Zaar thought he had to fight one last of son of Krypton, but there’s a last daughter too.

The mystery parts of Man of Steel #3 barely progress (I have a fairly obvious theory about who the mysterious attacker is in the Lois and Jon flashbacks.), but Brian Michael Bendis and Ryan Sook hit a strong emotional beat with Superman and Supergirl’s reactions to the destruction of the Fortress of Solitude and the Bottle City of Kandor. Rogol-Zaar’s motivation is wholly tied to Krypton so this is line with his character and shows that Bendis understands Superman’s alien and human heritage. A pity that the Batman subplot went nowhere.

Story: Brian Michael Bendis Art: Ryan Sook, Jay Fabok Inks: Wade von Grawbadger
 Colors: Alex Sinclair Letters: Josh Reed
Story: 6.8 Art: 9.2 Overall: 7.7 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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