Monday, June 18, 2018

Super-Comics Talk: Man of Steel # 2 and #3 (2018)

Man of Steel 2 and 3

Writer:  Brian Michael Bendis
Artists:  Issue 2 - Doc Shaner, Steve Rude, Jason Fabok
              Issue 3 - Ryan Sook, Jason Fabok, inks pages 12-12, 15: Wade Von Grawbadger
Colors:  Alex Sinclair
Letters:  Josh Reed
Associate Editor:  Jessica Chen
Editor:  Michael Cotton
Group Editor:  Brian Cunningham
Cover:  Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Alex Sinclair

Hoo-boy.  Bendis and the decompressed narrative.  I was aware of it coming into the series, remarked on it last issue, and I'm still taken a bit aback by how the man's comics work.*

Three (of six) issues in and we've managed a few things:

  • a space man named Rogol Zaar may or may not have had a hand in blowing up Krypton
  • Rogol Zaar is still alive and is surprised to learn that so is a guy they call Superman
  • Superman's wife (Lois Lane) and son (Jonathan Kent) are missing
  • The Daily Planet is being sold (again.  Where's Mariel Hemingway when you need her?)
  • A series of fires is taking down mostly vacant buildings in Metropolis
  • Rogol Zaar made his way to Earth and the Fortress of Solitude

It's not nothing, but given the teasers in Action Comics 1000 and DC Nation 0, a whole lot of this was already telegraphed in those pages.  If Bendis were as efficient with his use of space in his 20-page comics writing as he is in his shorter teasers, we'd be more or less wrapped with whatever he has planned for this series - which, at the half-way point, is feeling more like the turning point into a second act.  We're essentially half-way done with this story and haven't really learned anything we didn't know (minus the The Daily Planet news) from a few scant pages in some preview comics.

Look, the art in these comics is absolutely outstanding.  Issue 2 features pencils by "Doc" Shaner and Steve Rude.  Shaner has moved into a more illustrative style, more detail enhancing his depiction of anatomy and characters while maintaining the sensibility of personality that's been a hallmark of his work to date.  While not a descendant of the Jim Lee school of art (see: Jason Fabok's 2 pages of flashback) his style points a direction DC would be wise to consider in looking toward the future with art on Superman.  Shaner's work understands the design sensibilities of a Darwyn Cooke while, here, merging in the confident character of Jerry Ordway and gives us something distinct that feels true to Superman, in particular.

Meanwhile - It's always good to see Steve Rude back at the boards, and his sensibilities mesh neatly with Superman-in-trunks (this isn't his first time to draw Superman, if you recall his World's Finest work with Dave Gibbons from a couple decades back, and an issue or three since.  He may outfit Superman with a style that echoes Fleischer cartoons and Golden Age heroics with a certain retro flair that developed in the 1980's and I'm not sure has received it's due or retained notoriety over the longhaul.  But, damn, man, it's great to see in a mainline DC book.

From Shaner, Rude and Fabok, the results are outstanding.  All I can figure is that DC just said "do the best damn work of your careers", and they swung for the fences.

It's all Ryan Sook (and 2 pages of Fabok) on issue #3, and there's no question that Sook, similarly, has handed in some fine pages - not least of which is his rendering of Rogol Zaar.  If I'm less effusive, it's that I expect a certain level of quality from Sook, he delivers here, and - honestly - he gets lots of work from DC so while it's quality stuff, it's what I expect.

Shaner and Rude should both be handing in work on a regular schedule at DC (and I see Rude's recent contributions at DC far exceeded what I'd been aware of).  Sook continues to be one of the stronger artists at DC - even if that style isn't one that I necessarily gravitate toward.

While I appreciate the slow boil of Superman's situation and the lovely art supplied, I'm just utterly thrown by the pacing and the near certainty that whatever is happening in Man of Steel will in no way resolve within the pages of this series.  Whether that's a good thing or bad thing remains to be seen, as Bendis rebuilds the world of Superman following the events of the 6th and final issue and steps into Action Comics at #1001 and Superman #1.  After happily picking up issue after issue of both Superman and Action - the old instinct to just trade-wait on Bendis is kicking in.

I don't want to be annoyed - and in a lot of ways I'm not - but it occurs to me how well paced the Gleason/ Tomasi and Jurgens issues felt - a bit of something to advance the story in every issue.  And that's true here through the fact the story does move forward, but it all feels so whisper thin, and dragging out plot points (where is Lois?  Just say.) in a way that probably feel good to write, but stretched out since DC Nation #0... it's a weird way to read a comic.

*as trades.  That's how they work.  The work as leisurely-paced trade paperbacks.

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