Superman has never been a hero as much as he’s been a lover. A lover of the small things we do in the rare moments we have to ourselves. A lover of our kindness, of our potential to do and become better. A lover of our imperfections and the bravery of voluntary vulnerability. Of the countless writers and artists who’ve tackled Superman stories, few capture his loving spirit. Selfless, maybe. Rarely loving, though. There is a difference. Selflessness is saving a foul-mouthed little girl from a burning building. Love is taking a few precious seconds to appreciate a woman’s singing from miles away (with the aid of super-hearing, of course) and immersing yourself in the beauty of a small, everyday form of expression. Regardless of which Superman you prefer, there’s no need to fret. Both versions show up in Brian Michael Bendis’s The Man of Steel #1, and both of my previous examples occur almost simultaneously.
Drawn by Ivan Reis and written by Bendis, the first issue kicks off with an ancient hulking alien imploring a cluster of misty figures to cleanse Krypton. It’s revealed that this alien is Rogol Zaar and that this conversation takes place before the destruction of Superman’s homeworld. Consider the dots already connected on this one.
This villain presents some exciting opportunities for Bendis, ones that he’ll absolutely take advantage of in subsequent issues. Why does Zaar despise Krypton so much? Why does he consider Kryptonian folly so dangerous? What will our heroes do next? Find out next time on Dragonba—oh, shit.
The issue leaves readers with the “What in the actual fuck is happening?” cliffhanger typical among single-issue comics, but with an added abruptness that exacerbates the stress caused by its closing panels. As always, Reis does a phenomenal job of making the proceedings cinematic in feel and epic in scope. It’s not easy to draw your way to the top over at DC, especially when you’ve got talents like Greg Capullo and Gary Frank tearing it up with big-time events and universe-altering happenings. Still, Reis has managed to cement himself as one of the industry’s most sought-after artists.
With this superb first issue, The Man of Steel captivates, enthralls, and allows for an exciting interpretation of Superman from one of the brightest minds in the industry. It’s going to be a blast going forward.
The Man of Steel #2 hits shelves on June 6.
Superman has always been less of a personality and more of a presence. Bendis understands and respects that in ways that will surprise and impress even the pickiest readers. The Man of Steel #1 is a perfect entry point into the Superman mythos, and it should only get more exciting from here. Whatever you do, don’t miss this.