Bendis comes to Superman #1 with a busy book that feels like it truly can’t stand alone and will present some interesting challenges in the coming months.
Coming off of Man of Steel, Bendis takes over the Superman title. In turn, it is a story that feels less like a story and more like an assembly of moments, caught, and presented out of order.
The book opens with the touching thoughts of Clark, who just wants to find his family. Bendis separating the Super Family is something readers of Man of Steel will be already familiar with, but all the same, the recap is nice.
Clark flies into deep space only to run face first into the Dominion. Why are the Dominators here, presumably on a path to Earth? What are their plans? Does this tie into something bigger or is it a one-off incident? All this and more goes unanswered as Clark singlehandedly upends the Dominion fleet in a series of panels. It’s cool, it shows Clark’s great power, but instead of investigating he takes this as a sign he should head home.
Back home Clark has a series of flashbacks. Lois being lovely, John being a twerp, and Jor-El being a huge jerk.
These are probably the highlight of the issue. It’s nice to see flashes of why Superman cares so much, to feel like we’re connecting with what motivates him.
A More Tropical Destination
Probably the big selling point of this issue is the moving of the Fortress of Solitude. In a couple short pages, Bendis moves the fort to the Bermuda Triangle. This is a decision that isn’t really given much thought or reason. Why would Superman move the fort there? What does he get out of it? However, the panels are kind of awesomely dramatic.
While I love tradition, and the Fortress of Solitude is an old Superman standby, the decision to move it neither feels particularly moving or upsetting, as the scene moves so quickly and the impact of the decision is not addressed. I’d wager this change doesn’t last not because fans will dislike it, but because we haven’t been given reason to care.
Before you can blink, Clark next must deal with work, and while there, has a thought that gets interrupted by J’onn, who comes to tell him that now that he knows Superman’s planet was destroyed on purpose they have so much more in common.
Also, Superman should take over — I mean lead the world. Is this out of character? Yes. Is it probably an imposter/mind control/name a gimmick? For now, I put money on yes as well.
The best part of this bizarre sequence is watching Clark continuously interrupt the conversation to go save the day in a way that is particularly spectacular and very in character for how Clark feels like he should operate. The only thing missing was saving a cat from a tree. The idea Clark never stops helping people really makes this moment outstanding, which makes J’onn’s character all the odder.
The issue ends with Superman flying out over the city, only to realize he is in the Phantom Zone. How long has he been there? Is that why J’onn is acting weird? Did this description feel a little disjointed? If so, that’s how the comic felt to read.
Likely this is the result of wrapping up Man of Steel while simultaneously trying to set up the pieces for the upcoming ongoing. This issue is a series of loosely connected events, with no real hooks for new readers to sink their teeth into. Knowing Bendis, I’d wait to see the first six issues, as his more decompressed style tends to lend to that.
Superman #1 Overall
The art did the job it set out to do. The style is heavy on the black inks, which can be jarring and make characters look older or more menacing than they sometimes need to be. The rendering of the Dominion ships and similar detailed backgrounds and landscapes looks like it will be the strong suit of this series for the time being.
Overall, Superman #1 is a bit of a confused issue, and it may be better to read the Man of Steel series before jumping straight into it. On its own, it doesn’t stand up quite so well as some of the other #1s out this week.