Superman #4 review

Earth has been sent into the hell dimension known as the Phantom Zone. As the changed atmosphere kills people, Superman faces the ragtag army of alien criminals gathered by Rogol Zaar, the man who claims to have murdered the amazing world of Krypton. Jax-Ur, whose illegal scientific experiments exploded an inhabited moon of Krypton, is cheerleader in chief, thrilled to see the son of Jor-El facing imminent death.

Even as he fights apparently unbeatable odds, Superman thinks of his son, Jon.

‘Grandpa Kent’ – how brilliant that Jonathan Kent is influencing a new generation of heroes.

Meanwhile, Justice League colleagues Atom and Flash prepare to enact a plan to get Earth back where it belongs.

Whew, this is an action-packed issue, but writer Brian Michael Bendis finds room for plenty of characterisation – and his version of Superman is rapidly becoming a favourite. The warmth of the guy is just delightful.

Superman shouldn’t be able to survive in the wake of dozens of super-powered criminals, but they don’t have his experience, his passion. He takes a real beating but survives long enough to find a way to potentially turn the tide against Rogol Zaar…

I like this a lot. Superman’s lesson in patience and understanding is key to his (likely) gaining a valuable ally. He’s practicing what he preaches, using communication rather than fists to find an advantage. We don’t see Jax-Ur’s decision, but you can bet that next issue he’ll be on Superman’s side.

Superman’s relationship with his JLA pals is classic, pure Bronze Age – and I love that he’s up there with the Atom when it comes to desperate plans.

We could do with a little more play by play when it comes to the fights. Look, for example, at this panoramic panel by penciller Ivan Reis, inker Joe Prado and colourist Alex Sinclair…

… is that Superman simply breaking loose due to his mighty strength or him unleashing his solar flare power? If the latter, that should leave him utterly drained of energy for a day. We don’t see any issue with strength levels, but in his Man of Steel series Bendis also used the flare as just one more super power. It’s a minor thing, but so easy to sort out as Bendis is plotting the story; it’s at times like this that editor Michael Cotton should have a quick word.

That quibble apart, I enjoyed this issue lots; Bendis knows where he’s going with his story, while Reis, Prado and other inker Oclair Albert produce page after page of dynamic, open art. I love Jon’s wink to the cover of Action Comics #1, Zaar riding a terrifying space…THING on the splash page while Superman zooms towards him, his cape no more than a shape – but this is my favourite panel…

… that close-up of Rogol Zaar suddenly makes him interesting – there’s stuff going on in that ugly mug.

And a wee shout-out to Josh Reed, for an attractive job of lettering.

There’s a great cliffhanger that loops back to my favourite scene last issue, and I’m really looking forward to what comes next. Batman, I suspect, with that bell, book and candle from last issue. That old bat-magic.

The mass market cover by Reis, Prado and Sinclair is well done, but a tad Doomsday-generic. The Adam Hughes alternate, though, I adore – I can’t resist a shiny City of Tomorrow.

So, a big well done to everyone involved with this issue, a fine chapter on a story that’s building to something rather epic.

5 thoughts on “Superman #4 review

  1. That Adam Hughes cover is a stunner, alright.

    This might be my favorite issue of Superman yet. I still prefer Action, with its focus on the Daily Planet and Metropolis, but this is wonderful epic Superman stuff. And yeah, Superman’s final statement to Jax-Ur shows the benefits of consistently taking the high road. I love it.

    I’ve heard a rumor that some of Bendis’s stalling on the Kent family dynamic is out of his control… his real plans can’t kick in until after Doomsday Clock. So I suspect that we’ll be getting more of these vignettes for a while, but I’m hoping we get to see the family all together soon, regardless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a rumor I heard face to face from a friend with connections, rather than one I read online. So who knows whether that makes it more or less likely to be true? But it looks like Jon’s coming back in issue 7 — so whether or not Bendis’s original plans will go into effect then, it looks like the current stalling will be over.


  2. Doomsday Clock … effecting everything! Yeesh. Good theory!

    Loved the Action Comics #1 riff. Love Pa Kent still doling out the wisdom. Love Superman’s tenacity. I do think it is a graded Solar Flare. Thought that would go the way of the dodo!

    Great review!

    Flash running everywhere with a shrinking ray reminded me a little of the end of Cooke’s New Frontier.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, New Frontier!

      Also a place to see Adam Strange looking classically awesome.

      Am I the only one who wants to get a red marker and colour in the Phantom Zone projector?


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