Superman #6 review

Rogol Zaar, the creature who says he killed Krypton, has been confronted by General Zod. A very angry General Zod. Superman is also in the Phantom Zone and in the second it takes for the battle to begin, the Man of Steel ponders just what to do.

Before we see what his decision is, Superman is pulled back to Earth by the Atom, Adam Strange and a Star Labs scientist. He wants to be returned to the Zone, to join the ‘battle for Krypton’s legacy’, but there’s a pressing problem on his home planet.

After fixing the fault, Superman wonders how much his father Jor-El, recently found to have survived Krypton’s destruction, knows about Zaar. His thoughts are interrupted by an unexpected arrival.

I tend to avoid final page reveals as I don’t wish to spoil an entire comic, but what the heck, this teenage Jon Kent is on the cover of the issue. Because of that, I was expecting him to show up a lot earlier in the comic, but at least when he does arrive he’s not that modern cliche teased by the cover, angry red-eyed Kryptonian person.

And I’m not too dismayed because this is a very different issue, with more than half the book not so much comic as illustrated storybook.

Writer Brian Bendis provides a fascinating internal monologue – including a meditation on what ‘super-speed’ actually means – while penciller Ivan Reis, inkers Joe Prado and Oclair Albert, colourist Alex Sinclair and letterer Josh Reed produce career-defining work.

I’m serious – the composition of the images, their execution in terms of textures, depth and laying down of moody, complementary tones, is breathtaking, while the usual Superman narrative font is eschewed for more open letterforms; the overall effect is epic.

So impressive are the opening 13 pages that I was briefly disappointed when things returned to normal halfway through the issue… happily, ‘normal’ in terms of this series equates to ‘great-looking sequential art’. I’d not be surprised, though, were group editor Brian Cunningham looking at this chapter of Bendis’ Unity Saga and planning a graphic novel in the style of the first half of the book, the approach speaking to the concept of superhero as myth.

I liked Bendis’ reminding us of how short a time a battle among well-matched superbeings must take, he’s right…to the regular eye the effect must be akin to the Tasmanian Devil in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. And I love the barrage of questions Superman has about the situation, that’s a reporter for you. The San Andreas fault always goes down well with fans of Superman: The Movie. Even better is the moment Superman cries out ‘For Kandor’ and his reasons for doing so.

One demerit, though, for having Clark drop a ‘completely unique’; regular readers will know this is a bugbear if mine – something is unique, or it isn’t, there aren’t gradations. Reporters should know better.

It’s a minor quibble. This is a terrific issue; yes, I’m ready for the resolution of the Rogol Zaar and Jor-El business, but the change of approach of storytelling style gifts a fresh energy to the ongoing storyline. And while Zod has been overused by DC this decade, he’s really helping this arc, bringing a different perspective to the Zaar situation.

Reis, Prado and Sinclair’s cover is a good-looking eye catcher, though I’d rather have had something from elsewhere in the issue, something not spoiling what would have been a surprise for readers who missed DC’s marketing for Jon’s return.

Adam Hughes’s variant is a cute, lovely-looking take on the ‘it tickles’ trope.

So, next issue, light is shone on Jon’s instant puberty. Please?

16 thoughts on “Superman #6 review

  1. Josh Reed’s lettering on the “storybook” pages is very similar to Burne Hogarth’s lettering in his Tarzan comics/storybooks. I’m wondering if he made that font himself. If so, nice touch!

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  2. I usually dislike the style of the first half of the book (Hickman ending a F4 issue with a dense text piece rather than sequential art was my last issue) but the combo of art, it not being the whole issue, and Bendis’ keen understanding of Clark won me over. Plus though I’m not bored as such with Rogol Zaar but I was ready to move on from it and the Phantom Zone for a bit. Jon not being angsty helped…

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  3. Finally got to read this one, and it’s a terrific issue. I really love how disorienting it is to go from super-speed to normal time — for Superman, but it also carries through for us. And it’ll be great to take a couple issues off from Rogol Zaar, while we find out what’s happened with Jon. I wonder if it’ll tie in with the return of Connor over in Young Justice?

    As for the lettering, it also reminded me of they style Charles Vess used for The Book of Ballads and Sagas. Although he very well could have been drawing from Hogarth as well!

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    1. Two issues without Rogol Zaar… that sounds like a Christmas miracle!

      I’m ridiculously intrigued to find out what the set-up for Wonder Comics is…Bendis says the stories are in current continuity, but so are all the multiversal Elseworlds.

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      1. My impression is he’s not being cagey about it; they’ll be in regular continuity with the main DC line, on the main DC earth. (As an example, Impulse is coming back for YJ. When Josh Williamson found out about this, he said, “Um, I might have a way to bring him back in what I’m doing…” which is why he showed up at the end of the recent big Flash War storyline. So I expect we’ll see Connor and Cassie return to the main Earth. (I think Bendis said they’ll be explaining Connor’s return in issue 3, IIRC.)

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    1. Oh, I have no idea. I never read that series, and had totally forgotten they’d existed. Maybe I misheard, and Bendis will instead be explaining how they got back to the versions we like.

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  4. Great review!
    Love the San Andreas fault comment. And like you loved the ‘big art’ of the front half. Just amazing stuff.

    As for ‘completely unique’, I don’t mind it if used sparingly and with the right situation. I’ll give you a personal example where I almost used ‘very unique’.

    Kevin Eastman does commissions at conventions. Each one is a unique sketch, no two the same. But while each sketch is unique, a ‘Raphael Eastman convention sketch’ is hardly unique. Ask him to do a Supergirl sketch and he says he has never ever ever done a Supergirl drawing in his career, well that convention Eastman commission becomes ‘very unique’, something unique in a field of similar uniquenesses. If that makes any sense.

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  5. I liked everything except the reveal of Jon. I so enjoy the Super-Sons dynamic that I am very upset that we may be losing that forever once the limited series ends. I am truly upset because Jon is one of the shining lights in the recent DC universe. I am hoping that at the end of all this we see the younger Jon return.

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    1. I’ve not heard a single person speak up for an older Jon, so surely DC won’t throw the tweenie out with the bathwater. Bendis can’t be bringing back Conor AND leaving us with an older Jon, and it’s not like he’s going to combine the two…

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