In the Phantom Zone, Superman faces an unknown foe. The extraterrestrial appeared in Metropolis and attacked, putting thousands of lives at risk. With the aid of Fortress of Solitude major domo Kelex, the Man of Steel moved the battle to the other-dimensional prison.
Of course, you’re rarely alone in the zone.
Punching Xa-Du gives Superman a chance to show he’s not treating his attacker as an enemy. He’s been trying to communicate with spoken language, and opened his mind to the stranger… to no avail.
Meanwhile, on Earth, Mrs Superman Lois Lane gets an unexpected visitor.
And back in the Phantom Zone…
Superman deserves major points for perseverance. The creature, Synmar, has done nothing but try to hurt him, but still our hero bids to avoid a fight. He’s constantly attempting to communicate with the being, and has Kelex looking into who or what he’s facing.
So far as giving the benefit of the doubt goes, it gets to the point that Supeman risks looking a bit of a boob.
But an admirable one. As written by Brian Michael Bendis, Superman, a Kryptonian, is the most human of heroes, his heart ever open. One of the reasons he can afford to take the high road is that he’s so confident of his power. It’s safe to say that by the end of this chapter of Bendis’ Mythological storyline, Superman’s refusal to fight first and ask questions later comes back to bite him on his red-trunked bottom.
The writer manages to have his cake and eat it – page after page is devoted to action because Synmar keeps attacking, but Superman sticks to defence – well, except when he punches that annoying Xa-Du. We’re reminded that the reason Clark is such a peaceable sort is his upbringing… he’s always thinking of Pa Kent and the lessons he learnt in Smallville.
The scene with Lois and Lana is fascinating but frustrating – it gets three panel-packed pages but nothing much happens. Lana shows up, Lois intuits she’s really worried about Clark… and Mrs Kent gets out her latest manuscript.
It really is baffling. Hopefully Lana’s concerns aren’t as urgent as they seemed.
Which isn’t to say the sequence isn’t fun. I like how Bendis writes the Superman Family, I just wish he wouldn’t stretch every little plot point out like an infinitely expandable cape.
Bless Bendis, though, for bringing back a staple of the Silver Age, Superman’s heightened intelligence. His facility with languages is great to see as he tries to get through to Synmar… it’s just a shame that by story’s end there’s a statement to the effect that Superman’s ‘intellectual capacity’ is a super power, which reduces as he’s away from earth’s solar system. Nah… his birth parents were a top scientist and an astronaut/military tactician (take your pick), he’s naturally super bright.
What’s also super bright is the artwork as coloured by Alex Sinclair. One sequence in particular, as Superman traverses galaxies, is especially gorgeous.
Drawing the moment are the issue’s illustrators, penciller Ivan Reis and inker Danny Miki. Reis lays down the sensitive pencils, Miki makes them pop. Reis’ layouts are straightforward in their storytelling, but full of imagination. And the characters look perfect, from gentle Superman to the enigmatic Synmar and the frankly frightening Xa-Du. The down-to-earth scenes look very good too, despite Lana’s beyond frumpy haircut.
Dave Sharpe letters and the words are inviting to the eye; I appreciate that he never gets too wacky with the font choices and colours.
The cover is well done, but a little underwhelming and the sense of Superman being lost in the void is undermined by the piled signatures of Reis, Sinclair and inker Joe Prado… it looks like Superman is reaching for a titchy Aladdin’s lamp.
Superman #27 is an always exciting, occasionally surprising, wholly enjoyable issue. Bring on the next one!