The Man of Steel Issue 1

The Man of Steel Issue 1

The Man of Steel Issue 1

Pros

  • This is Bendis at his best--and it doesn't SOUND like Bendis
  • Ivan Reis' art is stunning!

Brian Michael Bendis is the reason I read comic books. This is not hyperbole, nor is it simply a nifty way to start off a review.

It’s just plain, simple fact.

I wouldn’t read comics today if not for Brian Bendis. I wouldn’t make my weekly trip to the local shop if not for Bendis. I wouldn’t have so many freaking comics and trades and hardcovers and statues and toys if not for Brian Michael Bendis.

Plain, simple. Fact.

When I started reading comics–I mean really getting into the medium and to the point where my closet had more than a couple of short boxes stacked on top of each other–when I really and truly got into comics, Bendis was just at the crux of his meteoric rise at Marvel.

He’d been on Ultimate Spider-Man for a little while, and his Daredevil was cranking away with some of the grittiest superhero stories ever told. Alias was a revelation, and then there was Jinx. And Torso. Fortune and Glory. Powers! Bends’ work on the Spawn spinoff characters Sam and Twitch gave the titular heroes depth and relevance.

His writing helped to herald in a new age of comics, where it was the writer and the story that mattered and for the first time in a long time, the variant cover took a back seat to what was inside.

And, love him or hate him, Brian Bendis played a key role in that seismic shift in a medium that had seen several seismic–and, frankly, not great–shifts over the preceding decades.

So Bendis made me aware of what comics could be–and, more importantly, what they were turning in to. Watchmen and Dark Knight had always been there as beacons of what the medium could do, at its very best. But with the dawning of the 2000’s and thanks to folks like Bendis (and Brubaker and Millar and Loeb, and then Kevin Smith before them), comics were reaching higher than they ever had, and they were doing so on a consistent basis.

And it’s thanks to folks like Bendis that comics like Tom King’s run on Mister Miracle exist today.

For Marvel, specifically, Bendis was one of the world-shapers. Lots of things he worked on and created and ideated ended up on screens both big and small, and the course of the Marvel Universe over a decade-plus was directly shaped by him.

So when the announcement came several months ago that Bendis–Marvel’s Guy–was leaving the House of Ideas and jumping across the street (well, now, country) to DC, the comic book world itself shook, just a bit. It’s weird–even now, it’s weird–to think of Bendis as anything but a Marvel writer.

His name is so synonymous with the company and its properties and its characters’ voices that a Bendis-penned Batman or Superman has always seemed like nothing more than a pipe dream. But, I guess, even Bucky isn’t dead anymore, so why should we be surprised that Bendis’ name now appears on the indicia of the Distinguished Competition?

This is, of course, comics. (And yes, I’m aware that he once wrote an issue of Batman Chronicles–I have that book sitting on my desk as I type, buried under a whole stack of things that need to find box to live in.)

All of this is a long-winded, but necessary, preamble to my review of Bendis’ first big DC launch, The Man of Steel. This week’s issue one kicks off a weekly four-part event that leads directly into a new Superman ongoing series. Directly into a new direction for Big Blue. There he goes again–shaping worlds.

Bendis has actually had two of his Superman stories printed so far–one a bombastic action piece in, fittingly, Action 1000, and the other a quieter character study in DC Nation 0. But this week’s issue is our first real glimpse of what Bendis is going to bring to DC’s table.

His previous outings seemed…very Bendis. His voice was all over both issues and even though they were both very short stories, they were almost typical, early 2000’s-era Bendis.

But Man of Steel is a different animal. It’s so different, in fact, that had you dropped this book in my hands and blotted out the names on the cover, I would never have guessed that Brian Bendis wrote this issue.

It didn’t…sound like him. It was, and pardon the cliche, all-new and all-different.

We’re getting something else entirely out of Bendis here, and that’s exactly what had to happen with this move. Bends leaving for DC is akin to Jack Kirby making the same move decades ago. A Marvel legend, carving a new path over at DC.

Here, Bendis teams with DC stalwart Ivan Reis, and his pencils here are as good as ever–comparable to his magnificent run on Geoff Johns’ Blackest Night mini. As the weekly series chugs on, there will be a different artist with each issue–again, very Bendis and very fitting.

So a different artist on each issue makes sense, and works. This book–especially now–this book should feel different and new and not quite what you expect.

Because Superman’s been in great hands lately and, frankly, he’s been downright interesting to read. Tomasi and Gleason have done a wonderful job with Clark and Lois and young Jon. And sure I’m sad to see their run come to an end. But it was a great run; a memorable run and one may will look back on fondly.

Without spoiling Man of Steel, I’ll say this. Bendis disrupts the apple cart by issue’s end. Something happens, and it isn’t good. But it is interesting and it directly attacks the continuity question. Let’s face it–since the New 52 and Rebirth, DC has had this lingering Sword of Damocles that is their dangling continuity threads.

We’ll see if Bendis gets to the heart of it in Man of Steel. Honestly, I don’t care if he does. Honestly, I don’t care all that much about things like continuity.

What I do care about is character moments, and character-defining stories.

In this first issue, Bendis gives us some really wonderful character moments. We dive into Superman’s head space and we live there for a bit. And, yes, the kind of annoying big bad from Action 1000 rears his ugly head, but that’s okay. Eventually Bendis will get to the classic villains. Eventually, he’ll write his Luthor vs. Superman tête-à-tête.

There’s lots more coming down the pike–for Superman, for his family and friends. And from Brian Michael Bendis.

I, for one, am all in.

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