I burned out on the work of Brian Michael Bendis ages ago. It’s not that it’s bad or anything. It just feels repetitive. He has his niche, but somehow Marvel kept giving him big crossover events that never quite worked out. Then came big news that DC signed him to an exclusive contract. I could see Bendis doing well on a character like Nightwing. Bendis specializes in street-level heroes or with espionage types, and they tend to be chatty.
But then he started writing all the Superman books. I didn’t think that was the best possible outlet for his talents even if it was easy to see why. I mean, yeah, put the big name guy on the flagship character’s books. Makes sense. Well, Bendis started off with a six issue weekly mini-series titled The Man of Steel. I could at least give that a look and see how he did even if I wasn’t sold on him as the best possible Superman writer. Maybe I was wrong.
It turns out I actually was rather wrong. This was a good book. Maybe it won’t be one of the all-time great Superman stories or runs, but Bendis started off strongly enough. He actually has a good grasp on Superman the character. His Clark/Supes is friendly, humble, and heroic as needed. There is a running bit involving people remembering that Superman has super-hearing, but it’s done to show how people react to Superman and just living in Metropolis.
The plot, such as it is, goes in two different directions. One is a general mystery about where Lois Lane is (and, by extension, Clark and Lois’ son Jon “Superboy” Kent), and the other is the mysterious Rogol Zaar. Zaar is a powerful alien who claims he destroyed Krypton, and now he’s on Earth to finish the job. While the book doesn’t say definitively Zaar destroyed Krypton, it sure does hint strongly that he did. He has a motive. He honestly believed Krypton was a problem. Zaar’s action here, against Superman, Supergirl, and any Kryptonian relic he can find, point to him as a major villain going forward.
As for the Lois/Jon plot, there Bendis only parcels out information slowly through a series of flashbacks. The reader knows Lois’ absence is bothering Clark. But where is she and why did she leave? Clark alone knows, and he doesn’t want to talk about it, not even with other heroes. Arguably, Zaar is a reprieve from his worries over Lois and Jon. Too bad Zaar is obviously worse.
Bendis, and a revolving door of talented artists, made a story I largely dug here. Yes, it is full of Bendis’ general writing style. Characters are chatty with overlapping conversations, and there were one or two moments where his style didn’t quite work. Bendis wrote his Superman about right as are the various members of the main supporting cast. Some of the guest stars don’t feel that way, but that’s a fairly minor quibble. Overall, I surprised myself with how much I generally dug this as a new run for a new creator on an old character. 8.5 out of 10 short term solutions to genocidal madmen.