Bendis Goes Off the Rails in Superman #2 (and It’s Awesome!)

Say what you will about Brian Michael Bendis’ Superman stories so far, but you can’t deny that the man is willing to swing for the fences with all the gusto of a child hopped up Cocoa Puffs playing with action figures on a linoleum kitchen floor. What unfolds is creative, ambitious, and maybe a bit messy, but it’s never dull. And Bendis, aided by the art team of Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Oclair Albert, continues treating the exploits of The Man of Steel like a game of superhero mad libs in Superman #2.

For the sake of avoiding spoiler territory, let’s just say, this issue has a pretty big, “Wait – what just happened?” moment in the middle of the book that we eon’t expound upon here. Let’s just say, this comic is absolutely worth your time, especially if you’ve been a long-time Superman fan looking for some justice for some of the more maligned comments in the character’s history, or if you’ve just been enjoying Bendis’ run so far. Let’s leave it at that, shall we? But trust us; it’s kind of amazing.

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Soon after finding the entire planet trapped in The Phantom Zone, Superman starts doing a bit of a headcount to see the extent of the situation and how it’s affecting his fellow Justice League members. The collateral damage roll call is surprisingly funny, while also giving readers the full scope of how bad things have gotten. It’s a juggling act that in the hands of other writers could come crashing to the floor.

While it would be easy to read this issue and think of it more a simple transitional chapter in the ever-growing narrative Bendis has been weaving in the pages of this series and Action Comics, it certainly stands on its own merit. The entire creative team are utilizing the graphic medium in an almost retro manner, presenting pertinent information at a quick clip that assumes this is the reader’s first Superman comic. But this is done so without suffering from too much redundancy for those of us who have been there since the start of this whole Rogol Zaar business.

Ivan Reis’ artwork continues to shine and his ability to handle the whirlwind of dialogue bubbles populating each panel is perfect. His eye for making that action flow is as sharp as ever, and his ability to make even the quieter moments seem kinetic are fully realized in this issue. His style does a nice job of bridging the gap between sketchy, ostentatious comic art from the ’90s and the more often subdued and cleaner styles that we see a lot of today. The result is a story in which his work seems timeless.

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Inkers Joe Prado and Oclair Albert fill in the gaps, giving each panel definition and a sense of weight. Colorist Alex Sinclair is, as always, amazing, bringing vibrancy to the book, which stands in stark contrast to other DC titles and, of course, the live action film and television adaptations of its characters. The aesthetic of this issue is nothing short of a text book example of what comic books should look like. That isn’t to say this is the only way they should be presented, but it’s as close to a gold standard as a lot of comics get, which is pretty apropos considering it’s all in a Superman comic.

The only drawback to this issue is, again, Bendis eeks ever so close to getting a smidge too “Bendis-y” in Superman’s dialogue. He never fully gets there, though he does tip toe around it like a kid sneaking into the kitchen for more Cocoa Puffs after his parents have gone to bed. In the end, Bendis never takes Supes’ dialogue “full Spidey,” which is a relief. This isn’t to say Superman doesn’t have a sense or humor, but the level of snark that Bendis has put in some characters’ mouths is better suited for DC heroes like the Flash.

If you’ve been here since the start of this whole crazy business, this comic will definitely be on your radar, and it should be. Bendis’ work on Superman keeps proving he gets the character on a fundamental level, but leaves himself enough room to make the books he works on his own thing.

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