More Action And More Stagnation In Man of Steel #4

by James Ferguson

Rogol Zaar, the destroyer of Krypton, is on Earth to finish the job he started years ago. He aims to eliminate the Kryptonian race and Superman and Supergirl are his next targets. Although he looks like a brute, he’s a manipulative tactician, moving Clark and Kara into the right positions to unleash devastating attacks that hit both physically and mentally.

We already knew Rogol Zaar was a heinous villain. I mean, what kind of guy destroys an entire planet? (Sit down, Galactus.) His actions on Earth have been surgical and brutal, aimed to completely dismantle everything Superman has built on his second home. We saw this in a previous issue when he destroyed the defenseless bottle city of Kandor and everyone in it. Now we’re seeing it in the knock-down, drag-out fight in the center of Metropolis.

While these attacks are lethal, they would pack a much bigger punch if we knew why Rogol Zaar is doing this in the first place. So far he’s been little more than a rampaging monster, which is certainly something that is within Superman’s wheelhouse, but we’ve seen that story before twenty plus years ago. Did the Kryptonians commit some kind of unforgivable act that would push Rogol Zaar to such extreme measures?

Kevin Maguire jumps into the artist’s chair for Man of Steel #4, the latest in the revolving door of talented pencilers we’ve seen on the book since it began. His artwork is solid, although it leans more to a humorous angle with amusing facial expressions. It’s like every character, even in the midst of a heated battle is making a sly grin or an overly expressive grimace. This has its moments but feels a little off as these powerhouses beat the living crap out of each other in the middle of a major American city.

This is especially true with Hal Jordan, who shows up late to the party to lend a hand. He looks pretty cheesy, like a bumbling small-town cop as he struggles to explain who he is and get some information from locals. This was a major threat, so you’d expect more help to arrive as Metropolis is literally burning.

Colorist Alex Sinclair makes Man of Steel #4 feel larger than life. Metropolis feels like a beacon of hope with its bright colors, lit by the glowing energy of the sun in a beautiful blue sky. It’s endangered by this monstrous beast out to destroy the city’s hero. The fire and destruction that begins to spread looks almost unsettling in comparison to the vibrant nature of the rest of the setting.

We get a further glimpse as to what happened to Lois and Jon. This story has progressed two pages at a time throughout the series to date. Artist Jason Fabok’s pencils are well-detailed and gorgeous. Although we only get a few brief moments with these images, it feels like a lot longer, as if the scene is extended as we search for additional clues.

If anything, this scene, while adding some more information, left me more frustrated, as I don’t know how this fits in with current continuity. There are interactions with a character that seem like the very first time they’ve met, when there were entire storylines earlier this year dedicated to their meeting and what this means. This could be explained away as a soft reboot or popping up in a different time period, however it feels like the solid storytelling we’ve seen since Rebirth began is getting steamrolled for a more status quo version of the character, which is a real bummer.

I’ve been trying to keep an open mind with Man of Steel as Brian Michael Bendis and Superman are two great tastes that should taste great together. As we’re past the halfway point of this mini-series that promised to lead the character into a new age, I feel more disappointed than anything. It led with a great premise, coupled with some incredible artwork, but has ultimately not done much to tell a story. It feels very decompressed, so each issue has left me wondering what really happened during its pages. Here’s hoping the final two issues shed some more light on what’s going on and piece some of this together.

Man of Steel #4 is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

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