Man Of Steel #5: A Beautiful, Yet Frustrating Comic

by James Ferguson

In an effort to avoid further collateral damage, Superman whisks the space terrorist Rogol Zaar off to the moon where the two duke it out. Unfortunately, Clark is left buried in moon rocks as Rogol Zaar gets the best of him. This is unlike any threat Superman has ever faced. Despite this, he’s still deciding to go it alone, even though Supergirl and the Justice League are on hand to help.

Man of Steel has become a beautiful, yet very frustrating comic. It was presented as a bold new direction for Superman, but that direction has gone straight down. Instead of building on the countless stories that have come before it, most recently stellar runs from Patrick Gleason, Peter J. Tomasi, and Dan Jurgens, in favor of turning the Last Son of Krypton into little more than a blunt instrument fighting a new version of Doomsday.

Artist Adam Hughes makes this battle between two titans feel epic in size and absolutely brutal. Each blow could level a building, so fortunately they’re fighting in space. Hughes’ pencils feel rougher than his usual work, which goes well with the violence on display. His colors add some additional texture to it, particularly with some of the more gruesome punches that are highlighted in blood red, complete with splatter.

The panels themselves struggle to contain this power. The borders get rougher, like they’re shuddering with the thunderous impact of each attack. Effects like these are nice touches that elevate the overall reading experience.

In other news, we’re getting some answers regarding what happened to Lois and Jon. Last issue we learned that Zor-El was the mysterious figure in the glowing light, and now he reveals that he wants to take Jon on a trip through space because of something with his heritage.

Zor-El’s re-appearance as Mr. Oz in The Oz Effect was a brilliant piece of storytelling and this feels like it’s starting from scratch. Everyone looks at the man like they’ve never seen him before. The dialogue is clunky and awkward. All four of them are acting out of character, especially Jon. Here is a boy that has had an incredibly close relationship with his parents who suddenly decides to go out into space with his creepy one-eyed grandfather he’s met once.

Jason Fabok’s incredible pencils soften the blow a bit. After a few issues of getting one or two pages of this story at a time, he finally gets some room to breathe and it shows in some gorgeous double-page layouts. He makes a tense argument between family members into an epic showdown.

Alex Sinclair’s colors give Jor-El and his spaceship an eerie green glow, like it’s powered by Kryptonite. It sends off warning signs to Superman fans. Jor-El’s Kryptonian robes and ship look so foreign and out of place in the Kent’s home.

To complicate matters further is this strange side-story about the fires that have popped up across Metropolis. It feels entirely unconnected to the main plot with Rogol Zaar and the disappearance of Lois and Jon. Every time the attention shifts to Deputy Fire Chief Moore, the momentum grinds to a screeching halt, even with the Justice League showing up to lend a hand this time around.

Although I have numerous problems with Man of Steel #5, it does end on a pretty awesome cliffhanger. It is not enough to make up for the rough dialogue and odd character choices that fill this issue. There’s one chapter left in this mini-series and I’m sad to say that it’s definitely not having the intended effect on me. It’s exciting to have someone like Brian Michael Bendis helm one of DC Comics’ signature characters, however this has been a frustrating read that is creating more of a jumping-off point than a jumping-on.

Man of Steel #5 from DC Comics is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.