After six weeks of teases, we finally find out what happened to Lois and Jon in Man of Steel #6. Meanwhile, Rogol Zaar tries to blow up planet Earth, presumably the same way he blew up Krypton because he really hates Superman and his people. On one hand, we’ve got family squabbles and on the other, there’s a knock-down, drag-out fight with the fate of the planet on the line.
I wish I could say that this led to an exciting, gripping read, but Man of Steel #6 is the finale to a mini-series that quickly lost steam and does not deliver. I’m trying my hardest to see the bright side of this story, but that is proving to be rather difficult.
Let’s start with Lois and Jon. It was revealed earlier that Clark’s father, Jor-El dropped by unexpectedly and said that Jon should come with him to travel through space and embrace his Kryptonian heritage. Everyone started acting way out of character and apparently forgot who this guy is. Jor-El essentially criticizes how Clark and Lois are raising their son and says that he deserves better.
I will give writer Brian Michael Bendis props here for tying this in the recent Super Sons of Tomorrow arc. This is the catalyst for Jon deciding to go with his grandfather as he is scared that he’ll end up losing control and hurting millions of people. That’s a possible future that awaits the boy, and his parents haven’t done much to assuage this uneasy feeling.
Despite his incredibly solid relationship with his parents, Jon decides to go with his creepy, one-eyed grandfather, who he barely knows, on a trip through space for an undetermined amount of time. Lois tags along as she’s a reporter and this is the story of a lifetime. While Clark loves these people more than anything in the world, he can’t leave Earth alone for that long.
This tore me up because he should go. There are tons of other heroes on this planet, including his cousin who is every bit the Kryptonian powerhouse he is, but he just can’t bring himself to do it. Instead, Clark watches as his family leaves in a flash of light, and he’s stuck alone in an empty apartment with no one to blame but himself.
Jumping back to the present, Superman finds Rogol Zaar in the Earth’s core with a strange device meant to destroy the planet. This leads to the second round of their fight, but Clark is a little more prepared this time around. He’s only thought this through a little bit though as he still doesn’t have an endgame here. He has no idea how to stop this madman, nor does he know why or how he’s doing all this.
The battle within the Earth’s core is intense and for good reason. The pressure there is extreme and the molten fire brewing makes it look like Hell itself is roaring all around these two aliens. Colorist Alex Sinclair lights this well, to the point where you can practically feel the heat permeating the pages.
Artist Jason Fabok gets some time to shine here, as we’ve only seen his work in bits and pieces throughout the mini-series. This time around he illustrates the entire issue, alternating between the fight in the present and the argument in the past. One weaves into the other, amplifying the tension back and forth.
Fabok’s pencils are well-detailed and fit Superman perfectly. You can see the intensity of the man’s face as he stares down his father one minute and then throws a punch at a monster the next, all while sporting his signature spit curl.
Josh Reed’s letters are solid, however the caption boxes that pop up from the off-page Jor-El argument during the Rogol Zaar fight are all the same type, despite coming from different people. This was a little confusing at first, as it can be a little tough to understand who is saying what as the characters aren’t on those pages, but the conversation is being replayed in Superman’s head.
My feelings on Man of Steel can be summed up with an exchange between Clark and Jor-El. Superman looks at his father and says, “I think you handled this poorly and now my house is in disarray.” Bendis jumped on the scene with a big idea in Action Comics #1000. What if there was someone behind the destruction of Krypton? That is a terrific premise that instantly hooked me. This mini-series did not come close to exploring that idea. Instead, it clumsily reset Superman’s status quo by sending away his wife and child in a drawn-out plot point that didn’t deliver. It’s not as bad as Spider-Man’s One More Day, but it’s close.
I’m still holding out hope that some of the points introduced in this mini-series will have some sort of payoff soon in Superman, Action Comics, and Supergirl, but as it stands, I’m less interested in the character now than when Man of Steel began. That’s saying something as Superman became one of my favorite characters during the Rebirth run with some solid storytelling.