Superman has thrown himself into his work in the wake of the events of Man of Steel. He rebuilds the Fortress of Solitude in the Bermuda Triangle and then travels all around the world stopping crimes and preventing natural disasters at a breakneck pace. None of this can fill the hole in his heart as he misses his wife and son, who are out traveling the galaxy with his biological father. Clark has no way of getting in touch with them either.
Superman #1 starts off with the Man of Steel flying through space in search of his family. As a quick reminder, he told Jor-El that he couldn’t come with them on this trip due to his responsibilities on Earth, but those apparently went out the window when his space phone broke. Nevermind that Clark knows five or six Green Lanterns that could probably put out a beacon to efficiently search the entire galaxy. This is part of the character trying to carry the entire universe’s problems on his shoulders.
The new Fortress of Solitude is impressively illustrated by artist Ivan Reis. You really get the sense of how large and epic this is. I imagined John Williams‘ score pumping away as Superman threw the crystal into the murky water and the new structure rose up. The full building is revealed in a stand-out double-page spread with crystal spires jutting out in all directions. Lightning crackles eerily in the background, giving the whole thing a mysterious look to it.
Reis, inker Joe Prado, and colorist Alex Sinclair are true powerhouses on Superman #1. There are so many large, bombastic sequences showing Superman in action. It’s enough to just sit back and take it all in at times. The opening pages showing the Man of Steel taking on a fleet of Dominators on a whim is a particularly awesome sight. Laser beams and explosions fill the page as Clark flies through a horde of alien spaceships.
Although Superman is surrounded by friends and colleagues, he is very much alone. It doesn’t look like he’s shared the truth about what happened with Lois and Jon to anyone else. Instead, he opts to wallow in his agony instead of leaning on the people that he depends on in the heat of battle. There are so many moments where you can practically hear him sighing as he mopes about thinking of his family. Again, if they were so important to him, why did he let them go in the first place?
A telling conversation comes with Martian Manhunter, who urges Clark to step up and become a symbol for the world and lead it into the future. He is the sign of hope humanity needs right now. Instead of taking this seriously, Clark keeps interupting J’onn to rush off halfway around the world to fight a monster or save a puppy. While these lead to some breathtaking images, it doesn’t have much in the way of substance. If anything, it just makes Superman look like a jerk, despite the fact he’s saving all these people.
Moments like these feel off. While writer Brian Michael Bendis fills Superman #1 with quippy dialogue, it comes off as unnatural in these instances. It doesn’t feel genuine. It’s more like trying to make Superman something he’s not. I’m not quite sure what that is yet. The one saving grace in this is Josh Reed’s letters. He uses these special balloons for the Martian Manhunter which stand out and give him that otherworldly quality. When he speaks, you listen, which makes Superman’s actions doubly frustrating.
The big twist at the end of this issue is spoiled in the solicitation information so Superman #1 ends with a ho-hum cliffhanger that’s not the least bit surprising. Sure, it opens up a few questions about how and why this happened, but by that point, I had lost interest. This issue feels like a reset button, taking the character back to his original factory settings and washing away a lot of recent growth and development. Hopefully he’s still booting up and we’ll see some improvement in future issues.