The entire planet Earth is in the Phantom Zone. Superman and the Justice League have no idea how this happened and they’re scrambling to solve this problem before the planet is torn apart. This is tough as they’re completely out of their element and have virtually no idea where to start.
Superman #2 is a direct continuation of the Man of Steel mini-series which ended with the genocidal villain Rogol Zaar thrown into the Phantom Zone. This time, Superman is reaching out to his friends for help, although they don’t seem to provide anything aside from occasional snark. Seriously, Batman talks about how he’s about to have an accident in his bat-pants at one point.
The different members of the Justice League are linked psychically by the Martian Manhunter. Letterer Josh Reed differentiates each one by uniquely colored word balloons as the thoughts are popping up in the air without tails. Of course, Batman’s is black.
As with Man of Steel, the story is very decompressed. We get a full issue of Superman basically coming to grips with the fact that his adopted planet is in the Phantom Zone. It’s clear that Rogol Zaar is behind this somehow, but we get no inkling as to how he was able to pull off this massive power move.
Speaking of Rogol Zaar, he encounters an odd character in the Phantom Zone: The Nuclear Man, the villain from the horrendous Superman IV: Quest for Peace. As far as I know, this character hasn’t popped up in the comics yet, has he? He’s not named in the comic itself. Instead, he shows up like a joke and he’s quickly dispatched by Rogol Zaar, almost like the creative team is symbolically eliminating this embarrassing moment from Superman’s past. Zaar even says “That was satisfying.” after he crushes the guy’s head.
While Superman #2 is slow moving, it is absolutely gorgeous. Artist Ivan Reis gives the book a retro feel, particularly with the scenes featuring Clark. He has a classic look here with everything from trunks and billowing cape to his signature spit curl. This is quintessential Superman.
This contrasts with the incredibly detailed Rogol Zaar. You can see each individual line in his monstrous face as well as the violent hellscape he’s found himself in. This probably has to do with the different inkers involved. Joe Prado handled these scenes while Oclair Albert did the ones with Superman. Although the penciler is the same throughout the entire issue, these two segments look like they’re from completely different artists.
The Phantom Zone is a dreary atmosphere so it’s no wonder Superman and the Justice League are stressed out. Colorist Alex Sinclair creates this foreboding environment with dark blues and greys. Yellow electricity crackles around the orbit as if the entire planet is caught up in a storm. This is a place of no hope.
Superman #2 begins with some reaffirming internal narration from the Man of Steel himself. It shows what makes him special and why he stands head and shoulders above other heroes in not just the DC Universe, but the industry as a whole. While this is awesome, it feels like filler, especially since it takes up four pages in an issue where we don’t get much in the way of forward momentum.
I’m starting to think Brian Michael Bendis‘ run on Superman isn’t for me. I’ve tried to get into it, but I’ve been let down by just about every issue so far, including Man of Steel and Action Comics. It’s like the tricks that Bendis learned and perfected over at Marvel just aren’t working for me at DC.