There’s a point in every Superman run that really shows if a writer gets it. It’s cliched to call it a “make or break” point, because there’s plenty of Superman stories where the writer does fine, even if they don’t quite get the character. Superman #4 is that point for Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Superman.
Simply put, Bendis gets it. In this latest issue, by Bendis, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Alex Sinclair and Jose Reed, we get the next pieces of the epic Unity Saga, which takes an unexpected twist. However, the strength of the issue isn’t just in the action, but the quieter moments.
Rogol Zaar is leading the Phantom Zone’s worst straight to Earth. Superman battles them alone, as Earth’s heroes are trying to simply survive in the Zone. Ray Palmer is able to hatch a plan to get Earth home, but it could leave Superman behind. Clark makes that sacrifice, but it may not be enough, as Earth doesn’t reappear in regular space after leaving the Zone.
This is a roaring adventure story to be sure. It features excellent action, attributable in equal parts to Bendis’s script and Reis, Prado and Albert’s art. It stands alone as a great adventure story, with Superman facing an unstoppable foe.
Where the story shines though is the more emotional connection to its lead. This is highlighted in two very different, but equally resonant moments. The first is a flashback to a moment between Clark and Jon. Though the younger Kent’s presence is still greatly missed in this series, Bendis builds their bond here, and revels in Clark’s humanity.
The second moment is in Clark’s sacrifice. He stood as the only hero who could withstand the Phantom Zone, and then he realized that he may not make it home before the solution is implemented. It’s a very “Superman” moment, and perfectly executed, both in the script and the art.
Even outside the emotional beats, Reis, Prado and Albert continue to prove their worth as one the best creative teams in comics. They’re able to pack a level of detail onto the pages that I don’t think I’ve seen since George Perez’s heyday. Add in Sinclair’s always gorgeous colors, and this is probably the best looking series DC has on the stands.
If you had doubts about Bendis on Superman, you shouldn’t. This issue proves that.
Superman #4 is available now from DC Comics.