Review: ‘Superman’ #23 Battles Chaos, Figuratively And Literally

by Tony Thornley

To say the Man of Steel’s relationship with magic is complicated is an understatement. However, Superman #23 shows how truly chaotic it can be, even in the midst of everything else in his life.

After two years of pure chaos, this issue finally takes a moment to slow down and explore what everything has meant to Clark. It’s a character study that was much needed. It’s also a great example of the work that Brian Michael Bendis, Kevin Maguire, John Timms, Alex Sinclair and Dave Sharpe can do together.

After the rough patch Superman’s been through, he finally stops to take a look at everything and talk it through. Luckily he has a sympathetic ear to listen, thanks to Doctor Fate. However, their chat may get cut short by a major new magical threat…

This is an issue that has needed to happen for a while. Bendis puts his strengths to good use, and allows Superman to really vent. There’s a scene near the end of the issue that’s nothing but catharsis for everything that Superman’s been through. I may not love everything Bendis has done in his run, but the payoff of at all here is incredibly satisfying.

It’s an example of the best of Superman. Above all, even with his awesome powers, Superman is incredibly human. He’s the best of us, but he’s still human. He’s not above depression, anger or frustration. Bendis knows that and allows that to drive the drama of the issue. That does mean the B-plot, a supervillain origin- is underserved, but this issue was much needed after the last two years of events.

Maguire and Timms split the two stories of the issue- Superman and Fate’s chat by Maguire and the supervillain origin by Timms. Timms’ pages are very solid work, but only make up a small fraction of the issue. Maguire’s pages, especially with Sinclair’s bright and clear color art, really sing though.

He’s a master of character drama, and is able to convey Superman’s emotion extremely well. It’s not perfect- there are times that the expressiveness crosses the line and goes over the top. Overall though, Maguire is the best choice possible for this emotional issue.

Now that Bendis and his collaborators on both Superman and Action Comics have started to take their time and slow down, these issues are turning into seminal Superman stories. They may even be approaching modern classics. I’m excited to see where they go next.

Superman #23 is available now from DC Comics.

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