It’s about…truth (Superman #17 Comic Review)

Superman #16

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: Kevin Maguire

Colorist: Paul Mounts

Letters: Dave Sharpe

What has happened in the past, in this series, really has no bearing on this new arc. Superman has focused on his family, primarily Jonathan Kent, and all the drama surrounding that ordeal. Now Superboy has joined the Legion of Superheroes in the 31st century, this leaves the series to focus back on the title character. Bendis has not hidden where this current story is heading and this prologue chapter is a setup up for Clark Kent revealing his identity. 

Truth, Justice, and the American Way, those are the things Superman has traditionally stood for The “American Way” part has been softened, or erased at times, but truth and justice have remained constant. This comic wholly revolves the idea of “truth” and what it means to the character. Most of the issue is Superman talking with Lois and Supergirl about what the concept means to him. There is an assault on an illegal STAR Labs operation, but that is mostly a moment to break up the pace of the issue. Superman is on the way to tell the world that he is Clark Kent, and the prologue here is his reasoning and path towards this conclusion.  

Tim’s Thoughts
Brian Michael Bendis has been critiqued many times on his long form storytelling. “Writing for trades” is a double edged sword that has made comic book storytelling change drastically at the turn of the century. A great example, is Bendis’s Ultimate Spider-Man. It is lauded for its depiction and understanding of Spider-Man as a whole, but he also turned storylines from one issue contained plots (that Lee and Ditko mastered) into six issue arcs. Bendis can be incredibly wordy, and is more than happy to draw out mundane discussions into entire issues. This can be something that connects the reader to a more realistic approach to character development (there is an issue of Ultimate Spider-Man that is just Peter and MJ on a date and it is fantastic), however it can drag out something beyond being interesting anymore (like this issue). The problem is Bendis already tipped his hand. We already know the decision Superman is going to make. Therefore, the entire lead up is wasted. Bendis does have some interesting points on the theme of “truth,” and there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of the characterization shown here. Superman’s reasoning and quest for truth makes sense, and Lois and Supergirl are written in ways that are consistent with their characters. There just isn’t much to this comic. I am sure it will read fine as an intro chapter in a trade though.
Kevin Maguire is a great artist, I just wish he showed it in this book. There are parts of this comic that look phenomenal, and others look sloppy and half finished. In Superman’s conversation with Lois, she looks rough. Her facial expressions seem static and unnatural, her arms look like rubber, and all lines of definition appear and disappear from panel to panel. It is like the style changes throughout the book. Superman and Supergirl snap in and out of definition as well. One panel they are draw perfectly, the next Supergirl no longer has fingers but flippers. I don’t mind some more abstract and less detailed work but it has to be consistent. Maguire’s art here is one of the weaker points of this book.

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Superman is getting ready to let the world know he is Clark Kent. In this comic he goes around coming to the realization of this choice. “Truth” is a theme throughout the issue, and Bendis is trying to give a reason for him to out his identity to the world.
  • Characters are all well written
  • Some really bad art
  • The issue just meanders around
  • An example of writing for the trades

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