Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Ivan Reis
Inks: Joe Prado and Oclair Albert
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Dave Sharpe
This arc has had two major plots, Mongul and the United Planets, and Clark Kent letting the world know he is Superman. While these two plot points have been separated, recently they have become intertwined. Superman being Earth’s representative at The United Planets has caused some uproar, as he is speaking for the entire planet without permission. This gets worse when everyone knows who Superman is, so Lois Lane is now being harassed by the media. Superman hid his identity to save his loved ones from Brainiac, Metallo, Lex Luthor, and the like, he did not think reporters and smear pieces. Up in space, Mongul led an attack against The United Planets and Superman has been busy in that fight, making him completely unaware of the conflict at home. This issue reverses the trend and focuses far more on The United Planets arc than the Clark Kent reveal, flipping what was once the A and B storylines.
Now that a lot of the nuance and issues have been explored with the fallout of the Clark Kent reveal, the story is free to focus on action. This issue is mostly Superman vs. Mongul. It does get a bit more complicated than that, as Mongul’s attack not only disrupts The United Planets talks, but actively turns them against each other. Mongul is a catalyst for a large scale battle, and possible war between these nations. So even after the fight ends, there are still many lingering issues, and The United Planets is now further than ever from reforming peaceful talks. The Justice League shows up to help with the clean up and rescue effort, and they encourage Superman to return home. They even mention that he left just as he dropped his earth shattering revelation on the public, and probably should not have immediately gone off to space. Lois Lane continues to deal with the fallout of her husband’s “King of Earth” declaration (that is how the media sees it), but in general that story does not advance past seeing how Lois deals with the news. The issue ends on a fairly large cliffhanger that brings everything in this arc to a head and connected more than ever.
Superman continues to be a well developed comic. Brian Michael Bendis took a basic idea, what if everyone knew who Superman was, and is exploring it in interesting ways. This issue only briefly touches on the backlash, but the way the media blows things out of proportion, like Superman’s “King of Earth” proclamation, is still well represented. The United Planets story was one I found fairly weak, but Bendis has turned that around. Mongul’s attack is not just a simple action scene, but shows larger political ramifications on a global scale. Superman attempted to form peaceful talks and diplomacy by encouraging and intergalactic United Nations, and Mongul tore that apart. A simple and quick action sequence that actually has far more to say on a political and thematic level. Out of every issue of Bendis’ DC run so far, this is by far the most straightforward. Bendis refrains from getting too “wordy” and lets the arc take a beat and play out dynamically. The moments of dialogue are used to pace the comic and give the reader a moment to think, and characters to develop. After the big battle Bendis does a great job in showing how Superman interacts with The Justice League. It is highlighted in this issue that he doesn’t see himself as a leader of The League but an equal member of the team. The team dynamics at work here show how Bendis has a deep understanding on how Superman acts, and interacts with others. I’d honestly love to see how Bendis would write The Justice League after reading this issue. The final part that impressed me was how all the puzzle pieces of the arc come together at the end of the issue. Without spoiling anything Bendis has made this entire arc worth reading, and moments I thought were weaker in previous issues now have relevance.
Ivan Reis (along with Joe Prado and Oclair Albert on inks) put together another great issue. Considering this comic is more action oriented than any of the previous ones, they had a chance to have a bit more fun. The layouts of the Mongul fight are all really beautiful to look at. Everything is done in long vertical panels that make things read quick and action to flow smoothly. This team of multiple artists seem to understand each other well, and merge styles in a cohesive way. Often multiple inkers alone on a book can make it look inconsistent, but this is not the case here. This is a book that will look great as a single issue and sit nicely in a trade, a very rare feat.