Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Ivan Reis
Inks: Danny Miki
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Previously, in the oversized #25th issue, a new antagonist from Synmar was introduced. This alien race watched Superman escape Krypton and grow up to be a hero, and therefore they wanted a “Superman” of their own. Unfortunately, this project produced a Synmar that was hellbent on violence and destruction. The other stories affecting Superman’s life are also briefly touched up (The Daily Planet’s FBI investigation, and Leviathan) but ultimately this issue is about the confrontation between Superman and Synmar.
This issue almost reads like a 1990s Death of Superman comic, but instead of Doomsday it is Synmar. It is bookended with the battle between Superman and his new foe with only a few character moments in between. The story is very simple, Superman fights and there are some flashbacks to the Daily Planet and a nice moment with Lois. there really is not much more to the issue than that. The Synmar doesn’t even utter a line of dialogue (why I think the comparison to Doomsday’s rampage is apt) and Superman seems to be unable to communicate with him regardless of how hard he tries. This is an issue that will be finished being read before you know it.
I compared this to “The Death of Superman” earlier, with Synmar replacing Doomsday. Even though the framing is the same (unstoppable force going for Superman) the stakes are not. Synmar is not Doomsday and the pacing shows. Bendis made the mistake of having this be his last arc vs. something that should have hit earlier in his run. Superman is a decent book, but has not climbed to the greatness or relevance that he deserves. There are some truly awesome moments, where in typical Bendis fashion he shows he gets the characters. The Lois and Clark moment highlights why Lois is so important and why their relationship matters. The Daily Planet pages ground Superman in meaningful ways and shows the reader why he is so likeable. It is the plotting where Bendis fails as a writer. Every arc seems to be a disconnected mess where nothing builds on the last. Leviathan and The FBI investigation are mentioned here in passing. Both reminding the reader that there is a bunch up in the air behind the scenes and it is near impossible to care about them. It is crazy that Brian Michael Bendis was able to write some of the best and focused Spider-Man ever, in Ultimate Spider-Man, but could not translate that into Superman. It is so strange reading these issues seeing a talented writer holding himself back with poor long term planning. All the right pieces are there, but Bendis just cannot put them together properly. Another jarring problem is this issue is written like chapter 2 in a trade and not a complete issue. It is a fight but not even a finished one. The issue just kind of ends in the middle of the conflict. It doesn’t feel like a cliffhanger, it feels unfinished. Another typical issue with Bendis, writing for the trade and not the issue. But going back to Ultimate Spider-Man (where he was 100% writing for a trade) at least every issue had a clear theme and mini-acts. This is just a chopped off section of a larger story.
The art is stellar, and that is to be expected with Ivan Reis. While he is not as stylized as some artists, he has a great clean look to his art. The fight scenes are dynamic and great to look at, and the grounded relationship scenes are realistic and emotional. The Lois and Clark panels clearly show how in love they are and elevate Bendis well crafted character moment. This is a case of the art being more of a reason to pick up the book, than the writing. Even though this story is cut off and seems to be written for trade, at least it looks great from cover to cover.