Your way of communicating with me, it is unpleasant (Superman #28 comic review)
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Ivan Reis
Inks: Danny Miki
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Synmar, this is a word/name that has been used so interchangeably in this arc, it is confusing. Synmar has been used for the home planet of the new villain, the name of the new villain, and the name of their alien race. It is a singular word that summarizes everything and nothing about what Superman has been facing recently. The best way it can be summed up is that Synmar created Synmar to create a Superman version of Synmar. Then Synmar killed some Synmars (?) on planet Synmar and went to fight Superman. Then after a long fight, Synmar brought Superman to Synmar. This issue has Superman on Synmar talking to a Synmar in order to learn who Synmar is. Did you get all that? I know it sounds like a Smurf explaining this.
Like the word Synmar the story is confusing and basic, at the same time. Superman learns about his antagonist from another fellow alien (I will try and avoid Synmar or the long complicated names they give each Synmar to explain this as clearly as possible). There is a recap on how this whole arc started where Superman learns that this race of aliens created the villain as a defense against the possible threat of Superman. Clearly, this was a mistake as Superman is not one to protect against, but someone who does the protecting. It is explained that there was a civil war on the planet that leads to death, destruction, and the battle that took place over the last few issues. The story wraps up in a typical Superman fashion, he saves the day, a new threat is fully explained, and Superman and Lois fly off into the distance. But again, breaking it down into its simplest terms does not fully explain what it is like reading this book as there is a lot more going on.
This issue sums up everything right and wrong with Brian Michael Bendis’ writing style and grasp on Superman. The book is partially narrated by Lana Lang (through a Daily Star podcast) and it completely shows that Bendis understands why Superman is such an inspiring figure. It connects Clark Kent and Superman in a really meaningful way. However, it is also overwritten and goes on far too long. The exposition here is so drawn out that it harms his point. The idea of a podcast playing in the background is a creative one, but it drowns out the scene even if it is making some valid points. This issue happens again when Superman learns about Synmar and their history. Superman even says, “Your way of communicating with me, it is unpleasant.” Now while this is a reference to the actually physical way the aliens communicate, I felt this as a reader. I do not think Bendis was going for some post-modern comic book storytelling. The Synmar exposition is long, complicated, and a really tough read. I had to backtrack and read through it many times. It could be because it was written in a very convoluted way, how drawn out the exposition was, how boring the writing was, or a mix of all three. Regardless, it is another example of the push and pulls in Bendis’ writing. Here we have a fairly interesting new concept that is killed by the pacing and explanation. The way this arc wraps up, it just kind of ends too neatly. Now I did like the final reveal on a new team (I will avoid it for spoilers) and I hope it is a concept that is explored in a new title. The final pages leave the reader with a wonderful moment of Lois and Clark together, and a simple exchange with a local citizen. It is this moment that again pulled me back in and showed that Bendis does have what it takes to make us care about relationships and the characters. Brian Michael Bendis completely understands Superman as a character, and his universe but botches it with his pacing and plot development.
Ivan Reis and Danny Miki kill it on the artistic side again. It is a beautiful comic. The final scene with Lois and Superman flying in the sky is iconic (you can see it on the cover). While there are issues with the writing I find no fault in the artistic direction of the book. If you decide to pick up this book you will at least have some great art to look at that really shines when the writing matches the mastery of what is being shown on the page.
Tim’s FINAL THOUGHTS *Bonus*
This is it. Issue #28 ends Brian Michael Bendis’ run on the title (He has Action Comics 1028 coming out later this month). Both books were different and each deserves its own recap and final thoughts. I found Superman to be a more enjoyable title and Brian did find more focus here (and often had better art). It had more contained “monster of the week” arcs for the most part. There were a few instances that this broke down, however. The FBI Daily Planet investigation was a flat story and only hampered the book in general (and it was thankfully dropped for this issue). Every time Leviathan came up, it was like poison to the book. Bendis clearly loved Greg Rucka’s work on DC comics in the earlier 2000s and tried to emulate it here. However, the entire Leviathan “event” went over like a lead balloon and killed the momentum, and interest, in the book. While the pacing was off consistently, Superman was never poorly written. we never had Superman snapping necks or brooding in the corner. He was constantly full of hope and you completely understood why he was an icon. Superman’s characterization was a beacon of hope and expertly handled. I hope that future writers look at Bendis’ run and do not ignore what he achieved. Superman was presented perfectly, even if the adventures surrounding him were not. There is so much to learn here and it is 100% worth the analysis and read, even if it is not always enjoyable. The best moment in the run comes at the end of this issue. It stands next to Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman moment, where Superman saves a suicidal teen with a hug. Bendis leaves the title with a simple moment like this full of hope and his real human compassion and empathy. I’ll leave my thoughts with Bendis’ own words (through a piece of the narration in this book). It shows how vulnerable, important, and connected Superman is to those around him. And it is a brilliant thesis on Superman as a character that no one should forget. “Some of us need him so much we can’t see it. Some of us think so little of ourselves that we would never even consider it. But he needs us too.”