When the highlight of a “Superman” comic is arguably a nine-panel long cameo by Gotham City’s Caped Crusader, then something has potentially gone badly wrong with its penmanship, and unfortunately for Issue Three of “Man Of Steel” that is precisely what happens with Brian Michael Bendis’ narrative when the titular character turns to “someone who might help shine a little light on the investigation for us–” by introducing Deputy Fire Chief Moore to Batman.
Of course, this twenty-two page periodical’s plot contains a far more substantial central thread than a simple inspection into “a series of coordinated criminal attacks that are designed to scare the residents of this city”, such as the devastating destruction of Kandor and the Last Son of Krypton’s Fortress of Solitude. But debatably nowhere else within this publication does the Cleveland-born writer manage to so successfully mix humour with enthralling suspense, not even when he later teams up Kal-El with Supergirl in order to confront “the merciless killer and zealot calling himself Rogol Zaar”.
Indeed, despite such an incalculably deadly “threat from… [Superman’s] earliest origins” re-emerging and causing untold damage to Clark Kent’s highly valued heritage, this book’s audience are supposed to believe the Big Blue Boy Scout would squander valuable time tracking down his wrecked home’s assailant, by having a sedentary discussion with his cousin as to who might be responsible; “Who did this? Another Superman from another Earth? Ugh. Not Bizarro. Please not Bizarro. [Luthor]… has to know what you’d do to him for this.” Sadly however, this rather artificially worded, stilted conversation leads into an even more lack-lustre sequence as Joe Shuster’s co-creation ‘wastes’ four entire pages hunting Metropolis for a foe every reader knows the identity to, and resultantly, not even a few random explosions whose “impact tremors rattle the city” can help imbue the two adversaries’ ‘titanic’ meeting with any sense of sensationalism.
Quite possibly this publication’s biggest disappointment though is Ryan Sook’s strangely inert pencilling. The American artist certainly puts together some dynamic-looking storyboarding for Zaar’s battle against Kelex in the Artic, as well as Superman’s subsequent speedy search through the high-rise towers of his adopted homeland, yet it’s hard to see from such ‘run-of-the-mill illustrations just why “his style has been compared to that of Mike Mignola, Adam Hughes, and Kevin Nowlan.”