I've been harboring a really shameful secret for my entire life. But readers, I'm finally ready to share it with the world. Just don't judge me too harshly, okay? Here goes.
Despite being a big fan of the comic book genre—in films and on television—I have never actually read any comic books.
I know, I know, I shouldn't really call myself a fan of comic books if I've never picked up the source material. That's what you're thinking, right? Sure, Superman is my favorite fictional character of all time, and yet I haven't actually delved into the 80 years of history published in the pages of DC comics. I totally get how ironic that is. And as an entertainment journalist who covers all the comic book fare on television for multiple different outlets, I've always felt a twinge of imposter syndrome writing about the superheroes and villains on the small screen without having read the books from which they all came.
That doesn't make my love for them any less valid, of course—fans come in all shapes and sizes and everyone should be able to enjoy what they love. But I'm ready to let go of my secret shame and finally dip my toes into the comic book world for real. So when the opportunity came to break down Brian Michael Bendis' new six-issue weekly Superman event series for DC, THE MAN OF STEEL, I jumped at the chance. This seemed like the perfect starting point for my foray into comics (because I’m not going to lie, the thought of picking my very first comic book ever was an overwhelming, intimidating, daunting task that gave me way too much anxiety).
The first issue, THE MAN OF STEEL #1, is now in stores, and having pored over every single page of it multiple times already, I can confirm that it's a sure-fire hit for both comic book aficionados and newcomers like myself. Bendis, a high-profile comic writer coming from Marvel to put his own spin on Superman, is doing something new with the iconic character—an impressive feat, considering Superman has been around for 80 years and countless issues. Bendis is kickstarting a new era of Superman by taking the story back, way, way back to before the time of baby Kal-El, when Krypton was still alive and kicking, as well as simultaneously telling the story of a more mature Clark Kent in the present day.
Going back and forth between the past and present throughout the entire first issue is tricky (and who knows how long that dual-storytelling device will last in the next five issues), but Bendis strikes a careful balance to keep readers invested in ancient history, while also keeping up with Clark's surprisingly stable equilibrium at home. He's got a son, Jon Kent, with Lois Lane and their family life is picture-perfect. He's got Metropolis criminals afraid to raise their voices above a whisper. He even seems to have Perry White on lock at the Daily Planet. Things couldn't be more under control for Clark Kent, who seems to have really gotten comfortable with his life in a way that I have never seen before. It's an incredible look for Clark to be so at peace and not wrestling with any sort of inner demons. Parenthood is really working for him.
But with the debut of Rogol Zaar, a new villain in the distant past who is introduced passionately defending his plan to "cleanse" all of Krypton, it's clear that Clark's peaceful routine in the present is going to be rudely interrupted by whatever went down all those years ago. Everyone, even fans like myself, "knows" what happened when Krypton was destroyed…but maybe we're about to find out the real story, which we—and Clark—never even knew existed.
Zaar's perspective on Kryptonians is in some ways similar to Superman—he wants to save the weak from the strong. Rogol believes Krypton preys on weaker planets for their own scientific gain and could plunge the galaxy into all-out war as a result. Is he right, or is he a fanatic looking to get revenge for something that happened in his past?
Whatever the answers are, Rogol's story could challenge everything that Superman believes about his people and his father, thereby shaking the very foundation of the Last Son of Krypton. What if the real villain of the story doesn't turn out to be the mysterious Rogol, who is advocating for the genocide of an entire planet, but is instead Superman's own people? Now that's certainly a way for Bendis to leave his mark on Superman's history—by not erasing what's come before, but instead filtering it through a new, more complex lens.
Only one issue in and I'm already questioning everything I think I know about Superman. I'm dying to get my hands on the second issue and find out what comes next. Does this mean I'm officially a real comic book fan?
Sydney Bucksbaum writes about the DC Universe for DCComics.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SydneyBucksbaum.