In this week's lesson of What Reading My First Comic Book Run Has Taught Me, I learned the importance of what an artist can bring to an issue.
For the first four issues of THE MAN OF STEEL, I didn't realize that I was mostly paying attention to Brian Michael Bendis' story. Sure, I clocked the gorgeous spreads and certainly noticed how it gave the overall story a cinematic feel. I'm not blind! But I wasn't truly focusing on how each artist gave each issue its own unique flavor, and for that I feel like a fool since it took me so long. Perhaps that was because the first four issues generally had the same tone when it came to the art, and each artist's vision flowed with the next. Or maybe I just didn't know to look closer at the panels. Either way, that egregious error has been noted and fixed now thanks to this week's eye-popping visuals.
It wasn’t until issue #5 that it really hit me how an artist can completely shape the writer's story with his or her choice of color palate, detail or lack thereof and light vs. darkness. Artist Adam Hughes really stands out this week with his brutalist approach to the artwork. The majority of the pages are a master class in raw simplicity with deep bloody reds and inky blacks splashing across the images. It feels like the artist is probably a huge fan of 300 because I see elements of that film in his work. You don't have to look farther than the third page to see the influence.
The shadows of Rogol Zaar completely decimating Superman as they took their fight from the last issue all the way to the moon were only interrupted by their glowing eyes, creating an ominous, horror-like feel that I'm not used to associating with the beacon of hope and light that Superman usually symbolizes. Even the comic’s use of primary colors—Superman's bread and butter—feel completely revolutionized in this week's issue. On some pages, the reds, blues and yellows feel muted, drained of all life and joy. Whether that comes from Supes fighting in space on the moon, lacking oxygen, or from Rogol Zaar's fierce, unrelenting attacks, remains to be seen. But I totally understand what Hughes is trying to get across here.
And I don't think I'll ever forget the image of Supergirl lifting an unconscious Superman up in her arms from the rubble of his fight on the moon. His face was a washed-out grey pallor, a stark contrast to her bright features. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought Superman was dead, but all he needed was a Justice League-assisted trip to the Hall of Justice's hospital. No big deal.
Okay, that's actually a huge deal, because seeing Wonder Woman, the Flash, Batman, Green Lantern and Cyborg sitting vigil with Supergirl around Superman's bed was so incredibly cool. Bendis is bringing out the big guns, and it's making me feel like a giddy child seeing all these iconic characters under one roof. For all you readers who have been enjoying comic books all your life, this might be just another regular old day for you, but for someone who has had to wait all her life to see all these faces share a screen together until last year's Justice League movie, this was a moment worth celebrating.
There were a few moments of continued story from previous issues that are worth mentioning, like Jor-El revealing he wants to show young Jon Kent the galaxy and help him realize his full potential as a man of the House of El. Of course, Clark and Lois tried to put their foot down and squash that little road trip, but Jon decided he was ready to get to know his grandfather and his legacy, his parents' wishes be damned. I'm sure that's going to go well. And as for Deputy Fire Chief Moore taking Batman's advice to visualize where all the fires in Metropolis started and seeing if they form some sort of picture—is it just me or does the map seem to be in the shape of Batman's logo?
I can't imagine how all of these storylines are going to be concluded in next week's final issue, but I'm excited to find out. Because that final page's cliffhanger is not messing around, and clearly, neither is Bendis.
Sydney Bucksbaum writes about the DC Universe for DCComics.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SydneyBucksbaum.