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Superman #21

Review by Paul Bowler

Mongul Vs the Man of Steel in Superman #21 as the fate of the United Planets hangs in the balance! Supeman faces a devastating showdown with Mongul as the greatest powers of the galaxy look on, Mongul has already fractured their alliance, and if Superman fails to stop him now the United Planets will be over before its even begun…

Superman #21 features a battle royal of sorts as The Truth Part 4 gets underway. On the distant planet Gorfo, Superman confronts Mongul while the forces of the United Planets turn against each other – which has been Mongul’s plan all along! The conflict is truly epic in scope, writer Brian Michael Bendis diligently juggles the big action set-pieces as Superman and Mongul slug it out, while back on Earth the fallout from Superman revealing his secret identity as Clark Kent to the whole world and his presumption to speak for Earth in matters concerning the United Planets continues to sow some potentially far reaching repercussions for the Man of Steel. A fact which is brought sharply into focus where, back on Earth, Lois is confronted by Bethany Snow about her husband’s recent off-world announcement to the United Planets that has subsequently been spun by the media as Superman naming himself as the self proclaimed King of Earth.

Now, I’ve certainly had some issues with the changes Bendis made when he took over writing Superman, namely how he all but reconted virtually everything built up during Peter Tomasi’s excellent run (especially the move that aged Jon Kent up to a teenager during the early days of Bendis’ current tenure), so much so that I quickly stopped reading Superman and Action Comics a while back, however the crossover with Supergirl and the launch of the new Legion of Superheroes got me reading Superman again. I enjoyed this storyline, mainly because it brought the Legion back into the DCU again. But when Bendis went on to have Superman reveal his secret identity as Clark Kent I wasn’t overly impressed. Superman’s life as Clark Kent is an intrinsic, key aspect to the legacy of Superman, and to throw it away in such a banal manner felt almost derogatory to the character – although I suppose one could also argue that in this modern era of comic books the concept of superheroes realistically having and maintaining secret identities is perhaps almost a superfluous concept itself now as well?

In terms of its artwork, though, this issue cannot be faulted in any way. Superman #21 is a blockbusting visual spectacle, with pencils by Ivan Reis, inks by Joe Prado and Oclair Albert and colors by Alex Sinclair. The sheer scale of Superman’s battle with Mongul unfolds via a breathtaking montage of two-page spreads. Their combat is a brutal, no holds barred, earth shattering smack down, and the art team have certainly pulled out all the stops to make this a truly spectacular looking issue of Superman from DC Comics.

As the issue winds down at a surprisingly rapid pace the aftermath of the battle gives everyone concerned some much needed time to ponder over recent events. With the Justice League on hand to help with the clean up, Superman heads home to face the “hurricane” media storm he’s created back on Earth, but the dual cliff-hanger shows there’s something nasty waiting in orbit for Superman and Lois Lane’s day is about to go from bad to worse!

Superman #21 is about as action packed an issue as you could wish for. Seeing the Man of Steel squaring off against Mongul is always a great event. However, it all feels a bit overshadowed by how Bendis undermines the plot with niggling inconsistencies, and emotional beats that fall flat. The way the fledgling United Planets will apparently carry on regardless does seem a tad contrived, especially considering the discourse Mongul’s attack instigated, Clark’s self-righteous view of himself as Earth’s only representative for the United Planets also makes me a little uncomfortable, and the ambush journalism Lois endures in this issue seems little more than a curious afterthought by Bendis at this stage.

Whilst I came back to this title for the relaunch of the Legion of Superheroes, I was willing to give Bendis’ run on Superman another go despite previously finding it to be very hit and miss, but this and the previous few issues of The Truth storyline have seriously tried my patience. Superman #21 is an adequate issue at best. Art wise, Superman is still a great looking book, no question about it, but story wise, unless you are a die hard fan of Bendis’ work there’s sadly little I can find to recommend about reading Superman anymore these days.

Publisher: DC Comics

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis / Pencils: Ivan Reis

Inks: Joe Prado and Oclair Albert

Colors: Alex Sinclair / Letters: Dave Sharpe

Cover / Ivan Reis, Jo Prado, Alex Sinclair

About The Author

Hi, I’m Paul Bowler, blogger and reviewer of films, TV shows, and comic books. I’m a Sci-Fi geek, a big fan of Doctor Who, Star Trek, movies, Sci-Fi, Horror, Comic Books, and all things PS4.You can follow me on Twitter @paul_bowler,or at my website, Sci-Fi Jubilee, and on YouTube and Facebook