Brian Michael Bendis’ new take on The Man of Steel

The Man of Steel by Brian Michael Bendis et al   In a poll of the best-known fictional characters some years ago, Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan inevitably figured — but it was no surprise that DC Comics’ two heavy hitters, Superman and Batman, were in the upper echelons. The durability of these late Forties creations is attested by the fact that both superheroes are capable of almost endless re-invention, as long as certain basic tenets are maintained. And, in fact, the reappearance of those crucial elements — both Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent are orphans, for instance – is one of the incidental pleasures afforded by the new iterations. When Sigel and Shuster created their ‘strange visitor from another planet’ decades ago, they can have had no idea that it would still be being finessed by other talents in the 21st-century. The latest is in fact the current ruling comics superstar writer, Brian Michael Bendis, whose six-issue run, The Man of Steel, is collected in this handsome volume. Bendis’s approach to the character is not a radical one, but subtly (and cleverly) ringing the changes on certain aspects while touching all the familiar bases. Some may find the world-killing villain Rogol Zaar not notably different from his many predecessors, but the real pleasure here is in the exuberant treatment of Superman himself (and his cousin Supergirl) fighting against the complete annihilation of the Kryptonian race. With several of the current top illustrators (such as Jim Lee and Steve Rude) illuminating the text, this is a truly diverting volume – even for those who feel that this particular Kryptonian well has been sampled too many times. It seems that new versions of the Man of Steel will be possible for decades to come.

The Man of Steel is published by DC comics