REVIEW: Superman #21

Superman #21 is here and the war rages on! What toll has this taken on the Man of Steel as Mongul’s merciless attack continues.

Well, regarding the main cover it looks like Superman’s mental well-being will take centre stage. Interior artist Ivan Reis has created a very thoughtful piece as Superman appears to bear the weight of the world on his shoulders. The images in the background depicting the different members of the United Planets shows just how much pressure Superman must be under. I for one love to see a more thoughtful cover like this from time to time. This kind of cover really highlights the fact that Superman is just as susceptible to feelings of anxiety and doubt as much as the next person.

Superman #21
Photo Credit: DC Entertainment

The variant cover is created by legendary artist Bryan Hitch and sees The Man of Steel bearing a more literal weight on his shoulders as he protects the innocent from peril. This cover instantly took me back to Superman Returns. I love it when a piece of art takes you back to another time and place in that characters history. Bryan Hitch’s Superman always looks very commanding and confident to me which I simply adore.

Superman #21
Photo Credit: DC Entainment

One thing is for sure and that is Brian Michael Bendis’ proficiency in allowing set pieces to really breath and flourish naturally. The battle between Mongul and Superman, which has now raged on for well over two issues is a perfect example of that proficiency. Superman #21 opens up amidst that same battle. Once again I cannot praise artist Ivan Reis enough as his artwork throughout this issue is breathtaking, specifically regarding this fight.

Our combatants look and feel like they are totally spent. Superman and Mongul are both on the ragged edge. I love the fact that Mongul, even though physically diminished still upholds his quintessential arrogant demeanor. This epic encounter has certainly taken its toll on Superman’s morale. His anguish is palpable as Mongul’s actions could very well have jeopardized all that Superman has fought for over the years.

Ivan Reis’ pencils are truly fantastic in this issue. This iconic artist has created the most awe-inspiring splash pages that Superman fans have luckily become a custom too. The combined might of Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Alex Sinclair have made this issue a total feast for the eyes. The colours in this issue make every single page pop. You can almost feel the heat radiate off of the rich oranges and reds that engulf the heart of the battle as Mongul looks to eradicate his foes and dismantle The United Planets for good. These scenes are made all the more striking as they are married up alongside the most beautifully vivid whites and blues that highlight the freezing conditions of space.

As the issue progresses we find Lois being ambushed by her rivals over at The Daily Star. While Superman is out in space, Lois really is feeling the full force of the press thanks to Superman’s announcement of his true identity. Lois’ resiliency in the face of being hounded by the press is very impressive. Lois more than holds her own as her feisty nature sees her through.

As the issue closes out, we find ourselves back in space alongside Superman as he bears witness to the fallout of Mongul’s attack. This sequence proves that this was more than just a knock-down, drag-out fight for the sake of it. Thanks to Bendis’ dialogue, Mongul proves that this was a very tactical pre-preemptive attack with a clear goal in mind, which unfortunately we may see come to fruition.

I absolutely adore this issue of Superman. Superman #21 is a visual masterpiece from cover to cover. Honestly, it feels like Ivan Reis was born to work on Superman. Superman really has thrived under this superstar creative team. Bendis’s vision really is incomparable. The Eisner award winning writer really does allow for set pieces and events to evolve at their own pace. Nothing ever feels rushed or shoehorned in for the sake of it.

The Superman core title has been rock solid with each and every issue. I truly believe this is the most consistent book on the stands. I for one cannot wait to see what happens next with the arrival of Superman #22. I’m already counting down the days. 

Haven’t picked up your copy of Superman #21 yet? You can pick up the standard issue by Ivan Reis here. Or if you prefer the variant cover by Bryan Hitch you can pick that up here.

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