Comic Review

REVIEW: Superman #23

Superman #23 chronicles two separate story threads both entrenched in magic that run parallel with one another throughout the issue. As the issue progresses it becomes apparent that these two tales are destined to collide with magic at the heart of it. This can only mean trouble for The Man of Steel, as we know the effects that magic can have on him.

In regards to the main cover, artist John Timm and colourist Alex Sinclair have created a cover pulsating with magical energies as the being known as Xanadoth makes its entrance. Straight off the bat, this cover is very similar to those produced by series regular Ivan Reis. I very much appreciate this kind of attention to detail and also the connectivity. This cover is bursting with detail and colour. Xanadoth looks terrifying as this otherworldly entity looms large over a distressed Superman. This is a perfect reminder that magic is one of Superman’s few weaknesses, and clearly presents a real sense of threat and danger for The Man of Steel to overcome.

Superman #23 Review
Photo Credit: DC Entertainment

The variant cover for this issue is created by Bryan Hitch and Alex Sinclair and represents the perfect pin up piece. Superman takes flight in very unsettled skies as lightening bolts strike all around. This to me is a very cinematic piece. Superman looks determined as he defies nature and showcases his might in the harshest of surroundings. Alex Sinclair’s colours really create an unsettled atmosphere for The Man of Steel to inhabit. The ferocity of the elements depicted is almost tangible.   

Superman #23 Variant Cover
Photo Credit: DC Entertainment

Superman #23 represents the calm after the storm for The Man of Steel and a moment for some much needed reflection. After all Superman’s life has been somewhat of an emotional roller coaster as of late ever since Brian Michael Bendis took the helm. Superman looks to seek counsel at the behest of his wife and comrades with none other than Doctor Fate.

This meeting really is a joy to behold as it evolves into a much needed counselling session. Superman relays his latest trails and tribulations to fresh ears in the form of the new Doctor Fate who’s alias is that of medical student Khalid Nassour. Who happens to be the grandnephew of the original Doctor Fate ‘Kent Nelson’ who debuted all the way back in 1940.

This ‘counselling session’ is very honest and highlights the toll Superman’s recent struggles have taken on not only himself but the people around him. Once again Superman’s revelation regarding his identity comes into play. Khalid makes the observation that this act was simply Superman attempting to take back some control of his life.

I love how such a pivotal moment in Superman’s life has continually been touched upon and simply not forgotten. Khalid’s diagnosis reaffirms Superman’s humanity. Knowing Superman is susceptible to all the same rigors life can throw at us only strengthens the characters link to the audience.

The need to refocus the trajectory of ones life and to seek control over it are experienced by one and all. Seeing Bendis create this moment for Superman makes perfect sense. I simply adored the exchange between these two characters. I thought Doctor Fate aka Khalid Nassour was presented really well in this issue. Less omnipotent and foreboding and much more relatable and understanding. I guess this is the natural evolution of the character now that Khalid is in possession of that famous golden helmet.

The tale running adjacent to this chronicles the unleashing of ‘Xanadoth’, spirit of The Lords of Chaos by unwitting D.E.O agent Veronica Bissette as it looks to reclaim a number of mystical artifacts including The ‘Helmet of Fate’.

This tale is wonderfully constructed as it begins moments prior to the destruction of the D.E.O at the hands of Leviathan and evolves over time into the present day. Witnessing this seemingly omnipotent entity bonding with agent Bissette is rather horrifying. Alex Sinclair’s colours really defuse the intensity of said horror and adds a real sense of mysticism and magic to proceedings.

This issue really dives into the occult side of the DC Universe. I really enjoyed seeing Superman rubbing shoulders with the likes of Zatanna and John Constantine. Knowing that magic is one of Superman’s most prolific weaknesses makes this issue all the more intriguing as he will have to rely on his supporting cast for help should the need arise. Seeing this iteration of Doctor Fate really stretching his legs and delving into his impressive power set will surely be a sight to behold.

Bendis has crafted a very personal story against an extraordinary backdrop. Witnessing Superman talk so openly about his personal life is very important and a great example to others. This issue has greatly increased my interest in getting to know this iteration of Doctor Fate. The way this character presents himself along with dialogue and down to earth approach makes for a very magnetic personality indeed.

Interior artists Kevin Maguire and John Timms compliment each others artwork perfectly in this issue. Superman #23 flows effortlessly between the two artists as they each take centre stage. Even though conversation and exposition feature predominantly in this issue, each page is full of gorgeous artwork and colour created by Alex Sinclair which adds a real mystical tone to every panel.

I for one thoroughly enjoyed Superman #23. Seeing Superman enter the world of magic and mysticism is a real treat as it rarely occurs. DC Comics have worked hard in recent years to really build up their occult corner of the universe and that really shows. I for one cannot wait to see the further exploits of these characters here and in their own titles.        

Haven’t picked up your issue of Superman #23 yet? You can pick up your copy of the standard cover by John Timm here (UK), or here (US).

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