Review: SUPERMAN #25
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: :Brian Michael Bendis
Colours: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Superman #25: New Villain Alert: Introducing Synmar! A colossal new threat to Superman, the planet Earth, and the DC Universe arrives on the scene in this special issue! The unique warrior called Synmar was created to represent an entire alien race. He’s trained his entire life-but for what purpose? As the antithesis of everything Superman stands for, Synmar launches his aggression toward Earth-to destroy the Man of Steel and every being on the planet! This is what Superman was born to protect us from!
The cover describes Superman #25 as an “Extra-Sized Anniversary Issue!”. As is fitting for such an issue, Brian Michael Bendis provides a story that both looks back at the past, but also looks ahead to the future. We get looks at Clark’s life, especially his lifelong friendship with Lana. But it looks ahead by introducing a new foe – an enemy with a connection to Superman’s origin story.
When Bendis took over the Superman titles, he also introduced a new villain with an backstory connected to Superman’s origin. Bendis rather clumsily retconned Rogol Zaar into Superman’s origin story, making him the being that actually destroyed Krypton. However, this time around, the Synmar are not directly involved in Superman’s story. Instead they react to it.
The Synmar are an alien race, with technology based on light. When they discover that Krypton had been destroyed, and that an infant had been sent to Earth, they realized that “somebody with Kryptonian physiology under a yellow sun would either… explode… or–or become a light god”. With the fear that this infant might someday become a threat, the Synmar create their own light-powered champion, the Synmar Utopica.
In the present day, Clark is meeting Lana, who is interviewing Clark for the Daily Star. However, the conversation seems more along the lines of old friends catching up rather than a formal interview. Both have flashbacks to earlier times in their friendship.
However, there seems to be a strange distance between them. The story implies that they haven’t seen each other for a while, but it seems that something is bothering Lana. It seems to be partially coping with the loss of her super powers, but there seems to be something about her relationship to Clark. We see Lana looking at Clark’s old high school yearbook. She sees a picture of herself as a cheerleader. She’s appears happy in the picture, but she seems to notice for the first time a dejected young Clark in the background. And the realization seems to anger her. I suspect that it’s herself that she’s angry with for not being a better friend to Clark.
I was pleased to see Bendis make some clarifications to Superman continuity as it currently stands. A lot has been left up in the air since Superman Reborn, and even more so since Doomsday Clock. A flashback confirms that Lana’s time as Superwoman is still canon, and that she has since lost those powers. It also seems that Bendis is leaving open the possibility that they might one day return.
Lana also mentions to Clark that she had been “obsessed with you as Superboy”, confirming that Clark had a career as Superboy, as Doomsday Clock appeared to establish. However…
While I appreciate having Bendis confirming whether or not Clark was once Superboy, I don’t feel that this is a great move. I have always felt that if Clark the world first knew Clark as Superboy then he would have had difficulty getting them to call him Superman when he reached adulthood. Certainly many of the general populace would keep using the name Superboy out of habit. And villains and other detractors would make a point of calling him Superboy as a sign of contempt.
Also, the branding for the new villain seems somewhat unclear. The story refers to this enemy’s race as “the Synmar”, and refers to him by the name or title “Synmar Utopica”. However, the cover and solicitation text say that his name is Synmar. It seems to be unnecessarily confusing.
Also, the solicitation seems rather misleading. It states that the Synmar champion is a threat “that Superman was born to protect us from”. However, the story indicates the exact opposite. Instead of Superman being born to stop this threat, the threat arose in response to Superman’s birth – or more correctly, to his being sent to Earth.
Bendis’ writing has been all over the place since he took over as steward of the Superman titles. Sometimes he produces a pretty good story and other times it seems barely comprehensible. Some of his changes have been great ideas and others are disastrous. But Superman #25 is one of the better issues. it’s an interesting story, and introduces a new enemy that shows potential as a Superman villain. And he managed to connect the villain to Superman’s past without awkwardly retconning him into Superman’s origin story. Overall, I would rate this as one of Bendis’ better issues. I just wish he could make them all this good.