Superman: The Unity Saga: The House of El by Brian Michael Bendis

details
Title: Superman.
Volume: 2.
Story-Arc: The Unity Saga: The House of El.
Writer(s): Brian Michael Bendis.
Penciller(s): Ivan Reis, Brandon Peterson, Jason Fabok & Evan “Doc” Shaner.
Inker(s): Brandon Peterson, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Jason Fabok & Evan “Doc” Shaner.
Colourist(s):
Alex Sinclair.
Letterer(s): Josh Reed, Carlos M. Mangual, Dave Sharpe & Wes Abbott.
Publisher: DC Comics.

Format
:
Hardcover.
Release Date: November 26th, 2019.
Pages: 208.
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
ISBN13: 9781401207137.
My Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆.

Previously in the Superman series:
Superman: Unity Saga (Vol. 1): Phantom Earth by Brian Michael Bendis.

thoughts

There are characters in the fictional world that were created so long ago that their stories are known by just about everyone and anyone without actually taking an interest in them. To change the smallest thing about their lives would be called a heresy, but in the hands of the right person, anything is possible. Writer Brian Michael Bendis attempts the impossible as he takes on Superman’s saga and brings changes to his story that no one else would dare to think about. From bringing out the Man of Steel’s paternal instincts to unveiling the unknown regarding his home planet Krypton, the upcoming revisions to his lore will redefine his character in unimaginable ways.

What is Superman: Unity Saga: The House of El about? Picking up exactly where the previous story arc left off, writer Brian Michael Bendis further revamps Superman’s history through his son Jon Kent’s dramatic transformation and his sudden discoveries of the universe. The story then shifts its attention to Superman’s father Jor-El and looks into his own history and the secrets that he has been hiding from everyone else as galactic warfare forces his hands and ties him directly to Superman’s newest threat Rogol Zaar. Collecting issues #7-15, this lengthy story arc continues to expand and transform a well-known lore into a brand-new avenue promising change and a new kind of hope.

“My Planet. My People. I still am doing everything I can to make the universe a united, better place. Everything!”

— Brian Michael Bendis

It is jaw-dropping what writer Brian Michael Bendis accomplishes through this comic book series while building up his Leviathan event on the side—even making an effort of mentioning it in this narrative as Superman takes a pause from it to help his son, returned from an epic adventure in space with his grandfather, as he requires immediate assistance in a troubling dilemma. While the story arc begins by looking at the existential crisis embraced by both Jon and Jor-El as well as the parental bond that suffered immensely from the loss of precious time between Superman, Lois Lane, and their son, the story takes a quick dive into Krypton’s history and its secret origin covered within another conspiracy.

While the focus is lost as the narrative progresses, there is an appreciatable effort put into reworking the foundation of Superman’s life and lore through other characters, especially that of his son Jon Kent. In fact, writer Brian Michael Bendis does a terrifying beautiful job in connecting his story with that of the ongoing stories in the DC universe through beautiful integral references. He also isn’t scared of rebuilding some of the political overtones of galactic drama while setting up the stage for brand-new storylines, e.g. the arrival of the Legion of Superheroes. At the cost of some concision, a desire for revitalizing Superman’s mythology was thus privileged.

To accompany writer Brian Michael Bendis in this journey is an impressive cast of artists who did a fantastic job in capturing the epic scope of his tale. Among these talented pencilers is Ivan Reis, known for his ability to draw bombastic sequences that remind readers that certain creatures are far bigger than humans and that Earth is much smaller once you enter a galaxy squirming with countless other lifeforms from a myriad of planets. There are also some very original splash pages that invite the reader to rotate the graphic novel to appreciate the grandeur of certain sequences. Colourist Alex Sinclair furthermore ameliorates the visual style through vibrant colours, stylistic gradients, and lively contrasts.

Superman: Unity Saga: The House of El is an ambitious and daunting expansion of Superman’s lore through his son’s quest for purpose through self-discovery.


EXHIBITA

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Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!

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19 comments

    • Hahaah it is indeed a twisted story line that began since the beginning of the DC Rebirth era.

      ***SPOILER ALERT***

      Soooo, back when DC began their reboot, there was a mysterious and unknown force at play that was teased throughout all the comic book series (Batman, Superman, Aquaman, etc.). At some point in the Detective Comics series, for example, a character by the name of Dr. Oz appears and you later discover that it’s Jor-El who was time-displaced. Brian Michael Bendis decided to take this newly-introduced character for his Superman comic book series and make him a crucial component to this series which led Clark Kent to let his son go with his grandfather on a galactic trip in search for purpose and maturity (this was volume 1’s premise) and here we have Jon Kent return from his quest but 5 years older (he’s 17 now) and that’s what volume 2 is partly about! By the end of the story arc, they do fix the temporal problem of Jor-El and return him to his “timeline” though. Volume 3 is now a complete clean slate with all the new changes that I tease about in this review hahah

      Liked by 1 person

  • Though I still don’t feel a strong pull to the Superman stories, I do think this artwork looks fantastic. Boldly colored and beautifully drawn. One comment you made about rotating the graphic novel to better appreciate that sequence reminded me of David Mack’s Kabuki series, likely my all-time favorite comic series. Granted, it doesn’t look anything like this one, but he wrote and illustrated many of the comics such that you almost have to rotate as you read, with both artwork and text all over the place. I’ve always found that series very unusual and unique in the comics world. Check it out if you haven’t already.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If I were to recommend Superman stories, I would probably aim for self-contained stories (some you might have seen pass on my blog previously) instead of these long-running series though hahah

      Ohhhh! I have a copy of the first volume of that one and now I really look forward to it! I’m really glad that you’ve given your seal of approval, Todd! 😀

      Like

      • Yeah, I suspect I might enjoy the standalone stories, especially some of the more personal ones you’ve talked about. With Kabuki, I think the first volume was a little more typically drawn for that era, in black and white. I think it was with volume 2 he started really getting creative, integrating his style of color multimedia artwork instead of making it look like a typical comic. I loved the stories in all, but it was really his creative artwork that I most enjoy. I liked it so much, in addition to owning most of it in either trade paperback or comic form, I also invested in the 4 volume hardback library editions that collect it all together. I’ve been wanting to reread them for a while now. I just hope you enjoy it even a fraction of what I do. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Now, there’s no denying how much of a fan you are of the author’s work on that series! I’m going to try and squeeze it in as a priority read next month now. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it! I’ll definitely keep in mind its abstract originality. 😀

          Like

  • Huh, this time your review is much more enthusiastic than your 3 stars would indicate. Besides the fact that there are already three generations of Supermen, which for my tastes is two too many 😜, what did you find not to your liking?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha it’s because of how unconvinced I am by the revamping that Bendis executes in this series. He changes a lot of things a bit brutally and they aren’t all that refreshing. They are, however, necessary for his big plans for Superman but they aren’t always that fascinating. I also find that having almost 3 different stories in this was a bit too much for what was intended to happen! 😛

      Like

  • Superb write-up my friend, it’s enjoyable for me to read your thoughts on Bendis’s Superman and I’m glad that they’re, for the most part, favourable. I know you’re not as taken with the Unity Saga story from Superman in comparison to the Action Comics run but, still, at least it hasn’t been totally un-worthwhile for you.

    I’m going to be very interested to see what you think of the next Superman volume since Bendis takes an even riskier leap in the lore of the character. I get that his ideas aren’t working for everyone but I definitely feel that any decades old comic character needs a little shake-up from time to time, it keeps things fresh and interesting…you always know that the next writer will simply reset the board, so to speak!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Chris! I’m glad that he’s trying to do something new and refreshing with Superman but I’m not that sold with his ideas in this Superman series, whether it’s his Doomsday-looking villain or his aged-Jon Kent. It’s not bad, it’s definitely necessary, but it’s not completely mind-blowing. I feel like there’s a bit too much that’s rushed, especially in this larger volume. The fact that it also sort of diverges from Superman and overly focuses on Jon Kent was a bit disappointing since I liked the idea of looking into Superman’s frustration over losing years of experience with his son! Looking forward to find out what he plans to do in the next volume though. Nothing was really teased at all in volume 2, leaving volume 3 a clean slate for whatever’s next! 😮

      Liked by 1 person

  • But then…why three stars only???? On a side note the clueless girl that I am had no idea that Superman had a son!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s because there’s too much that was attempted in this story arc and not everything were that authentic and original to my eyes! 😀

      Yep, he has a son with Lois Lane who goes by the name of Jon Kent! 😉

      Like

    • I’m just not sold by all these changes he’s made, even if they are somewhat necessary if he’s to create anything “new” with a character like Superman. It’s why I’m unable to rate this higher than what I scored it. I enjoyed it but need to see more of what’s to come to really say that it paid off in the end hahaha Thanks for reading, Caroline! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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