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Comic Book / Superman (Brian Michael Bendis)

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A new era begins.

For seventeen years, Brian Michael Bendis was a driving force behind Marvel Comics: creating the Ultimate Marvel Universe, reinventing The Avengers by disassembling them and reassembling them as the New Avengers and created highly popular characters such as Jessica Jones and Miles Morales. Upon leaving the "House of Ideas", Bendis put down his stakes in DC Comics and its wunderkund, Superman.

This new era officially began with Man of Steel (2018), a "pilot episode" that pits Superman against the new villain Rogol Zaar. With Man of Steel over, the story continues in the relaunched Superman and Action Comics and sees Superman explore his place in the world and is forced to confront the possibility that he might not be doing enough to help humanity.

Bendis' Superman era also establish new situations for Supergirl and Jonathan Samuel Kent that were explored in those characters' respective comic books.

Bendis' run with the Superman franchise ended in December 2020, with Phillip Kennedy Johnson becoming writer of Superman and Action Comics and Bendis himself taking over Justice League in March 2021, after the Future State event comes to an end.

WARNING: All spoilers from the first twenty-four issues of Superman and Action Comics will be left unmarked in the tropes below. Spoilers from Superman #25 and Action Comics #1025 onward will be marked.

Brian Michael Bendis' Superman provides examples of following tropes:

  • Alone with the Psycho: Superboy is understandably terrified at being left at the mercy of Ultraman, the evil Superman from Earth-3. His encounter with Superwoman, who so closely resembles his mother, is hardly any better.
  • Alternate Timeline Ancestry: Played With, regarding Kon-El. He is a refugee from the "Post/Crisis"/"New Earth" timeline, created from the DNA of Superman and Lex Luthor. Jonathan Samuel Kent, meanwhile, is the current Superboy of "Prime Earth" and the son of Superman and Lois Lane. While they are not quite the "same" person, everyone finds it strange that there are two different Superboys with similar origins.
  • And This Is for...: When Superman and General Zod fight Rogol Zaar in Superman #6, Superman yells "For Kandor!", letting Zod know that Rogol destroyed the bottled city of Kandor. Because Zod fought very hard to protect Kandor in his time on the Kryptonian military, he fights Rogol more seriously, which is exactly what Superman wanted.
  • Arc Villain: Rogol Zaar, Mongul and the Synmar Utopica for Superman and the Invisible Mafia, the Red Cloud and Leviathan for Action Comics.
  • Ambadassador: We all know how badass Superman is and the Bendis era takes it even further by making him Earth's representative in the United Planets.
  • Anti-Villain: Eisno Alkor wants to end his home planet's isolationism and introduce it to the larger galactic community, the same way Superman is doing for Earth. Unfortunately, his way of doing it involves causing a civil war and trying to take over the planet.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: Rogol Zaar forcibly assembles an army of Phantom Zone criminals to invade Earth.
  • Badass Family: The House of El, obviously. Even their enemies say that one El is bad enough, but a whole family of them would ruin anyone's day.
  • Batman Gambit: The Invisible Mafia, which that has been starting fires across Metropolis, expected Superman would start investigating their activities, so they blame Superman for the fires and correctly assume that Superman cannot help the police in their investigation because he could possibly have a vested interest in protecting himself. Fortunately, Clark uses his journalistic skills to work against them.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Jon suggests to a coalition of aliens that they should form a group similar to Earth's United Nations so that the damage caused by the Circle will never happen again. When the idea takes hold, Jon, Kal and Kara are visited by the Legion, who reveals that Jon just created the United Planets.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Superman is highly respected throughout the galaxy and his compassionate nature is itself noted among its inhabitants. It's probably why when he shows up looking more irritated than usual, all sides of a space battle promptly surrender.
  • Big "NO!": When Superman realizes that he and the Earth have been sent to Phantom Zone.
  • Book Ends: Superman ends with Clark visiting the amateur musician he overheard back in Man of Steel to tell her he loves her work and dances with Lois to her music.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Rogol Zaar has Fantastic Racism towards Kryptonians only for his weakness to Kryptonite to reveal that he himself is partially Kryptonian.
  • Broken Masquerade: In Superman #18, Superman reveals his identity to the entire world. Unlike the events of Superman: Truth, it seems that the reveal is taken in a lot better stride.
  • Broken Pedestal: Both Superman and Jon become increasingly disappointed in Jor-El as the Unity Saga continues.
  • Bruce Wayne Held Hostage: Talia al Ghul orders the kidnapping of Clark for his investigation. Clark, hearing Leviathan's footsteps all the way from Chicago, decides to play along, hoping to get something he can use against them. Unfortunately, Talia forces him to wear a Kryptonite vest. Although she is unaware that Clark and Superman are one and the same, she does think Clark could call Superman for help, so she isn't taking any chances. It takes Lois, Jimmy, Firestorm and Red Lantern Dex-Starr storming the Leviathan complex so that Clark can escape.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Lois returns to Earth in the pages of Action Comics, but without Jon. She takes up residence in a hotel in Chicago, and does not notify Clark that she is back. She is seen at the end of Action Comics #1001 writing an expose on her marriage to Superman, and is confronted by Clark at the end of Action Comics#1002. In Action Comics #1004, the pair discuss the state of their relationship. Lois assures him they're not breaking up, but that she feels at this stage neither Clark or Jon need her and she needs some space to write her book.
    • Jon Kent returns in the pages of Superman, slightly older, Clark having missed out on seven formative years in his life.
    • The Question returns in Action Comics #1005.
    • The Legion of Super-Heroes make their grand return in Superman #14.
    • Lana Lang returns in Superman #18, this time working as a reporter for The Daily Star.
  • Canon Immigrant: The Nuclear Man makes his first official appearance in Superman #2 and is promptly killed by Rogol Zaar.
  • Continuity Nod: In issue #22, Superman smashes himself into Warworld, as remembering a previous battle where Supergirl stopped the satellite using that move, a nod to the War World storyline.
  • Downer Beginning: Superman #1 begins with Superman desperately searching for his family in space. He's naturally depressed by their absence.
  • Enemy Mine:
    • As much as he hates Kryptonians, Rogol is forced to work with Jax-Ur to kill Superman and destroy Earth. Superman is able to get Jax-Ur off his back by getting him to question his partnership with Rogol. Jax-Ur, despite his crimes, loved Krypton, while Rogol hates Kryptonians, so what makes Jax-Ur think Rogol will not turn on him once Superman and Earth are destroyed?
    • Superman and General Zod are forced to work together to fight Rogol when they are both trapped in the Phantom Zone. Their uneasy alliance continues even after Rogol is defeated, with the House of Zod allowed to govern their own region of space, which they can use to build a New Krypton.
  • Evil Twin: The Crime Syndicate of America makes their return in Superman #8-9, including Ultraman and Superwoman. Superboy notes how creepy it is to look at evil versions of his own parents.
  • Evil Versus Evil: General Zod versus Rogol Zaar in Superman #6. Rogol wins.
  • Fantastic Racism: Rogol Zaar really hates Kryptonians and the Red Cloud seems to hate Superman just for being an alien.
  • Fleeting Demographic Rule: This isn't the first time a villain claims responsibility for the destruction of Krypton, a Superboy gets invited to join the Legion of Super-Heroes, and Superman loses his secret identity.
  • Freak Lab Accident: How Robinson Goode became the Red Cloud. She was thrown into a chamber filled with gas that S.T.A.R. Labs had collected from a parallel universe after she threatened to expose their illegal activities.
  • For the Evulz: Red Cloud had no reason to kill Melody Moore. She just did it to piss Superman off.
  • Founder of the Kingdom: Downplayed. Jon didn't found the United Planets, he merely suggested the idea of the nations of the galaxy uniting under a single banner, similar to the United Nations of Earth. Regardless, the Legion of Super-Heroes treats him with such high regard for coming up with the idea of the United Planets in the first place that they offer him a place in the Legion.
  • From Bad to Worse: The situation within the Phantom Zone gets worse in Superman #2 as Rogol learns of Superman and Earth's arrival while the heroes of Earth are starting to get ravaged by the effects of the Zone... and Superman's losing his powers.
  • Home Base: The Fortress of Solitude, as usual. With the old one being destroyed by Rogol in Man of Steel, Superman constructs a new one in the Bermuda Triangle.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Melody Moore dies just so that Superman can grieve about his inability to save her.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Superman #7 reveals that Lois' quick return to Earth (and most likely her wanting distance from Clark for the time being) was the overwhelming feeling of being confronted by aliens who revere the S-Shield like royalty along with the fact that she was a human travelling with a full-blooded and half-blooded Kryptonian.
  • Internal Reveal: In Action Comics #1007, Lois tells her father, General Sam Lane, that she is married to Superman.
  • Irony: The leaders of Synmar turned Eisno Alkor into the Synmar Utopica in order to defend Synmar from Superman because they feared what a solar-powered Kryptonian would do their planet. The threat Superman represents to Synmar never comes to pass, while the Synmar Utopica grows tired of his home's isolationism and decides to take over the planet and introduce it to the wider galaxy. Eisno was meant to become Synmar's protector but instead became its destroyer, while Superman didn't even become aware of Synmar's existence until Eisno brought him there, and when push came to shove, he saved the planet from Eisno.
  • Keep the Home Fires Burning: Rare Male Example with Clark, who struggles between his faith for Lois and Jon as they travel with Jor-El and his fear that something could happen to them.
  • Mythology Gag: CBR caught on to the fact that Superman's new Fortress of Solitude might be reminiscent of Lex Luthor's Kryptonian island from Superman Returns.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: As it turns out, Jon's desire to be with Jor-El and hope he can get his help in solving his problems was a bad idea as he comes back seven years older and the realization that grandpa is insane.
  • Nebulous Evil Organization: Leviathan, the same Leviathan Batman fought a few years ago.
  • Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: The Circle, the mysterious Illuminati-like group that ruled the galaxy from the shadows, was plagued by internal conflict and disssent. Jor-El begged the Circle to help save the Kryptonian people, but he was ignored, the Tamaranean king went to war against the Thanagarians, who used Rogol Zaar to force him to withdraw from a planet he was trying to conquer and Empress Gandelo attempted to hide the truth behind Krypton's destruction to protect her domain.
  • Not Quite Dead: Amanda Waller abandons General Lane to a creature sent by Leviathan so she can escape. At first, it appears Lane died but Action Comics #1009, he survived and was sent to the hospital. He later dies during Event Leviathan.
  • Phantom Zone: Phantom Earth, the premiering story arc in the Superman flagship book, features the entire Earth being trapped in the Trope Namer. Continuous exposure to the Zone causes people all over the world to feel sick and superhumans to lose their powers. Upon escaping, Superman ends up weaponizing the Phantom Zone throughout the Bendis era, using it to trap both the Red Cloud and the Synmar Utopica at different points of the story.
  • Play-Along Prisoner: Subverted. Clark tries to be this but Talia al Ghul puts a Kryptonite vest on him, severely weakening him. He only survives thanks to Lois and a group of allies attacking Leviathan's hideout.
  • Playing the Victim Card: Superman accuses Jor-El of portraying himself as the victim of the Circle's treason, when he helped them control the fates of countless planets and likely ordered their deaths and now, Jor-El has the gall of feeling betrayed when they turned their backs on Krypton.
  • Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Happens to Jon in The House of El. He left Earth as a 10-year-old and returns only weeks later, now aged 17. It turns out this because of some years spent traveling with Jor-El and some years imprisoned by Ultraman on the Crime Syndicate's Earth.
  • Post-Coital Collapse: In Action Comics #1004, Clark and Lois reunite after being separated from a while, and their reunion quickly leads to them hitting the sheets. In one panel we see a shot of the empty bed and the following panel has them both collapsing on it, exhausted from their second round of sex, but very much satisfied.
  • Previously on…: Every issue of Action Comics opens with a full page of computer or phone screen belonging to a Planet employee, with various windows and other notes showing the story so far.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: General Zod gets involved in Phantom Earth by drinking from the spirits of Jekuul, the planet he previously conquered, and having a vision of Rogol Zaar. Because of Rogol's involvement in Krypton's destruction, Zod willingly goes back into the Phantom Zone to attain revenge. In The House of El Superman has a similar vision.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The Synmar Utopica does succeed in his goal of introducing his home planet to the larger galactic community. Unfortunately, his reputation is left tarnished and the people of Synmar will now remember him as a criminal and a terrorist.
  • The Reveal: Action Comics #1005 reveals that the Red Cloud is Robinson Goode, Clark's fellow reporter at the Daily Planet.
  • Revenge Before Reason: General Zod, having a vision of Rogol, willingly goes back into the Phantom Zone to lay his hands on him, even if it means leaving his wife and son behind on Jekuul. Superman takes advantages of this and, during their fight with Rogol, he yells "For Kandor!", letting Zod know that Rogol destroyed the bottled city of Kandor and getting him to take the fight more seriously.
  • Series Continuity Error: When Jon reunites with Damian, Damian laments how Jon is now taller than him. Except Jon has always been explicitly taller than Damian since the day they met, which had been brought up repeatedly during their time together.
    • On a larger note, the events of “The Unity Saga” in Superman start immediately after the end of Bendis' Man of Steel, and take place continuously with no room for his first Action Comics arc to take place. However, Lois' return in Action somehow happened between the events of Superman #1 and #7.
  • Shaming the Mob: Superman stops a mob from looting Metropolis just by sternly telling them to stop causing trouble. Dejected, the mob disperses and Jimmy takes pictures of what happened.
  • Shooting Superman: Gets parodied and Played for Laughs in Action Comics #1001.
  • Something Only They Would Say: Superman: Heroes, set shortly after Clark reveals his secret identity, sees Superman trying to talk to his "pal", worried Jimmy might break off their friendship now he knows he's been lying to him. It turns out that Jimmy already knew.
    Jimmy: I used to think there were only two people in the world who called me "Jim." Then I realized it was only one.
  • So Proud of You: For his crimes as Mr. Oz, Jor-El is returned to the moment Krypton explodes. He encounters his younger self and assures him that Kal-El will do great things in the future.
  • Spin-Off: Events in Bendis' run will directly lead to two 12-issue miniseries starring Lois Lane (by Greg Rucka) and Jimmy Olsen (by Matt Fraction).
  • Spiritual Antithesis: The "Truth" arc is this to the New 52 story arc of the same name. Unlike the original, Clark chose to reveal the truth to the public instead of Lois outing his identity to stop a blackmail scheme, he didn't suffer the loss of his powers, and the world and his co-workers took the news a lot better (granted, Perry still "fired" him because of the issues it now raised, but he wasn't angry with Clark and he actually gave two work-arounds — using an alias for writing and Superman becoming the mascot of the Planet — to allow Clark to continue to work for the paper in the same conversation).
  • Sudden Sequel Heel Syndrome: S.T.A.R. Labs begins to perform increasingly illegal activities in an attempt to increase their profits, such as mapping out the Phantom Zone without proper precautions and starting the experiments that ultimately gave birth to the Red Cloud. S.T.A.R. Labs' leadership has even determined that they make their best profits whenever Superman isn't around to keep an eye on them.
  • Super Smoke: The Red Cloud, a new villainess working for the unseen crime ring in Metropolis, can turn herself into... well, a red cloud and suffocate people to death.
  • Super Soldier: Eisno Alkor, code-named Synmar Utopica, is planet Synmar's anti-Superman weapon. Unfortunately for him, Superman never becomes a threat to Synmar and Eisno is left feeling that he got cheated out his purpose.
  • Take That!:
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The entire Earth was swallowed up by the Phantom Zone because some S.T.A.R. Labs scientists were researching for possible ways to safely map the Zone.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: As Superman and his allies begin dismantling the Invisible Mafia, Marisol Leone just packs her bags and departs for an Alternate Universe.
  • Villain Team-Up: Lex Luthor and the Legion of Doom join forces with Leviathan in order to destroy Superman, even convincing Red Cloud to join them. Subverted with Marisol Leone, who correctly believes that an alliance with Luthor will draw unwanted attention from Superman. When Red Cloud is placed under arrest and Leone escapes into another universe, she sends Robinson a letter, berating her for thinking that a team-up with Luthor would be a good idea.
  • Villains Act, Heroes React: Both the Man of Steel miniseries and Superman #1 explore this notion. Jor-El had confronted Clark with the possibility that he is limiting himself to what he could do to help the people of Earth and Martian Manhunter suggests that Superman could take his service to humanity to the next level by becoming some sort of leader for the global community.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Nuclear Man shows up and is killed off within two pages.
  • Wham Shot: Jon Kent returns... as a 17-year-old teenager.

Alternative Title(s): Superman Bendis, Brian Michael Bendis Superman