Comics I Read: New Krypton

Fair warning: I’m going to discuss the end of the story here, even though DC probably won’t release all the trades for a while. It seems pointless to me to write about these last issues circumspectly, and probably more people are going to at least sample the Straczynski run – exposing them to the new status quo – than read most of the “New Krypton” issues in the first place. So stop here if you don’t want to be spoiled. Otherwise, my ramblings continue after the jump.






Basically, we’re right back where we started. The only changes I can think of are that Pa Kent is still dead (which actually happened before "New Krypton" in the "Brainiac" story) and Lois' sister is still active as Superwoman (probably as a villain, though that isn’t clear yet.) I’m going to take everyone at DC who’s spoken publicly at their word that this is the ending that was intended from the start, because I don't think there's anything to be gained by speculating otherwise.

So, does the lack of substantive change make it a bad story? The question goes to the heart of what's owed the reader for buying a year's worth of stories: just entertainment, or growth and change on the part of the main characters. I think they're only obligated to deliver entertainment, and the rest of it is our own biases. That said, the "New Krypton" story was so ambitious that I can't help but be disappointed that you could start reading at this point and not know it ever happened. You could argue that the experiences Superman has gone through have affected him -- and I'm sure Supergirl's losses will be reflected in her book -- but it's hard to imagine JMS wanting to explore that when he's got his own stories to tell. (Hopefully he'll at least touch on the "New Krypton" experience as part of the reason for sending Superman on his cross-country journey.)



Ultimately I have to call it a grand experiment with some really excellent moments, but a failure overall. Partially for keeping Superman (as opposed to Kal-El) off the board for too long and also because the scope was just too big for something that is going to be moved on from immediately. Even Paul Cornell's upcoming Lex Luthor stories in Action seem more of a "Blackest Night" sequel than a "New Krypton" sequel.

Action 889: With the possible exception of Batwoman, the new Nightwing and Flamebird seemed to me the recent Greg Rucka creations that he was most invested in. Although they do get a somewhat abrupt ending here -- unfortunately typical of everything Rucka was working on when he left mainstream comics this time -- it does feel to me like this is where he wanted the characters to end up. I could quibble that the Kryptonian mythology behind them is a little too similar to the Hawkman/Hawkwoman mythology, but basically I like these characters a lot and I would have liked to see their further adventures on Earth instead of having them taken off the board in "War of the Supermen".

Adventure Comics 10-11: Not much to say about #10, which is a middle chapter of "Last Stand on New Krypton", but I liked the resolution for the 21st century Legionnaires in #11 and the farewell to Mon-El in that issue is as well-crafted and moving as the rest of his modern-day appearances.

Supergirl 48-52: This is the one book that was enhanced, rather than knocked off track, by the "New Krypton" storyline. Highlights include Kara's "first" encounter with Brainiac 5 in #52 ("Brainiac 5 Personal Log Entry 20100421: She always told me the first time we met she thought I was a jerk.") and her reaction to the aftermath of Lana's "illness" in #50 (Lana: "That's part of being human. It's part of being a family." Kara: "Then maybe I don't want to be a part of your family anymore.").

Superman 694-699: This book was the one most affected by "New Krypton", becoming the book with Superman's name on the cover that he doesn't appear in. However, James Robinson did his own thing instead of just doing a "substitute Superman" and his Mon-El stories had a light, innocent quality that I really enjoyed. (Also well-delivered on the art site by Bernard Change and Javier Pina.) Legion fans will probably get a lot out of these issues as well, since some of their members were planted undercover in our time to help Mon-El on his journey. (And I should have realized which Legionnaire group they would belong to long before I did.)

World of New Krypton 10-12: This was the most ambitious of all the books, but I don't feel like it ever quite paid off. I loved the look at Kryptonian society, and the expectations about Zod's role that were played with, but just as it seemed Kal-El was starting to have a positive effect *BANG* giant Brainiac head appears and he's back to being Superman and Zod's back to being "evil." I see it as a well-done political thriller that didn't have a third act. Pete Woods' art was awesome throughout, however, and I do recommend the series in trade even though it ends abruptly.

Last Stand of New Krypton 1-3: Basically the big Brainiac fight. I remember almost nothing about it without flipping through the issues, which is not a good sign. Flipping through, I see a lot of the resolution of the Legion stuff is here so Legion completists (of which I am one) will probably want this.

War of the Supermen 0-4: Despite my disappointment with where they end up, I thought these were some really good comics. They don't save the exciting stuff until the end -- there's a major blow up in #1, for example -- and there are some clever scenes and some truly moving moments. I don't think the "24"-like structure of the 100-minute war quite worked the way they wanted it to, and there's at least one development that's a little over the top -- it seems impossible for other DCU books to ignore but inevitable that they will -- but overall this is great stuff that's worth reading even if you ignored the rest of "New Krypton".

Superman: Secret Origin 4-5: OK, not "New Krypton" related, but as long as I'm on the Superman titles this continues to be great work by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. #4 has a scary new take on the Parasite, Clark and Lex's first meeting as adults, and the beginning of the Superman/Jimmy Olsen friendship. And actually now that I think about it, #5 is kind of "New Krypton" related with an appearance by General Lane showing the very beginning of his anti-Superman campaign. So there.

Comments

  1. There's a lot to say about New Krypton. If I had to boil it down to one statement, I'd say that it offered a lot but ultimately didn't deliver. That's not to say I didn't like it--to be honest, the year-long runs on Superman, Action Comics and World of New Krypton were comics that I really enjoyed--but while you suggested that World of New Krypton didn't have a third act, I'd argue that the entire line missed out on the third act. By the time it came to move to the Last Stand of New Krypton crossover, I didn't feel that any of the character arcs and thematic developments had reached the point that they should've. Mon-El's came close, but it seemed like Robinson had planted so much that needed to be developed--that just wasn't.

    I remember liking Last Stand a lot--but like you, I don't really remember any of the specifics outside of the basic Legion character arcs (I actually thought it was really interesting that--in a year where the Legion didn't really have a title, they were returned to their roots across the Superman line). I thought that it did its best with a relatively limited timetable to close out the stories developed over the previous year, but there was only so much they could do. I honestly think that bringing Brainiac in was a mistake--while I can understand the need for a major event to prompt New Krypton's attack on Earth, it felt to me like an unnecessary addition to an already-crowded storyline. Even Zod's speech to rally the Kryptonians to war seemed to stress how incidental Brainiac was--he basically said "We'll get Brainiac someday, I promise, but let's put him aside and get revenge on Earth." I do think that there was a lot of potential in the Kryptonians once again being ravaged by Brainiac, and I think that the story did that idea justice--but I just don't think there was room for it in the overall arc.

    Unlike you, though, Jeff--I didn't really enjoy War of the Supermen. While the story may have been as originally planned, the format was not--the miniseries was initially announced as the next Blackest Night, six issues over the course of six months, with tie-in issues across the Superman line. The revised month-long event seemed like point-by-point happenings without much reason behind them--like the writers, when forced to condense their story into those four issues, opted to keep the stories they developed at the expense of the character moments behind them. Despite the grand scope, the entire New Krypton saga had been, at its core, about the characters--Superman losing the chance to properly mourn his adoptive father when his responsibilities to a world he barely knew became too much to ignore; his friends and family abandoned as he left Earth for New Krypton; the Guardian meeting his niece; the fated romance between Nightwing and Flamebird; the lies and ultimately death (however brief) of Lana Lang. It just felt wrong to me that the story ended with the heart removed.

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  2. Thanks for the comments from both of you.

    After reading FCBD War Of The Supermen I felt that I might be missing a big and worthwhile event and should be re-visiting Superman (who I never ever really had a long term reading relationship with). After reading Jeff's in depth and thoughtful analysis I felt relieved that I didn't need to back track through all those titles and should still be able to enjoy just reading War Of The Supermen.

    Then, on to Shanes comments (which were just as long as a review and similarly as well-written) which made me decide to quit worrying about it at all.

    These are not negatives but rather very helpful bits of information and commentary. And I think that's were this blog really does the best service to readers - - it alerts them to things outside of their regular reading patterns and helps them decide whether or not to explore them.

    Again, I appreciate the insight and thank you both.

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  3. Don't get me wrong--I thought that the year-long storylines that spun out of New Krypton--Nightwing and Flamebird in Action Comics, Mon-El and the Guardian in Superman, Superman on World of New Krypton--I thought that those were some great comics, and I"d highly recommend them. It was the conclusion I had problems with--but that could just be me, as Jeff seemed to really enjoy it.

    If you aren't really a Superman reader, though, I don't know that this would be the place to start. Books like All Star Superman might be more your speed--self-contained, iconic stories that really capture what makes the character great. Or for an in-continuity epic, the Death and Return of Superman remains, for me, a great read--it's almost twenty years old, but I still go back to it and feel the full range of emotions.

    I'd wager that the upcoming JMS run will be a good "introductory" story, too--something that focuses on the emotional aspect of the character, which is what I've always felt was interesting about Superman. He's such a powerhouse character--there's almost never any real worry that he's not going to succeed. What makes Superman interesting, to me--what makes him one of my all-time favorite characters--is that, despite his power, he always expects more from himself--more than even he can reasonably live up to. If he fails--if even a single bystander loses their lives--he's crushed. He takes each and every loss personally. He may not be able to die (not easily, at any rate)--but he knows that everyone around him is in danger, and that terrifies him.

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  4. I actually agree with most of your criticisms of the ending. I see why what I wrote reads more enthusiastic than I intended, but what I was trying to say is that the WotS issues are not crap comics. They're good, well-crafted comics that happen to have some developments I don't agree with. (And they can be understood on their own for people who want to get up to speed before JMS without buying 15 trades.) I'll explore this idea more when I talk about "Titans: Villains for Hire", a not badly written comic with a plot development that I hate hate hate. (Did I mention hate?)

    JMS did a bunch of interviews today that made it sound like the fallout from "New Krypton" is specifically what kicks off his new storyline, so that makes me happy if it's true. (I don't have my copy of Superman #700 yet.)

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  5. Superman 700 is pretty fantastic. The fallout from New Krypton is what kicks off the new "Grounded" storyline, but past Superman 700 I don't know how much he'll be exploring that. You'll see what you mean when you read it, I think. But based on this issue, I want to reiterate my earlier statement about how if someone wanted to jump on the Superman titles, this is probably the time, with the much-read Blackest Night leading into Action Comics and JMS doing a character exploration of Superman. Supergirl seems to be the most direct follow-up to War of the Supermen. And then there's Superboy. By Jeff Lemire. That's going to be pretty great.

    (Also, I have such mixed feelings about Titans: Villains for Hire; I look forward to you writing about it.)

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