Saturday, September 26, 2009

Review: Blackest Night Superman #2

As someone who really had been suffering from 'event fatigue', I have to say Blackest Night has been like a powerful stimulant. Okay ... maybe I haven't had 'event fatigue' ... maybe I had 'lousy events' fatigue. I mean I don't think I can say that I enjoyed Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, House of M, or Secret Invasion. And while there were snippets of Final Crisis that I thought were brilliant, the overall event sort of fizzled.

And yet, here we are with Blackest Night which so far has been a great ride. Sure the main book reads a bit like a Green Lantern Auxiliary title but it should. The War of Light is a Green Lantern issue.

What does impress me is the quality of the tie-in mini-series. These aren't crossovers in name only, marketed as such because a Green Lantern is seen in one panel. These books really immerse the characters into the Blackest Night main story in a way that shows how the dead rising would effect the heroes.

That brings us to Blackest Night:Superman #2. I was very impressed with the first issue of this series. I continue to be impressed with it after this chapter although I have one small question nagging in my brain. But overall, James Robinson and Eddy Barrows have really brought their A game to this book.

To start off, I thought the cover showing an undead Zor-El standing over his beaten daughter was chilling. Yes, I know it shows a defeated Supergirl. But this book has been about dread and this cover elicits that feeling.


Whereas the first issue had a slow buildup of the reveal of the Black Lantern Kal-L, contrasting his vile acts with the inherent small town goodness of Smallville, this issue jumps right into the action. Superman and Superboy are trying to beat back the monstrosity of Kal-L who is vowing to raise Pa and kill Ma.

Throughout the book, Kal-L berates Superman, telling him what a failure he is for letting Pa die, how alien he is despite his time in Smallville, etc. It is as if the Black Lanterns need to bring out a certain emotional state in their victims before they can harvest. We saw last issue that when Superman had feelings across the emotional spectrum, rather than falling into one color, that he was his most effective in combat. And in Blackest Night we heard how when Mera stayed focused and calm she lost the Black Lanterns following her.



So if being on an even emotional keel keeps you safe then the sudden appearance of the Black Lantern Psycho Pirate in Smallville should spell disaster. He begins roaming the town and forcing his emotions onto the populace. He basically begins placing people into one of the seven colors of the ring spectrum, although rage, avarice, fear, and lust are his obvious favorites. The town begins to tear itself apart.

But this is the one part of the book that I questioned in my head. There is no problem with the way it is written or drawn. But why would the Psycho Pirate be there? He has no history with Superman per se. Was he sent there by Nekron?

This is a three issue mini-series with a Black Lantern Kal-L and a Black Lantern Zor-El. Aren't they big enough villains to fill up three small issues? I just felt that adding this other villain would take away from the Superman and Supergirl plots from the books.


Sorry for this small scan but I liked this little sequence.

Kal-L tells Black Lantern Silver Age Lois (perhaps the creepiest Black Lantern in my book) to kill Ma. Conner flies to the rescue, heat visioning off Lois' right arm temporarily saving Ma.

During this fight we see that the Black Lanterns have regenerative powers as Lois simply reattaches her arm to her shoulder stump.



While Connor goes to save Lois, Kal-El and Kal-L brawl through the streets of Smallville. It is a Hell on Earth, the idyllic little town is shown on fire, buildings falling.

One of the things that we once again see is Superman's emotional center. With Black Lantern Superman destroying Smallville, we see Superman's response of fear, will, rage, and hope. I can't help but notice that the bottom corner is a tad orange. Avarice? Maybe Superman feels Smallville is 'his' town and no one should do anything to it except him?



While the two Superman are bringing physical destruction to Smallville, the Psycho Pirate continues bringing emotional chaos. Superboy flies over the town witnessing acts of violence and depravity until he succumbs to the Pirate's powers as well.

As if Superman didn't have his hands full with Kal-L, a suddenly jealous and enraged Conner attacks him as well. Again we see how Superman reacts. Fear of Conner's condition. Love of his friend. Compassion that Conner might feel avarice and rage against Superman deep down. Hope to help Conner. Will to survive. I think this multi-colored look at Superman's demeanor only shows how he is the greatest hero. Most other people we have seen in the Blackest Night books seems to radiate only one or two emotions.

I do hope that the Psycho Pirate was not brought in simply as a tool to somehow set up a Superman Superboy fight. I am sick of heroes fighting each other.


After all that time in Smallville we finally make it to New Krypton to see what is happening there.

I have to say that the Supergirl scene in this book is fabulous, really one of the strongest representations of Kara I have seen in a while.

First off, I have to comment on Eddy Barrows art. When he is on, his stuff is jaw-droppingly spectacular and his art here is great. In particular, he really draws a wonderful Supergirl in this book. For one thing, I love the longer shirt with the huge S-shield. I really feel that the S should be massive and absolutely dominate the shirt which is tough when it is a half shirt. But more importantly, this looks more like a costume and not a cheerleading outfit. The small rim of belly keeps the Turner feel present but does not make her abdominal musculature overwhelm the total presentation. If we are going with a Turner style costume, I wish it looked like this all the time.

As for the story, just as Kal-L is doing, Zor-El is really being emotionally cruel to Kara. He tells her that she needs changing ... as if he is not happy with the person she has become. This, of course, rings completely false. Remember some of his last words were how proud he was of her.


Her response to the zombie Zor-El is actually right on target as is her emotional registry. She hopes to somehow cure him, bringing him back to his old self. She feels love for Dad, hopeful that he can be restored, compassion that he has been reduced to this form, but fearful of him. Given that Alura is seen unconscious on the floor shows that Zor-El has lashed out at his family here. She should be afraid.

Zor-El continues his verbal assault on Supergirl. His speech is completely hateful. He calls her a complete disappointment, weak, stupid, pathetic. It is everything that Supergirl would be fearful of. It touches on all her insecurities. Yes she is crying again but it makes sense here.

Now I feared that this verbal beatdown would result in another scene with Kara crying to the point of being unable to act. I braced myself for the worst.

Instead I get this picture of righteous fury as Supergirl, angry tears streaming, immediately recognizes that regardless of this Black Lantern's form, he is not Zor-El. He is not her dad.

I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to see this. Remember this is written by James Robinson who made Kara cry at an off-putting comment by Hal Jordan in Justice League: Cry For Justice. The same James Robinson who made her say some clunking lines like 'I'm not bad. I'm good.'

To see this strong, confident, caring, well-spoken Supergirl was a great treat.


As was this shot of her smashing Zor-El's face with a left hook.

Look at the determination on her face.

Simply spectacular! Readers who are new to Supergirl might be tempted to buy her book when they see this sort of characterization.

Unfortunately we see Zor-El begin to regenerate. This isn't going to be an easy fight.


Meanwhile, back in Smallville, Ma Kent decides to get a bit medieval as she plans her own attack against Black Lantern Lois.

It's hard to believe that these stories are all going to wrap up next month. My guess is that the plots will remain somewhat open-ended with the ultimate finales occurring in the Blackest Night main series.

But I think that James Robinson and Eddy Barrows have really put together a fantastic book here. These Blackest Night tie-ins should be a terrifying ride; they should be eerie. They should show the emotional effect that the dead rising would have on these characters. We really see what it would mean for Superman to face Kal-L, for Supergirl to face Zor-El. We really see what it would mean for madness to engulf a small town like Smallville. And it is frightening.

And Eddy Barrows art really captures that horror. He really contrasts the brightly colored heroes with the black and decaying Lanterns. This is probably the best art I have seen him produce.

I hope everyone is getting this book.

Overall grade: A+

12 comments:

Saranga said...

It was fabulous. A lot of the moments you've picked out ass favourites were also my highlights - seeing the colour spectrum of the heroes was a brilliant way to depict how they are reacting to this. The rage/will kara and Connor fighting Kal are really powerful images.

Nikki said...

I'm on board with the fact that there are 2 james robinsons now. Maybe there is 'holy crap there is a deadline' James and 'I prepared well' James. The girls get the best moments in this issue. The 2 guys are floundering but I believe in Ma Kent.

Yota said...

So, I had to watch "Night of the Hunter" for a film class, and this bit with Ma Kent about to bring the pain reminds me of the ending of that movie (which I though was the best part of it ;D). Moral of the story? Never underestimate an old woman.

--Yota.

Eric said...

I just picked this issue up because of Kara on the cover. I agree with you that her characterization is fantastic! The split rage-will panel is my favorite image in the entire issue and really stands out to me. I am also happy to see Kara with all sorts of emotions in the previous panel to it as well.

TalOs said...

Man i'm so so so SO glad that the whole "Zor-El vs. Kara" intended theme didn't devolve in to (and I seriously mean no disrespect by the following) Loeb's take on just this and instead of her cowering in corner crying her eyes out she ended up standing up for not only herself but for ALL those who're still alive on New Krypton and being the heroine they desperately need her to be! :D

Question: do y'all think BL Kal-L will reveal the existence of there being a Kara Zor-El/Supergirl BEFORE her to try to goad her in to a fight come next issue if they meet? :/

Supergirl: *ready to punch out Kal-L*

Kal-L: "Heh, you call yourself Kara Zor-El? Ha! I knew the REAL Kara and your nothing but this universes comical knock off in comparison!"

Kara: "Wha!"

Kal-L: "Got ya!"

Kara: *now being seen grabbed by Kal-L in a headlock and has his hand right where her heart is*

Superman: "KARA!"

Kal-L: "Oh Kal, I'm actually doing you a favor..."

Superman: "LET HER GO!!!"

Kal-L: "Hmph. And to think she sacrificed her life to the Antimonitor in order for you to live...pathetic."

Superman: "Linda Danvers...so Linda and Kon were right about that Kara being my cousin?!?"

Gene said...

Talos said:
"
Man i'm so so so SO glad that the whole "Zor-El vs. Kara" intended theme didn't devolve in to (and I seriously mean no disrespect by the following) Loeb's take on just this and instead of her cowering in corner crying her eyes out she ended up standing up for not only herself but for ALL those who're still alive on New Krypton and being the heroine they desperately need her to be! :D"

Agreed. This is the Supergirl that we live for.

Jason said...

I'm glad this miniseries seems to be turning out well. I'm still afraid of what will come of Kal-L. As the original Superman, he is hallowed ground. I hope by the end of this, we find out this isn't really him. Kal-L should NEVER, EVER be allowed to become a villain. Luckily, we seem to be heading toward that direction with Deadman's not being able to inhabit his Black Lantern body and Kara realizing this Black Lantern Zor-El cannot possibly be her real dad. I'm guessing we'll find out these Black Lanterns are just shells without the deceased person's actual soul.

On a somewhat lighter note, during that panel where Kara is smashing Zor-El's face which keeps coming back together, all I could keep thinking of was CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS #7 where Kara and Kal are fighting the stone soldiers in the Anti-Monitor's fortress that keep coming back together after Superman and Supergirl punch them apart. Wouldn't it have been great if Kara had decided to use her Super-breath to scatter Zor-El's pieces across miles to keep him from reconstituting, just as she did the stone soldiers in CRISIS #7?

Anj said...

It was fabulous. A lot of the moments you've picked out ass favourites were also my highlights - seeing the colour spectrum of the heroes was a brilliant way to depict how they are reacting to this. The rage/will kara and Connor fighting Kal are really powerful images.

I agree that those 'emotional registry' pictures really help flesh out what the characters are feeling.

I really like the Supergirl rage/will picture.

Anj said...

I'm on board with the fact that there are 2 james robinsons now. Maybe there is 'holy crap there is a deadline' James and 'I prepared well' James. The girls get the best moments in this issue. The 2 guys are floundering but I believe in Ma Kent.

Thanks for the funny post.

I just wonder how Robinson can write Kara so stiffly in Cry for Justice and so wonderfully strong here.

Anj said...

Question: do y'all think BL Kal-L will reveal the existence of there being a Kara Zor-El/Supergirl BEFORE her to try to goad her in to a fight come next issue if they meet? :/

I know you are holding out hope. But I just don't think it's going to happen.

Sorry.

Anj said...

Wouldn't it have been great if Kara had decided to use her Super-breath to scatter Zor-El's pieces across miles to keep him from reconstituting, just as she did the stone soldiers in CRISIS #7?

I know exactly what you are talking about.

That would have been great!

Anonymous said...

Part of coming to grips with her mother requires Kara to get beyond the whole "Zor was the Good Parent Who Died, Alura is the Bad Parent Who Survived" matrix. Deceased loved ones are kept alive thru guilt and clearly Kara has some guilt feelings about her father's death.
That way, Zor "lives" as a rebuke to Alura's aloofness and political excesses.
This state of mind keeps Supergirl emotionally stunted in some ways...Strange as it may seem, beating down Zor El's zombie revenant will bring her some emotional completion and put her closer to an equal footing with her mother.

John Feer