Some issues hit me like a hammer and remind me why I love comics. Some comics just seem to work from beginning to end, mixing story and art perfectly, and blending plot and action.
Superman:Last Stand of New Krypton #1 is one of those issues.
Maybe it's because I am completely swamped at work and any escapism is a treat. Maybe it is because I am sort of ready to move on from the New Krypton storyline.
Truthfully, I think it is just of high quality ... I don't need to rationalize how much I enjoyed it. Written by James Robinson and Sterling Gates with art by Pete Woods, this issue was a just the shot in the arm the Superman character needed.
As seen at the end of World of New Krypton and as previewed on the DC website and Newsarama, the issue starts with Brainiac flooding New Krypton with his robot troops. The opening pages show in large view the Kryptonian citizens rising up to fight the drones. Surpringly, the Brainiac probes seem to be able to hold their own, snapping the necks and eviscerating the people. General Zod coolly watches the carnage from his headquarters vowing to make Brainiac kneel before him. How great is it to hear Zod vow that someone will kneel!
Zod unfortunately has only one real plan to defeat Brainiac. As his troops buzz around it, Zod fires New Krypton's planetary cannons at Brainiac's ship.
Zod's expression quickly changes from smug to shocked as the smoke clears. Brainiac's force fields held. All the cannon did was kill the Kryptonian troops in its blast path. It is a nice moment which has been seen in a million movies and comics in the past. Still there is something dramatic about seeing the presumed destroyed enemy emerge unscathed from the fog.
As much as I liked seeing Zod suddenly look afraid, I liked Kal's response more. Superman's goal has always been the preservation of life. His first comment isn't about Brainiac surviving ... it's about his people dying.
It leads ... finally ... to a confrontation between Kal and Zod.
Their philosophies are so different. Zod seems so casual about the loss of life, labeling those soldiers 'collateral damage'. Meanwhile, Superman is incensed about the soldiers' tragic but meaningless and avoidable deaths. If Zod had worked with Superman a better plan for defeating Brainiac ... a plan that would work ... could have been developed.
Finally .... finally ... Kal, refusing to work with someone like Zod, someone with no respect for life, sheds the uniform of Commander El.
This is a job for Superman!
It feels like it has been forever since we have seen the Superman in his true costume. What a great splash page. I love how he literally rips himself out of the military guild uniform.
One thing that I knew would be true about this comic was that Supergirl would be treated the right way.
I probably could have filled a whole post with just the Supergirl moments from this issue. Suffice it to say, she is strong and brutally efficient in this book, mowing through the Brainiac troops. Here she comes to Alura's rescue, smashing probes left and right.
Alura notices that the Brainiac probes attacking her was not random. It seems Brainiac might be targeting the political leaders of New Krypton, not his usual practice of just surrounding a city and shrinking it. With more robots pouring into the house, Supergirl sends Alura off to Zod while she will defend the house and city.
It really is a shining moment for Supergirl, with even more to come.
In the meantime, Superman begins his attack on Brainiac's ship. Brainiac's force field is a fluid like structure which flows more protection to the point of greatest threat. Knowing that might keave a back door, Superman slams into the front of the ship. With the field concentrated on that point of attack, Superman is able to swiftly skip to the back of the ship and enter.
I'll say it again. It was simply refreshing to see Superman acting as Superman!
But the action doesn't stop there.
On the planet, Kara continues to rally the troops. I absolutely love her determination here, vowing to hold the line! She looks very much the leader here, doesn't she?
More than Zod and Ursa do, contemplating the next best step as they review a city map and attack patterns.
If I ever meet Pete Woods, I am going to ask him for an Ursa commission sketch.
Despite her savagery, Supergirl eventually falls when the Brainiac probes begin using red sun radiation blasts. But even in the face of death, look at how strong she is. "Tell your master I was never scared of him! Then tell him I said he can go right to Hell!"
That is a far cry from the Supergirl in the Brainiac arc by Geoff Johns who was so overcome with fear of Brainiac that the mere sight of a broken probe made her cry. Kara really has come a long way.
Of course, that Supergirl was still addled by Kryptonite poisoning. Still, it shows tremendous growth of the character.
Luckily, she is saved at the last minute by Superboy, Mon-El and the Legion. This comic is filled with big moments ... and big moments deserve big art like this double splash page.
I really think that splash pages like this should be reserved for the right kinds of moments, otherwise they are sort of a waste of storytelling space. This moment merits it ... the first time we have seen the Legion act in the open as a team.
The Legion ask to be brought to General Zod so they can warn him about their concerns for the future.
One small moment I loved was when Supergirl introduces Conner as her cousin. I like that ... we really have a Superman Family now.
The whole book can't be nonstop action. Small moments like this really help round out the story and the characters.
The Legion finally reveal their worries. Brainiac still has bottled cities in his ship. As we have seen in the Brainiac arc and elsewhere, those cities are from Braal, Rimbor, Imsk, Tharr, and other Legion home worlds. That means for the future to roll out correctly, those cities need to be replanted somewhere. If Zod destroys the ship before the cities are rescued, there will be no Cosmic Boy, no Ultra Boy, no Shrinking Violet ... their worlds will never have existed.
Of course, Zod only cares about the future. He wants to save his people now ... and that is understandable. After sending Supergirl out to help defend the city, Zod asks his men to arrest the Legionnaires.
There are a million ways the Legion can get out of this jam ... but I really hope to see Element Lad make a huge pile of Kryptonite.
As for the star of the book, Superman is about to face off against Brainiac when he is floored by a blast of Kryptonite himself.
That's right, Brainiac isn't acting alone. Luthor is in on the plot. That probably explains the different attack patterns.
Whew ... I need to take a breath. That is a lot of story crammed into 22 pages. And as I said above, it all worked. We finally get to see some of the bigger plot lines of the last two years start to meld together into this massive finale.
And as I said at the beginning, it all flows so well. The heroism of Superman and Supergirl and the Legion, the callous villainy of Zod and Brainiac, the frightened citizens coming together ... it all just worked. Add to that the usual stellar work of Pete Woods and you had a phenomenal opening chapter to Last Stand.
And let's not forget ... finally, Superman is acting as Superman.
Overall grade: A+