This weekly release of War of the Supermen certainly has ratcheted up the momentum of this story. As a reader, you barely have the time to contemplate the last issue before the next issue is in your hands. Counting the Free Comic Book Day prologue, we've had three issues released in 11 days!
There is a downside to this compressed storyline, this breakneck pace. With only 4 issues to wrap this arc up, some scenes are shorter than I would like them to be. The Alura death scene was remarkably short. And other elements of the plot seem to be plucked out of the blue without much back story or explanation.
And that sort of rushed feeling seemed to dominate War of the Supermen #2. A lot happens, a lot is resolved, a lot is revealed ... but maybe too much? Is this moving story too fast? Are we missing out on good story-telling because scenes are truncated as we move on to the next thing?
Sterling Gates and James Robinson certainly kept their creative feet on the gas pedal as this issue speeds forward. Still, despite that pace, we don't lose track of any of the Superman Family. We get a peek at what everybody is doing. Eddie Pansica does a serviceable job on art here. And Eddy Barrows does a very nice job on the cover.
I don't always get variant covers but how could I turn down this stunning cover showcasing Supergirl by Aaron Lopresti. I basically drooled over his art on Wonder Woman and always knew he would draw a silky smooth Supergirl. This proves it. I hope Lopresti finds work on another title soon.
But on to the story.
The news of New Krypton's destruction has reached Earth and Lois knows her father is responsible. Despite her self-imposed exile from the Daily Planet, she knows the paper is the best way she can expose his act of genocide and the other nefarious acts of Project 7734.
Before Lois can tell Perry the whole story, Superwoman crashes into the Planet's newsroom, grabs Lois, and takes off.
How twisted is Lucy? Clearly her father either never loved her or had very conditional love for his second daughter. And yet she has somehow taken that destructive background and transformed it into unquestioning loyalty to her father and outright hatred of her sister. Lucy shouts at Lois that 'she isn't worthy' of saying General Lane's name. I think Superwoman is going to be an interesting super-villain for Supergirl to deal with long into the future.
Meanwhile, the grieving Supergirl streaks towards the Kryptonian fleet to join the fight. Superman, hoping to calm his cousin down, tries to stop her. At first Supergirl doesn't take to kindly to it, lashing out and Superman, and starting a fight.
Am I wrong to be happy that Supergirl got in a couple of good shots before this thing ended. I am glad she wasn't easily dispatched by Superman.
The fight is brief as Supergirl breaks down.
Part of her rage is born from guilt. She feels responsible for New Krypton's destruction. After all, she was the one who brought Reactron to the planet. Without Reactron, there would be no 'Gold K nuke', there would be no explosion.
That feeling is, of course, nonsense. How could Supergirl think that far ahead? How could she anticipate the lengths that General Lane would go to? It isn't her fault anymore than it is Alura's fault for keeping Reactron around for so long. Still, I wonder if that feeling of responsibility is going to gnaw at her a bit in the future.
No matter whose fault it was, Reactron's death was effective. There were no survivors. The scene ends with the cousins hugging, happy that at least they are still alive and together. I am glad that the 'Supergirl vs. Superman' part of this series was so short. I think Kara has come too far to become that blind with rage, to battle her cousin for a prolonged period of time. And her initial reaction to him, that explosion of violence, was completely understandable.
I love this panel's layout. The cousins are only a small part of the panel and off to the side, eliciting that sense of 'alone-ness' they have. Their people are dead. In fact, the central object in the panel is the Krypton flag, lying on the ground. It is a nice symbolic way of putting the destruction of Krypton into the panel, adding to the cousins' melancholy. This story, the dialogue, would not be as powerful if the cousins were front and center and up close.
Just as I feel that Supergirl has grown too much to remain blindly enraged for so long, I also think she has grown too much to be overwhelmed with grief to the point of being catatonic.
She is a hero now ... at least on the hero's journey. Sometimes the greater good needs to come first. There comes a time you need to wipe your tears away, steel yourself, and do the right thing. There will be time to grieve later. Superman realizes that the two cousins need to put themselves between Zod and Lane, to block this conflict before it destroys two worlds. Supergirl says the only thing she should say ... "what do we do now?'
It is clear that this war is the byproduct of the two madmen Lane and Zod. I doubt that this war was inevitable. I doubt Zor-El would have raced towards oblivion the way these two have.
Still, I am happy that the writers have not made the Generals two-dimensional 'cartoon villains'. They aren't cackling on their thrones, wallowing in their evil. They both think they are the good guys. And while they certainly have very personal motives for this war, they can cloak it in justifications.
Another thing that I like is the occasional crack in the stony facade in the Generals. We need to see some emotion, some humanity in them, to make them more believable. I don't think it makes them sympathetic. But it at least makes them more realistic. For example, I liked seeing General Lane's sadness when he saw Lucy 'die'.
Here, I love seeing Zod slump momentarily, the weight of his world's destruction suddenly on his shoulders. He goes from shouting out angry rhetoric about killing Lane to stopping and nearly breaking down. It is a nice moment. My guess is Zod (like me) thought this would be a 100 second war, with no casualties on the Kryptonian side. Zod probably feels responsible for the death of his people and that weighs him down. He wasn't expecting this.
But that moment is just that ... a moment. Rather than turn around and keep the rest of the Kryptonians safe, rather than calling off this war, he furrows his brow and moves forward. I would have loved another page here.
On Earth, the Superman Family continues to search for Natasha Irons, knowing that she will be the linchpin to take down General Lane. It seems to me that these heroes could probably scrounge up the evidence on their own without this rescue mission.
Anyways, their investigation leads them to a secret base tucked inside Mount Rushmore of all places! Looks like I'll need to dust off my copy of North by Northwest!
I don't know if I am going to like Chris' 'all-seeing Nightwing vision'. Here it looks like he is using the force to sense Natasha.
I still hope Thara and Chris survive this whole mess.
As much as I liked the moment of humanity in Zod, I enjoyed this moment of insanity by General Lane. He is clearly a psychopath. He just committed an act of genocide and he is the happiest he has been in his life?
Let's face it, Lane is as big a 'bad guy' as Zod. Both of these guys need to be brought down at the end of this story. I won't be happy if either one escapes justice.
I do have to say that I find myself questioning some of the military decisions that these tactical geniuses make.
For some reason, General Zod sends a bulk of his troops to the Human Defense Corps Mars base. I just don't get it. I know that the Mars base is the 'first line of defense' and Zod probably wants to eliminate them. But Mars is pretty far away from Earth, those troops can't get to Earth quickly, and Zod can simply go around them. Why endanger even one troop fighting these guys?
With the fight going on, Superman and Supergirl show up and basically try to run interference between the two sides, trying to save as many lives on both sides as they can. The HDC fleet is destroyed before it can mobilize. I thought it was great to see Superman and Supergirl now fighting side by side, working together as a team.
Another nice writing technique used throughout this fight scene is having the two Generals in panels side by side, completing each other's sentences. It is a simple method of showin just how similar they are, how they are the same side of the same coin.
Zod has split his army into two flanks. While his fights over Mars, a second wave of troops is flying at top speed towards Earth. The countdown is on ... they will arrive in less than a minute.
With time running out before oblivion, General Lane calls upon Luthor to finish his 'second project'. Using the false Rao corpse and time-pool technology, Luthor develops the ultimate weapon. As payback, Lane gives Luthor LexCorp back.
Luthor launches his missile and suddenly ...
Earth has a red sun!
I don't know ... this is the one part of the book that seemed a bit rushed to me and maybe a bit too easy. A red sun missile? Seems a bit deus ex machina for me. I know that the 'Rao' component was probably necessary for the weapon and Luthor only got that recently (2 weeks ago our time), but really ... a red sun missile? It felt a bit forced.
Now from the beginning I have felt that Earth shouldn't have a chance in this war. And certainly a walking planet-busting Gold K nuclear bomb and a red sun missile tip the scales back even. But doesn't it seem like those ideas came out of nowhere? And for some reason I can buy the Reactron stratagem much more than I can swallow this one. Again, this might be a place where a little more time spent on the development of these things would have gone a long way. And where will all these lethal anti-Kryptonian weapons going to go when this story ends. Will there be weapons that can kill Superman ... red sun guns, sonic screamers, gold K, red sun shackles, red sun missiles, Green K bullet machine guns ... all over the DCU?
Regardless, the sun is red so suddenly the Kryptonians are powerless. Nice cliffhanger.
Well, we are halfway done with War of the Supermen! And I have to say that so far Earth has to be looked upon as winning the war.
I am torn a bit with my grade on the book. I think there were plenty of small moments that were fantastic ... the Superman/Supergirl conversation at the beginning, Zod slumped on his ship ... fantastic. But they were oh so brief. I would have loved to read those scenes a bit more. I think there was more dramatic juice that could be squeezed from those scenes.
Add to that the inclusion of some sudden plot elements and I felt like the story is being rushed along.
But am I a hypocrite? After intermittently complaining for the last year that the whole New Krypton storyline was moving along too slowly, do I have the right to complain about things moving too fast? The middle chapters in these things are the hardest to pull off.
That said, I can't get away from just how great those moments were. If I could get so much out of such short scenes, it means the writing by Gates and Robinson is great.
Eddie Pansica was bound to suffer in comparison with last issue's Jamal Igle and my anticipation for the next issues by Cafu and Eddy Barrows. His layouts were very good. But I sometimes felt the characters' faces looked a bit off.
Overall grade: B+/B