Superman:Last Stand of New Krypton #3 came out last Wednesday, ushering in War of the Supermen. I was interested in seeing just how this long ongoing storyline was going to be set up for the next big event. We have known about that series for some time. So far Last Stand's story has been moving ahead at a great pace. Would this last chapter continue the trend?
Another big question I had was whether James Robinson and Sterling Gates were going to finish this Brainiac-centered storyline both satisfactorily and in a way that would naturally lead into War.
There were a couple of things I assumed would happen in this issue. One, after all the talk about guild prejudices and the need for a leader, I assumed Superman would step up and unify the different sects. I thought he would be that leader. Second, I thought New Krypton was going to explode setting up the reason for the war. How did I do with my guesses? We'll see.
But let's start out with the fantastic Ryan Sook cover. I can't get enough of Sook so I was glad to see his work on this title. It is a dynamic piece; you can almost feel Brainiac's fist coming out of the page. Hey ... how about Ryan Sook as the regular Supergirl cover artist?
The issue picks up right where Superman #699 left off. Luthor has begun enlarging an alien city on Brainiac's ship, causing it to plummet to the surface of New Krypton. Mon-El has left with the Legion having rescued the bottled cities. Zod is brawling with Brainiac.
That leaves Superman, Supergirl, and Superboy with the job of slowing down the ship so it doesn't crash and demolish Kandor. We are treated to 10 (!) pages of splashes and giant panels like above ... large action shots of the the three heroes and eventually the population of the city all pushing against the bulk of the ship.
Big moments deserve big art. This felt right .. the progression of the main panels on each 2 page spread is great as the focus moves from a wide shot to an up close view. We go from Superman being a small red streak on the first pages to this close-up of the heroes's faces. You can really see the strain on Superman and Supergirl.
Luckily the ship is able to be brought down slowly enough to keep most of the city intact ... most of the city. Kandor is devastated, a huge crater smoldering in the center. And that alien city is still growing!
I love how Brainy's first thoughts are of Kara as he flies over the wreckage. And I love how Supergirl is still working hard to hold back the expanding city. This growing city will destroy Kandor too. I was glad to see Supergirl not be satisfied with the small victory of landing the ship and instead keeping her eyes on the big picture.
Luckily Brainiac 5 is able to reverse the tech and re-bottle the city, stopping te damage.
Stopping the ship wasn't easy.
Superman literally gets skewered.
And Luthor looks a little worse for wear after riding inside the crashing ship.
But not as bad as he looks afterwards when Brainiac punishes him for his treachery.
Brainiac couldn't have really just snapped Luthor's neck ... could he?
But Brainiac outside his ship is a weakened Brainiac. And you are pretty weak when you are on a planet full of super-powered people who loathe you. The Kryptonian citizens are about to massacre him when Zod shows up.
In a surprising move ... I mean an almost unbelievable move ... Zod tells his people that Brainiac is his alone. He then uses a red sun rifle on himself to deprive himself of his powers and squares off against the beefy Coluan.
Okay, I can see how taking on Brainiac alone would make Zod the hero of New Krypton, the defeater of their cultural boogey man. And I can see that defeating Brainiac without powers would make Zod's victory even more legendary. But we have seen this Brainiac stand toe-to-toe with Superman. Does Zod stand a chance here, no matter what his training? Seems like it is high risk. Seems foolish.
Superman is able to get back into the fight after a quick dose of synthesized yellow sun rays and a blood transfusion from Conner.
There is something so Silver Age-y about this transfusion. I can remember reading comics as a kid where it seemed everyone was either getting a direct transfusion from or giving one to Batman.
Somehow ... somehow ... Zod defeats Brainiac. In front of the gathered masses, he prepares to execute Brainiac with a bullet to the head.
Superman won't stand for it. He flies in, blocking the shot. He's Superman; he can't watch a helpless being be killed.
I have to say Zod has a decent point. Brainiac is a destroyer of worlds. What does Superman want? A trial? I guess it just shows how tough it is to be Superman, to stand up for your convictions 100% of the time. It can't be easy.
Before Zod can take matters into his own hands again, Brainiac 5 walks up and teleports away with his ancestor.
Before he goes, he has another quiet moment with Kara. He tells her to watch out for Alura. He isn't the first one to give Kara this advice. Her own father did as he died in her arms. Alura has been a complicated character over the year but she has been her most supportive of Supergirl recently. Is that going to change?
And with that, the last stand against Brainiac comes to an end and we see the fallout.
Luthor was working with General Lane all along. The Luthor on the ship was a Toyman created robot. We have seen these super-cloaked robots recently in the World's Finest mini-series. For his cooperation against the Kryptonians he earns a pardon.
But here is where we see the uncertainties of war. Lane is off the mark with his assumptions about the results of his attacks. Lane thinks there will be panic on New Krypton, a period where they are disorganized. In fact, this attack does the exact opposite.
After his victory over Brainiac, Zod's popularity soars. He is given total power. So Zod is the Kryptonian who can unite all the guilds under one banner! Nice twist.
He removes Alura from power.
I love this panel. Alura is all alone in the council chamber, the only surviving member. You can sense her isolation here. And putting her off center adds to the effect. We not only see the empty council seats but we also see that Alura is not the center of things any more.
With evidence that Earth was an accomplice in the attack on New Krypton, with his people united behind him, Zod declares war. There's my girl Ursa in the background.
So no New Krypton explosion ... yet.
A lot happened in this Last Stand arc. Kandor got shrunk and re-enlarged. Mon-El is saved, joins the Legion, and saves the future. Brainiac is defeated. And Zod grabs power and declares war. Not bad for 3 issues and some cross-overs.
Unfortunately, the climax of the series was Zod declaring war and we knew that was happening. There wasn't really a 'Krypton shattering conclusion' as promised on the cover. Well, maybe it was shattering ... but we knew the conclusion going in.
I think James Robinson and Sterling Gates really did a great job on this mini. Many of the plot threads from New Krypton are tied up here. The pace and action was incredible. But there is so much story left to say ... so much to wrap up. Is it possible to finish this year long story in 4 issues? I really hope so.
And I think Pete Woods' art is stunning here. I am glad he is staying on as the artist of Action Comics.