War of the Supermen #0 came out on Saturday, Free Comic Book Day, and represented the beginning of the last arc of the over year-long New Krypton storyline.
Broken up into two stories, the issue provides a jump-on point so anyone just starting the story can sort of get caught up (and what better way to lure in a new reader than a free book). The first story focuses on Superman in Kandor squaring off against General Zod. The second story showcase Lois and her investigations on Earth. The stories are written by the War of the Supermen duo of Sterling Gates and James Robinson.
The cover is a standard iconic pose of Superman by Eddy Barrows. This was not the initial cover solicited for the book. I wonder just what happened to the original J.G. Jones cover? Was it scrapped when responses were less than optimal? Barrows handles the inside art in his usual great style.
Anyways, after the slow fade of enthusiasm of this long arc in the two monthly titles, I was glad to see DC promote the books via FCBD. Remember, last year's free book was Blackest Night #0 which jump started that mini-series.
The issues starts with Superman crashing into the New Krypton military installation to try to shut down Zod's plans of interplanetary war.
There isn't much room for discussion. Kal slugs Zod after a few exchanged pleasantries. I love the expression on Superman's face as he tells Zod that his hands not his opinions are what Zod should be worried about.
Zod shakes off the punch and shows Superman just what an attack should be. He unleashes Ursa.
Ursa is wonderfully crazy, slashing Superman with her K-knife and licking his blood off the blade. There is something so deliciously wicked about her. She is brutal, amoral, and passionate. I bet she is a joy to write.
Non joins in, holding down Superman and allowing Zod the time to gloat a little bit.
Zod used Superman to train his soldiers. Superman's experience was invaluable; he was the perfect teacher to hone the skills of the Kryptonian army.
Zod also kept 'his enemies closer', allowing him to monitor 'Commander El' and hide his military secrets from Superman's prying eyes.
It is a bit ironic that Superman's lessons could lead to Earth's destruction. That said, I wonder if his time on New Krypton might have inspired some citizens to do what's right ... make them side against Zod. I hope Lieutenant Nar is one of those people.
And after a year of Zod sporting a veneer of civility, he finally shows his true colors. While it is true that General Lane's attacks give cause for the war, Zod also notes that destroying of Earth will give him his revenge on the house of El. It's personal.
I love villain talk and Zod gives us some great lines here. "Level the planet", "kick the ash from the charred bones in your face", "find the person you love the most and rip them apart before your eyes" ... wonderfully evil. This is the Zod I want to see. No deception ... just malevolence.
Superman tries one last time to reason with Zod. War will destroy both planets. Given the arms race between Earth and New Krypton (let alone 100,000 super-soldiers), I think Superman might be right.
This is another one of those panels I love. There is no reason Superman should be able to shrug off Non and Ursa if they are super-powered like he is. No reason except pure will and determination. That's Superman.
But I also love the energy of this panel. Look at Ursa ... you can see she how she is holding on for dear life, her body contorted like a rag doll. When an artist can show that dynamism, he is firing on all cylinders.
Reason isn't going to work here ... not when the order to mobilize has laready been given.
This was a nice prologue to the main story. And Barrows really is on his game here.
The second half of the issue is told almost exclusively in splash pages by some of DC's hottest artists. This story is exposition, Lois writing about all that has happened before.
So for those like me craving to see David Finch's take on Supergirl, here it is. The Brainiac storyline is recapped. Beautiful.
And for those like me who miss seeing Gary Frank's Supergirl, here it is. The 'New Krypton' story arc is recapped. Fantastic.
And here are all of Earth's protectors during Superman's absence, as drawn by Ethan Van Sciver. Superb.
And here is the Project 7734 gang as drawn by newcomer Diogenes Neves. Nice Superwoman.
I wish I could post all the splash pages. I didn't show two excellent pages by superstars Aaron Lopreti and Cafu.
The story ends with Jimmy finally revealing that he is alive to Lois ... and he has some information about General Lane.
So we have a high action story with great art and a mind-boggling cliffhanger in the first story. I mean ... seeing all those Kryptonians ... I still don't know how Earth is going to survive this.
And we get a recap for new readers in the form of spectacular splash pages from the upper echelon of comic artists. The Finch and Frank pieces are just tremendous.
But best of all, it was free. And we are near the end of this massive story.
Overall grade: A- (kicked up a half grade or so by the splash page art)