Friday, May 7, 2010

Review: War Of The Supermen #1


War of the Supermen has the unenviable task of wrapping up over a year's worth of plots in ths super-titles in just 4 issues. 4 issues!! It can't be an easy job for writers Sterling Gates and James Robinson.

War of the Supermen #1 was released this week and it certainly moved the story along at the necessary pace to wrap up in time. It also answered a couple of lingering questions I have had stick un my mind during this long arc. It also had 2 major plot elements ... major plot elements.

Surprisingly, War of the Supermen #1 was a Supergirl issue, with her pieces of the main plot dominating the book. With Sterling Gates co-writing with James Robinson and Jamal Igle on art, it even felt like a Supergirl issue. I am glad Jamal was chosen to pencil this issue as it really has long-standing implications for Kara. He has such a handle on her character; I can't imagine anyone doing this issue better.


With the Kryptonian army set to flood Earth, General Zod holds Superman at bay, making Kal be a witness to the destruction that is about to unfold. Zod estimates that it will take 2 hours for the Kryptonian troops to overrun the planet. That might be being a bit generous for Eath's defenses. The one thing I have to point out is that Earth won't be facing 100,000 Kryptonians. It appears that only the Military Guild has been pressed into duty.

Superman, being Superman, tells Zod that there is 'always hope', hope to stop the war. He breaks free of Non's clutches. This scene takes place on page 2. That is the last line Superman will utter in this book. While present throughout the book, it is always a silent presence ... either battling or consoling.

So in many ways, Superman isn't the star here, sort of echoing the feeling of the prior year. That said, this isn't just a Superman story, it's a Superman Family story, a Krypton story. There are a lot of pieces to the plot that need to be covered.


One of those lingering pieces is Alura and Reactron.

We are once again shown Reactron getting tortured, this time by Alura herself.
All along, Alura has been one of the toughest character for me to get a handle on. She has been confident and insecure, stoic and overly emotional, loving and harsh ... she has been a roiling tempest of emotions. Early on she was the one who called the murdered Science Police officers 'collateral damage'. And yet she sobs nightly at Zor-El's tomb, bemoaning what she has become. With all the trauma in her life, I can see why she is psychologically uneven.

Kara walks in on Alura and is shocked at what she sees. She brings up the 'watch out for your mother' line Zor-El told her way back in Supergirl #36. Supergirl realizes it was a warning about Alura and what she is capable of. Hey ... I said that way back when Zor-El first said it! Here is what I said way back on December 18, 2008 in my review of the issue - But not before he tells her that she should watch out for her mother. “Watch out” as in “take care of her”? Or “watch out” like a warning?

I am so rarely right with my guesses, I have to take it where I can get it.

With only 4 issues to tell the story, some things I would like to see just can't be shown. I would have liked to see some surprise by Supergirl seeing Reactron alive, someone she thinks has been dead since the end of Supergirl #47. But there isn't enough page space to merit that.


I can remember when Supergirl would kowtow to Alura. Those days are over. Shocked and disgusted by her mother's torture, she chastises her mother.

More importantly, Kara recognizes this incident directly impacts her. Supergirl brought Reactron to New Krypton. She is responsible for him. Alura's actions make her a war criminal. This is probably bluster on Supergirl's part. No one would say she has any responsibility in this. But I can understand her anger at being deceived by her mother yet again.

Alura is steadfast in her stance. Information that can help New Krypton is worth obtaining regardless of how it is obtained; the ends justify the means.


Reactron is another one of those charismatic nutjobs I love to read.

In this scene he answers one of the bothersome questions I had during this Year Without Superman. I can recall being befuddled when Project 7734 captured Supergirl, Nightwing, and Flamebird only to then release them. At the time, I wondered why Lane wouldn't keep them captive or simply kill them. It made no sense. Reactron answers the question. Project 7734 wanted Reactron to be brought to New Kandor ... and the easiest way to do that was release Supergirl and have her capture him and bring him to justice.

Don't ask me why Reactron would agree. He must have been told it would be 3 hot meals and a cot ... not Kvorn torture. I still am happy to have some answer. It really bugged me that Lane set the 'Metropolis Three' free.

Reactron chuckles at Alura's ethical conversation with Kara. He is thrilled at having the opportunity to kill the two women, completing the 'set of the house of El' murders. Luthor's trip to New Krypton included a slight modification to Reactron ... a parting gift. Reactron suddenly seems to be approaching critical mass. Did he know all along he was going to be a suicide bomb?

With Reactron glowing brightly, Alura shoves Kara into a radiation deck room and seals it, protecting Supergirl and sacrificing herself. Reactron explodes.


And then, New Krypton explodes! Unbelievable!!

Could ... or should ... Reactron house that much power? Enough to destroy a planet? Seems a bit much.

That said, everyone who voted in the recent poll 'New Krypton explodes', consider yourself high-fived.

New Krypton is gone and so are the majority of her citizens, almost everyone on the surface. That means every guild other than the military guild has been eradicated.


While these events are unfolding on the other side of the sun, Lois and Jimmy are working on exposing General Lane and what he has been doing. They need help and contact the rest of the super-family: the Guardian, Steel, Nightwing, Flamebird, and Superboy.

But they aren't the only super-family member listening in. Superwoman is back and eavesdropping. I love how her face is shrouded by the cowl. It makes her look inhuman.


With New Krypton gone, Superman breaks off his skirmish with Zod and starts to scan the planetary debris. He comes upon Supergirl, saved by the containment cell she was thrown into.
The carnage is everywhere. And Supergirl grieves. This one of those 'big moments, big art' pages. The cousins thought they were alone ... then suddenly have a family, a world again ... only to have it taken away again.


Supergirl is clutching a piece of Alura's S-shield. Alura is among the dead.

What a blow to Supergirl! To lose both Zor-El and Alura so soon after finding them again is horrible. Suddenly Supergirl finds herself pretty much alone in the universe, no family but Kal. This should have major ramifications in the title for some time to come.


It also has immediate ramifications too.

Enraged by her mother's death at the hands of Reactron ... of Luthor ... of Earth ... Supergirl grabs the flag of Krypton, carrying the standard into battle, racing to Earth to join the war effort.

These all are such powerful images by Jamal Igle. There is no dialogue on these pages, the silence of space and all. And yet so much is conveyed by the art ... the body language, the expressions. Great stuff.

I can understand this snap decision by Supergirl to join Krypton in war. To be honest, neither Earth or Krypton is fighting a justifiable war here.


Despite their overwhelming grief, Zod is able to rally his army. This war suddenly has more meaning, a stronger cause.

As a Supergirl fan, I loved this issue. She was really the hub that the issue revolved around. But I wonder if Superman fans have the same feeling. Are they happy with his limited presence and dialogue here?

And while I was happy to hear Reactron answer my question about General Lane freeing Supergirl, there are some answers I don't think I will get answered. The destruction of New Krypton erases all plot threads hanging from World of New Krypton. Questions like what were those silver pelts in the military base?

But those are the small things. The big events here are the destruction of New Krypton and the death of Alura. The death of Alura took me completely by surprise. I hope it doesn't further isolate Supergirl from everyone else and she grieves and deals with this tragedy. But very emotional and dramatic moments here.

As a fan, I am sad because the friction between Alura and Kara always made for good reading. And Alura was complicated and as a result a very compelling character to read.

This issue kicked of the mini-series in an explosive way. Can the rest of the story keep the adrenaline this high and wrap it all up? I hope so.

Overall grade: B+/A

26 comments:

mathematicscore said...

Good review as always... For my part, I don't mind Superman's lack of dialogue. His presence fighting all three of the Phantom Zone heavies to a standstill is "super" enough for me. And really, I feel like this storyline has really brought back the superman family. I care as much about Supergirl, Superboy, Mon-el and even Nightwing and Flamebird as I do the big man himself. It's more like the Bat family in terms of concrete interesting characterizations.

Yeah.

Matt Camp said...

"The big events here are the destruction of New Krypton and the death of Alura."


Nooooo! Damn it, Alura was my favorite DC character.

Anonymous said...

Yeah we lost two good baddies in this one, the vulgar and boorish Reactron along with Alura, SG's immpossibly pompous & politically inept Mother.
While I like the general line of this story, (NK goes BOOM! thats TWO life-extinction events Supergirl has survived before reaching US voting age BTW!) I think it kinda makes Kara look like a dupe falling for General Lane's genocidal plan and all. Moreover, genocide is a real crime, I don't think DC should succumb to the temptation to make General Lane a new Darkseid type villain, he is guilty of mass murder on a cosmic scale, he ought to face final punishment for that.
And yeah high five to all that said NK was gonna explode.
I didn't see it coming quite frankly.

John Feer

PS All will be well if I can just see Supergirl break Ursa's jaw with one blow of her dainty little fist.
:D

Gene said...

Anj wrote:
"New Krypton is gone and so are the majority of her citizens, almost everyone on the surface. That means every guild other than the military guild has been eradicated."

Man, all those people, gone! They survive Brainiac's assault only to succumb to Reactron. What a tragic way to go..

Call me crazy but I'm sad that Alura is dead. I was hoping that after all this was over that Kara would start a long road to reconciliation with her mother (either in exile, or depowered on Earth.)

Anj wrote:
"Enraged by her mother's death at the hands of Reactron ... of Luthor ... of Earth ... Supergirl grabs the flag of Krypton, carrying the standard into battle, racing to Earth to join the war effort."

I can only imagine how this has affected Kara emotionally. I'm worried now that she may unleash her fury not just on General Lane's forces, but on Earth itself...

Anj wrote:
"These all are such powerful images by Jamal Igle. There is no dialogue on these pages, the silence of space and all. And yet so much is conveyed by the art ... the body language, the expressions. Great stuff."

Boy I am glad that Jamal drew this story. This issue felt like the first act of an epic movie.

John Feer wrote:
"PS All will be well if I can just see Supergirl break Ursa's jaw with one blow of her dainty little fist.
:D"

After we see Kara break General Lane's jaw, then each of his arms, and then both his legs...

Mart said...

I enjoyed this issue less than you Anj, as the the end of New Krypton and death of Mrs El were things with at least an even chance of happening. I'd certainly rather she'd survived and been exiled to some island in Europe.

The most dramatic thing that did happen was indeed the indirect murder of Supergirl's mother by Lex Luthor, only months after Brainiac killed Superman's adopted father, Jonathan Kent, and Reactron murdered Supergirl's dad, Zor-El. Talk about a tragic time, it makes sense that Kara might consider going over to Zod's side. If she does, it won't be so long, but it makes sense and is a nice change from Superman's constant stoicism in the face of multiple atrocities.

My ideal end for this story would include a decisive punishment for General Lane, and Luthor (sadly Brainiac's already been taken to the future, so is out of reach). It's untenable to my mind that Superman and Supergirl's foes should keep getting away with murder. While Luthor was always popping up in the Silver Age, he at least would get send to jail in between stories. Nowadays ... well, has Luthor EVER been sent to prison for an extended period since John Byrne revamped the character? He's faked his death, he's been on the run, but he's never really been punished - and in the absence of Superman punching his lights out, I'd take prison.

Anj said...

His presence fighting all three of the Phantom Zone heavies to a standstill is "super" enough for me. And really, I feel like this storyline has really brought back the superman family. I care as much about Supergirl, Superboy, Mon-el and even Nightwing and Flamebird as I do the big man himself. It's more like the Bat family in terms of concrete interesting characterizations.

It is true that his fight with the three main baddies does roll on through the book ... he isn't overwhelmed by them.

I also feel that we have a Superman family again. That's pretty cool.It sort of feels like the immediate aftermath of the 'Reign of the Supermen' arc when Supes, Superboy, Steel, and Supergirl called themselves Team Superman (or something like that).

Anj said...

Nooooo! Damn it, Alura was my favorite DC character.

I know how you feel.

We didn't see a body, so who knows.

Anj said...

My ideal end for this story would include a decisive punishment for General Lane, and Luthor (sadly Brainiac's already been taken to the future, so is out of reach). It's untenable to my mind that Superman and Supergirl's foes should keep getting away with murder. While Luthor was always popping up in the Silver Age, he at least would get send to jail in between stories.

My gut tells me Gen. Lane isn't long for the world. I also think the 'presidential pardon' of Luthor frees him up now .. and given that he is the upcoming star in Action, we know he isn't going to jail anytime soon.

I do think I am 'up grading' these issues a bit ... it may be because I am so eager to get to the end!

Anonymous said...

Since New Krypton has been destroyed likely Zod's mission will be do likewise and the same to the Earth. I can't see Supergirl getting behind that, on the other hand she has just been used as General Lane's doomsday mule so...she might be a tad miffed at everyone.

John Feerr

Shoria Blackheart said...

Man, now this was a shock to see. I knew something like this was coming but I had no idea that it would be coming up so soon. And the death, just the major amount of death in the Superman family as of late has been great.

But if you keep in mind Brainiac Five said a little bit ago 'Watch out for your mother.' I don't think when he said it it was warning her about her mother's actions, but about her up coming death. It was the only thing he could think of telling her, without giving too much away. Showed how much he cared.

He also told her to not push away all the people that loved her. She will need them now more than ever.

Poor Alura though. I'm going to miss her.

Anj said...

Since New Krypton has been destroyed likely Zod's mission will be do likewise and the same to the Earth.

Seems like Zod and Lane are crazy ... driving the two planets (now one planet) to a war that didn't need to happen.

Anj said...

But if you keep in mind Brainiac Five said a little bit ago 'Watch out for your mother.' I don't think when he said it it was warning her about her mother's actions, but about her up coming death. It was the only thing he could think of telling her, without giving too much away. Showed how much he cared.

Thanks for the post.

I think you are right. I think Zor-El was warning her when he said it but B5 was telling her to watch her that is ... take care of her, knowing Alura's death was imminent.

Poor Alura though. I'm going to miss her.

Same here.

Anonymous said...

No body.

So I remain doubtful of her fate especially since the last bodiless victim, Lucy, turned up alive.

Anonymous said...

Well Kara has already lost one A-lister off her rogue's gallery (Reactron), I think losing her inept overbearing supermom creates too big a villainy vacuum.
***
Bring back Starfire sez I...

John Feer

Mart said...

So very ditto.

And bring in Zond! And Nastalthia Luthor!

Anj said...

Well ... if we are thinking of reimagining some of Supergirls rogues, I'd like to see Nasty Luthor too. It would have to be done right.

But I also think there is some more villains to mine from the Daring New Adventures. I have always wanted to see Blackstarr come back. And I think Psi and The Gang could be dusted off as well.

Mart said...

I liked the Gang, they were a cheerful bunch. Hasn't Blackstarr already been revamped? Maybe not!

Whatever happens, I want to see Linda fighting her own villains, not Silver Age Superman losers such as Reactron and Metallo.

Anj said...

Hasn't Blackstarr already been revamped? Maybe not!

Whatever happens, I want to see Linda fighting her own villains, not Silver Age Superman losers such as Reactron and Metallo.


We saw a 'possible' Blackstarr in Action Comics #850 when Supergirl was looking back in time with the Legion. So she has sorta been seen again.

Reactron has always been Supergirl's baddie. But I agree, I'd like to see her have her own rogues rather than Superman castoffs. That said, I'd like Kara to claim the Silver Banshee as 'her villain'.

Anj said...

No body.

So I remain doubtful of her fate especially since the last bodiless victim, Lucy, turned up alive.


Thanks for the post.

Good point. Maybe Alura went into a 'Safety Zone' like sanctuary?

Mart said...

Yeah, perhaps the old Survival Zone will return. Or Alura is standing inside a tree in Midvale.

Ta for the catch on Reactron (DNAOS, yes?), I must be confusing him with Atomic Skull or something!

Anj said...

Hmmm ... maybe a poll about which 'old' Supergirl villain we want to see again.

Lesla Lar, Nasty Luthor, Starfire, Psi, The Gang, Blackstarr ... anyone else?

Mart said...

How about the subtext-heavy Nightflame - a reminder, if one is needed!

http://www.comictreadmill.com/CTMBlogarchives/2009/2009_Individual/2009_05/001956.php?action=results&poll_ident=30

Anj said...

How about the subtext-heavy Nightflame - a reminder, if one is needed!

It's tough because she had few returning villains or long arcs.

Nightflame is a funny one to be sure so I'll include. I'll throw Black Flame in too.

Mart said...

It's a wonder, with all the Flames and Queens Kara attracted, that she never met a Flaming Queen.

I notice that one of the solo Supergirl comics from the early Seventies had a Melba Manton (Loisd Lane's chum) feature. Lord, sorry I missed that! Bring 'er back!

Anonymous said...

So,is any reaction on Kara's part other than incurable genocidal mania really credible?
Like "Your friends are dead,your planets dead, your family is dead and....just kidding.Your family is alive,some of your friends are alive, you get a new planet and then
bang...your new planets dead,friends dead,family is dead.Hahaha.

By all rights,these events should cause her to conclude that life is a joke (on her) with death as the punchline and she should end up as a sort of superJoker who kills billions for kicks.

TalOs said...

OMG! 0_0 I CAN'T BELIEVE THEY BLEW UP NEW KRYPTON!!! The existence of Krypton 2.0 had SO much potential for future stories but DC goes a head and decides to just blow it up instead. *sighs* So sad.

Thank God Alura managed to save Kara before the planet went ka-boom though is all I can say.