It all came down to this.
War of the Supermen #4, out this week, was the big finale, the wrap-up of nearly two years worth of stories, the final chapter.
As I have said throughout this mini-series, this couldn't have been an easy task for writers Sterling Gates and James Robinson. They had to be walking a fine line between keeping the plot moving, touching on all the storylines, and having them reach their conclusion and doing so in a very compressed format. Which scenes can happen off screen? Which happen on screen? If on screen, how much space do they deserve? 2 panels ... 4 ... 6 ... 2 pages?
I am sure that there are scenes that the writers wish they had the space to play out in a much more in depth way. There are some scenes I wish were longer.
In many ways, this I felt like this series was trying to be a sort of giant reset button, removing most of the New Krypton arc so that the new directions of Superman can be started with a clean slate. But I think that is wrong. The events of this long arc should be long-standing. This should be something that effects the characters for some time, something they should be reflecting on.
As with most 'big issues', this review is long.
I had to show the Aaron Lopresti variant cover before getting to the story. Sure, the main focus is Superman, sporting the scars of battle.
But I love the two inset panels too. That is one angry Supergirl throttling General Lane, eyes glowing. I also love that Donna Troy and Congorilla somehow made the cut to show that the war is effecting all the DCU.
I wouldn't mind if Lopresti drew the Supergirl 75th variant cover. I really hope that he ends up on some DC monthly title soon.
But on to the story.
The issue starts out scanning the globe, showing the various battlefronts on Earth.
Zod is facing off against Superman in Metropolis. As blocks of the city get leveled, Zod gloats that every one on the planet will suffer. There is a nice shot of Zod spiking a battleship onto a city street, a very nice demostration of just how crazy this war would be.
On a separate front, Project 7734 soldiers are ordered by General Lane to slaughter Kryptonian soldiers that have been captured and are helpless. This is a war with no prisoners, even the helpless will be amongst the casualties.
Again, these scenes show nicely that this war has happened because two madmen have had control of their planets armed forces. Neither want a simple victory. They will only be satisfied if the enemy is completely annihilated. Their really isn't a 'right side' of this war.
But the scene I was waiting for was the Supergirl/Ursa brawl. Well, after getting a shot in, Supergirl is defeated and about to be executed by Ursa. Ursa feels that Supergirl is a traitor for fighting the Kryptonian army. It is only the timely arrival of the Superman family that saves Kara.
I don't think that Superman and Supergirl have really picked sides here. I think they are trying to limit the death and destruction. They want both sides to stand down and let the truth come out. They want the people responsible for this to face justice. So I don't think Kara is a traitor to her race.
As for her losing the battle, I don't mind Supergirl being defeated here. Ursa is a grizzled war veteran who is in full battle frenzy mode. I think Superman might lose a fight with her right now. If anything, I think it was fantastic that Supergirl stood up to Ursa knowing she was probably outmatched.
With Ursa captured, the Superman family regroups. It was a bit of serendipity that they even were there to save Supergirl. They were all headed to the Project 7734 headquarters when they saw her.
Conner realizes that the Phantom Zone has returned and that is probably the best place to deposit Ursa for the time being. He sends Krypto off to the Fortress to grab the Phantom Zone projector.
One thing that has made me cringe throughout this long arc is how relatively easy it has become to harm a Kryptonian. Magic satellites, Black Lightning wielding 'red sun lightning', sonic screamers, white dwarf grenades, red sun rifles, red sun shackles, green K machine guns, green Kryptonite Metal Men armies ... we have seen them all. Know we see synthetic Gold K handcuffs? My guess is that all this ordnance will 'disappear' from the DCU once the threat of the Kryptonian threat is gone. If not, couldn't almost anybody defeat or kill Superman and Supergirl? I understand how the creative teams needed to for the Earth forces to be able to mount a threat or there would be no conflict. But it seems like it was almost too easy to hurt a Kryptonian throughout this arc. Will that ease remain once we are back to 2 Kryptonians?
At last though, we see Superman and Zod face off and trade blows.
I talked about the writers walking a fine line in this series. Another place I see that is with the characterization of General Zod. Let's face it, while both sides have done wrong, Earth has been the aggressor here. Zod could almost be a sympathetic character. His planet destroyed, his people decimated by Lane's villainy ... I can see why Zod would be filled with righteous fury. That said, we know that Zod hasn't been an angel here.
So I was glad that Gates and Robinson included the line above. Sure Zod is angry at Earth. But he is really angry at the House of El. That line sort of casts Zod into a different light. He isn't defending his people. He is out for revenge. It's personal. Zod even asks for his men to find Lois. Just like Lane, Zod doesn't want to simple win the war, he wants to erase humanity from the face of the planet. Once you cross that line, there is no justification.
While Superman deals with Zod, Superboy begins a whirlwind tour of the Earth, zapping as many Kryptonians as he can into the Phantom Zone. Conner is able to stop Non from murdering the JLA.
This is another one of those things that I had to ruminate over for a bit. Could one hero with one Phantom Zone projector really scrub the Earth of all the Kryptonian soldiers? Wouldn't the Kryptonian army swarm Superboy so he couldn't capture all of them? Wouldn't one of them destroy it long range with heat vision? Wasn't this too easy?
Anyways, the remainder of the Superman Family takes the fight to Lane on his home turf.
This is one of those scenes which I wish was given more space. While I am thrilled ... thrilled ... to see an angry Supergirl towering over Superwoman, I would have loved to see how that happened. And Steel is able to defeat Atlas. And The Guardian is able to exact some justice and defeats Agent Assassin. The thing is, Superwoman and (in particular) Atlas have been formidable foes. Atlas was able to stand toe-to-toe with Superman and has thrashed Steel in the past. It felt, just a little, like this was too easy. Maybe seeing more of the battle would have explained the victories a bit more.
With the troops taken out, Supergirl faces her mother's killer ... her world's destroyer. She is barely able to contain her rage when Lois talks her down. Supergirl isn't a murderer. She shouldn't sink to Lane's level.
It is simplistic ... and maybe a bit hackneyed ... but it works here. Unlike Superman, Supergirl is still on her journey. In the past ... heck even in the recent past ... she may have immolated Lane. So I was glad to see her struggle a bit, to come close to crossing the line but in the end do the right thing.
Lois vows to tell the world the truth about her father. He will face an international court for his crime.
But to Lane, this is a war without prisoners.
He ends his life.
I don't know about this. It didn't seem exactly right here. I think Lane is deluded about what happened. I don't know if he would fear a courtroom. He doesn't think he has done anything wrong. So for him to commit suicide so quickly, seemed off. Maybe if this scene was longer showing Lane realize that the evidence against him was so damning that he had no other choice.
Meanwhile, Superboy arrives in time to help Superman fight General Zod.
In this battle, Zod claims that he destroyed the Phantom Zone. Maybe I am forgetting something, this seemed to come out of nowhere with no explanation. This is another one of those things about New Krypton that won't have a satisfactory explanation and I need to move on from.
During the fight, Krypto takes a Kryptonite knife meant for Superboy. Is there any better way to make Zod a villain by having him hurt a dog? Luckily it looks like Krypto will survive.
With the remaining Kryptonians besides Zod in the Zone, Superman decides to end the war. With Zod in his clutches, Superman sets the Phantom Zone projector to self-destruct, sending the two of them into the Zone and sealing it off from the inside.
Inside the Zone, Nightwing arrives to settle things once and for all.
The Kryptonian demi-god will seal the Zone permanently. But it has granted his human host one last wish. He is able to send Superman home to Earth.
I do like how the Nightwing dragon grabs the Zod wraith and flies off with him. It is a nice image, like a demon taking a fallen soul to hell.
Cast from the Zone, Superman returns to Earth. With the Kryptonian threat removed, it is time for everyone to heal.
Supergirl mourns the loss of her people, setting up this memorial in deep space.
The capstone reads "Hail the Lost Souls of New Krypton. May Rao Guide You Into His Embrace". Before translating, I thought this would have been a grave site for Alura. It is interesting that the marker is for everyone rather than just her. Of everyone, Supergirl lost the most here ... her father, her mother, her best friend. I don't think Supergirl is going to be able to just move on from this.
And the other stories wrap up as well. The Guardian quits the Science Police to raise his 'daughter'. His niece Billi reveals she is pregnant with Mon-El's child.
In the zone, Chris has reverted to his child form and he and Mon-El set out to explore the Zone.
And Superman and Lois?
They begin the slow process of grieving and healing.
Despite the evidence stripped from Natasha Irons' mind, General Lane is viewed as a hero. Lois says she will continue to tell the truth about her father.
Clark admits that some Kryptonians may have escaped Conner's sweep.
But no matter what, both worlds lost.
The last words are from Lois.
This was a war that was born from ignorance and prejudice. She hopes that eventually everyone can live together in peace.
I know that this review may have read that I was disappointed by this issue. The truth is I'm not. What I am disappointed in is the fact that it felt so rushed. What I wouldn't give to have had this be a 6 issue miniseries, with some space to flesh out some of these scenes, allowing the plot lines to be wrapped up more organically. I think it is a compliment to everyone involved that I am left wanting more stories. Part of that disappointment is that the buildup to this miniseries was over a year of stories ... issues which sometimes seemed to be treading water rather than moving forward. It's like the New Krypton arc was a cross country skiing marathon ... slow and plodding in places but with a sprint at the end.
Given the lack of space to wrap up all those storylines, I don't think Gates and Robinson could have done any better. I applaud them for their efforts here, expanding and contracting scenes effectively.
And I guess this is more evidence that Eddy Barrows can never truly be a monthly artist. Once again, the art chores are split. Barrows art is slick and I really like it. But couldn't he finish this issue? Instead, we have three artists finishing the issue. Not exactly as smooth a ride as I am sure DC would hope. That said, I guess it could have been worse. The fill-in pages are beautiful. Cafu's pages really shine here. And Eddie Pansica has some of the more dramatic pages ... the climax in General Lane's lair. Still, the change in art from page to page is something I never like seeing.
I am still amazed how tight this mini-series was given it's mission to wrap up all of New Krypton in 4 issues. And I am elated that Supergirl was such a big part of this mini-series. Kara was really a star here.
So the New Krypton chapter in the super-books is over. And we have new directions coming up. To be honest I can't wait. I am especially looking forward to the Supergirl title and some stand alone Kara issues.
Overall grade (issue): B+
Overall grade (mini): B+/B
Overall grade (all of the New Krypton arc): B-/C+
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