I have been enjoying the back-up feature in Action Comics, a story written by Frank Hannah looking back at the early days of Jor-El and Lara. If there is any area of the Superman mythos which might be a bit malleable, it is that time period for those characters. Since Superman #0 last year we have known that Lara was a trained military officer. So seeing her here as a cadet has been interesting. And to see a wide-eyed optimistic and curious Jor-El has been fascinating.
Unfortunately, the latest chapter in Action Comics #22 seemed to go one step too far in this new characterization. We go from a determined Lara to one who seems to kill with a nonchalant attitude that seems off for the loving mother we have seen before. And the curious Jor-El suddenly is the architect of a mind-control device affecting the entire world. This also seems off from the guy who was so singular in his thoughts as to stand up to the Science Council with his findings and then defy them by saving his son.
It doesn't help that Philip Tan is off art on this chapter. The slick visuals he was bringing are replaced by the pedestrian work of Tom Derenick. Slightly off characterization and average art brought the buzz I had for this little story down a bit.
As seen in the prior chapters,a military coup is unfolding on Krypton where a high-ranking officer has blasted his way into the Science Council, killed some members, and wrested control. Hmmm. Sounds sort of like the beginning of the Man of Steel.
While the military troops hold the Council chambers, a smaller phalanx has been sent to kill off presumed enemies of the new state ... and that includes Jor-El. It looks as though the discovery if the sunken city of Xan and the presumed-extinct Teklons are merely set pieces. Perhaps there is a future story planned?
Regardless, when the troops come to get him, Jor-El jettisons his gear, flinging himself to the surface. And the commotion agitates the calm Teklons such that they lash out at whatever is near. In this case, it is a revolutionary soldier.
Seems a bit risky to me. Jor-El's team was also swimming in those waters. I suppose when staring down the barrel of a gun, the most desperate of time, you have to resort to desperate measures.
Here is the plot point I have the most trouble with. The Colonel who has organized this coup wants to take control of a 'sensory harmonic resonator', a machine controlled by Jor-El which is able to nudge the Kryptonian population towards 'intellectual curiosity'. While it isn't outright mental domination, it does seem like mind control. I think my Jor-El as a noble person who would value freedom above all. It is his civil liberties which allows him to save Kal. So to have him holding the keys to this thing feels really off.
And, of course, the Colonel wants to weaponize it, bringing the populace to its knees in a calm and controlled way.
We heard last issue that Cadet Lara Lor-Van might be harboring some feelings for Jor-El. We also saw that she recognized that he might be the best person to help her stop this coup. As part of her rescue of Jor-El, she casually destroys a troop carrier, presumably killing a bunch of her fellow soldiers (although working for the Colonel). I don't mind a stronger and tougher Lara, but I would prefer one with a bit more acknowledgment of the sanctity of life.
There is this pretty nice moment after Lara rescues Jor where he asks why she saved him. While he might be an ally to stop the coup, I also think she can't deny her attraction to him and not wanting to see him as a casualty.
The colonel running this coup has so far been unnamed. I actually wondered if it might be Zod (although it would be hard to be promoted after treason). Well, it turns out he is the New 52 answer to the Eradicator. Again, way back in Superman #0 that the Eradicator ends up heading a doomsday cult which embraces the end of the world.
I liked the Eradicator in the old DCU so I hope this one captures some of that essence. I don't quite understand the extreme close-up of the ring. Unless it is some sort of Black Zero symbol.
Anyways, a killing Lara, a mind-controlling Jor-El ... it seemed a bit too far astray from the welcome freshness of the early chapters. Will see if this can be turned around.
Overall grade: C