Adventures of Superman #6 came out last week and was another great issue in this 'out of continuity' series. The format forces a 'one and done' style of stories which is refreshing in this 'stretch an idea out for trade' style of the current market. The creative teams are fantastic and this issue continues that trend with writer J.T. Krul and artist Marcus To.
But for me, the main draw to this book has been the more classic take on Superman that has dominated this series. This is a red trunked Superman espousing the more classic ethics and outlook of the Man of Steel. I haven't read any story in this series and felt the dim pessimism of The New 52. With no 'rules', I think these stories give us a look into the writer's mind ... who their ultimate Superman is.
And I think this story is no different. J.T. Krul gives us an early Superman story, before he has revealed himself to the world. He isn't sure who he is or what he should do. He is shown a couple of different paths he can follow. And then he decides for himself what type of man he is going to be. It is a classic take ... and wonderful.
The art is by Marcus To, someone whose art I have loved on Red Robin and the Huntress mini-series. His style suits this story perfectly. I wonder why he doesn't have a monthly gig somewhere.
As I said, this is an early Superman adventure. The public hasn't seen him even if he is active in a 'guardian angel' sort of way. The issue opens with him repelling an intergalactic warship from entering Earth's atmosphere.
He heads to the Fortress where he has a talk with Jor-El. This is a sort of Russell Crowe Jor-El I assume, a computer program imbued with Jor-El's thought patterns and able to respond to Superman's questions.
And this Jor-El is a bit haughty. He doesn't think Kal should stay on Earth. Earth isn't his home. The people of Earth aren't his people. Jor-El sent him to Earth to make Kal strong and leave Earth.
This isn't the Marlon Brando 'you can inspire them' speech. This is straight up 'you were meant for bigger things'. And it isn't what I am used to hearing from Jor-El. Interesting.
It is enough to make Superman question himself. Can he save mankind from themselves? He only wants to help.
And then we hear the crux of the story. Pa Kent told him that doing the right thing isn't always easy. So we get to hear the difference in the two fathers in his life.
I thought this panel was wonderful showing the two worlds Superman lives in at this point, the clean white pure Fortress (read Kryptonian) world, and the dingy brown troubled world of Earth. But Superman's pose shows he wants to look over us and help. Great stuff.
Then Kal hears from another 'ghost' from Krypton ... General Zod. Zod talks about his imprisonment in the Phantom Zone at the hands of Jor-El. Here Zod sounds almost like a freedom fighter. He thought the Science Council had a strangle hold on Krypton and he wanted to free everyone. Of course, villains think they are the good guys so who knows the truth.
But what Zod does do is again show Jor-El in the same haughty light. He acted as judge,jury, and executioner in the Zod case.
It has been a long time since I felt sympathetic for Zod. But Krul pulls it off, making me rethink Zod's crimes and realizing that an eternity in the Zone is cruel and unusual.
Moreover, Zod asks Kal a question. Why didn't Jor-El warn everyone that the planet was doomed ... even if the Science Council shot him down?
It turns out Jor-El kept the information hidden from the populace so that he could work on saving Kal. If he told everyone, there would be panic. Jor-El might be arrested. He needed to save Kal.
On paper it sounds good, a loving father saving his son. But the bigger picture is that he could have used his information to save more people. His pride, his dogged need to save his son and not others' sons and daughters, made him turn his back on his own people.
In older stories, it made it sound like Jor-El already had the rocket and didn't have much time to do a lot. But this view is new and interesting.
Now the warship from the opening scene was a vanguard for Mongul. And Mongul decides that squaring off against Superman could be fun. He shows up and starts tearing through the military, forcing Superman to reveal himself for the first time.
Imagine the shock to General Lane to have suddenly two immensely powerful aliens brawling on his turf. I love the wry ending line in this panel.
Mongul assumes that Superman rules Earth with his power. During the brawl, Superman realizes he can't defeat Mongul on his own so he allows himself and Mongul to be struck with a nuclear missile. It wipes the two of them out sending them plummeting to Earth unconscious.
I have said I am sick of the military and Superman fighting. Krul at least has Superman leave rather than engage with the troops.
But it is such a great classic Superman moment. He states he doesn't want to fight the army. But he won't let them kill Mongul either. He gets labeled a Boy Scout by Lane. But it doesn't matter. Superman won't change his morals. He won't take part in this so simply grabs Mongul and leaves.
And then we begin to see just how little of Jor-El there is in this Superman.
He disparages Mongul's life mission of conquering everything. You can't conquer everything.
Superman isn't that big a fool. And that sounds like a rebuke of this Jor-El's mission for him.
And then, again moving farther away from Jor-El (much to Zod's surprise), Superman doesn't condemn Mongul to the Phantom Zone. He doesn't 'kill' him. Instead he calls on Green Lantern (who he hasn't officially met yet) to pick up Mongul and imprison him.
What do you call him? A friend.
Now that is a very classic take on Superman. He is a friend. He is here to help.
And then, my absolute favorite panels from the book.
Superman doesn't need to leave Earth to find out who he is.
He is someone who knows right from wrong and he can help ...right here on Earth. He knows who he is ... he's Clark Kent!
I love the coy pride in Pa's response.
It isn't that hard to realize is that this is who Superman is. Who Superman should be.
That would have been a fine ending to this story, but Krul and To give us a little dessert. They show us Clark heading to the Planet as a new reporter and meeting Lois Lane.
If there is ever a Lois Lane book or special, I want Marcus To to draw it.
This is just a wonderful story reaffirming the idea that Superman is more Clark than Kal. That he is someone who wants to help as many people as possible. That is the inspiring Superman I want to read.
So why can't the DC powers-that-be read this series and realize that it is this sort of Superman that most creators (and I think fans) want.
This series and Smallville are the best Superman books out there right now. Both out of continuity.