Friday, February 23, 2018

Review: Superman #41

The Bendis era of Superman is only 4 months away so I am reading all of the remaining Superman stories with a bit of a side-eye as I question if what I am reading will be part of his history or not. I know, it shouldn't matter if the story is good. They all 'matter' that way.

Superman #41, written by James Robinson with art by Ed Benes, is a good story, a riff on Krypton's destruction. Whereas in Action Comics, Superman is debating saving Krypton, here Superman is trying to save another planet. The echoes are pretty obvious from the pair of scientists trying to save their children to the inability for the planet to actually be saved. But into this familiar story is a decent look at religion and hope. Whereas Krypton seemed to 'worship' science, believing their results that the planet was safe, these beings believe their souls are safe.

Into that fervor comes Superman who wants to preserve life to the point of contemplating usurping control of the world. It ends decently enough including an answer to the question 'does Superman believe in God?'

The art is by Ed Benes and without a female character to pose salaciously, Benes is pretty restrained, giving us a nicely rendered alien world.

On to the book.

As we learned last year, the Jor-El equivalent Klain is a scientist who knows the world will end. While the populace believe it is the will of their god Dhermet, Klain is looking for salvation. He, like Jor-El has built a prototype rocket big enough to fit him and he and his wife's clutch of eggs.

I do like the goodness in Klain's heart. He doesn't hate his overly zealous people. He isn't belittling them for his faith. He just believes things differently. That difference in belief led to the murder of his wife. Klain has every reason to hate ... but he rises above.

So this is a Superman origin mixed in with religious intolerance, or maybe belief intolerance. If only we could just respect each other and agree to disagree now and then.

As said, the rocket is going to head to another solar system where the eggs can survive and grow. The cocoon has an AI that will teach the eggs all they need to know. It is very Donner Superman in its design. I have to love that.

But the world is truly about to die. There is a day left, certainly not enough time for Superman to build a space ark. Too bad Superman's 'Krypton alarm' from last issue didn't give him a little more time!

Again, Benes does well here showcasing the odd alien tech and the porpoise-like race.

The religious mob tracks down Klain and the Kents and breaks in.

In the insanity, the 'hive mind' depowering of Superman seems to fade. The aliens can't battle and concentrate. Suddenly Superman is powered up enough to rout the troops. But it isn't without casualty. Klain is killed.

I do like this ending moment for Klain. He says he'll see his wife in the afterlife. Klain might be a scientist. But that doesn't make him an atheist. You can be both ...

As a doctor who has witnessed a lot in my time who also has some belief in a higher power, I cannot tell you how much I appreciated this. We talk these days about seeing yourself represented in comics as being powerful. Imagine my surprise that I am represented by a dolphin-alien.

Jon has fled to space with the eggs.

And Superman decides to pitch life one more time to the religious leaders. Superman talks of hope. He talks of the sanctity of life. He even wonders aloud if his arrival isn't indeed a sign of the god Dhermet, a way the god has tried to save the people.

The talk seems to ripple a bit. We see one alien pause in his evocation of Dhermet's name.

That said, the priest states that Dhermet's faith is absolute. He recognizes Superman is a good being. He likes that Superman has tested them. But he asks for the will of the people to be respected.

With that the world explodes.

A couple of things. I like that Superman leans into hope as much as he does. I like that he almost saves people. But I also couldn't help but remember the old joke where the guy dies in a disaster and when he faces god and asks why he wasn't saved, the all-powerful says 'I sent a boat, a helicopter, and the Coast Guard! What more could I do!'

But the best part is the ending.

Jon is overwhelmed with the experience. He just witnessed the death of billions. But he also was awed by the beauty of it. It is too big to grasp. He wonders ... should he believe in god? Does his father?

And then Superman gives a great line. He has seen too much to not believe in something. But that faith can't be everything. And that kind of is how I feel. You can see it sinking in to Jon. And these father/son moments since Rebirth have just been fantastic.

I liked this as a sort of 'done in two' inventory story. It can be inserted almost anywhere in continuity. But it is worth it. Entertaining, thought provoking, and a nice homage to the Krypton origin.

Overall grade: B+

1 comment:

Martin Gray said...

Terrific review, Robinson is often at his best when he has a father to write and as you say, restrained Benes is very good indeed. I did suspect Klain at one point, wondering if he was playing Syperman; happily not. I'd love a future-set sequel, in which Jon, considering himself the godfather of the saved species, checks in with them.