Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Back Issue Box: The Krypton Chronicles #2

The SyFy series Kryton is going to start in about a week and with that in mind I decided to review The Krypton Chronicles, a look at the history of the El family, published in 1981.

This is a great series to review all the minutiae of Krypton lore and Superman's ancestors in one sitting. What is clear to me after reading this is that Superman comes from an amazing family as it seems every generation has had some member which ultimately changed the destiny of the planet.

Krypton Chronicles #2 has us look even farther back as we get to see several of Superman's ancestors explore the planet, develop to most rudimentary of tools, and lead a movement to free the planet from other worldly oppressors. Seriously, the Els get stuff done.

What I like about these first two issues is that they aren't just historical flashbacks. There is a subplot taking place in the current time, an enemy trying one again to thwart one of the super-cousins. As we move along, you'll see why this holds a special place in my heart.

Last week I reviewed the first issue.  So let's move on to this one.

Bring Back Yesterday! "Memories Don't Die!" had the same creative team as the first issue. Legendary DC lore master E. Nelson Bridwell was writer with Curt Swan and Frank Chiaramonte on art. And we start out right where last issue left off, on a surprising cliffhanger. A yagrum, a sort of extinct Kryptonian dinosaur, comes stomping into the El family crypt, threatening the cousins and their relatives.

Even powerless, Superman has nascent intelligence. There is no way, in a claustrophobic environment like Kandor, that a yagrum could exist undetected. Without batting an eye, he walks into the thing's mouth, proving it is a hologram. I love seeing a smart Superman out-think a problem rather than just lashing out.

Remember last issue, one of the statues fell over nearly hurting Superman. We see a figure in shadow outside the crypt hoping that their plan will work and the El family will take longer than anticipated to review their history.

The next statue and ancestor for Superman to learn about is Hatu-El. But he existed prior to voice tapes being used. And so we get a little bit of comic book science to help move things along. Zor-El, just as brilliant a scientist as his better known brother, has whipped up a device which will allow Superman to relive someone's memories when he wears their headbands.

For me, I don't know what is more unbelievable? That there is a device that can read a headbands memories, that our brain transmits signals that can be absorbed by headbands, or that somehow headbands of people centuries dead are still intact and stored in the crypt!

But let's just roll with it.

 Hatu-El lived when the Vrangs has taken over Krypton. Working as a slave mining the Jewel Mountains, Hatu-El sees a brave Kryptonian named Val-Lor stand up to their enslavers. He refuses to smile for the Vrangs and declares his hatred for them. He spoke the truth!

Seized with self-loathing for living as slaves and admiration for Val-Lor, Hatu-El strikes a guard. The whole mountain full of slaves rebels, driving out the Vrangs temporarily. Using stolen Vrang technology and weapons, the rebels win this day.

 This is ripped right from the pages of Superman #176 which told the origin of the Kryptonian Day of Truth!

But one day's victory doesn't ensure total freedom. Hatu-El becomes the leader of the resistance. Using his knowledge, he creates a generator to the Fire Falls, this recharging the rebels weapons and refueling their vehicles. Armed and ready to be free, the rebel troops rout the Vrangs and drive them from Krypton.

Hatu-El is honored as a leader and a visionary!

You know me. The Kryptonian Day of Truth and the Fire Falls are two of my favorite bits of Kryptonian culture.

The statue of Hatu-El, holding a lightning bolt to show his knowledge of electricity and batteries shocks Superman pretty badly.

Between the statue falling, the hologram, and the shock, it seems like someone is trying to be a pest to the Els. None of these are fatal attacks.

It gets Supergirl to wondering. And Swan draws the very classic 'finger to the face while in deep thought' Kara we all know and love! Just brilliant!!!

But who is Supergirl thinking is behind these jabs?

 The next headband belongs to Hatu-El's father, Sul-El.

This is where the history gets a little dubious for me. Sul-El is the person who creates the first telescope. Using this, he sees the Vrangs approaching Krypton. He tries to warn the ruling bodies but they think he is crazy. As a result, the planet is not prepared when the Vrangs show up and quickly enslave the populace. The last image is Sul-El working in the jewel mountain mines with his son Hatu.

It just seems a little fast to go from telescopes to electric generators in the space of a couple of decades. That is a tremendous leap in technology.

But the prankster delaying Superman's research strikes again. Now it transmits a silly message in his earphones, telling him the Vrangs are landing.

Finally Supergirl has had enough. She has figured out who is doing all this to them. And she is heading out the back entrance so she can get them. I love that last panel. That is one determined Kara, ready for action.

The final ancestor Superman learns about is Val-El. Now if you thought that the prior Els had been influential, Val-El puts them all to shame. He created the first compass. He went out to explore the world and basically mapped the world, including the continent of Vathlo.

He loses most of his fleet to the perils of the sea. He turns away a mutiny of his crew and sends them off, creating the pirate island of Bokos. He founded Argo City. And he ultimately was never heard from again when he and his crew entered the mysterious valley of Juru.

Seriously, this guy is every explorer you learned about in elementary school, plus Captain Bligh, plus Indiana Jones. Unreal.

Finally the mystery of who is attacking the Els is solved.

The villain was going to seal everyone in the crypt. But Supergirl had left from the back and circled around to stop ... Zora, the Black Flame!

Turns out she didn't reform ... and yet, despite being captured, she still thinks she might win.

Because Zora's hope all along has been to delay Supergirl and Superman to the point that Rokyn shifts back into its dimension, stranding the cousins there and powerless. It seems an appropriate revenge against Supergirl who robbed Zora of her powers by exposing her to gold Kryptonite.

But that was never going to happen because Kara has always been aware of what time it is. Her belt is specifically set up to tell her Rokyn time and New York time. The two super-cousins were never in danger of being stranded.

Seriously, how great is it that the big villain of these issues is a classic Supergirl one! I love the Bridwell leaned into Kara's history as much as Kal's!

It is, however, close to the shift. Some swift goodbyes are made to Zor-El and Alura and friends and the cousins are back in their rocket. Superman isn't quite done though. He wants to go back in time even farther. He wants to learn about ... the first El!

Again the back page is a Krypton glossary, filled with geographic terms and other vocabulary.

So all in all another fun issue and one that is Supergirl-centric to boot. Not only do we get a Kara villain but we learn that info about her belt and we got to see the classic 'finger to her chin' deep thought pose!

No doubt, this is worth trying to find on the cheap!

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

Another good issue, and it was great to learn more about the "Day of Truth", still another interesting and inspiring pice of lore Kryptonian which the reboot attempted -and failed- to wipe out because we can't have an interesting and amazing Krypton since Superman "might" like his homeworld.

And Zor-El is crazy-prepared, isn't he? Who would think his daughter could need a device to know what the time is in New York and Kandor simultaneously?

Poor Black Flame. She never ranked higher than "pest". This is what you get when you have the chance to gun Supergirl down and choose to build a giant bowl alley instead. The Joker has an actual reason to lure Batman into stupidly complex death traps, what is yours?

Off-topic, but this Reddit thread has ticked me off:

A potential new fan asks where he should begin and he's told Supergirl never was her own hero out of PAD's run (which is untrue) and she hasn't really many good stories (which is absurd). I'm frankly tired of that attitude.

Anj, have you thought of writing a "Essential (or Recommended) Supergirl Storylines: From 1959 to Today" Post? I think it'd be a good way to showcase her Adventure Comics and Kupperberg's run, the best of PAD and Gates as well as the good parts of New 52 and Rebirth and her best guest appearances.

All of sudden I've thought another -hopefully- good idea for a review post: Superboy #4 where made her only appearance DC's first character named "Supergirl" .

H said...

Can't forget about the map of Krypton in the back. That was a nice extra. Always enjoyed this miniseries- love learning more about Krypton's past.

Anonymous said...

Ah "Black Flame"....a fangirl of Supergirl's evil double "Zora" (later disintegrated by the Phantom Zoners)....BF was yet another fitful attempt to give Kara a "Luthor" to play off of, alas they all fell afoul of bad writing. Its no accident Supergirl sussed out Black Flame's plan, the plans of jobbers are usually pretty easy to thwart.

and of all the things for Supergirl to store in her belt why a telepathic watch???

Still I love the bronze age Supergirl....clearly smarter than her cousin in this storyline....