Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Review: The Krypton Chronicles #3

The SyFy premiere of Krypton airs tonight, a show looking back at Superman's grandfather and the politics of Krypton in the years before its destruction. In preparation for that I have been reviewing The Krypton Chronicles, a miniseries from 1981 in which Superman learns about his lineage.

I have reviewed the first two issues here and here. Today I review Krypton Chronicles #3, the final episode which has Superman going all the way back to the first person the adopt the last name of El. The first two issues were on Rokyn, providing us with a decent side plot to help break up the ancestry information dump. This issue is much more exposition based with Superman just looking backwards and reporting what he finds.

I have enjoyed this mini-series more that I remembered. It is fun to get these tangential looks at Krypton culture as well as this deep dive into the El family. I also love that Supergirl is involved in all three issues. She is an El as well and should be part of this research mission.

So who was the first El? Jump in!

"The Race to Overtake the Past" had the same creative team as the first two books. E. Nelson Bridwell is on writing with Curt Swan and Frank Chiaramonte on art.

The book opens with the cousins at the Fortress trying to figure out how to go back farther in their investigation. They have gone back in generations as far as they could with recordings and texts while on Rokyn. So they'll need some super-science to go farther back.

Luckily, this is the pre-Crisis Superman with his super-intellect. He is able to put together a device that can gather up light emissions from the past and put them on screen to view. What I like is Superman and Supergirl shooting down all the other ways they could do this research. They couldn't fly back in time because Krypton has a red sun and they'd be powerless. And they couldn't use a time machine because they don't really know exactly when they are going.

The 'light-seeker' is the best option.

Sure enough, using his super-brain, Superman is able to figure out the best place to capture these light rays and peek into the past.

And luckily they are able to check into the past and see their ancestor Bur-El talking to a great Kryptonian scientist Kil-Gor.

Outside of the comic book science, there are some great little tweaks to these scenes. For one, they are looking at light waves, not sound waves.  So the cousins will need to read lips. That means anytime someone isn't facing the light seeker, they don't know what they are saying. So we get an empty word balloon for Bur-El in the third panel.

And I like that they are speaking ancient Kryptonese, as they should be. Superman has studied the old dialects. Supergirl hasn't. It is a nice touch.

Kil-Gor is definitely an important figure in Krypton's history. At this time, some  tribes would need to swim out to a sandbar and gather algae to eat when low tide occurred. They only knew this would happen when the scavenger birds flew in. But that made it doubly difficult. You had to swim to the bar and fight the birds for the food.

Kil-Gor developed the first rudimentary time piece so he could anticipate the tide and send the tribe's people out before the birds arrived. Suddenly life is easier and the planet has a concept of time!

Bur-El ends up marrying Kil-Gor's daughter. Thus we now know why Bur-El recorded so much about Kil-Gor in his tapes last issue.

What I love is how this isn't just a homework assignment. This is family. So seeing Kara get excited about the wedding  is cute and wonderful.

The cousins continue to fly into space to gather the light rays.

They find a spot where they can hear about Jaf-El an ancestor of theirs with very important religious importance. He was a prophet and, let me tell you, this guy was on the money.

His main goal was to unify the planet in their worship of Rao, driving out the other gods (like Yuda the storm goddess).

We see Jaf-El make some prophecies which come true. He claims the sun will turn yellow and it does, in a way, when the gold volcano spews its gold dust into the sky giving the illusion of a yellow sun. I have seen the gold volcano on other Krypton maps so it existed.

And he says a prophecy of a flood coming to destroy the sinners. And he is right about that as well!

His followers take the high ground and are saved by a flock of winged horses!
These beasts allow themselves to be mounted and fly a large group of the faithful to a high mountain. Amazingly, these animals also have a sort marsupial pouch in which they store food allowing the Kryptonians to eat and survive during a long flight.

As a result, these flying horses are revered creatures. It is illegal to kill them and some survived on Kandor in the day. They are called Tanthuo Flez, the Winged Ones.

I also like how Supergirl compares this to the Noah story but in this version animals save the people and not the reverse.

But the story of Jaf-El goes on.

He then says that he can foresee Krypton eventually dying, not with a flood but in fire. And he even sees the salvation of Krypton on the star system Ariu, the Krypton word for our sun. So he saw a prophecy of Superman and Supergirl!! Incredible.

Again, Bridwell does a wonderful job of elevating Supergirl. This prophecy of salvation is just about Superman. It is about both cousins preserving the culture.

Supergirl fans should eat this up.

We go back further and further in time, seeing glimpses of more generations of El.

Finally we get to a man named Erok, the head of one of many warring tribes but also a wise man who wants peace and a dead ringer for Kal. He is given a strength potion by his tribe's wise man and using this power he is able to unite the tribes.He marries Milia, the daughter of another lord, unifying power.

And Erok decrees a new world of law. No cannibalism. No human sacrifice. No more revenge. It will be a world of justice. I guess we should say 'hurray no cannibalism! Hurray no human sacrifices!'

There is a hint of Arthur here, using a strength potion and not Excalibur as a means to an end.

And then we learn that Erok is the first El. After the marriage, he declares he will now be known as Erok-El. And his first son will be Kal- El! The star child!

And so one of the first Els was Kal-El, and he is a dead ringer for our Supergirl!

Erok-El's name was probably the impetus for the name of the continent Erkol.

That is the end of the cousins trip back in time. The light rays are too scattered now. And they have seen the beginning of their family tree.

I love that last panel. A simple use of multiple images to show how the two are flying around hoping to pick up more transmissions.

And with this info, Clark is able to write a good story and Morgan Edge begins developing the TV mini-series. And he is aiming high in his casting! Fonda! Hepburn! Chamberlain!

I thought this was a pretty good look back. It is amazing that the El family has had such an historic impact on the planet over the millenia. But I suppose that all feeds into the Bronze age idea that there was a destiny for Superman to be the hero of the universe.

And some added bonuses!

We get another Krypton glossary!

And then the El family timeline.

Hopefully this blows up well when opened. But it goes all the way back to Erok and all the way up to our own Kal.

So that's Krypton and the El family in the Bronze Age.Hope you enjoyed the look back!

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

Thank you Anj.

This isn't on Comixology, so it's a huge treat for me who don't have the old comics.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Anj. Wonderful series and probably my favorite Krypton backstory.

"His main goal was to unify the planet in their worship of Rao, driving out the other gods (like Yuda the storm goddess)."

Wasn't Kara named after an ancient Kryptonian goddess? Or am I mixing different canons?

We'll see if the Krypton show goes down well, but I'm afraid I'm pretty indifferent. Too much influence from the DCEU and Byrne's depictions from what I can tell, and I'll not be shocked if it's all about Seyg-El's grandson and his granddaughter not even merits one mention.

Anonymous said...

As always great review anj, these issues are not found now so I appreciate you sharing this with us.

Ah yes the tvshow which is going to premiere; I am hearing mixed reviews overall and somehow a show exploring the backstory of Superman has not got me excited too much. It may be the inevitability that the planet will be destroyed for Superman to be the greatest hero of earth. But I will surely tune in to watch. As for whether they ignore Supergirl, fans are certainly not allowing them to cause they changed one of the character's name from alura zod to lyta zod, seeing as the former name is also attributed to Supergirl's mother. If they choose to ignore Supergirl will I be surprised? Not at all. But I am patient and I will allow the show its first season to build its bases.

As for Kara being named after a Kryptonian goddess, yeah I am sure I remember reading that in the new52 run.

Anonymous said...

I miss "Co-equal co-adventurer, collaborator Supergirl"....mature, full of her own knowledge and wisdom...but alas given the age alchemy of DC Comics at the time by the mid 1970's she'd also somehow "caught up to Kal El" and become his age contemporary instead of his "fifteen years younger" teenaged cousin.
BUT contradictions aside, its one of my fave Pre Crisis Supergirl periods, and I kinda wish some creatives would explore that era in more detail.
Gail Simone? Mark Waid? Amanda Connor ya out there?