Monday, May 20, 2019

Review: Superman #11

Superman #11 came out this week, The Unity Saga: The House of El part 5. With Event Leviathan around the corner, the time has come to reunite the El Family and time to finish up the Rogol Zaar storyline which began back in last May's Man of Steel.

Brian Michael Bendis has a lot of plot threads out there that have been simmering along. Rogol Zaar's history and motivations are still unknown. General Zod and Superman's visions of the future have blipped in and out. Superboy being gone and now older is just being addressed. Jor-El being alive (sigh) and deranged (sigh) has been running through this book since before Bendis took over. Most interesting is that all these plots are interwoven. So this arc seems like it is going to tie off all the plot threads into a neat bow.

As for the events of this issue, I love Superman's presence in the galaxy, a known hero who is able to shut down a battle quickly. And the last page is winner both in image and words.

This is a wide screen issue which takes place during an intergalactic brawl between four factions. There are two page splashes. There are half page panels. There are giant images spanning two pages with smaller panels around that anchor. Big action deserve big art. Ivan Reis with Joe Prado and Oclair Albert really convey the scope and size of the action.

I do feel like Leviathan is building some momentum for the DC books across the board. That said, I hope the ending of this story doesn't feel rushed!

On to the book.

We start out 'yesterday' in the Phantom Zone. You might recall that the last time we were there Rogol Zaar had laid a complete beatdown on General Zod.

Sitting around a fire, eating the flesh of some fell beast of the zone, Zaar warns Zod not to attack again. After all, Zaar is rested and fed. Zod is still recovering.

And then, oddly, Zaar asks Zod to join him in getting revenge on the House of El. After all, the El family created the Phantom Zone, banished Zod there, have thwarted Zod time and again. He knows that Zod has escaped the Zone before. So why not team up and wipe the family off the map.

As a bonus, Zaar will tell Zod why he blew up Krypton. He even says Zod would have done the same.

Now I can't imagine a nationalist and a fascist like Zod ever joining the genocidal Zaar but maybe we'll see why. Or maybe Zod joining Zaar is some elaborate feint so that the surviving Kryptonians, Zods and Els, can team up and vanquish they guy.

On a side note, Jax-Ur calling Zaar 'a delight' is hilarious.

In the present, Superman and Jon have teleported to Jor-El's ship only to find it buffeted by three different intergalactic militaries.

There are Thanagarian Black Order Squads. There is Keen-Coy, Empress Gandelo's first command. And there are Khunds. We know that all three are represented in The Circle, the group which commissioned Zaar. But I don't know why they would be attacking Jor-El in this way. Even Superman isn't sure if Jor-El is the focus of the attack or just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I love this page layout (this is a portion of a 2 page spread) with the image of Superman anchoring the center, looking out on what is happening, while narrow panels flank him catching us up on the action.

How Superman knew that Supergirl was involved in Gandelo's Trilium Collective is a mystery. Maybe there were some communications off panel? Krypto sending home messages?

In the midst of all this carnage, Superman sees Zaar.

But before a confrontation can happen, Zaar takes off.

Superman surmises that perhaps Zaar wasn't expecting Kal to be there.

Seriously, I am ready to hear why and how Zaar blew up Krypton. So seeing him take off at this point of the issue irked me. I want him around!

As I said in the intro, Reis et al really let loose in this issue giving us a science fiction spectacle.

We get another 2 page spread of Superman flying through the battle, destroying weapons with a look of pure determination.

But the big thing here is how he slips into inspirational mode for Jon. He will show his son that even in bedlam like this, a Superman can shut things down without loss of life.

Since he knows the combatants, he knows how to approach them diplomatically to get them to power down.

A little bluster makes the Thanagarians agree to stop fighting ... that is if everyone else stops. I suppose that shows the underbelly of Thanagarian politics. They'll swing the mace like a boss. But they will compromise if they don't lose face.

The Khunds are different. They only know brute force. I love how the font changes to something more alien appearing as Superman threatens them.

As for Keen-Coy, she will power down. But she asks Superman to ask Jor-El why everyone is there. And she's right. He is the hub of this problem.

I have had a very hard time with Jor-El being Mr. Oz, insane and homicidal. I keep hoping that we'll get some comic book answer ... possession by Parallax, actually Jur-L from another world, something.

Can't my heroes remain heroes?

So Superman does just that. He heads to Jor-El. He knows they have a couple of seconds before this uneasy cease fire collapses. So, at superspeed, he tries to get all the answers from his father.

Turns out Zaar and Zod and all these armies showed up to kill Jor-El.

This Jor-El thinks Superman should be flattered. After all, Zaar and Zod would eliminate the weakest members of the El family first. It means Jor-El ranks behind Superman in power, at least in Zaar's mind.

But even this turns out to be a feint of a sort.

Zaar returns and attacks Superman.

Zod arrives and attacks Superboy.

I love this panel. I love Jon steeling himself and actually laying one into Zod's mush.

I think it shows just how much Jon has grown and become more confident.

But things don't look good.

Zod is more powerful than Jon. It looks like things are going to get ugly.
Superman is tied up with Zaar and can't help Jon.

For a moment, we actually hear Superman lose a little bit of his confidence, lose a little of his hope.

He talks of showing up without a plan. How the forces around them are enormous.

We rarely hear this side of Superman. But you know that he must have moments like this. He is human. And it contrasts nicely from the supremely confident hero who knew he could shut down a space battle.

But that momentary lapse in faith fades because a new player hits the board.

That's right!

Supergirl arrives! With Krypto!

And when Superman sees her, he remembers they are the House of El!

They got this.

I loved this page. It shows just how he regards Supergirl as someone who can help turn the tide. I have always wanted to see a big splashy Reis Supergirl and I got it. And I want the super-family to be a family. To hear Superman talk about the united House of El being such a force hammered that home.

What an ending, nudging this issue up in my mind a bit. Things always look darkest before the dawn.

Can't wait to read more!

Overall grade: B+


Martin Gray said...

Nice review. I enjoyed this one. I really hope Bendis sticks the landing, he doesn't always tie up loose ends. As you note, so many questions.

Great catch on Sueprman's knowledge of Lord/Empress Gandelo... subsonic barks from Krypto, it has to be!

Anonymous said...

Beforehand, I think I have located two mistakes:

"That said, I hope the ending of this story doesn't"

"After all, the El family created the Phantom Zod"

The first sentence is incomplete. The second is a -glorious- mispelling -which makes me want to see a Phantom Zod for real-.

On the book. It was a decent issue, even though the Rogol Zaar plot is wearing down my patience. Given the upcoming Leviathan and Year of the Villain events, it'll be hopefully put to rest in the next issues.

I have a hard time believing Zod will side up with Zaar, whatever he says.

Superman stopping the battle was both funny and awesome.

Recently I read "EarthWar", so I don't blame Superman for thinking Khunds only answer to threats (of those with power to back them up).

"How Superman knew that Supergirl was involved in Gandelo's Trilium Collective is a mystery."

I wondered about that. I have no idea.

By the way, the Trilium race reminds me vaguely of the Pre-Crisis X'onn.

"Can't my heroes remain heroes?"

Apparently, no.

"And when Superman sees her, he remembers they are the House of El!

They got this."

That was a great, great moment. Supergirl reappears in glorious fashion, and Superman feels hopeful again. After all, they ARE the House of El. Of course they got this.

Did you notice Jor-El's expression, though? I wonder if he is thinking there's something Kara should know about her father...

Sigh. Most likely, Jor-El mercy-killing his brother be ignored.

Whatever the case it may be, the art was absolutely glorious.

Anonymous said...

First anonymous again...

I have just realized: Supergirl's skirt should be blue instead of red. I thought it would be a coloring mistake, but the boots are also wrong.

I guess Ivan Reis doesn't know she changed costumes ten issues ago, so he is drawing her with her former costume (there is a reason because that is the iconic Supergirl costume)

Anj said...

Thanks for pointing out my errors. Fixed.

Didn't even register the red skirt as wrong because that look will always be right to me. Thanks for sharing that! I wonder if it will be recolored in the trade?

Aaron Ramos said...

I personally didn't have a problem with evil Jor-El when he first showed up because the implication was that he was being controlled by Dr. Manhattan. When the control was broken the first thing he did was apologize before being teleported away. I figured he'd somehow factor into Doomsday clock.

I didn't get annoyed until Bendis brought him back and revealed that yes, Jor-El was in fact insane. All for a story that only worked by having everyone break character.

Anonymous said...

"Cousin Kal El, You WON'T BELIEVE the meshugginah storyline I've been stuck in for eight months!!!"


The Wandering mind said...

Im starting to think that Zod is playing the long game and going to help Superman and company.

Martin Gray said...

Oh, I think so, Wandering... Zod is a planetary patriot par excellence, he’s not going to properly side with Zaar? The fact he’s restraining Jon and silently counselling him to hang back, rather than attack, speaks (silent) volumes.

Anonymous said...

How did Zod escape the Phantom Zone? Were we shown? I missed it.

That's not just the red skirt on Supergirl - she's drawn in that panel entirely in the Rebirth costume, which drapes very differently than the newer all-blue one. (The same art team drew the cover and they got it right - but I guess a lot of time elapses between when a cover is drawn and when the final interior page is drawn.)

The skirt, boots and belt are all very different. The belt especially.

Not sure if the new costume(s) are Maguire's design - an article at attributes "new looks designed by Jorge Jimenez." But I think the new design fits and and looks better; the Rebirth suit has a yellow belt or trim of some kind that fits awkwardly around the waist, and the red skirt is implausibly long for a young woman, usually reaching the very top of the boots.

The red skirt is so big it sometimes looks like it's billowing around like a secondary cape. Its length is like something out of the 1950s. And Melissa's skirt on TV is probably around 6" shorter. (Though Eduardo Pansica has been drawing the blue skirt much longer than any of the other interior other artists these days, and Emanuela Lupacchino got the costumes mixed up on the #27 variant - she drew the current skirt length, but the wrong color, and wrong belt and boots, and a cape so massive it reminds me of the goofy Matrix cape from Convergence! But it was a variant, and maybe she was taking liberties the way Artgerm messes with cover costumes.)

I don't care if the skirt is red or blue, as both have been classic over the years. Though since most people here prefer red, I defer to you!

And I really hope on return to earth she keeps those newer leggings costumes we've seen from time to time. too. They look like something a woman of her age would be wearing today.

So that's all I have to say about fashion for today :) !

Based on solicitations, the title is definitely not cancelled. Her Year of the Villain tie-in is going to involve Brainiac, and we've by now seen solicitations through August.


Anonymous said...

Oh, where Anon wrote

"Did you notice Jor-El's expression, though?"

I don't know what his expression meant, but did you see Supergirl's reflection in the closeup of his left eye, as she approached? I thought that was very cool.


Professor Feetlebaum said...

"Cousin Kal-El, you WON'T BELIEVE the meshugginah storyline I've been stuck in for eight months!!!"

That's funny. I like that Supergirl says "meshugginah".

I can imagine some of the conversations Kara has had with her "bosses" at DC throughout the years.....

1985: Supergirl walks into the DC offices...

Secretary: "Kara, Mr. Giordano would like to see you in his office."
Kara:(thinking) "He probably wants to congratulate me on my new movie!"
Kara: "Hello, Dick. You wanted to see me?"
DG: "Yes Kara, sit down. I suppose you've heard of the Crisis on Infinite Earths?"
Kara: "Yes, it sounds exciting! I understand I have a big part in it! And I love the way George Perez draws me!"
DG: "I'll tell him you said that. Uhhh...Kara, you're not going to survive the Crisis."
Kara: "WHAT???"
DG: "It's nothing personal, we just feel that Superman works better when he's Krypton's sole survivor."
Kara: "But I'll be back, right? I mean, this is comics! Nobody stays dead in comics!"
DG: "We'll probably work something out. But you won't be from Krypton anymore."
Kara: "Where will I be from? The planet Twilo? I always did like Walnuts!"
DG: "We're not sure yet. But it'll be GREAT! Trust me."

19 years later: Supergirl and Dan Didio…

DD:" Well, Supergirl, we've decided to make you Kryptonian again!"
Kara: "Great! Do I come to Earth in a rocket again?"
DD: "yes. And this time, you're OLDER than Superman, but you've been in suspended animation!"
Kara: "Well, that's a change, but okay. Do I get a new costume?"
DD: "Of course! Here it is!"
Kara: "I have to wear THAT???" Good Grief! I might as well come out of the rocket naked!"
DD: " that you mention it..."
Kara (thinking) "I wonder if there's an opening at Marvel? They've got that other Danvers girl working there..."

I really don't care if "Jor-El" is crazy or controlled by Dr. Manhattan. I just don't want this to be the REAL Jor-El. That's messing with Superman's origin too much.

And I didn't notice the red skirt either.

Anonymous said...

"The red skirt is so big it sometimes looks like it's billowing around like a secondary cape. Its length is like something out of the 1950s."

Better than the "napkin" she wore during Loeb and Kelly's runs, IMO.

"Based on solicitations, the title is definitely not cancelled."

No, but the latest solicitation worries me. First, there is NO way her space adventure has lasted one full year. Second, it sounds like another soft reboot.

"I don't know what his expression meant"

Second-to-last page, sixth panel. Jor-El seems both shocked and wary. Even fearful.

"but did you see Supergirl's reflection in the closeup of his left eye"

That was Superman's eye, not Jor-El's. Notice the black hair and the lack of scars.

"I can imagine some of the conversations Kara has had with her "bosses" at DC throughout the years....."

Your conversations are golden.

I'd be more interested in reading conversations between her different versions, though. Earth-One Kara not even had a proper conversation with her Earth-Two self.

"What do you mean, you were fifteen when Krypton blew up?"

"...Our family CREST?"

"Kal was already married when you arrived? I would never thought I would see the day... And Lana Lang KNEW? Since they were KIDS?"

"Kryptonite-spawned duplicates are the worst kind of evil twins, I'll agree."

"Yes, I remember the Superboy from Earth-Prime. Such a kind, sweet boy... Why are you giving me that look?"

"Thara Ak-Var? Is she daughter of cousin Van-Zee's partner?"

"Reactron? Oh, yes, I remember that pathetic loser. I beat him up easily and I never thought about him again... Why is your eye twitching?"

"You should have moved Kandor to Rokyn."

"...And then I flew into the timestream and headed towards the 30th century... Why do you look so shocked?"

I wish I was able to write fanfiction. I can come up with so many good lines.

"I just don't want this to be the REAL Jor-El. That's messing with Superman's origin too much."


Martin Gray said...

Ha, great job folks... I think all that’s missing is: ‘I married a guy while amnesiac? Isn’t that just Tuesday?’