Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Review: Superman #13

Superman #13 came out last week and was an interesting issue, basically a flashback to the days before Krypton exploded. We have seen Jor-El pleading to the Science Council in just about every incarnation of the Superman origin. This time we see him pleading to another group, the Circle. And finally, it is revealed he was part of that group.

When Brian Michael Bendis came on board and talked up Man of Steel, he said that he was going to tell a story about Krypton's destruction, answering a question that hadn't been asked before. And this issue feels like a sort of pre-quel to Man of Steel in many ways. We have seen that Rogol Zaar initiated the destruction of Krypton. Now we know that Jor-El was involved with the Circle and might be complicit in some of that group's more unsavory interactions with cultures. I haven't really enjoyed this demolition of Jor-El from brilliant scientist to sociopathic madman now to historical murderer. So much for the House Of El being a noble house on Krypton, differentiating itself from others. Now they are just as much in the mud.

At least Superman calls his father out for these actions. I guess here nurture overcame nature.

The art is predominantly by Brendan Peterson, covering the flashback portion of the issue. The art is stylish with almost a Cully Hamner feel. Ivan Reis does the present time portion with his usual classic look.

Alas poor Jor-El. I thought I knew you well. On to the book.

 I said this has the feel of Man of Steel as we revisit the Circle, secret meetings, and Rogol Zaar.

So why not open it up with a shot of a globe, the intact Krypton.

After all, every Man of Steel issue opened up with such a shot.

 Remember these?

 It turns out that the Science Council won't listen to Jor-El. They won't listen to his claims of doom.

Lara thinks the whole council should be disbanded.

More than ever, this resonates a little. It is like people denying climate change. I couldn't help but think of folks calling for the dissolution of the Senate or the Electoral College.

This is a rather fetching Lara. And I like how even as a wee lad, Clark's hair just fell into the spit curl. Too cute.

 The Science Council might not listen. But there is a higher power.

Jor-El is part of the Circle. So he approaches that group in hopes of convincing them to help. Maybe they can help him convince the Science Council of his work. Or maybe they can figure out how to save the populace. And if they won't help, they should expect retribution.

It is interesting to see that the Circle denies Jor-El's findings too. Remember, they didn't want Zaar to do anything to Krypton but we now know Gandelo gave him the go-ahead. I also like the bored 'can I hang up now' by the Tamaranean king when Jor-El starts ranting.

Still, Appa Ali Apsa  asks about Zaar. Maybe the Guardian wonders if all of this environmental distress is because of some intentional interference.

But the fact that Jor-El is in this group is interesting. Does this mean he agreed to be proactive, interfering with other planets? Who knew he had the same position as kings, empresses, and Guardians.

 I also had to laugh that Jor-El took this call from his bathroom.

Have we seen Kryptonian commodes before?

And doesn't he have an office?

 Of course, his implied threat to the Circle can't go unanswered.

Walking home one day, he finds himself under attack by a Thanagarian squad on Krypton.

This is also a little weird. This is a 'new' Krypton of course. But I thought they were isolationists. And can Thanagarians move so easily on this planet?

Perhaps it is that change in environment that allows Jor-El to be an action scientist, defeating a squad of winged warriors.

 Heading back home, we get a replay of the classic scene. Krypton is falling apart around Jor-El and Lara. Their only hope is to rocket Kal off. Unlike prior histories, Lara joining her son is off the table.

But things are dire.

 Jor-El makes one last desperate call.

This time only two people respond. Gandelo (who we know is behind the destruction) and the Tamaranean king. They can't help. They won't send fleets to get people off world because they still don't believe Jor's findings.

Great progression of panels here, Jor-El suddenly small and in the dark, powerless. The ironic 'Long Live Krypton' hanging in the air.

 Back in the present, Superman is rather disgusted at the revelations.

His father was part of the Circle. He is complicit in other crimes. He was part of a group that blew up Krypton and killed Lara.

Jor-El cannot play the martyr card here.

How I keep hoping this is some alternate Jor-El. But it is pretty clear this is canon now. Superman's father has always been a villain.

Not much more about that storyline here.

Instead the issue ends with the 'Year of the Villain' Luthor offering. He gives Lois' a box which holds something that grabs her attention.

It all seems so Underworld Unleashed to me. But maybe I'll be surprised.

While the story itself here was entertaining and interesting with lush art, I just have to grieve a little at this Jor-El character assassination. Where is that barrel-chested upstanding guy? I guess nestled in the Silver Age.

Overall grade: B


Anonymous said...

"Maybe the Guardian wonders if all of this environmental distress is because of some intentional interference."

Could be that's what he meant. I read it that things were getting tense and threats were flying, only to be denied they were being made. At least, they claimed Jor-El made a threat. Must really have been something in his tone of voice, because I just read what he said as "Come on, guys, don't let me down, I've had your backs!" That's no threat.

Jor-El was in no position to make threats. He's way outnumbered; unlike the others has no political power (what's he even doing in the Circle?); and his planet is inconveniently about to blow up.

But Ali Apsa seemed to threaten him all the same. Asked why he brought up Zaar, he answered "Oh, it was just a question." Ha! Something like that out of the blue is not "just a question."

My guess is Bendis will want to keep the relevant theme (and 80 year history) that Krypton suffered a drastic environmental collapse. Turning the cause of a planetary scale failure into an act of sabotage would not serve the theme nor the history. So I expect Rogol Zaar will have a tangential role.

Maybe he'll simply make things worse or accelerate them? Planets suffer disasters, like the runaway hothouse on Venus, but don't usually blow up! Or at least none that I have visited.

Earth could sustain a massive asteroid bombardment. All mammals would be wiped out, but earth would soldier onward.

There's that mention of a cousin's Bar Mitzvah that was a bit jarring. If he wasn't just going for pure laughs from the incongruity of it, maybe Bendis is making a less-than-serious suggestion that the Diaspora spread Jews much further than anyone ever would have guessed. It also makes me think of how often the Superman story is compared to the Exodus story, where his mother sent baby Moses off in a basket to save him from certain death.


Martin Gray said...

Top review. The business with Jor is horribly disappointing, this was the obvious point to undo not only Zaar being responsible for Krypton’s demise but to emphasise that whatever he’s like now due to Dr Manhattan - or whatever the story is this week - he was once a good, heroic parent. I just want this, and the rubbish surrounding Zor, undone so much.

That Kryptonian loo made me laugh, John Byrne would never have had Kryptonians with actual bodily functions! I suppose Jor was in there so Lara wouldn’t hear his dubious doings.

I did enjoy the early scene with the Els, and the art and colour was stupendous, especially in the floating head and Kryptonquake scenes.

Jor’s skycycle is the best thing since the Supermobile. .

Good to see modern Jor’s hair growing back.

Where was the proofreader this time? ‘‘We all trust pray you are’? ‘Ingtage’?’. The excellent Rob Staeger reckons the latter is an ‘autocorrect’ thing, and it should have been ‘stage’, which makes sense.

Have we met this Kito previously? What a bitter soul she seems, but with this version of Jor, she may have good reason to pour scorn on him.

I wonder whether this issue was changed, that cover is very off.

Kinofreak said...

Is he really a member, or does he just know? It makes no sense that he is a member, since he has no power like the others...