Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Back Issue Box: Superman Adventures #30

It's been a while since I thumbed through the back issue boxes and looked at an issue from the past which somehow resonates with what is happening in comics now.

Once again we are in the midst of a 'dark Kara' run in the world of Supergirl and so I thought I would take a look at Superman Adventures #30 and #31 for yet another take at an evil Supergirl. But these issues resonate even beyond that initiating fact. There is STAR Labs working with dimensional gate technology that overwhelms them. There is a surviving parent of Kal's who has gone dark (much like Jor-El did recently). There is even some life/death issues with the Kents although I don't know if the resurrection in Doomsday Clock has hit the main DCU.

The issue is written by Mark Millar. This is obviously early Millar, before he hit it big with Wanted, Kick Ass, and every other deconstruction of the superhero genre he has done. It is pretty clear, that at least these days, Millar loathes the concept of hero. Interestingly enough, in this story you see he still believes in the heroic ideal but for a kid's book this story is pretty dark.

The art is done by Aluir Amancio in a very Bruce Timm-esque style including some rather saucy appearing panels for Kara and Lois.

These issues are on the DC Streaming App which made my needing to scan a heck of a lot easier. So enjoy the bright colors.

On to the story.

We start with a classic splash page. A STAR Labs experiment has gone awry. The antimatter engine they are toying with has become unstable. If it explodes, it could take a major chunk of the planet with it.

So at least in the opening, we don't get why this is called 'Family Reunion'.

But hang on to your hats.

Luckily, Superman is there and sweeps in for the save, grabbing the entire engine and tossing it into space where it can explode harmlessly. Well ... sort of harmlessly.

Here you see that Millar still leans into heroes doing the right thing. Professor Hamilton says 'The chips were down. All hope was lost. Who else could it be?'

Superman will always be there when things are at their darkest to help.

But things get a bit wonky when Clark shows up for work shortly after the rescue.

Everyone thinks that he is dead, murdered by Intergang.Twelve months have passed since the antimatter engine incident. Clark has lost a year of his life.

That's one leggy Lois, sporting a tube top in the Planet bullpen. I told you this was a little bit saucy.

And a lot has changed in that year. Remember in the DCAU, the Kents are alive.

However in that year that past, the Kents died in a house fire.

Millar does a good job hear, riffing on classic DC history. The 'all these things I can do ... all these powers' line is a lift from Superman The Movie as well as a paraphrase of many of the Silver Age stories where we saw the Kents die of a mysterious tropical illness.

As an amateur comic historian, I like little flourishes like this.

At least Superman has a theory. The energy of the antimatter engine explosion must have pushed him forward in time a year.

But in that time, so much has changed.

Even Supergirl has gone missing.

And Luthor has flourished in that time, viewed as the 'super man' of Earth now.

Hmmm ...

And then things get really weird.

Superman is stewing in his Fortress. His life has been radically changed.

And then Lara ... his mother ... shows up alive and well.

It turns out that Jor-El was able to keep Kryptonopolis intact, floating through space (shades of Zor-El and Argo?). They have searched for Kal all this time. And now that they have found him, it is time for him to come home.

I am always happy when I see more Lara in stories. I always feel like Jor gets all the press.

Superman contemplates the move to leave Earth. After all, he has heroic responsibilities here.

But Lara reminds him that in the year he was away, everything seemed to proceed just fine.

The last straw is when the two head to Metropolis to check on Lois. Superman was going to see Lois to explain how he was leaving again. But a quick peek shows her happily married to a nameless blond man. A lot has changed in this year.

With not much to keep him on Earth, Superman takes his mother's hand and teleports back to Kryptonopolis.

Ahh ,,, but then the turn!

Superman is from another dimension, flung into this one when the engine exploded.

It turns out that Jor-El has been arrested on Kryptonopolis. Why? Because Lara has decided that Kryptonians are superior beings and should conquer all.

And the place she is going to conquer is Earth of course. The Kryptonians deserve to live in a place where they will have powers, even if it means killing 5 billion people. Ever noble (at least in this reality), Jor-El couldn't abide by the plans. So he was thrown in jail.

And Lara had been planning the invasion for some time when the appearance of this Superman happened. With a new piece on the board, she needed to eliminate him. So now powerless on Kryptonopolis, Kal is also arrested.

An evil Lara! Have we ever seen this before??

So what happened to the Superman and Supergirl from that universe?

Well Lara also tricked them into going back to Kryptonopolis. And there, Dr. Va-Kox did brain surgery to make them more compliant and more vicious. Yep, we have a Dark Kara sighting. But, to be fair, we also have a Dark Kal sighting as well.

There are only so many teleporting devices so Va-Kox, evil Kal, and evil Kara are sent to Earth as a vanguard to eliminate the defenses for when Kryptonopolis arrives.

That is one vicious looking Supergirl. And she seems complete fine with the idea of exterminating Earth's population.

So that's quite the cliffhanger.

Three Kryptonians, two of them former heroes, coming to Earth prepared to dole out death and destruction.

What will our Superman do??

Not a bad little sort of 'what if' story. There is a lot to unpack and like here. The death of the Kents speech, the Argo like survival of Kryptonopolis, an evil Lara, a noble Jor-El. All pretty interesting.
And yes, we once again see an evil Kara, eager to murder as she paves the way for a new Krypton.

But trust me, part 2 has some even bigger twists.

Overall grade: B+


Bostondreams said...

The 'evil Lara' bit reminds me of the Flashpoint Batman twist where the Joker turns out to be SPOILER

Martha Wayne. And it was done decently well.

H said...

A surprisingly touching story- part 2 has one of the best Jor-El moments of the last few decades. I will give Mark Millar this, his Superman Adventures run was pretty good.

Anonymous said...

At least they knew how to do "Dark Kara" Right...i.e. entirely involuntary.



SimB said...

I'm also a big fan of Lara Dr Anj. I really enjoyed her in Smallville, where she was played by some actress I cant recall the name of...