Thursday, January 16, 2020

Back Issue Box: Superman Adventures #31

Superman Adventures #31 is the second part of a fun story which includes a dark take on Supergirl, a crazed surviving parent of Supergirl, and perhaps the bleakest ending I have ever seen in an all ages book. I guess is shouldn't be surprised given that Mark Millar of Kick-Ass and Wanted fame is the writer.

The initial impetus to review this story was to once again show that the trope of a Supergirl turned evil had permeated even the all ages continuities. But to be honest, I like how this resonated more with the recent Mr. Oz/evil Jor-El stories that we saw in recent years in the Superman books.

And it is interesting to see all of this Kryptonian fighting Kryptonian given the Zod/Superman fights of recent years as well.

But it is the bonkers ending of this tale that really struck me.

Aluir Amancio is again on art and brings the dynamics of the cartoon series to the page. This is an action heavy issue and despite the 'cartoony' style, Amancio does a good job of showing the destruction that would ensue if Earth had to try and fend off three insane Kryptonians.

On to the book.

'Family Reunion Part Two' starts out where our last issue ended. We are in an alternate universe, one where Kryptonopolis survived the destruction of Krypton. Lara has decided to take over Earth so the surviving population of Krypton can lead a life of super-powered leisure. And if that means exterminating the 5 billion human lives on Earth, so be it. To help her, she has brainwashed the Superman and Supergirl of that universe into joining her cause. Meanwhile our Superman remains imprisoned on Kryptonopolis with Jor-El who doesn't agree with his mad wife's ideas.

But that means LexCorp and the SCU are stuck fighting the Kryptonian vanguards of Kal, Kara, and Dr. Va-Kox. As you can see from the opening page, it isn't going well.

Yes, the brain surgeries of Vak-Ox has made Lieutenant Kal-El and Kara Zor-El the most enthusiastic supporters of Lara's new order.

Again, the idea of an evil Lara is an interesting wrinkle to read given the evil Jor-Els and Zor-Els we have been force fed in the last decade.

But Millar decides to turn up the deviousness of Lara.

She needed something dramatic to weaken Kal and Kara's bond to Earth. So she had the Kents killed in a house fire, a house fire she started with her heat vision.

She is a cold-hearted killer.
But it worked. With Kara and Kal more susceptible to the mind-altering brain surgery, they have become cold and cruel.

They relish the opportunity to level cities and kill random citizens trying to flee Metropolis. At one point, Superman even wonders if the Earth people realize they will be a new slave class for the incoming Kryptonian population.


But again, not surprising given Millar's penchant for deconstructing heroes or showing how evil ultimately corrupts the most noble heart.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and with three Kryptonians on a rampage, the decision is made to let loose the dogs of war. In particular, why not release Superman's super-villains and see what happens. And it turns out that the trio of Metallo, Parasite, and Bizarro can hold their own for a little while.

The villains even seem to like the idea that suddenly they are heroes.

Meanwhile on Kryptonopolis, Jor and Kal are able to escape their prison cell and try to stop Lara's plan.

I loved this little moment. This isn't Kal's 'real' father. But it is a moment between father and son.

Not much is said verbally but it clear they love each other. And are proud of each other.

After years of seeing Jor and Kal outright fight, this moment of paternal love was appreciated.

On Earth, the villains show why they constantly lose.

It certainly doesn't hurt that the Kryptonian combatants are not holding back in any way.

And remember, this Kara is Kara In-Ze from Argo. She isn't affected by Kryptonite and therefore can handle Metallo on her own. And she does so viciously, pulling the Kryptonite heart out and tossing it. I am pretty sure that would kill him.

Never tick of Dark Supergirl.

Ahh but Superman and Jor-El's plan is simple.

They'll send Superman to Earth to corral the evil Kryptonians and then teleport them back to Kryptonopolis where they are powerless.

Here is a nice splash page of our hero careening through the bad guys.

As I said with the review of the first issue, Amancio doesn't shy away from the sometime cheesecakey look that Bruce Timm often employed. Here we see a very cheeky Kara.

But this is pretty iconic. The Metropolis citizens are thrilled to see the big red S.

I do like that Superman does try to appeal to the heroic nature of that universe's Kal and Kara. Certainly they remember who they were and what they represented.

But mind-altering Kryptonian brain surgery seems to work quite well.

Kara gloats how Kryptonians are the superior race and deserve to rule. Kal calls Superman naive.

Still, I like that younger Millar still has his Superman try to do the right thing and talk through a problem.

But the plan ultimately unfolds and our Superman is able to teleport the evil vanguard back to Kryptonopolis.

It seems like a delay of the inevitable. Eventually Lara will simply teleport her advance troops to Earth again to pave the way.

But Jor-El plans to send the good Superman back to his Earth. And since it took the energy of an antimatter engine to open that rift, he would need to destroy Kryptonopolis to purchase that energy.

Look at the crazed look on Lara. She is a megalomaniac. And she doesn't think Jor-El is strong enough for that sort of drastic action.

But never doubt the intestinal fortitude of Jor-El (well, at least this Jor-El).

Once Lara begins spouting her 'master race' propaganda, he knows what he needs to do.

So he blows up Kryptonopolis. He basically commits genocide!

It is a nice sort of sideways look at the Superman origin. Jor-El blasts Superman to Earth when Krypton is destroyed. But it also means he pulled the proverbial trigger killing the remainder of his race in that universe.

That is pretty dark for a kids' book, don't you think??

With the explosion, our Superman is thrust back to his own Earth.

And amazingly, no real time passed. He isn't missing that year as he was in the other universe.

Realizing things can change in a second, he rushes to enjoy time with his parents. He knows who his Ma and Pa are. And look, there is young, bright, optimistic Kara!

I enjoyed this look into the DCAU. I like reading Millar at the beginning of his career before everything became sordid and sleazy. I liked seeing a Jor-El who is a good person. And frankly, I liked seeing this sort of riff on recent Superman comic events from back then.

Not a bad little story, although of little importance to a Supergirl collection.

Overall grade: B+


H said...

Like I said, one of the best Jor-El moments in a while. A very noble sacrifice for the greater good.

If you want to get into the Superman Adventures Kara, issue 21 was a Supergirl focused issue. It's pretty solid.

Anonymous said...

There is a right way and a wrong way to do "Dark Kara" even if its an overused trope IMHO, and Millar clearly knows the right way. BTW that last panel with her, she has a positively demoniacal expression on her punim.