Thursday, April 23, 2020

A Little Bit Of Kandor: Superman #107

I continue my brief look at Kandor stories with a look back to Superman #107 from 1995, a middle chapter in the overly long and mediocre Trial Of Superman arc.

Remember, when John Byrne took over Superman, he made him once again the Last Son of Krypton, the only survivor of the exploding planet. So Supergirl, the Phantom Zone villains, and the bottled city of Kandor all went away.

But that IP is too good to waste and so we got new, different versions of these characters. Remember, this is the time of  the Matrix Supergirl!

On to the book!

The appropriately named 'Bottled Up' was written by Dan Jurgens, with art by Ron Frenz and Joe Rubinstein.

Briefly, in the Trial of Superman, Superman is being tried by the intergalactic Tribunal for the crime of being responsible for the destruction of Krypton. Apparently, one of Kal's ancestors was somehow responsible for the people of Krypton being unable to leave the planet. So Kal, through the generations, is going to be the stand-in for his familial crime.

Team Superman, including Alpha Cneturion, bands together to head into space and rescue the Man of Steel.

So this issue starts out with a nice shot of the Super-family cruising on an asteroid, following a trail to where Superman went.

I like this group shot as the body positions tell us a bit of the characters' personalities. Love the upright Eradicator and somewhat youngish, demure Supergirl.

I like the concept of Team Superman.

Throughout this run, Superboy has had some lack of trust in the Alpha Centurion. When the Centurion's ship isn't where it is supposed to be, Con immediately thinks it is a trap.

To make matters worse, the engine of this modified rock suddenly conks out.

Now you would think some of this would be suspicious to this group ... but not yet.

I also like how Supergirl is a bit more optimistic and trusting here.

Almost luckily, another abandoned spaceship happens to float by. They suddenly have a new way of traveling. Again, you would think this series of coincidences might raise some red flags. But not yet.

Again, Jurgens does a nice job with Supergirl here. She is determined to save Kal. She has a very heroic, steely pose here by Frenz. I like how Matrix matured here. And that is, as many know, my favorite version of the costume.

As an aside, is Gilligan's Island a reference readers would know these days?

As for Superman, he has teamed with some convicts to escape the clutches of the Tribunal. It is pretty clear that these judges aren't exactly impartial or wise.

During the escape, a tiny gang member named Mope is injured. On a planet called Haven where the escapees are hiding out, Superman asks for the name of a healer. He is told Tolos lives on this planet.

The name Tolos frightens the other cons ... but with little choice, Kal brings Mope for some treatment.

In the new ship, Team Superman finds Alpha Centurion's ship. But it isn't answering. And what is worse, is the ship is suddenly stuck in a tractor beam.

Nice crowded group shot here. I kind of like the very Kirby-esque Eradicator visor here.

There is an aside. Joker and Lex Luthor walk the streets of Metropolis, quite smug in the seeming vanquishing of their hated foes.

But it turns out this is actually a snow globe owned by Neron. This was around the Underworld Unleashed mini-series. It is pretty amazing to see these two smug mega-villains humiliated this way.

Superman finally finds Tolos' facility.

In the facility, Superman spies ... gasp ... a bottled city filled with tiny little denizens.

This will ultimately be the new post-Crisis Kandor.

No longer is it a bottled city from Krypton.

Things aren't looking good for our rescuers.

The tractor beam forces their ship to crash onto a nearby planet.

I have to include this nice action shot of Supergirl spilling out of the ship and avoiding any injury.

I know this whole thing was spoiled by the cover but let's put the clue together.

The team's engine suddenly dies out.
The find a new, abandoned ship which flies them to Alpha Centurion's ship.
The ship forces a crash landing.
The pieces of the exploded ship seem alive.

All this tech control and sentience can mean one thing ...

The Cyborg Superman is back!

Again, as a long time reader of the super-books at this time, I loved seeing the four 'new' Supermen of the Reign of Superman together again! Nice splash.

Tolos is able to heal Mope. But he has a heavy price.

We learn that Tolos is an ectoplasmic being who inhabits people's bodies. Consider him like a sort of Deadman. And he keeps all the bodies he needs, each with their unique abilities, within the bottle. He is able to then pick and chose which vessel he 'wears'.

And his payment for saving Mope? Superman to be part of his collection!


This is something of a middle chapter in this long Trial arc. And this particular chapter ends on some down points.

For one, within a couple of pages, the Cyborg is able to defeat all of Team Superman. Seriously, this is not much of a battle. He just takes out all our heroes in quick fashion.

Poor Matrix, taken out by a simple right cross.

Superman is about to be teleported into Kandor when he bluffs his way out.

As he buckles under the pain of Tolos' attack, he says he will vaporize the city with his heat vision. Tolos' will have no prizes. Since Superman is an unknown out here, Tolos buys the bluff and runs away, taking his ball home with him,

This isn't the last time we see the city or Tolos. But this time, he escapes.

And so we have a new Kandor in the DCU.

This isn't a bad chapter for this arc. I like seeing the Team Superman bits as they try to get along and stay on mission even if they are much too willing to ignore suspicious events in this issue. I like Ron Frenz's art well enough. And it is always nice to see Supergirl in that outfit.

But this issue is best known as the first sighting of the new city. Worth a buy if you see in the bargain bins.

Overall grade: B


Martin Gray said...

I’ve managed to forget this one, if I read it at the time. So it’s Kandor via the GL Mosaic world? ‘Tolos’ is reminiscent of ‘Telos’ who was also realm-napping in the DC Convergence event. Hmmm...

... mind, ‘Mope’ is a bit like ‘Mopee’ so it’s perhaps best not to dwell on any of this.

How considerate of the Cyborg Superman to grow his hair out to match Superman’s sometime-mullet.

Anonymous said...

"But that IP is too good to waste and so we got new, different versions of these characters."

In my opinion, this is evidence that Byrne and the like were being short-sighted.

So that DC does away with Supergirl, Krypto, Kandor, Argo City, the Phantom Zoners... because it was irrelevant, outdated, silly, childish Silver Age baggage which "deuniqued" and held Superman back... and then they spend the next fifteen years creating in-name-only replacements? An artificial life-form which is actually and ironically a Silver Age callback, an Earth dog which happens to be called "Krypto" because of convoluted reasons, an alien gheto, a city which happens to be called as Supergirl's hometown, Kryptonian criminals from a pocket dimension...?

I think the fact that they spent one decade and half coming up with similarly-named substitutes before giving up and bringing "modernized" versions from the originals "back" because the in-name-only replacements didn't stick, and nobody appears to miss the 90's Krypto or the alien ghetto which happens to look like a bottled city speaks volumes.

The only thing they achieved was to make the mythos unnecessarily confused and dilute Superman's brand image.

On the story... well, it looks average at best. And Cyborg Superman looks like a "Silverhawks" villain, honestly. I don't get why Jurgens looks so fascinated with him.