Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Review: Superman Annual #14

Superman Annual #14 continues the origin theme running through all the super-annuals. Action Comics had the origin of Nightwing and Flamebird. Supergirl will have the origin of Superwoman and Linda Lang.

The annual not only recapped Mon-El's origin but also shed light in the origin of Daxam as a whole.

Written by James Robinson and drawn by Javier Pina, it certainly provides significant back story for Lar Gand.

The annual starts with a bit of a deus ex machina as Mon-El discovers 2 small red crystals which, when touched, seems to download historical data into Mon-El's mind. After some small interactions with the crystals and some glimpses of his past, Mon-El finally gives in and opens up his mind to them.

These are the crystals that Sodam Yat gave Tellus a few issues back. But how does Yat have them? And why does he feel that Mon-El needs this information now. And does this mean that Tellus was responsible for the curative potion?

Hopefully all these questions surrounding Mon-El will be answered.

Daxam's past actually begins on Krypton!

Back when Krypton was an expansionist society, it visited and invaded many worlds. Some of these invasions failed - like these images from (I assume) Tamaran, Imsk, and Durla.

But others succeeded. Kryptonian explorer Dax-Am led the expedition to Mon-El's homeworld. Not only was Daxam conquered but the Kryptonian conquerors accepted the Daxamite natives, even co-mingling with them. After a few generations, the people on the planet no longer considered themselves Kryptonians. They were Daxamites.

Hmmm ... so Kryptonians and Daxamites are cousins with the same ancestors. Interesting.

While we might be used to reading Daxam as an isolationist planet, in its infancy it also was led by explorers.

But rather than conquest, the Daxamites hoped to share with and learn from other cultures. We see the Daxamites landing on a number of worlds peacefully - planets whose names I don't know but which look like the home worlds of Tigorr, Blok, Tomar-Re, and Despero.

It looks as though they even journeyed to Earth. It looks as though they were the reason why the Incans were so advanced.

And those interspecies relationships and co-mingling continued here as well. We see a female Daxamite explorer talking with an Incan about their love for one another. Realizing a Terran/Daxamite child would have powers under Earth's yellow suns and this child might upset the balance on the planet, she returns home.

Fearing she and her child might be shunned because of this racial status, the space traveller stashes her ship when she returns home to Daxam. She realizes she might need to beat a quick escape back to Earth.

The child is born and lives on the planet (I presume) without any major incident. But the Terran genes spreads over the planet and all descendants of that Daxamite seem to crave the stars and have a need to return to their ancestral home world of Earth.

However, those with more pure Kryptonian heritage wish to stay on Daxam and become more and more isolationist.

The two groups cannot reconcile and as a result a civil war ... The Science Wars ... breaks out.

I don't know if I like how there is a genetic disposition to want to explore or stay isolated.

The Isolationists win and form a ruling body called the Sorrow Cult. This cult comes to power centuries after the war and rewrite the history books instilling a fear of expanding into the minds of Daxam's citizens. They literally shut down the skies of the planet.

At some point in time The Eradicator also comes to the world to help purge the sin of Kryptonian expansion. It makes sense that he would target Daxam. Moreover, it is hinted at that it was the Eradicator who tinkered with the Daxamite genome, giving the natives their vulnerability to lead. It is simply another way to keep the Daxamites on their home planet.

The inclusion of the Eradicator is interesting. I liked the Eradicator concept back in the Byrne/Jurgens Superman era so it was nice to see it still kicking around in current continuity.

Despite the ban on space exploration, some Daxamites (especially those with the Earth genes) still wish to reach for the stars.

At last we see a young Lar Gand, who along with a friend named Van, have discovered the abandoned space ship from the female Daxamite explorer from millenia past. Gand thinks it should be used.

When a Sorrow Cultist learns of their plans, the Cultist breaks into the duo's lab with the plan to arrest the two for treason. Van tells Lar to run off and use the ship while he deals with the authorities. Hmmm .. this might explain why Sodam Yat was so interested in Mon-El. He could still be wanted as a criminal on Daxam!

The ship takes its preprogrammed flight back to Earth but crashes in Smallville rather than Peru for some reason. There a confused Mon-El meets a young Clark.

I think we know the rest of Mon-El's history from this point.

Well ... almost all of it.

It turns out that the woman Daxamite who introduced the Terran gene on Daxam is named Bal Gand and is a direct ancestor of Mon-El.

One thing I'll say about James Robinson, he is doing his best to make me want to care about Mon-El. By weaving Kryptonian and Earth into Gand's heritage, Robinson has put forth a new spin on the character. But I don't know if I care about Mon-El enough to want to read about centuries of Daxam's history.

I guess I have to wonder if all these changes are an improvement on the past origins. Is the Bal Gand revelation a way to give some sense of destiny for Mon-El's activities on Earth? Why would Tellus/Sodam Yat think Mon needs to know all this now. Why do I as a reader need to know all this now? And doesn't it all fit together almost too neatly?

I did enjoy how so much of the DC universe was seen here, how much reach Krypton and Daxam have had.

I admit Robinson's Superman has left me somewhat wanting. This annual left me feeling the same way. I feel like I have enough back-story for everyone we have seen in the book. Now I want story. Now I want to see how it all fits together and moves forward.

Overall grade: B-


Saranga said...

I always assumed that Daxamites were related to Kyrptonians, but then again I'm now completely au fait with DCU history. I'm getting there though.

I liked the annual, I thought it was one of the stronger ones of last week's releases.

(Ha! word verification is 'comic'. It had to happen sooner or later!)

Nikki said...

Daxam was a colony pre-crisis too but they never went into this much detail. I didn't like the blood call idea, no reality there at all. I'm not sure the green guy is from Durla, natural Durlans are a mustard colour and they could be anyone when not in their natural form.

Saranga said...

damn, i meant to say 'not' completely au fait, not 'now'.

And-Ru said...

I thought pre-Crisis it wasn't established which was the colony of which.

There was a neat exchange in Legion of Super Heroes while Crisis was going on between Dev-Em and Mon-El where both said their homeworld was the original home world...

I loved this issue though!


It had a nice silver-age feel.

TalOs said...

Anj said...
I admit Robinson's Superman has left me somewhat wanting. This annual left me feeling the same way. I feel like I have enough back-story for everyone we have seen in the book. Now I want story. Now I want to see how it all fits together and moves forward.

My feelings here exactly ah! :D

LJ-90 said...

O.O...never thought my home country would have anything to do with Superman mythos...that's awesome!