Saturday, September 12, 2009

Review: Superman:World of New Krypton #7

Superman:World of New Krypton #7 is the beginning of the second half of this book and it starts off with a bang. The characters are all reeling from the events of Codename:Patriot and it shows. James Robinson and Greg Rucka continue to ratchet up the energy as New Krypton teeters on the brink of war.

It all starts with the spectacular cover by Gary Frank. I don't think I would ever have expected to see a gun-wielding Superman flanked by Ursa and Non. The words 'Kneel Before Kal-El' are blazoned across the cover implying that Kal has taken over Zod's position.

The book really starts strongly. As Superman flies home carrying Ral-Dar's corpse, we hear someone war-hawking about aliens threatening their land and plotting to kill their leaders.

After Codename:Patriot, I assumed the voiceover belonged to General Lane as he rattles the saber, preparing Earth for war.

In a great 'bait and switch', it turns out that the words are being spoken by Commander Gor. The aliens in that speech are humans ... us! That simple plot technique, setting the readers up for one thing and giving them the opposite, hammers home just how tenuous the New Krypton/Earth relationship is right now.

Both sides fear the other side is plotting, planning, scheming. It is a highly combustible situation. And with no easy way for either side to extend an olive branch, it appears the worlds are bound to go to war.

Only Superman seems able to cut through the fear and propaganda. He asks the simple question: how many of the few Kryptonians left have to die in a meaningless and unnecessary war? How many need to die to achieve peace? As it stands, it seems the only way a war will end will be with the eradication of one of the two races.

One of the underlying themes of World of New Krypton has been seeing if Superman's ethics can influence Kryptonian life. Despite his cries for peace, however, some the leading Council are unconvinced. Facts are sparse about the attack on Zod and the events on Earth. Ral-Dar is dead and can't explain anything. Some feel that declaring war on Earth is the only logical response.

As head of the Council, it is ultimately Alura's call. She seems perplexed by all the mysteries behind everything that has gone on. Head in hand, she wishes Zod could give his opinion on what to do. As much as Kal's decision and growth on New Krypton intrigue me, Alura's decisions and growth confuse me. Just an issue after we see her stand up as a true leader, we see her wracked with indecision. This felt like a step backwards for Alura. I think she is a psychological wreck from everything that has happened in her life making her responses to stress labile, unpredictable.

Amazingly, Zod shows up! He has been removed from stasis in this hour of crisis.

Zod continues to be a very interesting character. He is not some cliched mustache-twirling villain. Rather than demand retribution from Earth and promote war, he speaks somewhat eloquently about how the Council must defend New Krypton and do all it can to safeguard the lives of its citizens. He declares that the person who best understands that is Kal-El. Zod promotes Superman to the rank of General making him the head of New Krypton's military.

Just as I start to think that Zod might not be evil, he says war with Earth must not happen ... not yet.

Not yet! Not yet?

Zod has some plans in the works. But his injuries are still critical. He is rushed back to stasis.

Elevating Kal to his position is an interesting manuveur by Zod. All along there has been a 'keep you enemies closer' feeling by Kal and his watching over Zod. Now I think Zod also has those inclinations.

Thankfully, Kal seems to put war with Earth on the backburner. Instead, he realizes that he needs to stabilize the planet itself before he can stabilize the political climate.

Kal initiates Operation:Callisto, a plan to move Jupiter's moon Callisto into New Krypton's orbit allowing oceans to be created and maintained.

Maybe ... just maybe ... with Kal in charge of the military, New Krypton can breathe a sigh of relief.

Then comes my favorite scene in the book.

Kal calls for his Labor Guild friend Tyr-Van. Remember when Tyr, on Zod's command, blew out Kal's prison door allowing Kal to escape? Well Kal figured out that Tyr was working with Zod there, was working as a spy. Accused of betraying his friend, Tyr looks crest-fallen. He says he was only doing what he was told ... something any Labor Guild member would do. It is a hollow excuse, the equivalent of 'I was just following orders.'

But Kal's reaction is why I love this scene and why this comic struck me so much.

Kal responds to Tyr's treachery by dismissing him angrily. He even throws in a classist insult for good measure telling Tyr to do as he is told and go.

This seems very un-Superman-like doesn't it? Wouldn't Superman forgive him? Ask him why he did it and see if he could help? Wouldn't Superman say he would continue to fight for Laborer's rights so they don't feel obliged to do something against their will?

But instead he lashes out at this common man.

Maybe instead of Krypton becoming more like him, maybe Superman is becoming more Kryptonian. It's a little scary. Perhaps the weight of command is getting to him. Or maybe Superman is getting a greater understanding of why Zod acts a certain way now that Kal has walked in his shoes a bit.

Look at that last panel where Kal stands shoulders slumped. He looks defeated. Is he weary? Is he ashamed of what he just did? Does he want to just leave it all and fly back to Lois' loving arms?

Maybe this was Zod's plan all along. By elevating Kal to General, maybe Zod hopes that Superman will become more nationalistic, making Kal an ally rather than a foe. When Zod says 'not yet' about war on Earth maybe he is saying 'not until General El declares war.'

This person introspection by Superman is brief however as he is notified that the Operation:Callisto troops have been attacked in deep space. Not knowing if the attackers are from Earth or elsewhere, Kal responds the only way he can. He leads his army into battle.

And what a battle it is as we see throngs of Thanagariansattacking the Kryptonian ships. Surprisingly, the Hawks seem to be holding their own.

As his troops join the fray, Kal is given more bad news. The ships guiding the Callisto moon safely into orbit around New Krypton have been destroyed.

Callisto is careening on a collision course with New Krypton! Nice cliffhanger!

This was just another good issue in this mini-series. Rucka and Robinson really have the right mix of action-driven and character-driven plots. Seeing Superman and Zod under the microscope has been compelling reading.

I was optimistic that Superman's hope and ethics would inspire his people and early on in the series it looked like it just might. But with war looming, I feel that Superman feels lost and that his hope alone might not be strong enough. Forced with the potential of a 2 front war (Earth and Thanagar), I feel Superman might slip further into despair, becoming more and more like Zod.

Of course I have been wrong about just about everything I have guessed about in this comic. I guessed Tyr was the leader of the Labor Guild rebels. I guessed Zod was behind his own assassination attempt. So I am probably wrong on all my thoughts here. Despite my inability to foresee things here, I have really been enjoying the ride.

Still, this issue was an interesting epilogue to Codename:Patriot, a sudden deceleration of the Earth/New Krypton tensions just as it was speeding out of control. And yet, the story continues to move forward.

Pete Woods' art continues to be above average. The space battle scenes were especially strong.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

I don't think Superman "likes" his fellow Kryptonians very much.
Tyr caught the brunt of his resentment so it seems.
Kal El's Aunt seems very much a haughty autocrat in the General Zod mode and the rest of the population seem slap happy at best and at worst willing to follow the first demagogue who will give them three squares and a place to flop.
In short, they seem too human despite their lofty lineage, Kal El is finding out the deities from which he is descended have feet of clay.
The only exception he is making is for his cousin....Wise decision on his part.

John Feer

Anj said...

I don't think Superman "likes" his fellow Kryptonians very much.
Tyr caught the brunt of his resentment so it seems.

Thanks for the post.

I think you are right. He *wants* to like them but I think he is having a hard time of it.

I do think the stress on him (man of two worlds, now leading the military, enemies all around them) is going to get to him. And I think that should be interesting reading.

Eric said...

Hey Anj,

I just got the Super Hero Collection issue with Supergirl in it. I have uploaded some pics to my picasa ( if you want to take a look. The figurine is really cool and the magazine itself is a nice. Cheers!

TalOs said...

Man oh man Kal is stuck between a rock and a hard place by the end of it.

Anj said...

iI just got the Super Hero Collection issue with Supergirl in it. I have uploaded some pics to my picasa ( if you want to take a look. The figurine is really cool and the magazine itself is a nice. Cheers!/i

Thanks so much. You are the second person to sing its praises. I just might need to hunt a little harder for this.