Monday, June 10, 2013

Review: Action Comics #21 Back-Up

Action Comics #21 came out last week and continued the World of Krypton back-up story that looks back at Jor-El and Lara's early days.

Part of DC's impetus for The New 52 was that it allowed creators to have some freedom with characters, another reboot to try to inject some freshness into some classic characters. It can't be easy. It is tricky to try to reconfigure characters that have decades of steady characterization. An angry disaffected Supergirl doesn't work. An army of Firestorms doesn't work. An aloof Superman doesn't work. That isn't new energy or freshness. It is simply wrong.

But minor characters that can be tweaked? Now that is where new universes can be used to their maximum potential. So I am having a fun time reading this World of Krypton story by writer Frank Hannah and artist Philip Tan and its interesting take on Superman's parents.

I am used to seeing a square-jawed Jor-El who is both stoic and morose. I am used to Lara being a devoted mother, fussing over a cradle. So I don't mind seeing a young Jor-El wide-eyed and exploring ruins. And it is fascinating to see a Lara in military garb throwing backround kicks at Colonel Zod (?). Both of these new characterizations, done in the character's youth, build on the foundation of desperate and intelligent parents willing to buck the system and build a rocket to save their child. It is a refreshing look at these two without shattering what has come before, without erasing who they have been and trying to re-write history.

This is how you can mesh a fresh take on a character as well as maintaining a historical perspective and a respect for what has come before.

Last issue ended with a Colonel from the Kryptonian military barging into the Government council and assassinating the Minister of Science. This opens up with this dramatic shot of Lara, a soldier in the military, attacked her commanding officer for such treachery.

After decades of seeing a brave Lara say that she would rather die with Jor-El than risk getting into Kal's rocket, we get to see just where that courage may have sprung from.

Now I think (and I will reread) that this Colonel has so far been unnamed. It would be easy to think this was Zod but how can you be promoted after this act of treason?

We also got to meet Jax-Ur last month, another cadet in the military who is romantically linked to Lara.

Now in the past, Jax-Ur has been a murderer and rogue scientist, condemned to the Phantom Zone. Here, at least, his villainy remains preserved even if he is, instead of a genius, someone following along with this mutiny.

He does his best to try to convince Lara to fall in line and join the revolution.

Philip Tan's line work is very slick here. I like these sort of retractable, malleable helmets.

Now you can imagine that it might be easy for a low ranking military officer to just be quiet in this sort of situation and try fall in line. But Lara again shows some steeliness here, bashing Jax-Ur and making her escape.

This is a far cry from the Lara of old. This one is strong and pro-active. And yet that doesn't invalidate that picture of the 'desperate parents' trying to save their son in any way possible.

The text here is a little over the top but nicely captures how crazy this decision is by Lara to be the lone voice of reason.

What I did like was this action splash page, so reminiscent of Superman splash pages and iconic pictures. Her fist jutting forward, red cape flapping ... you can almost hear her saying 'up, up, and away!' albeit through grit teeth. Maybe their is some 'nature' to Kal's heroism to go along with the Kent's nurture.

She thinks of the only person who can help her stop this coup ... Jor-El! He is the enemy of her enemy and unfortunately being hunted down himself.

So overall a very nice (if too short) back-up feature again showing us a young Lara and a young Jor-El. I think this look at their early lives when they were flush with young vitality is an interesting time period and one that I don't recall reading too much of in the past. That makes it feel fresh.

But again, these adventures in their youth seem to bolster their main story, that of courage in the steps they took to save Kal.

Kudos to Frank Hannah and Philip Tan for this great little feature.

Overall grade: B+


GettinJiggly said...

If you can tell from my blog I'm still almost 5 months behind. I'm reading the H'el arc at the moment which seems kinda slow. From this review it seems like this arc might be a little better.

Martin Gray said...

Nice review, but I never saw the old Lara as not being strong - not getting into the rocket with her baby wasn't a question of 'risk', it was about fearing she'd overburden the tiny craft and so choosing to die with her beloved husband.

But yeah, short is the word - 6 pages!

Anj said...

Agree Mart. Thanks for the comment.

I guess what I was trying to convey (and must have done a bad job) is that this history further supports the strength it took to stay by Jor-El or even make the rocket in the first place.

valerie21601 said...

The bad spelling fairy got you again Anj! ;)

This is your quote:

"What I did live was this action splash page"