Monday, September 30, 2013

Review: Batman/Superman #3.1 Doomsday

Batman/Superman #3.1 Doomsday came out last week and was one of the more intriguing books during Villains' month. Written by Greg Pak and drawn by Brett Booth, the book isn't necessarily about Doomsday as much as it is about the El family and General Zod.

Sure, we see Doomsday, hear how he earned his name, even learn a bit about his origins. But he seems more like a plot device than a character, something to move the plot along ... like a bomb threat or a natural disaster.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the book is the setting, Krypton several years before its destruction. We hear from all the Els about what Doomsday meant and how he effected their world. We see a loving Zor-El (something I didn't think existed anymore) and strong Lara. And then, in a sort of story curve ball, we hear about a prophecy for the El family, one which struck me as the most beautiful segment in the issue. It weaves some of the problems I have with the current DCU in with some nice Reign of Superman homages. 

Booth brings his usual style to the book, a kinetic feel to the action sequences, a soft touch to the personal moments. But the prophecy pages stand out, drawn as a sort of 'stained glass' giving it a mythic feel. Wonderful.

The book opens with Jor-El and Lara with Zor-El and Alura celebrating 'Remembrance Day'. But no one seems happy about it. This is a solemn day, remembering a day of disaster ... a Doomsday.

I actually like this play on words. Doomsday is a day which becomes synonymous with the creature that brought on that day.

One thing that does seem a bit out of place is the interaction between these four in comparison to the prior peeks we have seen recently. Things have seemed strained ... maybe hateful ... between the El brothers but here they are together and actually quite cordial to each other. Maybe they are on their best behavior sort of like visiting relatives you dislike on holidays?

Lara was on hand as a military person on the actual Doomsday. I still am getting used to this bad-ass version of Lara. She sees the Doomsday creature land in the city, destroying buildings, killing indiscriminately, impervious to anything Lara throws against it - hand blasters and such. She says Krypton had become complacent and it showed when Doomsday arrived.

I love this panel progression by Booth. We see the current Lara remembering, the cityscape in the background. And then suddenly we are in the past, her cowering in the same panel spot, the cityscape in flames, the panels rougher. Such a smooth transition.

Doomsday seems unstoppable until Colonel Zod shows up. Armed in ancient weaponry, he holds his own against the creature. But while he battles, the city falls down around them. Thousands were killed.

So is Zod the hero?

Or is this some sly commentary on the ending of Man of Steel?

But it is interesting that Zod somehow had access to weapons that seem to work.

Before we hear how this fight ended, the group hears a squeal from inside.

It's from Kara! She's inside.

Zor-El is sent in to comfort her and he assumes she was listening in on the scary Doomsday discussion.

This is about as friendly and paternal we have seen Zor-El act since the New 52. Sure, it is clear he had a special relationship with Kara in the early Green/Johnson issues but always around battle training.

We know that Zod is in the Phantom Zone at this point because he tells Kara that he can't get to her (sort of like a Boogey Man). Remember that Zor unknowingly helped Zod with the fake Char attack (as seen in the Zod issue). Even then he seemed moody and angry with his brother. So, while welcome, it felt a little off from the villain we saw in Cyborg Superman.

I am not against this in any way. I like this Zor-El, hugging his daughter and telling her he will keep her safe. This is better than the desperate man who experimented on his daughter or the bitter man willing to risk his family's lives to one-up his brother.

Still, Kara is bright and doesn't believe in the immutable happy endings her father tells her. And so he relays to her the prophecy of the house of El.

Booth's art changes to this more angular, darker, even more stylized motif, again giving it some sort of mythic feeling.

We hear of the Knight of El, sent from his home, always using his powers to help. Always.

That's Superman.

But the people the Knight helps fear him and shun him and hunt him. I can't help but think that this is also some commentary about the current DCU. In the current New 52 world, Superman is feared by the populace, hunted by the military.

Still, when a monster ... Doomsday ... arrives, the Knight does what he must do; he helps, he saves. But then he dies. So Pak is bringing into continuity the idea of Superman dying at the hands of Doomsday.

I like the aftermath of his death. People suddenly realize what they have lost with the death of their knight. They stood alone in a dark, cruel universe. Is this also Pak talking about the New 52. That if the true Superman, the ideal Superman 'dies' then the universe is a grim place.

But that death inspires. The 'glory of the word of El' ... they help, they die, others rise to do the same.

I love this splash page, a sort of riff on Reign of the Superman. When Superman dies, others rise. There are Supergirl, Power Girl, Superboy, Steel, even an Eradicator kind of guy.

I love this page, Supergirl smack dab in the center as the logical legacy.

Just great stuff by both Pak and Booth.

Now maybe I am transferring my own issues with the New 52 onto this myth. It could easily be interpreted as a Christ story with a death, and followers arising preaching the good word.

Still Kara can't get past the uplifting ending to this myth. She wants to hear the 'true story'.

Look at this loving Zor-El again, calming her fears, tweaking her nose, telling her he will always keep her safe.

I loved this scene.

The story does take a darker turn when we see that the reason Kara squealed is because somehow Zod is able to communicate with her from the Phantom Zone.

He created Doomsday to scare the Kryptonian populace into picking up the sword. He also created the Char threat to do the same! How many plots did he have to strike terror into the heart of Krypton. Not only did he slaughter real Char, he slaughtered his own people ... both at Doomsday's hands and his own from the aftermath of the battle.

Zod is creepy, saying he wants blood ... maybe Kara's. He says he will kill Zor-El if she talks.

I wonder how long this went on in her youth. Poor Supergirl ... psychologically terrorized by Zod's phantom on Krypton. Lied to by her father. Alone on Earth. Why must DC do the worst it can to her?

I do like that we see some of the fire in even a young Kara. She defiantly stands up to him. Great pose.

But Zod isn't thrown off. He is close to being free. Doomsday is in there with him. And that El myth ends with the death of the Knight. Things are not well.

I thought this was a very good issue. I love that it is set on Krypton with a young Kara and a loving Zor-El. This is more a Supergirl story than a Superman story. I love the 'myth' sequence, bringing into play some elements of Reign of the Superman and commenting on the current New 52. I like that the threat of Zod and Doomsday is suddenly real and palpable.

And I am a big fan of Brett Booth. I loved his Supergirl in his Justice League run. And I think this Doomsday is a monstrosity of spikes and brawn. On top of that, we I love the switch in styles to create that storybook feel to the Word of El.

It is hard for me to believe I almost didn't pick up this book. I am a believer in these creative teams.

Overall grade: B+


Martin Gray said...

It took me a week to read this issue - another ruddy Krypton flashback. As you say, though, there was some good stuff in there, though I could so have done without the idea of Kara having a frightened childhood.

Hey ho, top review!

Anj said...

I agree about Kara completely.

Her life has been horrific.

She is one Countdown away from Dark Supergirl all over again.

Jay said...

Kid Kara reminds me of a far less sadistic Damian. Bring the boy back to life already so the New 52 can bring back that fun dynamic.

Anonymous said...

So did Zod release two creatures? Or was there some confusion and it was always doomsday. If so than is doomsday some sort of creature from splicing DNA samples of krypton's dangerous life forms in the new 52.

Anj said...

I don't know if Zod released 2 creatures. He definitely made 'Char' troops that led to his banishment. And he must have made Doomsday as well.