Monday, June 17, 2019

Review: Superman #12

Superman #12 came out last week, the next chapter in The House of El portion of the Unity Saga. It is an interesting book because it overlaps heavily with Supergirl #31. The two books tell the same story from the different angles of their main characters. In many ways it succeeds in giving us some added information of the perspective of the other protagonist. In others it fails where dialogue and some interactions are different.

Of the two, the Superman books succeeds more in my mind. Remember, this is coming from an avid Supergirl fan.

Writer Brian Michael Bendis succeeds in showing us the power of a united El family. Superman, Supergirl, Superboy, and Krypto all clearly love each other and are supportive of each other. That felt like a wonderful throwback to past times when the super-cousins regularly teamed up and had each other's back. We haven't seen much of that since 2011. I also love the outright respect that Bendis gives Supergirl as a character. Kara is treated very well.

The down side to the story is my rather lack of sustained interest in Rogol Zaar. I also fear about the long lasting besmirching of Jor-El's character. I liked the noble scientist who tried his best to save the world but could only save his child. Not this Mr. Oz character who seemingly knew about Zaar's plans to blow up the world.

Ivan Reis has shined on every Superman issue. But this issue with it's double page vertical spreads and space battles as well as family hugs and reunions is a tour de force. I knew I would love seeing Reis draw Supergirl. I didn't think I would love it this much.

On to the book.

We start in the space battle between Jor-El, Khunds, thee Trillium army, Thanagarians, Rogol Zaar, Zod, Jax-ur, and Superman and Superboy. Jax-Ur was hoping the Phantom Zone escapees could kill Jor-El before the El family showed up. The best laid plans Jax-Ur ...

Because Supergirl and Krypto come screaming onto the scene, brought there by Zaar's axe.

I love how Kara uses the planetary mass glommed onto the axe to use it like a trebuchet missile, ripping through Zaar's ship. Nice strategy.

And what I love is the pleased and proud smile on Superman's face when Kara shows up. He is thrilled that his family is together. Thankfully, the prickly relationship with Kara and Kal has melted away since Rebirth.

And check out the old school Krypto logo!

And then, we see that Kara gives Kal a side glance and a little smile. She knows something. And she is here to help.

As someone who loves the super-cousins to be familial and loving, this tiny little interaction made me smile. Superb.

The arrival of Supergirl is enough to make the space armies scatter. I guess she was one Kryptonian too many on the playing field.

For me, Zaar right now is as much a Supergirl villain as he is a Superman villain. She is the one who fought him first in Man of Steel. She is the one who sent him to the Phantom Zone. She is the one bearing his axe (whether I like that or not). So I love that she wastes no time singling him out and bashing him.

Also, over the years, I have come to notice that Supergirl fights as a southpaw. This is a nice left cross.

Ivan Reis really delivers the power of this blow.

The red skirt looks so normal to me that I had to be reminded by blog friend Professor Feetlebaum that this is a coloring error!

All the supers level their heat vision at the bad guys, jump into Jor-El's ship, and warp away. The time was right for a retreat.

If that Kara/Kal smile exchange made me smile, this page made me well. The super-family, Krypto included, all hugging each other. This is what the super-family should be.

And just as important as that middle panel is seeing how Jor-El really isn't part of this. He didn't join in. Right now, given all that has been going on, he shouldn't.

There is definitely a need for everyone to catch up.

Kara says that Zaar's axe is now hers. Kal wants to know why Jor-El was in the midst of this firefight.

And then Kara says all she learned about Zaar. More worrisome is that Jor-El asks if the Circle was behind it. He knows about the Circle.

Given recent events, Superman asks if Jor-El was part of this Circle.

Jor reminds everyone that he lost everyone and everything when Krypton died. How could be part of it?

Instead Jor-El says he is always being attacked because people don't want unity and peace and are lashing out at him.

I can't help but laugh at this. Jor-El, as Oz, sowed the seeds of dissension and war on Earth just last year. How can he crow that he is all about peace and unity?

Despite the fact that Zaar, Zod, and Jax-Ur are all out there, out of no where, Kara says she needs to leave and finish off Gandelo. And she is taking Jon. That initially seemed off. After all, isn't Zaar and Zod the bigger threat?

Yes, she says she is going after Gandelo for Kandor and for justice.

But there is this side benefit. Superman needs to wrap up this business with Jor-El. And Jon shouldn't be around to see dad fight gramps.

It is pretty mature for Kara. I liked this little side strategy to give Kal the space to deal with Mr. Oz. It shows how much respect Bendis has for Supergirl.

Once alone, Jor-El says he noticed that Zod and Kal were talking while they 'fought'.

We then flashback to that conversation.

Zod isn't really teaming up with Zaar. He is using Zaar to get information about the conspiracy to blow up Krypton. And, more importantly, he admits that he can't defeat Zaar by himself. That had to be incredibly difficult for someone like Zod to admit.

Oh, by the way, Jor-El might have been involved. How can Superman be surprised by this or demand proof? He knows how Jor-El has been shown to be criminally insane.

I guess we'll find out more.

Finally Superman asks the question we all have been asking ourselves since this story unfolded.

Who is this Jor-El/Mr. Oz?

The answer is coming now that they have traveled to the site of Krypton's destruction. Nice cliffhanger.

There was a lot to love here. The El family dynamic was wonderful, so much of that love and pride reflected solely in the expressive artwork. Supergirl being as big a player as Superman in this story, including her ability to get Jon out of there, was great. And the promise of closure to the Oz arc is good news.

Overall grade: B+


Anonymous said...

"Of the two, the Superman books succeeds more in my mind. Remember, this is coming from an avid Supergirl fan."

I thought the latest Supergirl was a step up due to -and I can't believe I'm writing this- the lack of maimings, sexual harassment, and "Will or Will not Kara give in her rage and kill someone?" moments.

"Not this Mr. Oz character who seemingly knew about Zaar's plans to blow up the world."

...I didn't get that feeling at all. Gandelo backed up Zaar privately, so the rest of the Circle knew nothing. And Zaar wouldn't want to spar any Kryptonian. He actually thought all of them were dead. So why would he warn someone?

"How can he crow that he is all about peace and unity?"

But he was being manipulated by an external agent back then. He wasn't being himself.

I'm more irked at the fact he only reacts to his niece's presence to demand answers. I almost wish Kara had sarcastically retorted: "Greetings, uncle. I'm happy to see you, too. I thought you were dead. Do you know what happened to dad and mom? Do you want me tell you?"

"He knows how Jor-El has been shown to be criminally insane."

...But he became so AFTER being abducted from Krypton.

And him telling "I love you love Earth" doesn't count for anything?

I also hate what has been done to Jor-El since Rebirth, but... If I may be frank, I think you are making him out to be a bigger jerkass than what he was depicted as.

Anyway I agree that Kara has been well-portrayed, Ivan Reis' art is phenomenal, and it's a good thing this arc appears to be coming to a close.

Martin Gray said...

I’m with You, Anj, so far as the jerkiness of Jor is concerned, maybe I’m misremembering but he was manipulated in that he was saved from Krypton’s destruction, but he wasn’t mind-controlled, or tricked into, doing all those appalling things as Mr Oz. Even if we accept he was never as bad as he seemed, he’s been a real git since he reappeared in the latest run.

The Supergirl side of this story is pretty poor, and that’s being kind. Looking forward to your review.

Anonymous said...

Jor-El doesn't at first actually directly answer when Superman asks him if he was part of the Circle. But later he says he obviously was. While no one in the circle knew what Gandelo was up to, the charge is that the Kryptonians were a destructive colonizing force, hence Gandelo and Zaar's motivation to wipe them out.

All his talk about trying to bring about unity, and that the universe doesn't want it - sounds like what the strongman or the military say to justify when they move in to impose order over an "unruly" population.

I thought Zaar told Zod way back that he had heard Zod knew of a way out of the Phantom Zone. But here, Zod tells Superman that he used Zaar to escape. Am I forgetting something? I don't remember how they got out.

What happens to the axe? Jor-El and his robot seem to actually disassemble it, and then we see it as a 3d hologram Jor-El is studying. But maybe they were just "sampling" the axe. If Jor-El was actually breaking it down atomically and reassembling it for study, that would be the end of the axe and its rage-enhancing effect.

Either way, it was a very cool set of effects!

Despite all my questions, I thought this was better written than Supergirl. Both books looked great, in their own ways.


Martin Gray said...

That ‘I was, obviously, one of them’ line is ambiguous... I originally took it as read, then remembered that he’s never been with the Circle in flashbacks - it’s sarcasm, I think.

Aaron Ramos said...

I'm with you on most of this. I thought Zod in particular was good in this. But I'm surprised you didn't touch on one thing that I found to be really poorly thought out: Clark letting Jon run off into space Again. This is the son who he knows was held prisoner and tortured. He already missed out on nearly a decade of his life because he let him go off "because it woud be good for him." At the very least this time its with someone who wasn't evil the last time he saw them. If this was my son, my response to him wanting to leave again would be, "Oh hell no, I'm never letting you out of my sight again!"

Anonymous said...

Well look at it this way, at least Supergirl isn't shooting up a school bus with a death ray...nowhere to go but up eh?
Is it me, or is Rogol Zaar Supergirl's own personal overhyped jobber? Every time they tangle he basically seems to get his @ss well and thoroughly kicked by the Maid of Might. As for Jor El, the Ruthless and Amoral Patriarch of the House of El, well...they did it to poor Zor El first, and DC Comics is never ever given to leaving a Bad Idea Alone.


Anonymous said...

@Martin Gray - could be. Sarcasm isn't always easy to convey in writing.

Whether Jor-El was or wasn't part of the The Circle - and he could have merely been on an adjunct advisory committee - things do get even dicier between them, as Superman becomes even more accusative - asking Jor-El if knew ahead of time, is that why he saved Kal, is that how he is still alive? "Who ARE you? Mr. Oz? Jor-El? Grandpa?"

And again Jor-El doesn't answer. Instead, he glowers and actually curses.

Jor-El clearly isn't telling something. I guess Bendis is being deliberately elliptical here. My, what a novel thing for Bendis to do. (Now, that is certainly sarcastic.)

But when will Bendis pay it off? In the next issue, as they arrive at what I guess is the debris of Krypton? Jor-El says all of his answers will be here. Let's hope so! This story has been stretched out for more than a year.


Professor Feetlebaum said...

I only caught the skirt color error when I compared Superman 12 and Supergirl 31 side by side. Had the issues told different stories, I doubt I would have noticed.

It was good to see Superman and Supergirl (and Jon and Krypto) come together again after much too long a time. The hugging scene was nice, although Krypto looked a little uncomfortable. Things have sure come a long way since the early days of the New 52!

"Also, over the years, I have come to notice that Supergirl fights as a southpaw."

Really??? How far does this go back? To the Silver Age? Now I gotta check my Archives and Omnibuses!

I have never cared much for the idea of Jor-El being alive. I think it messes too much with Superman's basic mythology, so I'm happy that the end of the Mr. Oz/Jor-El story seems to be in sight. Maybe Zaar only THINKS he destroyed Krypton. Maybe it was a natural disaster after all?

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Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments. Interesting stuff.

I don't think Jor was part of the Circle.

I do think it is weird for Jon to leave again. But I think (and perhaps I say it better in the Supergirl review) that this is Kara taking him away from the awkward situation of Superman and Jor-El having one final showdown.

As for the southpaw angle, I know I started to notice it in the Gates/Igle run. Perhaps some research is due.