Friday, April 8, 2022

Review: World Of Krypton #5

World of Krypton #5, the penultimate issue of the mini-series by writer Robert Venditti and artist Michael Avon Oeming, came out this week and set us up nicely for the inevitable conclusion of the planet. We all know that Krypton is going to explode. So it is really the characters that are going to drive this.

As someone who has been reading comics for over 4 decades, I have read the destruction of Krypton and Superman's origins many times. The buildup has been anything from a few panels to whole mini-series like this. I have read different takes and the main characters have had different motivations and outlooks on life.

One thing I like about this series is that Venditti is really looking at the classic interpretation of the characters but putting something of a modern spin on things. Jor-El is the scientist who knows Krypton is doomed. But instead of being laughed at, his work is being sort of denied or ignored. Lara is still the loving wife but she has agency here and is a true partner to Jor. Zod is still an extreme fascist but this story makes it seem like he is nudged down that path rather than it being inherent. And Zor-El is the loving father just trying to save his family. But that desperation has at least a whiff of the more recent interpretations of Zor as something of a madman. Even Kara here is bright and intelligent with a little sass to her, another welcome return.

In other words, the essence of these characters remain intact here but in a way that makes sense for this 2022 reader. The evil Jor-El who became Mr. Oz never jibed with me. The Zor-El who was seeing phantoms and killing people never made sense. The Zor-El who drugged and rocketed Kara away in the New 52 didn't work for me. And the morose Supergirl, crying in a sun and living in pain, certainly doesn't either.

I guess this is a long winded way of thanking Robert Venditti for this tale. It is clear we are reading an allegory of Earth as it is unfolding right now. But it isn't preachy or overwhelming. 

Oeming's art is an acquired taste. It definitely is a wild style especially effective in the riot sequences in this issue. From embedded panels and action progression, things zip along. It can be 'cartoony' at times. But it kind of dazzles in its own way. I have really enjoyed his take on the young Kara from baby to toddler to school age girl here.

On to the show.

In this version of Krypton's story, the reality that Krypton is environmentally on the brink is accepted. Jor-El isn't laughed out of the room. But the solution that is initiated is one of extreme austerity. The utilization of resources needs to be carefully meted out. And for that, the Council has given Zod complete authority.

We see how Zod has become the head of a planetary security force, complete with propaganda films playing in the square to recruit people into the fold. And to complete his fascist turn, he says outright that 'right needs might', an obvious twist on 'might makes right'.

It also shows how Zod is in an 'ends justify the means' mindset. Yes, the planet should be saved. But is it worth it if life is horrible? Is it worth it if the cost is shipping people into the torture of the Phantom Zone? What life and culture is Zod preserving?

It is interesting that the first time we see Zod in this book he is hoping to retire. He wanted to walk away from this life. That adds some depth to him. But it also shows how easily he could be nudged down the path of dictator.

His measures and the presence of his forces have lead to demonstrations and protests. 

How often have we seen this sort of scene of riot police facing off against protesters.

Unlike some of the protests on our own world where violence is initiated by either side, this one truly feels like a peaceful gathering. These are people who want to live their life and are just holding signs and chanting things.

Zod simply can't have it. He asks his forces to engage with prejudice. With prejudice!! I love how the monitor screen data around Zod are all jagged and lightning-like and even labyrinthine. It just shows his attitude here.

What ensues are pages of these officers beating on the gatherers and them striking back. Very vivid and brutal pages.

Watching the news is depressing to Jor-El who can't understand why we all can't just get along, work together, and save the planet. I love the muted dialogue where he laments not making a difference. He speaks for all of us! He wants Krypton to survive but not by everyone losing their minds.

That is the sort of 10000 foot view of the problem. And maybe it is a little narcissistic.

I really love Lara's response taking it down to a more personal level. People can't worry about tomorrow if they are worrying about today. People need to live today. That's just human nature. 

I mean that is about the most common sense thing you can state. I know I have to worry about the world in the future. The best way for me to impact change is to live today. Unfortunately, that means my driving my car to work, which isn't good for tomorrow. (Sorry for the aside.)

Lara really shines in this issue.

She continues to rant against the Zod/Jor-El feud which has brought the world to this place. Both are great leaders. They should have ... and probably could have ... found a way to 'reach across the aisle' and work together to save the planet. 

Instead, despite their friendship, it was a competition. One which the ultimate losers were the people.

Such great words captioned over the aftermath of the riot, people bloodied and unconscious under the truncheons of the police. 

This is why I love comics. Words and art can just come together so perfectly.

If Jor is despondent, Zod has gone mad.

Without a thought he sends 18,000 protestors to the Phantom Zone. Seems like any infraction on the planet leads to that ultimate sentence. And remember, we have seen that in this world even seconds in the Zone feels like interminable torture. 

But this is how out of touch Zod is. He even threatens to investigate the council members if they question him. He will destroy those who gave him power like most dictators do. 

And yet, we see how he thinks he is doing it truly for the good of the planet. 18000 people in the Zone mean 18000 less to use up resources. He unfortunately knows it isn't enough.

See how easy it is to become the hero in your own story. 

And then, finally, our sassy Kara moment!

It is obvious that several years have past because Kara looks more like a middle-schooler here than the kindergartener we saw last issue. She is definitely giving off a Judy Jetson vibe here, although maybe her head is just a tiny bit too big for her frame.

She continues to shine in history, again making her the sort of perfect person to be saved and represent the Kryptonian culture. It now makes even more sense that she would so quickly know about Krypton's history in the current Action run.

But the thing I like about this interaction is that Zor-El is still on his mad quest to discover the Survival Zone. That itself is a nice callback to the Silver Age. You can see how obsessive he has become, completely unkempt. Missing his kid's celebrations. Given how obsessed and crazed Zor-El has been in recent incarnations. This man has lost sight of everything but this mission. This is someone who might in a pique, shoot his own daughter and put her in a rocket. So this had a nice vibe.

Love this Supergirl!

It turns out that Jor-El has learned that Krypton has passed the point of no return. Nothing can save the core from exploding.

So the only thing left to do is make the time remaining more palatable. That means Zod needs to go away.

We saw Jor-El get beaten up by Zod not long ago in this series so he has leveled up. Now in armor that looks suspiciously like a classic red-trunked Superman, Jor confronts his frenemy.

I really loved this, as if Superman's classic suit is some familial memory manifesting. It also reminds me of the old story in Batman's history where Thomas Kent wore a Batman-like costume to a party at some point which may have inspired Bruce's costume.

I said how much I loved Lara this issue.

After hearing the planet is doomed she decides to look outside to try and save the unborn Kal. Where in the cosmos can he be sent to live.

I really loved this ending. First off, in some histories, Lara was a Kryptonian astronaut. So she should have some knowledge of the universe and other galaxies. Second, it gives her some agency here. She is an active part, if not the most important part, of the plan to save Kal. And it takes away some of the pearl-clutching we have seen from Lara, such as in Byrne's run where she was shocked at the shirtless farmers in Kansas. This is a modern take on her and I love it.

I really have been loving this series. I think this metaphorical take on our own world and how some unity might lead to long term survival is interesting but not over the top. I really like the slight modifications to the characters, updating them but not uprooting them from continuity. 

And the art is just energetic in a way that is hard to describe. Those riot pages just sing. I really like how Oeming conveys the anguish on the faces of the characters. 

One more issue!

Overall grade: B+


Anonymous said...

I wanna like this mini I really do, but the character designs are really failing me, the males all look like woodcuts, the females are..ambiguous looking and Poor Pre Teen Kara has a Hanna Barbera mid 1960’s casaba melon for a head, and yes suddenly she is Judy Jetson, from the neck down anyway.
i say this because even in Julius Schwartz’s era, the artist would have been called in to redrawn certain panels to make them conform with the character’s basic design...I don’t know if this is editorializing or a misguided attempt at style, whatever it is, it is mot working.
Which is a shame, as I am otherwise enjoying this mini, but there are some toilsome visual choices being made.


Anonymous said...

Hello from a french fan of supergirl,

I bet the fight will be interrupted by Lara giving birth...wait, where are the robots kelex and kelor? have they been deactivated to save energy?

The final book is going to be epic: Kal's birth, Zod's coup d'etat, Krypton's destruction, Argo's rescue from the save zone, and Kal's departure to Earth.

Martin Gray said...

I’m with JF, the art really is offputting at times. Were it weird and consistent, it wouldn’t be so annoying at times. That Kara really should have been sent back to the drawing board; at least Lara’s longer hair made her look less mannish.

The story is less problematic, but this issue didn’t have a lot of surprises, to help justify spending my money on a retelling of the very familiar basics. The pace was too speedy, with too much room given to the riots – we’ve had enough of that last time.

Well done on connecting this issue to The First Batman, I’m really not keen on Jor-El donning a version of the classic Superman costume… The symbol of the costume should be the creation of Martha Kent, that’s it. None of your House of El business, or ‘Kryptonian’ symbol for Hope’ daftness.

Sorry, I sound down on this issue, I didn’t hate it, it just didn’t excite me as some of the others have.

Anj said...

Always good to hear different takes on things. I figure the art is going to be hit or miss given the style.

I thought there were enough new-ish bits that it felt a little fresh to me. I do think there is a lot of Earth and American in this retelling.

As you say French fan, there is a lot to get through next issue. Hope it wraps up in a way to satisfy most readers!