Monday, February 12, 2024

Review: Kneel Before Zod #2

 When Kneel Before Zod was announced as a mini-series, I didn't know what to expect. For a while Zod was everywhere. Then he was nowhere. Now he was going to headline a book? And from creators who I didn't really know.

Kneel Before Zod #1 came out last month and was a solid first issue, laying out a number of plot threads. One of the more interesting ones was seeing the beginning of a rift between Ursa and Zod. For the last couple of decades, the two have been a team. Zod was the more calculating leader. Ursa the blood thirsty assassin, the tip of his sadistic spear. 

Last week Kneel Before Zod #2 came out and focused mostly on their interactions. Joe Casey shows us how things are unraveling. After years of seeing Zod portrayed as the ultimate alpha predator, looking to amass power and destroy his enemies, this issue showed us some cracks in his psyche. Last issue we saw him hallucinating Jor-El. This issue we see a weary leader who is a bit lost in machinations. His bloodlust seems dimmed. And Ursa is there, ready to seize control of their situation. Again, interesting. More than I thought the book might be. 

It is, for sure, an about face for everything we have read of Zod recently. While it seemed shocking, and maybe a bit out of character, I had to remind myself that it has been a while since we have seen him. Time has passed so there maybe things we don't know that has led him here. I am a giant fan of John Boorman's Excalibur. In that movie, Uther Pendragon, after years of marauding, wants to settle back and raise a child. He grew weary of battle. This issue reminded me of that.

All this leads to the dramatic cliffhanger of Ursa seizing control. Unfortunately, all thoughts about where this might go were spoiled by Bleeding Cool here. Read at your own risk.

Dan McDaid's art is bold and has a sort of blunt beauty to it. His Ursa is wonderfully mad. 

As an aside, seeing Ursa dominate Zod might rankle some people. But this is completely in her character. It made some sense to me that if she saw weakness, she would take control.

On to the book. 

The issue starts with Zod and Ursa torturing a captured Khund warrior, trying to get information out of him.

It is chilling how casually they talk about being overtly sadistic. How their methods have broken the hardest men.

Again, I feel that Ursa is the more sadistic one of the two. So seeing her with her eyebrow cocked, saying the rumors of sadistic ways is correct, was great. Even her handing her cape over is a subtle nod. Things are going to get bloody. Let's keep the fineries away.

The Khund talks about how the 'invasion' last issue was a scouting party. The real mass of the Khundian fleet is on their way. 

Zod begins to mobilize his robot Eradicator army to bring the attack to the invasion force. 

I think of Krypton as a sort of cerebral society. So it is interesting to hear Zod quote a 'war commandment' of never defending.

But the real thing to note is Ursa's pregnant pause, blank face, and quiet 'right'. She doesn't agree with this move. She is not on the same page. And this is just the beginning.

Zod seems to say all the right things. He wants his unborn son to be baptized in the blood of his enemies. He will lead the brainwashed natives of this world to a righteous death. He realizes he is now leading a world at war.

Ursa wonders why the 'pet project' in the southern hemisphere isn't being used. We still don't know what this is although it looks like some massive planetary cannon. 

Zod's reluctance to use this weapon seems to be the last straw for Ursa as the book pivots.

She punches him!

She calls him out for his passivity!y

Why is he squatting on this planet and not launching conquests? Why did he build a throne to sit on?

My favorite panel in the book is that second one. 

Look at the crazed expression on Ursa's face! That's wrath there. She's done with sitting back. 

And her confronting Zod about his inaction leads him to break down a little.

She tries to bolster him by reminding him of all his victories but it only seems to wear him down more

He's been angry and reaching and battling for so long, he looks empty. Zod thinking about what is left for him to do? It's like a mid-life crisis!

So she spurs him into action. He'll lead the native army into combat.

And then the cliffhanger.

Perhaps it is time for Zod to play second fiddle. Perhaps it is time for him to kneel before Ursa.

Now that is unexpected.

Is a Zod questioning his desire for conquest and weary of war still Zod? This is certainly a break from his typical characterization. I don't want to read a Zod who is passive, indecisive, and weak long term. But seeing him have an internal conflict, struggling with his purpose in life, wondering what it is all for ... well it's interesting.

Ursa not recognizing her husband and his lack of motivation makes sense. Her seizing power, perhaps to shake off his doldrums, also makes sense. I think she loves him and wants to see in him the man she fell in love with. 

Alas, we sort of know where this is all going thanks to that Bleeding Cool article so no need to speculate more. Although if that article is true, that would certainly rekindle the fire we typically see in Zod. 

All in all though it was a gripping read seeing a side of Zod I'm not used to.

Overall grade: B

1 comment:

Martin Gray said...

Thanks for the review. It sounds like Ursa is really channeling the Faora here. I just can’t get interested in a book about conquering and politics starring an overused bad guy. Still, I shall try Sinister Sons today and see what Jr is up to - with Peter Tomasi at the helm, I have hope.

And I realise I’ve said this before but I am sooooooo sick of variations of ‘Kneel before Zod’.