Or – “Before He Was Rocketed From The Dead Planet Krypton…”
Since he was the vanguard of super-heroes as we know them, the revamping of Superman and his costume was one of the most provocative parts of the New 52 initiative. (Batman’s relatively unchanged state saved us TWO giant fanbase-breaking rage fights.) Still, I’ve found some enjoyment in Grant Morrison’s relaunched Action Comics, even though I exited the Superman title when Dan Jurgens returned to the art chores. (It felt a little TOO 90s for my taste, and I occasionally have issues with Jurgen’s slick, almost glib art style.) We know the planet blows up, but what ELSE has the New 52 got in store for Kal-El? Your Major Spoilers review awaits!
Previously, in Superman: Kal-El’s story is one of the truly unifying experiences in the world today. If you don’t know about Superman being rocketed to Earth by his father, Marlon Brando, you’re probably willfully ignoring things so that you can make a point about how awful and cliché they are, but heavy comics fans like me have some questions about this issue. Is Krypton’s destruction a natural phenomenon? Does Jor-El rant at the science council like Kevin McCarthy? And what about Black Zero?
THEY DO LIKE THEIR INVERTED IRREGULAR PENTAGONS ON KRYPTON…
One of the things that has slowly started to bother me about the new Superman costume is the use of the shape of his chest symbol as a belt buckle and design element throughout the armor. On the very first page of this issue, Jor-El wears special underground tunneling armor featuring at LEAST eight iterations of that design throughout the armor. Still, as drawn by Kenneth Rocafort, the scene is pretty awesome. Jor-El’s underground expedition is designed to investigate his suspicions about the core of the planet, and you don’t have to be psychic to know that his findings aren’t good. “When is a good time to tell your wife the world is ending?”, muses Superman’s papa as he returns to his laboratory. Things get really intense thereafter, and I’m kind of surprised about a couple of things in this issue. Jor-El is forced to jettison his data in order to save his own life, and returns to the surface to petition his “omniversity” mentor to help him convince the Science Council of his controversial findings. That very night, while he considers the fate of his beloved world, Jor-El sees the laboratory, including his mentor (and everything in a THREE-BLOCK RADIUS) utterly destroyed by an explosion. Someone is willing to kill, and kill MANY, in order to keep knowledge of the impending destruction of Krypton from becoming public.
CONSPIRACY AND KRYPTONIAN JUJITSU.
Rocafort’s art in this issue is kind of idiosyncratic for me, feeling a little sketchy, as if shot from the original pencils. Where it works (as in the underground scenes), it works well, but parts of the issue are bothersomely reminiscent of the work of the late Michael Turner, an artist whose work I just cannot stand. The story gets intense, as a group of mercenaries take Lara hostage to try and leverage Jor-El into shutting up about the planetary apocalypse while Jor cautions that bloodshed won’t help the situation. When the leader of the thugs tries to intimidate him, Jor simply cuts her off. “I wasn’t talking to you,” he replies, moments before Lara lashes out at her captors. I have to say I was VERY happy to see Superman’s mommy take the Shang-Chi route, taking out five men in mere seconds, while the narration points out that she was not merely Jor-El’s mental equal, but a graduate of the finest military academy on Krypton. The Els take out their attacks with a combination of martial arts (I wish they’d called it Klukor), a Phantom Zone projector, and a suicide capsule used by the leader of the sect. The issue ends with an explanation of Superman’s first-person narration of the events, revealing him (in a black-and-silver armor reminiscent of the one he wore after his resurrection in 1994) hovering over Krypton and watching the events as they actually unfold… There’s also a quick backup tale that introduces what I believe to be the villain of the upcoming Super-crossover event that is somewhat of a non-starter for me. It is drawn well, but I don’t have enough context for the short vignette to really have any impact.
THE BOTTOM LINE: APPARENTLY, SOMETIMES YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN…
From a Superman perspective, this isn’t really his story, nor is it the origin-story that the Zero Month premise seemed to promise. While Lara reveals that she is pregnant in the issue, this is mostly an exploration of the awesomeness of the El parents, and an impressive one at that. Jor-El is shown to be courageous, thoughtful, and a little less wild-eyed than he has been portrayed in previous incarnations while Lara flat-out kicks ass. Written this well, I might buy a Lara and Jor-El miniseries, as long as she gets top billing. (It always galled me that Mrs. Peel had to take a backseat to Steed, as well, since she did all the hard work, and in skin-tight fabric to boot.) Superman #0 is a shrewd book, knowing that the origin of Superman is pretty much fait accompli, and instead gives us a new take on Mama and Papa El that really intrigued and entertained me, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall.
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!