When we look back and evaluate the comic books published by DC in 2009, odds are that the consensus runaway hit event is gonna be Blackest Night. Which is too bad for Superman and the pretty compelling New Krypton saga. If you haven't been keeping up with what the Man of Steel's been up to lately, then chances are you'll be startled at all the major, major developments.
Things irrevocably changed for Clark Kent following the monumental events in Action Comics #870 (Superman: Brainiac). In that issue Brainiac's assault on the Kent farm induced a fatal heart attack on Clark's adoptive father, Jonathan Kent. Superman proved oblivious to Martha Kent's cry for help, preoccupied as he was in the Arctic with the restoration of the bottled city of Kandor. In the end, Clark was too late to save his father.
SUPERMAN: NEW KRYPTON Vol. 2 reprints SUPERGIRL #35-36, SUPERMAN #682-683, and ACTION COMICS #872-873, this collected story arc helping to set the stage for the 12-issue SUPERMAN: WORLD OF NEW KRYPTON maxi-series (which I'm digging very much). This volume, as well as the volume preceding this (Superman: New Krypton, Vol. 1: Birth), illustrates that where and how you were raised plays an integral role in determining your adult worldview. Where it truly counts, there's more of the Kansas farm boy in Superman than there is the godlike extraterrestrial. Even so, with one hundred thousand Kryptonians suddenly walking our planet and rubbing elbows with him, Kal-El's Earth upbringing clashes hard with his alien heritage. Going into this bunch of issues I wasn't sure which side he'll end up on. But I did know - and you knew, as well - that this storyline is going to force him to choose. And this, with Clark still very much reeling from Jonathan Kent's death.
Earth loves Superman, loves its big blue boy scout. But folks are a bit more leery toward other Kryptonians, after what those Phantom Zone escapees did and after Supergirl's shenanigans during Amazons Attack! One hundred thousand displaced Kryptonians walking our planet, and try as Superman might to acclimate them to Earthly customs, there's a strong restless faction claiming that perhaps it should be Earth acclimating to the New Kryptonians. There's a reason that General Zod, whom we consider a supervillain, is so well regarded by his fellow Kryptonians. It turns out, his idealogy is shared by many. This brings to surface the most deadly sort of culture clash.
On the good side, Kara Zor-El (a.k.a. Supergirl) is at last reunited with her parents. But then her mom immediately demands that Kara forsake her secret identity of Linda Lang, scornfully dismissing her Earthly ties. Later on, her mom will make even more stringent demands. Poor Kara, poor Maid of Might.
***Oh, hey, it's a SPOILER alert now***
Raging paranoia ferments in one particular top secret U.S. military project, ramrodded by General Lane, Lois's believed-to-be-dead father. He aims to come up with a final counter for Superman and for the Kandorians, and his scheme involves the jailbird Lex Luthor, Reactron and Metallo (villains powered with gold and green kryptonite hearts, respectively), and the captive Brainiac. Checking out this roster, you just know it's a recipe for disastrous crippetycrap.
The writers toss in ever more intriguing elements, namely the debut of the mysterious Superwoman and further sightings of Nightwing and Flamebird, whose identities I'm very curious about. And then, most terrifically, the Creature Commandos (who some time ago were captured by Brainiac) leap into action. I've a couple of worn-out WEIRD WAR TALES issues from the early '80s, which is when I first read about the Creature Commandos. I've always been fond of these guys, so seeing them here is pretty awesome.
Back to the core story, the doodoo hits the fan when coordinated acts of aggression by a group of Kryptonians result in the abduction of some of Superman's rogue gallery and also a number of fatalities from the science police, this last being summed up by a leading Kryptonian as "collateral damage." This ultimately leads to members of the JSA and JLA (and the Guardian) storming Kandor, looking for an accounting. Except that Kandor isn't about to give up its own, no matter how desperately Superman urges the governing faction to do the right thing (because, to the New Kryptonites, the act that was committed was wholly justified, and "oops, but oh well" that there were casualties - again, warring philosophies).
The odds suck horribly for our Earth superguys as they go up against two hundred Kryptonians, all with Superman's abilities, none with his empathy. And, behind these 200 are 99,800 more standing by. Not to mention, we're still not totally, totally certain on which side Superman and Supergirl fall. But we're treated to a blistering, drag-out skirmish. It's neat how the Earth heroes, outgunned and undermanned, still find ways to gain an upper hand. Black Lightning and Starfire, in particular, are ingenious with how they apply their powers. Still, whatever momentum they gain is fleeting. I mean, these guys are basically fighting two hundred Supermen. But, then, as it turns out, the Earth heroes have back-up of their own. Hint: there are three things that can reliably take out a Kryptonian; two of them are kryptonite and a red sun...
With three writers involved, one has a fear of too many cooks. But Geoff Johns (ACTION COMICS), James Robinson (SUPERMAN), and Sterling Gates (SUPERGIRL) collaborate well enough that there's a clear cut cohesion to the story. As I read these issues, there's an electric sense of excitement, of things happening on an epic scale, of big plot points being advanced. I'm hoping that DC keeps moving forward with this, that they don't chicken out and return Superman to his former status quo (things look very promising so far, what with the good stuff going on in SUPERMAN: WORLD OF NEW KRYPTON). But I feel bad for Supergirl's plight. She really is torn between two worlds.
The artwork is really good, notably the issues worked on by Renato Guedes (SUPERMAN) and Pete Woods (ACTION COMICS). Even Jamal Igle (SUPERGIRL) isn't bad, his stuff somewhat reminiscent of Phil Jimenez's style, which in turn strays close to hallowed George Perez territory. And then there are Alex Ross's glossy covers which continue to get me all gobsmacked. I've been off and on with Superman all my life, his sort of bland superheroing not really my cup of tea. But with Geoff Johns and company breathing new life into him, I am hanging on for dear life, enjoying this ride. Kal-El no longer the Last Son of Krypton? Works for me.