I should preface this by saying that I was never a big Superman fan. I never found him that compelling a character but a preview a month or two back for New Krypton Special got me sufficiently intrigued to start reading…and I got hooked. Read on for some brief synopsis and my impressions…
The New Krypton arc follows from the previous one wherein Braniac had a shrunken down version of the real Kandor (as in the Bottle City of Kandor), complete with Kryptonians, on his ship (along with loads of other shrunken down, cities, creatures, etc.) that during or after his battle with Superman was released from its imprisonment and plopped down in the middle of the ocean. Enter some one hundred+ Kryptonians and our Last Son is quite last anymore. Needless to say the introduction of over a hundred plus new Supermen (and women) into the world sends some people into panic mode. The Kryptonians themselves seem a bit split down the middle with some of them, militant followers of Zod, contrasting the more benevolent and open ideals of the city’s leader Zor-el.
The arc is spanning all the current Superman books (Action Comic, Superman, and Supergirl) and is penned Geoff Johns, Sterling Gates, and James Robinson. The crux of the story deals with how the world deals with sudden appearance of more Kryptonians and how the Kryptonians deal with suddenly appearing on Earth. To personalize things a bit the leader of Kandor is none other than Zor-el, Kara ‘s (Supergirl) father. In Supergirl the writers have provided a character torn between her adopted world and Earth. Unlike Superman, who has arguably assimalted to terran life, Supergirl presents an interesting counterpoint as she seems to straddle both worlds more evenly than her cousin. Uncertain of her ideals and still in her formative years Kara presents a more openly confluct personality than the typically stoic Superman and provides a much more visceral and immediate response. As a result the Supergirl issues of the arc are, in my opinion, the best stuff that series has seen so far and hopefully that when all is done with the New Krypton arc Kara’s title will gain more focus than it has had in previous months.
On the human side of the arc you have a General that we all thought was dead whose distrust of Kryptonians is perhaps only equaled by a certain bald-headed maniac. To make things even more intersted that same bald-headed maniac, Lex Luthor, is even enlisted by the General to help stop the Kryptonian threat. While it would be easy to write off the paranoia of the series “villains” the actions of the Kryptonians don’t exactly help matters. The actions of the new Kryptonians are taken with the best intentions their lack of understanding towards human nature, and human frailty, combined with a bit of superiority complex craft an interesting moral dilemma for Superman. For a character of unparalleled strength cooking up a confusing moral dilemma is infinitely more interesting than inventing some new super-powered threat (or a new color of kryptonite) and with New Krypton that is exactly what we have.
While I am admittedly not a Superman fan I am, for all intents and purposes and huge Geoff Johns fanboy. Johns is the best thing DC has going for it right now and this arc is yet more proof of that fact. Supergirl writer Sterling Gates is still an unknown but I’ve been enjoying his work on this arc so far and I look forward to seeing what he does with the character after New Krypton. It does like he either used a carefully crafted or exceedingly clever retcon to get rid of some of the crap from the early issues of Supergirl and helped explain her schizo behavior in a rather unique, albeit typically Superman, way: Kryptonite poisoning (Symptons include moods swings, hallucinations, aggressiveness, crystalizing blood. Don’t ask about that last one.) Superman writer James Robbinson is relatively unknown to me to if his work alongside Johns here is any indication I look forward to seeing what he comes up with for his Justice League title.
The art is an interesting choice, particularly for a Superman title(s). Gary Frank over on Action Comics has a more traditional style and his pencils often lend his characters a etched/sketched feel that is reminiscent of John Romita Jr. but with a more realist approach to character proportions and anatomy. Renato Guedes over on Superman is the real deviation, particularly on his covers which have a painted feel to them. Both artists create some visually striking material that takes some getting used but turns out to be quite fantastic in the end. Guedes urban landscapes are particularly impressive and Frank’s sense for action and human motion is damned impressive. All-around great stuff.
Anyway the trades linked above aren’t out until May but your LCS should still have most, if not all, the issues on the shelf now. Check it out for an entertaining story that explores a familiar character(s) in a new and exciting way.