Rogol Zaar, the creature who says he killed Krypton, has been confronted by General Zod. A very angry General Zod. Superman is also in the Phantom Zone and in the second it takes for the battle to begin, the Man of Steel ponders just what to do.
Before we see what his decision is, Superman is pulled back to Earth by the Atom, Adam Strange and a Star Labs scientist. He wants to be returned to the Zone, to join the ‘battle for Krypton’s legacy’, but there’s a pressing problem on his home planet.
After fixing the fault, Superman wonders how much his father Jor-El, recently found to have survived Krypton’s destruction, knows about Zaar. His thoughts are interrupted by an unexpected arrival.
I tend to avoid final page reveals as I don’t wish to spoil an entire comic, but what the heck, this teenage Jon Kent is on the cover of the issue. Because of that, I was expecting him to show up a lot earlier in the comic, but at least when he does arrive he’s not that modern cliche teased by the cover, angry red-eyed Kryptonian person.
And I’m not too dismayed because this is a very different issue, with more than half the book not so much comic as illustrated storybook.
Writer Brian Bendis provides a fascinating internal monologue – including a meditation on what ‘super-speed’ actually means – while penciller Ivan Reis, inkers Joe Prado and Oclair Albert, colourist Alex Sinclair and letterer Josh Reed produce career-defining work.
I’m serious – the composition of the images, their execution in terms of textures, depth and laying down of moody, complementary tones, is breathtaking, while the usual Superman narrative font is eschewed for more open letterforms; the overall effect is epic.
So impressive are the opening 13 pages that I was briefly disappointed when things returned to normal halfway through the issue… happily, ‘normal’ in terms of this series equates to ‘great-looking sequential art’. I’d not be surprised, though, were group editor Brian Cunningham looking at this chapter of Bendis’ Unity Saga and planning a graphic novel in the style of the first half of the book, the approach speaking to the concept of superhero as myth.
I liked Bendis’ reminding us of how short a time a battle among well-matched superbeings must take, he’s right…to the regular eye the effect must be akin to the Tasmanian Devil in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. And I love the barrage of questions Superman has about the situation, that’s a reporter for you. The San Andreas fault always goes down well with fans of Superman: The Movie. Even better is the moment Superman cries out ‘For Kandor’ and his reasons for doing so.
One demerit, though, for having Clark drop a ‘completely unique’; regular readers will know this is a bugbear if mine – something is unique, or it isn’t, there aren’t gradations. Reporters should know better.
It’s a minor quibble. This is a terrific issue; yes, I’m ready for the resolution of the Rogol Zaar and Jor-El business, but the change of approach of storytelling style gifts a fresh energy to the ongoing storyline. And while Zod has been overused by DC this decade, he’s really helping this arc, bringing a different perspective to the Zaar situation.
Reis, Prado and Sinclair’s cover is a good-looking eye catcher, though I’d rather have had something from elsewhere in the issue, something not spoiling what would have been a surprise for readers who missed DC’s marketing for Jon’s return.
Adam Hughes’s variant is a cute, lovely-looking take on the ‘it tickles’ trope.
So, next issue, light is shone on Jon’s instant puberty. Please?