FIGHT! That’s what we get this issue, as Superman and Superboy are teleported into the middle of an all-out battle involving three space races and Superman’s errant father, Jor-El.
Before that, though, we see how Phantom Zone criminal General Zod came to work with Rogol Zaar, the creature who killed Krypton.
Superman doesn’t know what the heck is going on – who the good guys are, who the bad guys are, and what his father’s involvement is. The first priority is to stop the fighting, something that can be achieved with a show of power. Super-power.
One by one, Superman contacts the Thanagarians, the Khund and the Trilium Collective, persuading them to cease fire. He wants to know what the conflict is about. The Trilium leader tells him to ask Jor-El.
Jon, son of two investigative reporters, is asking the right questions, but Jor-El isn’t forthcoming, so by the time Zaar and Zod attack them, Superman is no further forward. While Zaar tackles Superman, Zod goes for his son.
And then the cavalry arrives…
(Shoot, I’m trying not to give the ending away, and then I notice this issue’s winning cover by Reis, Prado and Sinclair – dang DC, can’t you keep your surprises wrapped until the right moment?)
So, who believes that Zod, planetary patriot par excellence, is seriously on side with Zaar? The fact he’s restraining Jon and silently counselling him to hang back, rather than attack, speaks (silent) volumes. And look at the hatred etched on his face in that panel up top.
Jon’s on great form here, pointing out that his grandfather is being evasive. Super-feat wise, he doesn’t get a lot to do, but writer Brian Michael Bendis has much of this issue happen at super-speed, an area in which our new Superboy evidently isn’t as proficient as Pops. But having him there does provide an opportunity for that teaching moment.
‘Ma Kent’ in the present tense? Oh, I’d love it were Martha suddenly alive again. Or does Clark mean the 2019 version of Ma Kent, Lois? ‘Let’s make this into a moment’ sounds like her.
I like how Superman formally introduces himself to the Thanagarian general, not assuming he’s known to him. And that he doesn’t panic about Jon being in the middle of a massive melee… never mind surviving being hunted for years on Earth 3, Jon has survived numerous ‘play dates’ with Damian Wayne – he deserves to be treated as the young hero he is.
Jor-El remains super-annoying, with his refusal to open up to his son and grandson. I still don’t quite believe this is the Man of Steel’s father – having him survive Krypton’s end is too big an upset to the Legend, even before the presentation of him as a murderous jerk.
That’s it, he’s not Jor-El, he’s Jerk-El.
The dynamic layouts by penciller Ivan Reis are pretty spectacular, there’s a real sense of chaos, though I wish that first spread foregrounded Jerk-El – he’s apparently the pivotal figure, but I can’t see him. The figurework and expressions, inked by Joe Prado and Oclair Albert, are exemplary, while Alex Sinclair goes the full Cosmic with his colourwork. I especially enjoy the wonder and pride Jon obviously feels as he watches Dad ‘at work’. Rogol Zaar looks suitably scary, making Zod look positively noble by comparison. Josh Reed does a splendid job on the lettering, with this wobbly font very effective in context.
Things look set to ramp up further next issue, and I’m rather looking forward to it, given the promise of the final page. Hopefully, along with the fighting, we’ll get some answers from Jerk-El as to what he’s really up to.