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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman: World of New Krypton #2 Superman: World of New Krypton #2

Superman: World of New Krypton #2

Scheduled to arrive in stores: April 8, 2009

Cover date: June 2009

"World of New Krypton - Part Two"

Writer: James Robinson and Greg Rucka
Penciller: Pete Woods
Inker: Pete Woods

Back-Up Story: "Power Girl #1 Preview: It Came From Outer Space!"

Writers: Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Penciller: Amanda Conner
Inker: Amanda Conner

Reviewed by: Ralph Silver

Click to enlarge

On the planet Oa, the Guardians of the Universe express concern over the planet New Krypton and the growing threat that it poses. They express regret that Superman has taken up residence on New Krypton. They discuss sending Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern of Earth, to investigate if there is need for "concentrated Green Lantern involvement".

On New Krypton, Kal-El has begun his service as a commanding officer of the New Kryptonian military. He and General Zod discuss the capabilities of a brand new weapon provided by the Science Guild. This weapon (called the "modified Archer-class infantry assault long arm"; or Archer rifle for short) would prove deadly against a Kryptonian, because it briefly simulates the rays of a red sun while simultaneously firing a projectile with sufficient mass and force to "get the job done".

Superman finds out that Lieutenant Nar (introduced last issue) is his Second-in-command. Kal-El learns that Nar is ninth-generation Military Guild; and sees that this is completely reflected in her very military demeanor. He tries to loosen her up a bit with light banter; but finds that she is all-business.

Nar and Kal-El go to meet up with the Red Shard; the military unit that Kal-El will be commanding. They find the soldiers amusing themselves by abusing and enraging a wild animal, which Kal puts a stop to immediately. (Interestingly, the animal is a "torquat"; kind of a cross between a lion and a porcupine.) Kal-El also discovers that Non has now been assigned to this unit; and that Non has been on the receiving end of some hazing from the other soldiers (referred to as "aspirants" here).

Kal-El asks his aspirants to identify themselves; and we learn some new names: Sem-Re, Kir-Ta, and Jeq-Vay. Commander El orders his unit to prepare the barracks for inspection, and then to report to the sky-field for all-day flying maneuvers. This presumably is punishment for the hazing of Non and the mistreatment of the torquat.

Kal-El spends a leisurely evening with Aunt Alura. They discuss the fact that Alura came from the Science Guild while her former spouse Zor-El was in the Artists Guild, even though he was a scientist. She explains that Zor saw the beauty in nature; while as a member of the Science Guild, she tends to focus more on the facts and the raw data. Alura shares her feelings of loss over the death of her husband. Kal-El comforts her.

Superman begins to reiterate to Alura his concerns about Zod; when the general shows up and cuts off his sentence. Kal needs to remember that everybody on New Krypton has the same super-hearing that he has.

Superman bumps into Tyr-Van, who expresses concern that some members of the Labor Guild want a fresh start with equal footing compared to the other guilds. Tyr-Van expresses concern that this may lead to trouble.

Kara shows up; and she and Kal compare notes. They are very glad to see each other.

Zod arrives with the news that a herd of Kryptonian thought-beasts is rampaging and causing destruction. Zod indicates that this problem is exacerbated by the animals' new powers due to the yellow sun. Zod orders Kal-El to mobilize his unit and stop the beasts "by whatever means necessary".

Despite the protests of his subordinates, Superman shows his team a way to quell the rampage of the thought-beasts without using the Archer rifles or harming the beasts in any way. After rounding them up, he suggests that the beasts may simply be hungry; and requests that the Science Guild look into constructing a suitable habitat.

Zod and Kal-El meet to discuss Kal-El's creative solution to the thought-beast problem. Kal refrained from resorting to wholesale slaughter; while obviously Zod would have opted for the less humane approach. They exchange some harsh words. Nevertheless, Zod praises Kal-El for his creative work in handling the situation.

Kal-El and Zod learn that there has been an insurrection carried out by some faction of the Labor Guild. Members of the Labor Guild, tired of their second-class status, are initiating this revolt in protest. They stole a shipment of the Archer rifles; and have taken over a building and are holding hostages, including Alura.

In retaliation, commander Gor and his unit have rounded up 30 members of the Labor Guild, and have the Archer rifles trained on them. Gor is threatening to kill the whole lot of them if Alura and the other hostages are not freed. Zod approves of this maneuver, while Kal-El is aghast at this turn of events. Zod issues an order for Gor to follow-through on his threat to annihilate the Labor Guild members if the hostages are not released within the time limit.

5Story - 5: I cannot find enough superlatives to express how much I am enjoying this series! It is a fascinating premise, executed well! (Pardon me if I am gushing here.)

I continue to be impressed that this story is taking its time to unfold; and that character interactions, rather than narration, are used throughout to advance the plot and to reveal the main issues and areas of conflict. This book was a pleasure to read!

Let's start at the beginning. I loved the opening scene with the Guardians. Their appearance here shows that the emergence of New Krypton is of such significance that it is causing ripples throughout the DC universe. Nice touch! It is very logical that the Guardians would react in this way. Because I am also a huge Green Lantern fan, I relish the prospect of Hal Jordan making an appearance in this series.

The scene with Zod showing off the new Archer rifle to Kal-El was another opportunity to contrast their personalities and values. Zod playfully points the rifle at Kal-El and taunts him. What a jerk! Anybody with half a brain knows that you don't point a loaded weapon at somebody in jest. Superman, on the other hand, has a well-known, strict code against killing. So carrying this new death-weapon around is going to be just one more thing that makes him uneasy in his new role as military commander on New Krypton.

But Superman manages to stick to his values despite pressure to do otherwise. When he cleverly manages to round-up the thought-beasts without resorting to the obvious (and inhumane) solution of slaughtering them, he may be winning over some converts, and slowly teaching some folks that there is a better way. We will see if his message catches on.

I liked the scene where Kal-El stopped his soldiers from harassing the torquat; another example of his compassion and concern for animal rights. I liked that he also seemed to be watching out for Non; who is susceptible to mistreatment because of his limited intellect. It would be ironic if Kal-El and Non eventually became allies. (Is it possible that Non is not truly evil; just easily manipulated by Zod?)

The scene where Kal-El tries to have a light conversation with Lieutenant Nar was quite amusing. Besides revealing a bit about her personality, this scene also showed that Kal-El is trying hard (and not always succeeding) in making new friends. I think that he is probably quite lonely on New Krypton.

The scene with Alura at the Artists Guild event was festive and made a nice contrast to the military scenes. She seems to be opening up to him a bit; making a stark contrast to the treatment he received from her previously. We see the relationship between Kal-El and Alura possibly beginning to thaw.

And I loved the brief scene showing the reunion between Superman and Supergirl. The obvious deep affection they have for each other reflects the positive way that relationship has evolved over the last few years.

Besides Zod, Kal-El has commander Gor as an additional adversary on New Krypton. I will be shocked if Kal-El and Gor are not headed for a major showdown at some point; especially when Superman finds out that Gor was responsible for the Metropolis Science Police murders.

I really like what is happening in the Superman books right now! This is a good time to be a Superman fan!

5Art - 5: Pete Woods' art continues to sizzle in this installment. As mentioned in my last review, two things that impress me in his work are the intricate detail in his backgrounds, and the way he conveys emotion in his characters.

On this second point, Superman's facial expressions change throughout the book. He is serious and confident when talking to Zod, amiable but slightly perplexed when he unsuccessfully attempts to befriend Lieutenant Nar, stern when addressing his unit for the first time, and compassionate in his conversation with Alura. In the brief reunion scene with Kara, the love between them, as shown in their facial expressions and body language, is palpable. Those two panels really stood out for me!

Examples abound of panels with detailed backgrounds. One great example is the two-page splash of the Artists Guild event. Besides the Kryptonian architecture, I loved the giant "disco ball" in the center. Kudos to the colorist Brad Anderson for some nice effects. That scene reminded me of EPCOT center at Disney World.

Back-Up Story: "It Came From Outer Space!"

Power Girl flies into Manhattan. She is deep in thought, reviewing her origins and her desire for a fresh start in New York City.

Out of nowhere, something that looks like a giant orange tornado appears in the Manhattan sky. Giant robots, lots of them, drop out of the sky. They speak in a tongue that is other-worldly. There is panic, mayhem, and hysteria as people react badly to what they see.

Power Girl arrives on the scene and appeals for people to clear out while helping each other, as she prepares to confront the robot-monsters.

1Back-Up Story - 1: I was not expecting this little Power Girl story in the back of this book, because it is not mentioned on the cover; nor is it mentioned on the DC web page that promotes this book. I just turned the page, and there it was! "What is that doing there?!" was pretty much my reaction.

In truth, this little snippet hardly qualifies as a story. It really is just a preview, as stated in the title. It is kind of like the coming attractions at the movie theater that are shown before the main feature. As such, it is very hard for me to review. But I can give you my impressions, based on the few pages in this mini-tale.

I am rooting for Power Girl to get her fresh start in New York. And I hope that her new book is a rousing success.

But nothing in this preview would compel me to pick up issue #1. Giant robots dropping from the sky just does not feel like an original story idea. It feels like something I have seen done better a thousand times. There is no subtlety. Just an orange tornado, and then robots, without warning or explanation!

I lived in and around New York City for many years. And I feel that the depiction of the New Yorkers in this story is way off base. Power Girl says "I can hear them in elevators, strangling each other, nurses in hospitals killing patients..." To that, I say "Hogwash"! In reality, New Yorkers always rise to the occasion during a crisis. Just consider how New Yorkers reached out to each other after the horrible 9-11 attack.

In fact, I am pretty sure that there is not a major metropolitan center anywhere in the civilized world where nurses would react to an orange tornado and giant robots by killing their patients!

This story suffers greatly in comparison to the main story in this book. Everything that the World of New Krypton story has - suspense, originality, subtlety, nuance, logic - this backup story lacks.

I really hate to give a rating of "1"; but in this case I cannot muster anything higher.

2Back-Up Art - 2: I am not crazy about this artwork. It is kind of cartoony. I cannot help but compare it to the rest of the book; and just like the story, the artwork suffers by comparison.

But I like the expression in the opening splash on Power Girl's face; full of hope and enthusiasm. And I like the look of determination on her face in the final splash. Too bad the stuff in between did not really work for me.

5Cover Art - 5: This is a great cover, especially if you regard it in contrast to the cover from last issue! In that cover, Superman was still dressed as Superman! His expression was filled with wonder, optimism, and awe as he took in the sights of New Krypton; a remnant of the world of his birth. Much has changed since then. He is now dressed in the garb of the new Kryptonian military. He is assimilating; but also the realization is settling in of the true nature of all that is happening. Superman's expression is muted; reflecting concern and pensiveness rather than unbridled joy. The soldiers in the sky, flying in military formation, suggest an ominous threat. Superman seems to be wondering if he will be able to contain that threat. There is an understated sense of menace in this cover that I find quite effective.

I need to mention the colorist again. I love how the bright colors of the New Krypton flag contrast with the gray in Kal-El's uniform and the pale blue tones in the sky. Little details, such as the hint of glare from reflected sunlight on Superman's "S" insignia and belt buckle, add richness to this image, and enhance my enjoyment. Gary Frank and Brad Anderson have done a fantastic job here!

4Cover Art (Variant Edition) - 4: This is a symbolic cover. We see representations of Earth and New Krypton in close proximity; with Superman in between, straining to keep them from colliding. This is a clever concept. However, ironically, although this is a more dynamic image, I prefer the more subtle image on the regular cover, and believe it has the greater impact.

But this is still a good cover; and deserves a solid 4.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2009

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