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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman: World of New Krypton #5 Superman: World of New Krypton #5

Superman: World of New Krypton #5

Scheduled to arrive in stores: July 8, 2009

Cover date: September 2009

"World of New Krypton - Part Five"

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

Reviewed by: Ralph Silver

Click to enlarge

Kal-El has been arrested and charged with treason, as seen last issue. Kal-El meets his court-appointed attorney, Dyn-Xe. They discuss the details of Kal-El's upcoming trial and his defense. Kal is facing the death penalty if found guilty. Dyn-Xe plans to argue in court that Kal-El's arrest and prosecution is just part of a pattern of behavior reflecting Zod's long-standing vendetta against the house of El.

The trial begins, and we start with the introduction of the jury. (They are called arbitrators on New Krypton.) It is revealed that arbitrator selection is based on the guild system, so that the major guilds are equally represented. As the courtroom drama unfolds, Dyn-Xe, as planned, alleges that that Zod's actions are motivated by the desire for vengeance against the El family. In response to those charges, Zod withdraws as the prosecuting attorney against Kal-El, but stays on for the initial phase, the prosecution of Lieutenant Nar.

Nar and Kal-El both show mutual loyalty and selflessness during the trial. Nar claims sole responsibility for disobeying Zod's orders; attempting to take the fall and protect Commander El. Meanwhile, Kal-El unselfishly speaks up; confessing that he was the one to countermand Zod's order; and asserting that Nar is completely innocent. On those words, Nar is acquitted, and Kal-El's situation grows more dire.

The trial recesses for the day, and we see reactions from Dyn-Xe, Asha Del-Nar, and Tyr-Van, Superman's friend from of the Labor Guild. Dyn-Xe, who hates to lose a trial, is miffed at his client's confession in the courtroom. Nar and Tyr-Van are gravely concerned that Kal-El likely will face execution. Nar again shows great loyalty to her commander, offering to deliver a message to Commander El's troops, saluting, and wishing Kal-El Rao's blessings.

After Nar leaves, Tyr-Van reveals he has smuggled in a device which will allow Kal-El to escape his prison cell and leave New Krypton. It is immediately clear that Kal-El will not take this option; preferring to remain and stand by his principles. Kal-El feels deeply that he did nothing wrong; so he is not inclined to flee like a guilty fugitive.

After Tyr-Van leaves, we see a major plot twist. We learn that Tyr-Van has acted on behalf of Zod and Ursa who secretly want Kal-El to try to escape. Tyr-Van has essentially been a spy for Zod and Ursa since the beginning. Tyr-Van feels remorse for betraying his friend; as if Zod is compelling that betrayal through coercion of some sort.

As Kal-El's restraining force-field is disabled, we see Kal stay put to face his trial, as Zod and the others look on with great interest. Zod orders Ursa and Tyr-Van out of the room; and seems to be in deep thought as he carefully considers his next move.

At his trial the next day, Kal-El is found guilty. It is a split decision, as one juror dissents. In his closing words, Kal-El expresses the strong feeling that he did the right thing by refusing to kill the criminal Val-Ty. He asserts that New Krypton was not harmed in any way. Kal's execution seems imminent. Yet there is another plot twist, as Zod suggests that the religious guild consider exercising their option to pardon Kal-El.

The scene switches to a holiday celebration. The Nova Cycle is a major holiday on New Krypton celebrating birth and rebirth. Kal-El and Zod are walking together, discussing recent events. The discussion focuses on why Zod prosecuted Kal, why Zod now seems to want Kal alive, and what Zod is learning about Kal-El's character. Zod, as a military man, seems to admire that Kal-El declined to flee to safety, and chose instead to stand by his principles and face death. Zod asserts that Kal-El's presence makes the New Krypton army stronger.

Supergirl and Alura arrive. Supergirl expresses great joy that her cousin is safe. This implies that the religious guild has acted favorably on Kal-El's behalf; although we the readers did not see that occur.

At the celebration, the ceremonial removal of the dome over Kandor begins. This is possible now that the atmosphere on New Krypton has regulated. Intermittently, we see a mysterious individual lurking about. He wears a hooded robe. His face is hidden but appears to be glowing. He carries a staff with a sharp pointed end that appears to be a weapon. He was an ominous presence during Kal-El's trial; and may have been the executioner or perhaps the security guard in the courtroom. He appears menacing; and looks sort of like the angel of death.

The crowd at the celebration chants Zod, Zod, Zod in obvious adulation for their military leader. But someone in the crowd screams "Death to Zod", and fires an Archer rifle at Zod, causing what appears to be a critical injury; as Superman, Supergirl, and Alura look on in shocked disbelief.

5Story - 5: This series continues to meet or exceed my very high expectations every month.

Most of this issue focuses on the preparations for Kal-El's trial, the trial itself, and personal reactions from the various participants. I enjoyed the courtroom scenes. The dialog was believable; the arguments were logical; the stakes were very high; and it felt rather gripping.

The pacing on this book is excellent. I love that the authors are taking their time to tell this story; so that events unfold naturally and in an unhurried manner. This helps draw the reader into the book; allows for greater detail throughout; and makes for compelling storytelling.

It was interesting to get a close-up look at the New Kryptonian system of justice. I liked that the arbitrators are introduced based on the guild that they represent; and that the major guilds are represented equally. This reinforces the notion that the guild system is central to Kryptonian life.

I also found it interesting to observe that on New Krypton, you do not need a unanimous jury in order to have a conviction.

This series (and this issue in particular) plays out like an elaborate chess game between Zod and Kal-El. It occurs to me that when Zod gave the order last issue for Kal-El to kill the fugitive Val-Ty, it was really a setup. Zod knew full well that Kal-El would be reluctant to carry out that order because of his personal code against killing. Superman's aversion to killing is well known; and has been in evidence several times during recent events on New Krypton. (For example, Kal's refusal to kill the thought beasts in issue #2; and his determination to avoid mass bloodshed during the Labor Guild crisis in issue #3.) So Zod gave that order expecting Kal-El to disobey; and planning to arrest and charge Kal-El with treason if he did.

But because this story does not deal in black and white, but in shades of gray; as events unfold, they pose many interesting questions for the thoughtful reader to consider:

Why did Zod want Superman to escape?

Why was Zod so fascinated by Superman's refusal to take the opportunity to flee?

Why did Zod request a pardon for Kal-El after prosecuting him for treason?

When Zod and Kal-El talk at the celebration, does Zod really feel respect and admiration for Kal? Is this genuine or disingenuous?

Why did Alura vote Guilty?

Each reader can draw his/her own conclusions; but here are some of my thoughts on these questions. Zod arranged for Superman to have the opportunity to escape, either to discredit him as a guilty coward if he fled, or else as a test of Kal-El's character. If it was a plan to discredit Kal-El, it would have been an effective way to keep Superman out of his hair without having to execute him. Once he fled to Earth, Superman would not be able to return to New Krypton without facing widespread condemnation. Zod may have felt that this scenario would buoy his own popularity at Kal-El's expense.

But if it was a test, then Kal-El certainly passed the test by risking death to stick to his principles. If so, then Kal-El may have earned some begrudging respect from Zod, who is sufficiently impressed by Kal's display of honor that he suggests the pardon. If you take Zod at his word during his conversation with Kal-El at the Nova Cycle celebration, then you will favor this second interpretation.

But there may be other interpretations. I welcome your ideas.

As for Alura's guilty vote, it does not come easy. She hesitates, which implies she is conflicted. She clearly has feelings of respect and loyalty for both Zod and Kal-El; which definitely made this a very difficult vote for her to cast.

There are many reasons why I love this series. I love that the focus is on Superman's core values and ideals, and how they shape his behavior. I love that Superman uses his intellect, not just his might, to get the job done. I appreciate how the authors use realistic dialogue and nuance to build suspense.

On a world where Superman's strength advantage has been neutralized, this series continues to be about what other things, besides his powers, make Superman a great hero.

5Art - 5: Pete Woods' artwork shines once again.

I loved the artwork in the trial scenes. They are reminiscent of the brief trial of the three Kryptonian criminals in Superman: The Movie. This is especially true in the two-page spread where we are first introduced to the jurors. Each one speaks at a podium, while their faces are projected as huge holograms above; evoking the feel of that movie scene. The fact that those courtroom scenes are presented in monochromatic shades of blue/gray, in contrast to full color in the rest of the book, is a very effective way to set a tone of seriousness and drama for the trial. So kudos to the colorist, Brad Anderson.

As I have said in my previous reviews, I love that Pete Woods' faces express variations in emotion; and his backgrounds show rich detail. I love the panel where Nar is saying goodbye to Commander El; presumably for the last time. Her eyes are welling up with tears; but because she is military through and through, Nar keeps her composure, and just salutes her commander. You can see the loyalty and admirations just emanating from her.

5Cover Art - 5: I love this cover by Gary Frank. Just like the courtroom scenes inside the book, the use of monochromatic hues, in this case pale green/black, sets a somber and serious tone. It also suggests artificial light; appropriate since this is an indoor setting. Superman looks pensive, unhappy, and somewhat defeated. He is held within that "hula-hoop-like" restraining device that was memorable in that courtroom scene in Superman: The Movie.

2Cover Art (Variant Edition) - 2: I am not so crazy about the variant cover by Tan Eng Huat. Superman is held by two helmeted police officers. In this case, he is restrained by kryptonite handcuffs, not the hula hoop device. We appear to be on a space ship; since we see a planet, presumably New Krypton, in the background.

The Gary Frank cover is an accurate depiction of what lies inside; this cover really is not.

The Gary Frank cover is definitely the way to go.

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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