Review: Superman: World of New Krypton #12

Superman: World of New Krypton was always doomed to have a disappointing conclusion.  The best issues of the series has little ongoing plot other than to explore New Krypton, to familiarize us with the unique problems of this alien world.  While there was always, in the background, a metaplot going on, the most exciting moments often came when Superman and Zod clashed: neither wrong, but both with a fundamentally different understanding of what the planet needed.  With Superman: World of New Krypton #12, we once again have to abandon a great deal of the exploratory aspect of the book to plot, though it’s handled much more deftly than it was in previous issues.  A traitor is revealed, and it all finally ties back to earth.  War is imminent, but not before a final page reveal that leaves the fate of the the Kryptonians in some jeopardy.

Pete Woods and Ron Randall, provide some excellent concluding visuals, like the surprise one-panel visit to a Starro-ruled planet or a glimpse of Krypton’s Jewel Mountains, overflowing with lava.  While the mini concludes on a cliffhanger that does little save set up the next event prelude – Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton – the final issue is at least largely a satisfying read in its own right.  That an event is coming so inexorably is a sad thing.  Superman: World of New Krypton could have been so much more than a competent, enjoyable prologue.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

Superman: World of New Krypton #11

Superman: World of New Krypton #10

Review: Superman: World of New Krypton #11

Superman: World of New Krypton continues its renewed creative upswing with this issue.  After floundering a bit in the middle, #11, the penultimate issue of the series if I recall correctly, suggests a fine return to form as it has a little bit of everything that made the title so very fundamentally enjoyable.  Nothing gets wrapped up in these 22 pages, but an awful lot gets set-up for what will hopefully be a stellar finale.  Adam Strange and Superman team-up to find out who attempted to assassinate Alura.  Though evidence suggests the leader of the Labor Guild, neither Superman nor Strange believe it.  The Council is divided on what the attacks mean and how he should proceed, and Zod seems to be on the way to a speedy recovery.  And just what is that mysterious, lead-lined military structure that they ‘forgot’ to mention to Kal-El when he took over?

It’s a lot to cram in here, but Rucka and Robinson make it work.  Pete Woods continues to turn in excellent work, delivering exciting action sequences and a bizarre panache of sci-fi scenery to give Krypton an alien feel.  Rucka and Robinson have escaped the formula that so made the middle of the series drag, and have instead returned to the book’s strongest elements: the collapsing politics of an alien planet.  Anyone who claims to be a Superman fan should be reading this book, but it’s reach is beyond that: despite a few slip-ups, Superman: World of New Krypton often delivers a fun, engaging pulp sci-fi adventure that digs into Superman’s character without hinging upon it to drive the book.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

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Superman: World of New Krypton #10

Superman: World of New Krypton #9

Review: Superman: World of New Krypton #10

After last month’s surprisingly disappointing entry, Superman: World of New Krypton is largely back on track.  Rucka and Robinson’s entry still feels more formulaic than the often unpredictable early issues did, but it’s still reliably fun and still capable of stepping out of its established trend to tell a decent story.  WoNK #10 returns us, lightly, to some of the Kryptonian intrigue that made the early issues such a joy as Adam Strange is quickly cleared of his murder charges and enlisted to help Superman solve New Krypton’s first murder.

Rucka and Robinson do a good beginning to sell New Krypton’s increasing tensions, as merely showing up to question Labor Guild representatives very nearly causes a riot to break out, but the story lacked the weight it should have had, thanks to the need to shoehorn another through the revolving door of cosmic guest stars.  New Krypton’s first murder (and, potentially, first assassination) does not come across as as big a deal as it probably should have, but the story was otherwise better than the book’s had in months.

Woods, this time with help from Randall, continue to do fine work on art, improving with almost every issue.  With the next event in place – War of the Supermen with, sadly, Barrows on art for the opening issue rather than Woods – it seems that World of New Krypton is pretty definitely leading towards war.  Hopefully, the impending crossover won’t distract Rucka and Robinson from continuing to tell a decent story here, as World of New Krypton has, last issue’s failures aside, been a remarkably enjoyable examination of Superman and his second home.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

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Superman: World of New Krypton #9

Superman: World of New Krypton #8

Review: Superman: World of New Krypton #9

WONK9

No matter what Robinson and Rucka have been doing to Superman and Action Comics, their collaboration on Superman: World of New Krypton has never been anything less than sharp.  With Pete Woods constantly improving on art, the book was becoming one of DC’s most consistently enjoyable books.  Unfortunately, Superman: World of New Krypton #9 sees the book’s first real stumble.

Rucka and Robinson seem to have gotten into a comfortable pattern with WoNK – alien threat from last page of previous issue appears, is talked down by Clark, leaves an ally, new alien threat appears on last page.  If it’s kept honest and exciting, there’s little problem with this, but the confrontation with Jemm and his Saturnian contingent was utterly unremarkable.  The fight was surprisingly confused for Woods’, whose fights have previously been clear and smooth.

World of New Krypton #9 ends with another surprise cosmic visitor in a compromising situation, and I have no doubt that Kal will resolve the issue quickly and without more than perhaps a brawl or two.  There are, as always, interesting potential roadblocks, but thus far Rucka and Robinson have largely shied away from putting Superman in any sort of actual moral quandry.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with predictability when it’s paired with honest drama, exciting action, or any number of other well-handled story-telling.  But this issue feels bland, and combined with the last couple, it feels a lot like the book is just spinning its wheels until the next big crossover kicks in.

Grade: C+

– Cal Cleary

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Superman: World of New Krypton #8

Superman: World of New Krypton #7

Review: Superman: World of New Krypton #8

SWoNK

For all my current qualms with the storytelling of Rucka and Robinson on the Earth-based books, especially post-“Codename: Patriot”, Superman: World of New Krypton, their collaborative project with artist Pete Woods, continues to be one of the consistently strongest books the Superman-family of books has produced.  Separated from his tiresome gallery of villains and massive support network, World of New Krypton continues to use the struggles of the new nation trying to form its identity to look at previously underused facets of his personality.

Rucka and Robinson occasionally pile it on a little thick, as illustrated in this issue in particular.  A relatively common criticism I heard of Aaron Sorkin’s famous show, The West Wing, was its often simplified view of politics that frequently boiled down to a single idea: “We could solve any problem if only everyone just sat down and listened.”  That could definitely be thrown against the current issue of World of New Krypton, which rushes through the Thanagarian conflict in a matter of pages before moving onto the much larger threat of the moon hurtling towards New Krypton.

Woods continues to display a strong sense of design, adding the Thanagarian battle fleet and Kryptonian tech designed to move a moon to his resume.  While his art isn’t as eye-catching as some of today’s superstars, he continues to display a workmanlike mastery of DC’s cosmic side and an ability to handle action and drama with an equal amount of skill and comfort.

Despite the rush-job – and the morally and narratively easy way out – with the Thanagarian conflict, the issue is still essentially enjoyable.  They continue to play to Wood’s strengths with a large variety of sci-fi inspired costumes and settings in which to work, and the book displays none of the jerky, cliche storytelling currently plaguing the two core titles.  It isn’t the book’s strongest issue to date, but continues to cement Superman: World of New Krypton as both a must-read book for Superman fans and general superhero sci-fi fans alike.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

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Superman: World of New Krypton #7

Superman: World of New Krypton #6

Review: Superman: World of New Krypton #7

WoNK

Picking up almost exactly where Robinson’s recent Superman #691 left off, Superman: World of New Krypton deals with the first bits of fall-out from the inferior “Codename: Patriot” story that ran through all the Superman family titles recently.  As Kal flies the murdered Ral-Dar back to New Krypton, the planet moves towards war.  The military is itching to strike back after the attempted assassination of General Zod, the council is divided, and there is worry as to just how far the infiltration goes, and how it even happened in the first place.  

This is all very familiar stuff.  Anyone who has ever read, for example, a single X-Men comic published in almost any era will be familiar with the “powerful minority who is hated and misunderstood and wants to fight back” story.  But where Superman #691 (and many X-Men comics) fell prey to the absolute worst tropes of that genre, Superman: World of New Krypton smartly avoids cliche by focusing on how things changes Kal’s responsibilities to his home planet.  In a brilliant move, to spoil a plot point of the book, Kal is placed in temporary command of the armies of New Krypton by a barely-conscious Zod.

Woods continues to do stellar work in making the Kryptonian technology and fashion look both appealingly retro and utterly alien, and the increased drama that comes from Clark’s sudden promotion brings out a gift for recognizable and diverse facial expressions that I haven’t noticed much in his previous work.  Though I was at times unimpressed with him in earlier issues, it is becoming more and more clear that he really does have a handle on the alien feel of New Krypton and the massive design issues the book demands.

The issue does a good job largely ignoring the impending Earth/Krypton war for the issue’s action in favor of a skirmish with some Thanagarians and a tragic accident that happens because of it.  Meanwhile, Robinson and Rucka are giving World of New Krypton‘s villains subtlety and grace utterly lacking in the “Codename: Patriot” story, as well as putting Kal through one of the biggest challenges of his career.  It will be interesting to see how Superman reacts in the heat of battle as the leader of his fighting force, especially with the knowledge that each Kryptonian death brings his species that much closer to extinction.  World of New Krypton remains the strongest Superman title available.

Grade: A-

– Cal Cleary

Superman #691

Superman: World of New Krypton #6

Review: Superman: World of New Krypton #6

Hey everyone.  Sorry about the continued backlog of reviews – I’ll try and get them out this weekend!  Just finished the last of my coursework for my Master’s degree two days ago, so I’m finally free and clear.  Now, if I can just find a pesky ‘job’ before my money runs out!

WoNK

As someone who isn’t traditionally a fan of the character Superman or any of his books, the quality of his titles right now has come as something of a surprise.  No title illustrates this quite as well as Superman: World of New Krypton, a sprawling sci-fi book about Superman’s adventures off Earth, among his own kind.  Working together, Greg Rucka and James Robinson have turned what could have been a labored year with Superman off his main titles (and Earth) into one of the most creatively intriguing periods of the character in recent memories.

With the attempted assassination of General Zod, New Krypton is panicked, and the House of El steps up to try and maintain order.  Rucka and Robinson continue to portray all the characters, from the sociopathic Ursa to the cold Alura, with far more humanity than they’ve ever been shown elsewhere, and it makes the drama all the greater.  Things continue to degenerate on New Krypton, and the big crossover between the Superman family titles – “Codename: Patriot” – clearly starts here.  It’s an exciting opening to the story, though I have to say, I hope you don’t have to read all four relevant books in order to follow the story.

Woods, normally quite good, demonstrates a little bit of weakness early in the issue as the assassin attempts to fight his way through the crowd of Kryptonians, but picks up quickly – by the time you see him dragged down, screaming, by forty or more angry supermen, you’ll begin to realize the damage a riotous population can do.  He also continues to do excellent design work on the world itself, amping up the alien feel of the technology while still making it a recognizable offshoot of the familiar Fortress of Solitude designs.

Ultimately, World of New Krypton remains an interesting, fun book that does an exemplary job of illustrating just what it is that makes Superman so great while laying seeds for a ton of potentially fascinating future stories.  With hope, “Codename: Patriot” can live up to this excellent opening issue.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

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Superman: World of New Krypton #5

Superman: World of New Krypton #4

Review: Superman: World of New Krypton #3

wonk

James Robinson and Greg Rucka, the writers of Superman and Action Comics respectively, team up each month on a third Superman title – World of New Krypton.  As I’m sure you know by now, WoNK is the only of the Superman titles actually starring Superman at this time, but as luck would have it, it’s also the most consistently impressive of them.

New Krypton is a place desperately in search of an identity.  They still cling, as we see, to the way they’ve always done things – a way that Superman feels is in need of a change.  We begin to see why in this issue as we learn about some of the societal ramifications of a planet full of Superfolks.  The Labor Guild of Krypton, almost a slave class, ended last issue by taking Alura and a number of other important Kryptonians hostage, leaving the cold-blooded General Zod in charge of the situation.  Clark manages to talk him down from the expected blood-bath, though, depowers himself and offers himself up as a hostage.

Clark without powers, however, is still smart, confident and attentive – skills he needs as he negotiates the freedom of Alura and the rest and does his best to institute change in the system.  The drama that drives the issue – that of a society on the brink of revolution – is relatively compelling, despite being vastly oversimplified, and offers far more to keep us coming back each month than a simple Superman vs. General Zod plot might… even if, at many times, the plot places Superman and Zod against each other.

Wood’s work is competent, if unspectacular, managing to capture the diverse types of dress common in Kryptonian culture.  Actually, given how rarely many books seek to venture into such completely unknown territory, it is rather spectacular is only to note how natural the background and costumes are throughout the book.  Wood handles both the action and the dramatic scenes with a deft hand, and appears to work quite well with Rucka and Robinson.

The book takes what could very easily have been a placeholder mini and has begun to use it to really flesh out the Kryptonians – culture, dress, attitudes.  The book is far from perfect and never quite achieves the heights it could, but it is nonetheless a consistently entertaining read and a worthy place for the Man of Steel to spend a year.

Grade: B+

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Bruce Castle Presents: New Avengers or New Krypton? Or New Coke?!

New Avengers #46 (***1/2)

I love villain books. Secret Invasion from the bad guy POV? Bring it on! This issue was a lot of fun. Particularly if you like The Hood and the cronies he hangs around. Bendis doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, but I still had a good time. Even though I’ve heard a lot of praise for Tan’s art, I feel that his work is just above average, but he makes the baddies look cool here. The most interesting thing in the book is of course non-Skrull related. It kind of sets things up for the future of the NA, or at least gives them a new foe to face.

Superman: New Krypton Special #1 (****)

The first five pages are completely wordless. Why? Because we’re dealing with the Action Comics #870 events. These pages are drawn by Frank and of course he knocks the artistic ball out of the park. Actually, the book’s look in general was very impressive. That’s near impossible when you have several artists working on one comic, but somehow they pulled it off. This seems like an interesting event, but I kind of already know where it’s headed. The foreshadowing is too heavy. Another thing that bugged me is that Robinson’s writing was weak. Yes I realize this is written by Johns and Gates too and how can I tell who wrote what, but I can use common sense. It’s like in 52, do we know who wrote what? No, but we have a really good idea. I think I’ll be skipping the Robinson issues unless of course I hear they’re great. Anyway, this seems like it’ll be a pretty good story and I think you should at least give it a try. Oh, and I skipped that five buck Olsen crap and I don’t think I missed anything important.