It was the last great pre-TheNew52 Superman storyline. It was supposed to entertain and enlighten and energize the Superman books for years to come. It was one of the most massive, interconnected tales of Kal-El ever told.
And I thoroughly enjoyed it.
And I think I was one of the few who did.
And that is a complete shame.
Superman New Krypton is a storyline that takes place over almost two years worth of Superman, Action Comics, Supergirl, Superboy, World of New Krypton, Adventure Comics and various one shots and mini-series. One of the slight modifications after Infinite Crisis to the mythos was opening the floodgates to plenty of other Kryptonians being alive and well, and this concept became a tidal wave when Superman faced off against Brainiac for the “first” time and freed the kidnapped bottled city of Kandor.
In all classic and neo-modern versions of this tale, these fellow Kryptonians become jolly good friends of Superman and benevolent helpers to him. Those stores would always bore me to tears. Even when they enlarged and got their own planet, I couldn’t have cared less.
This time, this contemporary version, they range from arrogant to somewhat ungrateful to outright hostile to all sorts inbetween. It is made abundantly clear that one of the points of New Krypton is that a great part of makes Superman “Super” is the parentage of Ma and the now late Pa Kent. Early on the now powered up Kandorians relish “their” new planet, and view the current inhabitants, namely us humans, as like pets. The part with the whale illustrates this dichotomy so precisely, it is downright prescient of what future troubles are brewing.
Tensions immediately escalate when Lois’s presumed dead father, General Lane, enacts Project 7734, with the goal of fulfilling his genocidal hatred of all things Superman. Plots within plots within plots, each met with large body counts, becomes the constant theme here. Anyone and anything that gets in the way of eliminating these filthy aliens must be abolished. The massacres the Kandorians have to endure, and their counter measures to ensure their safety, cause global tensions and bring about a huge cadre of superheroes to sort the situation out.
At this point the preamble is done, the Kandorians see the welcome mat yanked away, which makes them launch their city off into space, create a crystalline planet for themselves, and take up orbit on the far side of the sun. Goodbye you crazy humans!
At this point, Kal is still trying to fix all the myriad problems that have come about here, and so with a heavy heart he talks to wife Lois and mother Martha and goes off to outer space and New Krypton.
The stage is set and the players are now in place.
Kal-El is now world building, society changing and evil plot solving in the World of New Krypton comic by James Robinson, Greg Rucka and Pete Woods. Guest stars like Green Lantern, Adam Strange and Jemm pop up here because of the new galactic power this planet represents. We also see the creators reinvent Krypton by incorporating as many different previous versions as possible, and somehow keeping internal logic. Kal learning about how things work here does not make him a happy Superman, and brings out the social revolutionary in him.
Meanwhile, back in Metropolis, new protectors have emerged in the Superman comic, by James Robinson and Renato Geudes. Through a series of flukes, Mon-El has been plucked from the Phantom Zone and managed to be cured, while another clone of the golden age hero The Guardian has come to town. These two bring truth and justice and subplots galore here every month.
But what of all the subterfuge between the two planets? Action Comics by Greg Rucka and various artists plays with this concept by showcasing the hunt for Kryptonian infiltrators by Nightwing and Flamebird. This crime fighting duo, and potential couple, are also Kryptonians and fighting against the evil General Zod’s plans for Earth.
The tale of someone genuinely torn between the two worlds is in the Supergirl comic, by Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle. Whether she is on New Krypton endlessly arguing with her mother – and leader of Kandor, or learning about humanity while living with Lana Lang back on Earth, Supergirl is constantly challenged. She is also subjected to relentless yellow journalism by Daily Planet gossip hound Cat Grant, trying on the secret identity of Linda Lang, and recovering from Kryptonite poisoning, which by the way, is a brilliant pot device to fix the many many problems plaguing the character over the years. Supergirl 43 is the absolute best of this series, featuring her birthday and choosing a guild.
Joining in on the fun is Adventure Comics, by Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul. Starting with Superboy slowly becoming a part of everything, the series than evolves into telling the tale of how the time travelling Legion of Super Heroes are involved with this crisis.
Along the way with this sweeping storyline, we get some one shots giving us the journey of Jimmy Olsen as he investigates General Lane, and another one shot at a critical junction of everything. A personal favourite is the World’s Finest miniseries, by Sterling Gates and various artists, which has several very important plot developments. But the real reason this is a classic part of New Krypton is that these four issues have a literal whackload of Superman and Batman supporting characters teaming up, arguing, bantering, and just giving us readers a grand old adventure. Come on, Guardian and Robin Damian taking on Mr Freeze and the Parasite, what more can you ask for?
The only downside to this undertaking is the midway point. You can tell the gears behind the scenes were being shifted slightly, with some ideas, like Mon-El’s powers or what to do with Guardian’s “kid”, becoming increasing sidelined. By the time of the epic ending with The Last Stand of New Krypton comic, you can feel the lethargy kicking in. This is not to say the conclusion, which reaches its final crescendo with the War Of The Supermen mini-series, was not good and gripping and emotional, but it is obvious the fatigue from creating all those stories had taken it’s toll.
Afterall, besides everything I have mentioned, New Krypton also stars Lois Lane on a quest for the truth about her father, Perry White trying to guide her, Lex Luther being the master manipulator, Atlas being a brute, Steel helping out in Metropolis, the Creature Commandos making a comeback, Reactron being a ruthless murderer, Doomsday terrorizing everyone, Captain Atom playing a role, Daxam history getting re-explained, Codename: Assassin getting a dust-off, Silver Banshee giving a shout out, Insect Queen crawling about, Rao gaining new followers, and a partridge in a pear tree. With all this, and so much more, is it any wonder that everyone involved probably needed a nice long vacation when it was all said and done?
One issue that was present from the start, as related in interviews by writer Greg Rucka, is that New Krypton was very much behind schedule right from inception. Playing catch-up was always a present concern for all creators, who all want to do their best, but are facing a super deadline looming before them.
Because of this rushed nature of the series, and despite the promotional push from DC Comics, fans seemed slightly jaded before New Krypton even began. I myself got every issue, but only read them all last month. Because of this malaise, I firmly believe sales of the entire storyline were far below expectations, which is most likely why virtually all aspects of it were promptly ignored as soon as it ended. And this failure was also the most probable reason why the major surgery was committed on Superman’s history with The New 52 Relaunch. Think about it, this massive sweeping tale of epic proportions with far reaching ramifications vanishes from continuity a year later? Such a shame.
Everyone has a favourite Superman. Mine is the From Crisis To Crisis era. This storyline, with a nip and tuck and a bit of mental rewiring, can still fit somewhat gently into that beloved version of the Man of Steel. Yes, some leaps are harder to take than others, and I am looking at you Lucy Lane, but so many of the basic concepts are still present and accounted for.
So many thoughts and ideas are expressed here. The Clark Kent of Ma and Pa Kent faces off against the Kal-El of Krypton, nature versus nurture on a planetary scale. Earth and New Krypton on a collision course caused by madmen, people who know nothing of what Superman stands for. All this encompassing something like 150 comics in total.
A Super tale for a Superman.
…is currently reading Gladiator by Philip Wylie.
P.S. This post is one of several I hope to do this year to celebrate the 75th Birthday of Superman. Happy Birthday Kal-El!! Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.