- Novelty:As I mentioned before, the thing I like most about this story is that it is one of those vanishingly rare things in a 70-year-old franchise: new. Bringing back a slew of Kryptonians who have ties to familiar characters, putting them on a New Krypton, and placing that New Krypton in orbit around Earth's yellow sun, thereby giving all the restored Kryptonians superpowers, is something that hasn't been done before (in canon, as far as I know). When I consider all the things that have happened to Superman1--even in the short time I've been reading the series--that alone is enough to give this story a positive spin.
- Sci-Fi: I really like that Superman has been operating on a more cosmic scope. The sci-fi/space aspects of Superman's character sometimes get neglected, but this story has really allowed them to shine. Conflict with the Thanagarians? A locked-room murder mystery with Adam Strange? Freaking Jemm, Son of Saturn? It's nice having a high-profile cosmic character (who isn't mired in the War of the Light) again, and it's one of the reasons I'd like to see New Krypton stick around.
- The Kryptonians: Something I didn't realize before reading this arc was just how little attention had been paid over the years--at least the recent years--to characterizing any Kryptonians outside of the -El family. Even then, it's mostly just Clark and Kara; Krypton has been a planet of hats for most of its history, and the most characterization we've seen has been mostly to show how awesome Jor-El is compared to everyone else. "New Krypton" has given us a full-fledged society, with a caste system, religious traditions, political friction, and other individual quirks. We've gotten some particularly interesting individuals out of the mix as well: distraught technical genius Alura, demented doctor Jax-Ur, Clark's Labor Guild friend Tyr-Van, the Red Shard soldiers, even many of my issues with Zod have been mitigated by giving him a personality deeper than "revenge-obsessed megalomaniac." "World of New Krypton" has been utterly fantastic for fleshing out the titular planet, which I suppose would make it all the more upsetting if it got shoved back into a bottle or destroyed again.
- Useless New Characters: On the other hand, this crossover has given us a host of totally useless and uninteresting new characters. The biggest offenders in this case are Mirabai and Codename: Assassin, both of whom showed up as major players for months with no explanation of who they were or what they could do (and in the case of Mirabai, I'm still not sure what the hell the point of her is; even in those scant places where her story intersects the main one, the connection seems forced and unnecessary). While I suppose the argument could be made that this was a way of keeping the audience as in the dark as the main characters, it really just looked like someone either assumed we'd already be familiar with them, or that they were using ciphers to get around the limitations posed by characters who already have described power sets and motivations. I suppose, given that C:A is an obscure character pulled from comic book limbo, that both of these situations are accurate. I'm all for creating new characters and resurrecting forgotten ones, but there has to be some kind of reasoning and explanation; I spent at least one issue thinking that Mirabai was Sasha Bordeaux. Now I just have a hard time caring, since both characters are just terminally uninteresting.
In addition to those two are the vast majority of officers on the Science Police force. I understand what Robinson has been attempting to do with them, making a Gotham Central-esque police ensemble with individual backgrounds and personalities, but he hasn't followed through on any of it. The only one to have gotten any real characterization is Billi Harper; everyone else is fairly interchangeable--including the two who have turned out to be sleeper agents. The problem--besides the general redundancy of the Science Police--is that we've seen very little of Mon-El's time with them. Every time he settles into his uniform, he ends up called away or kidnapped or on a whirlwind tour of international superheroics. Robinson's arc has been plagued by a multiplicity of good ideas carried out halfway. Any one of the stories we've seen so far would have been fantastic--Mon-El protecting Metropolis and working secretly for the Science Police, Mon-El traveling the world and experiencing the sort of life Superman gets to lead, Mon-El fighting against the machinations of Project 7734 with secret assistance from the Legion and the Daily Planet, Steel working with a new partner who secretly turns out to be Atlas--but instead we've had all of these stories, and only in the course of a year. Naturally, something (actually, a lot of things) is going to suffer, and it's been the characterization. Consequently, there's not much impact when it turns out that some of these characters weren't who they appeared to be, because they didn't appear to be much in the first place.
- Reactron and Metallo: I've been, for a long time, a kind of Metallo purist. I prefer the post-Crisis Byrne-era version of the character, as a skeletal metallic robot with a Kryptonite heart and the brain of a small-time thug. They've changed it up over the years; I kind of liked it when he had an indestructible skull that could take control of mechanical devices (although it made him far too similar to Cyborg); I thought his Brainiac 13 upgrade had some cool visuals to it, but I've never cared for the green-faced human-skinned version that dominated his pre-Crisis incarnation, and I only cared for the animated version after his skin sloughed off. So it's a little surprising to me that I like the newest version, with a heart of just one kind of Kryptonite, a human-like exterior, and some odd-looking green armor. Part of it is because I like the notion that the government's weapons against Kryptonians include Kryptonite-powered villains, but the bigger part is that I really like Reactron (and that he's got a Gold Kryptonite heart, and that Gold-K isn't permanent anymore), and I think it's fitting that the government would outfit similar soldiers in similar uniforms. Metallo works best as a thug working for someone, and for this, Sam Lane is as good an employer as any.
- Squad K: I know these guys were introduced during Kurt Busiek's run, but it's good to see them active again, and with a more wide-reaching purpose than when there were only a half-dozen or so Kryptonians around. I don't care for the recent uniform change, since it makes them less distinctive visually, but it does seem to be a reasonable function-over-form change.
Science Police: Again, granted, the SP debuted (in the current era) earlier in Robinson's run, but it's during New Krypton that they've been really fleshed out. I frankly can't see why they aren't just the SCU. I don't like having superfluous organizations in comics; it bugs me. It bugged me when Wonder Woman invented the Department of Metahuman Affairs, given the existence of the Department of Extranormal Operations--until they eventually explained that the former is a subdivision of the latter. So far, I haven't seen how the Science Police integrate with the Special Crimes Unit and the rest of the Metropolis Police Department. If I had to guess, I'd say that the SCU is an investigative body, and while they used to handle major metahuman battles and such, the Science Police has been created as a sort of SWAT team related to but independent of the SCU. But I'd like some official word.
- Superwoman: I love the new Superwoman costume, and I've liked the Superwoman concept ever since the first time I saw an image of Kristin Wells. In fact, she remains one of the few Elliot S! Maggin innovations that I've really enjoyed. The "Who is Superwoman" mystery was fun, and I like the idea of having a human double-agent operating on Krypton.
- Lucy Lane: That being said, did it have to be Lucy Lane? Everything about this portrayal of Lucy has come out of left field, from her ruthless vindictiveness to her apparent lack of husband and child. Her death was gratuitous, but not quite as gratuitous as the casual murders she's committed since being resurrected. I'm not sure why they've decided to give her superpowers, and I'm certainly not sure how her character could possibly recover from all this.
- Steel: I love Steel. He's been the single best addition to the Superman family, and one of the best additions to the DCU, in the modern age. What I don't love is when he's treated like a total chump, which has been par for the course recently. He gets tricked, then trounced, by Atlas; he spends time in a coma (again); and overall he really hasn't been the presence that he should be in Superman's absence.
- This page: On the other hand, I love this page:
Precisely because of how much it evokes this page:
- Natasha Irons: Between the Captain Atom backups and the Mon-El conspiracy stuff, Natasha Irons has really had a chance to shine. Between her stint as Steel, her superpowered turn in Infinity, Inc., and now her time in deep cover in Project 7734, she's really come into her own as a competent, formidable heroine. We're a long way from the bright teenager who reprogrammed Kelex to speak Ebonics.
- Mon-El: I straight-up love Mon-El, so any time he can get more exposure is fine with me. Joining the Justice League might be a bit much, and I haven't cared for the unexpected and unnecessary "I'm dying/losing my powers!" plot devices, but otherwise I've been pretty happy with how Mon-El has been characterized and utilized here. It's a far cry from Valor, that's for sure.
- Chris Kent's SORAS: Chris Kent was the best thing to come out of the Johns/Donner collaboration a couple of years ago, though he was used better in Busiek's books than in the main story. I'm glad to see him back, but did he have to get the Soap Opera Rapid-Aging Syndrome in the process? It'd be one thing if he were an immature mind in a young adult body (after all, both Superboy and Impulse pulled that schtick off for years), but apparently suddenly losing a few years of childhood in the Phantom Zone happens to grant maturity and intellect beyond one's years. Still, Chris is still a pre-teen by my reckoning, and that makes his relationships with Lois and Thara really, really weird. If they were going to reintroduce Nightwing and Flamebird, I'd almost wish they'd used a different character (Van-Zee) than add these weird wrinkles to Chris's history. It's a shame, because I actually like the way the Chris/Thara romance is portrayed; I just wish it didn't have the spectre of Zoltar hanging over it.
- Nightwing and Flamebird: And unfortunately, the rest of the Nightwing and Flamebird arc doesn't offer much as a distraction. It's a shame, because I like almost all of the ideas that go into the Nightwing and Flamebird story. I like the expansion and fleshing-out of Kryptonian mythology. I like the idea of outlaw Kryptonians acting as heroes to improve relations with humans. I like the idea of Kryptonian sleeper agents, which is a great twist on the basic Clark Kent disguise concept. The costume changes have been more than a bit much (especially since the first costumes were easily the best, albeit short-lived). What I don't like is how disconnected the arc feels from the main story. When you have a crossover like this, it helps to have all the different pieces leading to the same eventual end. Yet, while Mon-El and the Legion have just joined the battle on Krypton against Brainiac, Thara and Chris are out fighting a facsimile of Rao in Iraq.
What I've realized is that the Nightwing/Flamebird arc should be an epilogue. This is the kind of story that spins out of a crossover, where newly-introduced heroes pick up the pieces left over from the major story. This is "From the pages of 'World of New Krypton': Nightwing and Flamebird in their own ongoing series!" It's "Valor" or "Anima" or "Warlock and the Infinity Watch." What it isn't, and what it shouldn't be, is a main component of the crossover itself. This has hamstrung the story to some degree, as it's working through what ought to be an ongoing story told leisurely, but must be done quickly and with frequent crossovers into the other titles in order to work as a part of the main story.
- Silver Banshee: Hey, the regular Silver Banshee came back! And people remembered her actual backstory and powers, rather than just making her an evil version of Black Canary! That's pretty awesome. I dig the Silver Banshee, and I like the idea of pitting Supergirl up against her. The great part of it is that Banshee can kill someone if she knows their true name, but Supergirl's having an identity crisis where her "true name" might be one of any number of things. That's a clever concept, and it might be nice to see it picked up again in the near future.
- Supergirl: Speaking of Supergirl, I think it's safe to say that her comic has never been better (at least, not in this incarnation of the character). Where once she was a floundering cipher with no real identity, now she's burdened with an overabundance of them. Torn between Lana and Alura, between civilian and superhero and Kryptonian, Supergirl is in the midst of the kinds of conflict we ought to have seen since she crashed on the planet. I hope Sterling Gates sticks around for a good long time.
- Lana Lang: I really like the idea of Lana taking Supergirl under her wing, especially since it gives Lana a more stable and interesting position in the Superman family. Since the Crisis, she's been kind of a third wheel, the person who knew Clark's secret but never really got to be part of the club. Her appearances have often portrayed her as mopey and pining, as though she never really moved on after Clark left. Even when she was married to Pete Ross, it was clear that he was second place. Recently, the writers have done a fantastic job of making her a stronger, more independent character, giving her a position atop LexCorp and separating her from Pete as a clear indication that she's leaving Smallville in the past, where it belongs. Taking care of Supergirl has been an interesting step in the right direction; it allows Lana to be part of the Superman family without having to be directly connected to Clark, and thus, looking like a stalker or like someone who's terminally trapped in high school. It's a good fit for both characters: Lana gets to put her experience dealing with adolescent superpowers and secret identities to good use, and Kara gets a parental figure who isn't a superhero.
That's really not the problem; the problem during New Krypton is that the Insect Queen-caused sickness in Lana has forced her into a position of being deceptive, weak, and dependent--precisely the kind of things which have hampered her character in the past. The drama that came from her illness felt a little forced, but I liked the way it was resolved. I mostly just wish it had happened at a time when the characters could deal with it as a main concern, rather than having it shoved to the sidelines by the big Krypton crossover.
- Insect Queen: What can I say? I love the new Insect Queen.
- This conversation: And the whole Lana thing is worth it to see the fire come back. Her ball-busting speech with Supergirl here was a highlight of the most recent Superfamily books.
- Matter-Eater Lad: I'm not a fan of the adult Legion, really. I think the Legion tends to get bogged down when it's more about marriages and divorces and children than about teenage alien superheroes fighting crime and prejudice in the future. I liked "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes" well enough, but that's not the "real" Legion to me.
That being said, Matter-Eater Lad is frigging awesome, and his reveal in the Mon-El story was nothing short of fantastic.
It's a mixed bag, and I think there have been some serious missteps along the way, but overall I like the story, and I can't wait to see where it's going. I just hope we can end all this without completely restoring the old status quo.
1. Losing his memory, losing his powers (at least twice), having his powers go out of control, exiling himself to space, getting mind-controlled (repeatedly), dying, resurrecting, getting body-swapped, being tried for Krypton's destruction, faking his death, taking over the world, getting new powers, getting split in two, having his city destroyed then rebuilt then upgraded then downgraded, and on and on and on.
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