New Krypton Special #1
Written by Geoff Johns, James Robinson and Sterling Gates
Art by Gary Frank and Jon Sibal, Renato Guedes and Wilson Magalháes, and Pete Woods
Review by Troy Brownfield
The reset of the Superman titles begins in earnest in this special. Featuring writing contributions from the regular writers of Action, Superman, and Supergirl (finally being given equal weight), this special articulates three main plots and themes that will presumably run through the books in the months to come.
First among these notions is the new status quo for Superman and his family. At and after the funeral for Pa Kent, we see the emotional toll associated with the loss. Superman envisions himself destroying Brainiac and receives a dressing-down from Ma for his belief that any of this may be his fault. In the past, we’ve see “Pa dies” stories, but it would seem that the writers are really invested this time in trying to make the loss resonate. Whether its strong exchanges between Clark and Lois or the lingering series of panels depicting Ma eating alone, there is more of an attempt at emotional heft here.
Speaking of family, a related theme seems to be the notion that, well, extended family’s are a pain in the ass. Superman engages in a frustrating conversation with Supergirl’s parents, anticipating some of the dilemmas that will arise from having the Kryptonians on Earth. Superman knows that the notions of morality and justice vary across cultures, but rarely do the members of those cultures have powers and abilities beyond those of mortal beings. These scenes offer critical insight into an ongoing possible wave of problems.
The third corner of the new triangle is the elevated threat level. Johns, Robinson and Gates are determined to up the ante on the villains threatening the leads, probably in response to the long-term knock that Superman’s enemies don’t often represent a real challenge. We’ve seen the retintroduction of the Phantom Zone villains, the fight with Atlas, the arrival of the “real” Brainiac, and now we’re getting back to Luthor and his shocking new ally (see above: extended family=pain in the ass). Even more than adding credibility to the rogue’s gallery, this approach actually invests the titles with more excitement; you’re more likely, as a reader, to want to come back if the tension and action thrive on a higher plane.
On the art front, the book features solid work. At the forefront, though, is Gary Frank. His work on Action has been terrific from the get-go, and his work on the scenes surrounding Pa’s funeral carry melancholy atmosphere over his classic renderings of the cast. The Super-titles deserve top-flight artists, and it’s good to see the effort going into all three books.
The special reads well, and it’s a crucial jumping-on point. I’ve really been enjoying what the various teams are doing with the S-books, and from the look of it, that’s shaping up to remain consistent over the long haul.
And now, a quick catch-up on a lead-in to New Krypton…
Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #1
Written by James Robinson
Art by Jesus Merino, Leno Carvalho & Steve Scott with Nelson Pereira and Kevin Stokes
Review by Jamie Trecker
James Robinson has set some kind of record here. Sure, DC has a pretty good track record with dusting off and rebooting old characters (Starman, Sandman) so it’s not a shock that this “reboot” of Jimmy Olsen works so well.
After all, “Superman’s Pal” has been steadily growing up throughout the years, moving away from calling Superman on his signal watch to sweep away roaches and refraining (for the most part) from turning into, well, Giant Turtle Boy Olsen.
For so long, the “boy reporter” has been the one-dimensional foil of the Superman universe, always reliable but also always something of a punch line. Even minor characters like Lucy Lane and Ronald Troupe have been given more depth as creators have struggled how to reconcile Olsen’s semi-iconic status with the need to flesh him out. Ryan Sook’s cover even highlights this tension, showing Olsen in his old-school bow-tie and chest sweater, instead of, well, something sensible.
Remarkably, in a mere 48 pages, Robinson wraps up all the loose ends from Olsen’s nearly 60 years in comics. The Cadmus Project of the 1970s, the effect of all those wacky 1950s changes, and even why he can never get Perry White a cup of hot joe. Robinson also does something that to date, no one else has been able to do: Make Olsen a real character.
But for a writer of Robinson’s talent, this isn’t a surprise. No: The shock of this book is that Robinson and his collaborators have managed to breathe life into one of the most laughable characters ever created and abandoned as just too damn idiotic.
Way back in 1975, DC tried to relaunch a “Showcase” title, called First Issue Special. Debuting in this magazine were such gems as “Lady Cop,” “The Dingbats,” “The Outsiders” (not the ones you’re thinking of, by the way)… and a guy who ran across water on what looked like bananas. His name was Johnathan Drew, and his handle was the gleefully melodramatic “Codename: Assassin!” I actually bought this comic when it came out, and I found out pretty quickly that it was Codename: Dumb. So, apparently, did everyone else, for he disappeared without a trace until this year and Robinson’s run on Superman, in which he seems determined to resuscitate as many of the 1st Issue Special characters as possible.
First came Atlas, a throwaway Kirby creation that stormed through Metropolis earlier this year. And now, Drew, gunslinger for hire in the employ of the U.S. government, with designs on Superman and that Kryptonian city Supes just dropped off near the North Pole. And y’know, even Drew looks like a 2nd-rate Deathstroke knockoff and dresses like a member of the Denver Broncos… the whole thing works.
The best part about this special is that it teases a whole new status quo for the Superman universe. The fact is, Joe Quesada’s infamous jibe about the book (which cannot be reprinted here) was true. Superman hasn’t been relevant in the same way that Batman or Spiderman has since the “triangle” era, and John Byrne’s sleek reboot. Robinson, alongside Geoff Johns, are trying to change that, by finally making the daring changes the property needs. If Robinson can pull it off with Olsen, perhaps he and Johns can finally do what so many creators have tried and failed to do: Make Superman the unquestioned number one comic book character again.