New Krypton Times 6: Punching and Kicking

Superman #683 cover

Superman #683 cover
Superman #683 cover
Detail from Superman #683 cover by Chris Sprouse

We’re catching up with last week a little here, and taking a look at the latest part of the “New Krypton” arc – Part 9 in Superman #683 (preview here). It’s time once again in New Krypton Times to take a look at what happened, comment, speculate, and just chew the fat about the issue. As always, we want to know what you thought too, so get through this and let’s hear your thoughts down below.

But first – to make sure everyone is up to speed here are those previous installments:

A Field Guide to New Krypton

New Krypton Times, 1

New Krypton Times, 2

New Krypton Times, 3

New Krypton Times, 4

New Krypton Times, 5

So where do things open?

Back in Part 6 (Supergirl #36), we saw the Guardian asking members of the JSA and JLA for their help in seeking justice for the murdered Science Police officers (back in Part 6, Superman #682). In this issue, that "gathering of the heroes" scene plays out, and Superman is faced by some of his most powerful colleagues. And to take a moment - a nice hat-tip to the planning here between the artists and writers on the two parts – even in a tightly-contained story such as “New Krypton,” you can get character creep, that is, characters being drawn by one artist who don’t show up in the next group shot by another artist. These heroes maintain their presence nicely.

As for that group shot – like you need any help…three Green Lanterns, Power Girl, Wonder Woman, Black Lightning, Flash, Starfire, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Steel and Mr. Terrific. Oh, and some Science Police, whom we’re just going to assume are wearing red bodysuits - or at least shorts - under their armor.

The group itself – it’s some impressive firepower. Five of them together (the GLs, Power Girl, and Wonder Woman) could probably destroy a planet without breaking a sweat. Flash is most likely there as the grandfatherly voice of reason, Starfire, because she’s a powerful B-lister, Black Lighting, the same, Mr. Terrific, because he’s smart, and the Hawks – not sure about it, but I don’t think you can keep them away from a fight if they know one’s going down – anywhere they can fly to within an hour and a half – and hour 45, tops.

So what’s shaking down in this issue?

- Still, here we are in Part 9, and “New Krypton” hasn’t been a place to show off a strong-willed, powerful, champion of the earth, Superman. Alright, alright, yes his father died, and his uncle was just killed, but he’s let the Kandorians walk all over him, he’s offered up half-answers to the government when they want him to do something about the Kryptonians on earth, and here, in talking to his colleagues, the heroes he leads - he offers up paper-thin arguments. Kandorians murdering Science Police is “cultural confusion?”

You remember that moment back at the start of Infinite Crisis when Earth-2 Superman showed up, or in JSA when the Kingdom Come Superman showed up and Got Down to Business? So far, Superman has let everything happen around him, leaving you wishing that one of those other two Superman were here, could put a hand on his shoulder, and say, “Stand down son, I’ve got this one.” And Kick Ass. Come on - in JSA, Kingdom Come Superman ripped off Gog’s head, flew it to the Source Wall and embedded it there. Starting to think that Superman’s exile in space will be one of shame due to his inaction when he could have - or should have - led. Please don't let him cry.

As we've said before, all it would take would be a single page - either by Geoff Johns or James Robinson, as both have proven themselves to be very capable at writing the emotional scenes, of Superman talking to Lois about the situation, trailing off with a distant look in his eyes, and ending with "...I just don't know what to do..." Being overwhelmed, and not knowing what decision to make is somehting we've all been through, and is something that, if expressed, could help readers empathize with a man who can fly and lift trains - and those moments of empathy are hard to come by. Here's hoping something like that is coming.

- Is anyone else starting to wonder if Alura is being turned into a supervillain? If she survives this story, the smart money says yes. Somewhere else in the galaxy, but yes. To these ends, the Kandorians’ work with Brainiac’s technology is chilling – Alura’s comment that the leftover tech may be a “solution to all of this” – that’s not too far from “final solution,” which meshes pretty well with her point that she doesn’t care if the interior earthlings are killed.

- Compared to Superman, Supergirl’s character arc in “New Krypton” is pretty clear and moving forward – emotionally, she’s been torn to shreds – Yay! Her parents are alive! Boo! Her mother makes David Duke look reasonable. Yay! She’s moving in with her parents at their home! Boo! Her father is killed. Oh, and she’s a teenage girl, too? Yowza. It’s a bit much to handle, and yes, she’s a messed up crying…mess, changing her mind and loyalty with the wind.

- Clearly ethnic Kryptonians! They’ve been around here and there before, but “standoff” page shows - clearly - a darker-skinned Kryptonian, and one looking possibly Asian-esque. Check back tomorrow for more on Krypton’s ethnic diversity.

- First punch shown? Hawkman. Told you so.

Let’s talk about the fight itself…

First off, Alura’s right – it’s a nonsense fight. There’s no way the heroes of earth can hope to win. That’s not saying interesting stuff doesn’t happen in there. Like what? Some classic James Robinson writing, that’s what. One of the hallmarks of Robinson’s writing, both in Starman and his other superhero stories, dating back to WildCATS and even earlier, was the one liner, the throwaway that can be turned into its own series. Cases in point?

- Black Lightning running through all the forms of lightning he knows (and presumably can control), and fighting to change the wavelength of the lightning to red. While the end result is a bit hand-wavey on the science, the rundown of lighting types from Jefferson Pierce suggest a bit more depth than an Afro wig, a waist-deep v-neck and a “ZZZAP!” that have unfortunately been his claim to fame for the bulk of his career. It’s a new insight to Black Lightning which deepens him a little bit more.

- Powergirl repeating over and over, “These are NOT my people…” A perfect moment for the identity (and home)-challenged heroine.

- Starfire – absorbing the ultraviolet wavelengths from the sunlight, thereby reducing its efficacy…er, okay…sometimes Robinson’s bits and pieces work better than others. Okay, so taking out the ultra-violet "reduces" the sunlight locally near Starfire, but still...Superman can go into a dark room without becoming as weak as a kitten, so it's unclear why these Kryptonians would be affected - it's not like ultra violet is the only wavelength of energy in sunlight. If it was, Kryptonian color schemes would look more like velvet Elvises, or any other piece of art from Pedro's fine collection at South of the Border.

- Steel – this one caught the most attention – he basically said that within his armor, he has lead particles which he can control and move around, allowing the Kryptonite particles that they’re shielding to move to the surface of his armor. Play with that idea a little, and Steel can instantly have a Kryptonite fist, or an all-over green glow that’s toxic to Kryptonians. Again, it’s a nice touch.

- Saving the day – DC’s magic team. What’s the one thing Superman is vulnerable to? Yep – and nine of the DC Universe’s most powerful wielders just showed up: Ibis, Sargon, Enchantress, Zatanna, Zatara, Dr. Occult, Dr. Fate, Captain Marvel and Jakeem Thunder. While it paves the way for an epic “How do you like them apples?!?” ending, it also feels kind of deus ex machine…well, it does at this point, since the first we’re seeing these characters has them coming in for a last-minute save.

Although, that opens up an interesting can of worms…for all intents and purposes, earth was invaded by 100,000 Kryptonians. Nine magicians are going to end this thing? It seems that by doing that, you’re doing what a handful of miniseries did only to a mild degree – that is firmly establish earth as a stronghold of magic. Seriously – 100,000 Kryptonians are enough to rule a galaxy (as long as they stay away from the red stars) or at least set up a wide-spanning empire. The single-digit force of magic champions of some backwater planet can either stop them or drive them off? Not bad for magic – and it somewhat subtly re-sets the power balance. Yeah, Superman, Wonder Woman and all the rest can punch, smash and kick their way around the world and be seen as the big “powers” on earth, but when it comes down to it, it’s the magicians that have the power.

That’s what we’ve got – what are your thoughts so far?

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