Last week, War of the Supermen #3 saw Kryptonians invading Earth, and the slaughter was immediate.
The third issue in this month's four-part War of the Supermen event ended with Supergirl poised to kick some Ursa butt in Washington D.C., and Zod and thousands of Kryptonians about to invade Metropolis, but only over Superman's dead body, which they're more than willing to do.
Over two years in the making, the story that's been brewing in the Superman titles has escalated tensions between Earth and New Krypton to the point of all-out war, and now it's down to the last issue this week by writers Sterling Gates and James Robinson. In a war that is taking only 100 minutes to fight, Kryptonians are killing mercilessly while Earth's heroes attempt to defend against a race of supermen.
Now it's down to the last issue this week. As part of our ongoing series talking to Robinson and Gates (see Part 1 here and Part 2 here), Newsarama now talks with the two about War of the Supermen #3 and how it all wraps up this week.
Newsarama: Sterling and James, this whole story of escalating tensions between New Krypton and Earth has felt strangely familiar, because it seems like these types of cultural differences and misunderstandings are a constant political occurrence in our world. Without losing sight of this being first and foremost an enjoyable comic book, what are your thoughts behind the near-genocide that has taken place in this story and the damages we've seen from this war?
James Robinson: Well I say the destruction of a whole planet is more than near-genocide. Boy, Vaneta, you're very laissez-faire with the lives of millions.
Sterling Gates: Oh, geez...I mean, yeah, Vaneta! What’s up with that?! [laughs]
Preview page from War of the Supermen #4Robinson: Seriously, it was something we thought about a lot.
Gates: And talked about at great length with DC editorial.
Robinson: To state the obvious, war is Hell, and we should convey that and that there are consequences to this type of epic conflict even in the world of Superman.
Gates: The destruction of New Krypton is a tragedy for Superman and Supergirl on an unheard of scale, the kind of which we’ve never seen them directly deal with before. It’s big, but at the same time, it’s personal.
This isn’t something that can be shrugged off lightly, and I’m going to be touching on the consequences of this war in Supergirl during the next arc. I want to really look at how these events have affected her and what happens after that. How she processes it. Who helps her through dealing with those emotions.
Oh, and then a Bizarro shows up, and there’s a lot of ass-kicking.
Nrama: We talked before about how you two divide the issue. Do you mind telling us who wrote that sacrifice by Thara Ak-Var and Chris' reaction, and can you give us your thoughts behind how it all happened?
Robinson: There were sequences throughout this series that one or the other of us felt more of a kinship too. Sterling wanted to tackle the sacrifice of Thara Ak-Var/Chris, and I think he did a stellar job. I probably would have made it too funny with one-liners and such.
Gates: Both of us sort of gravitated towards certain characters as we co-wrote this series, and I wanted to write for Nightwing and Flamebird. I had some experience with them from co-writing “The Hunt For Reactron” with Greg Rucka, and I wrote for them a little bit during World’s Finest. Because of Greg’s wonderful take on her, I loved those characters, specifically Thara.
Writing that scene was heartbreaking for me, but I wanted to pay out the Nightwing and Flamebird prophecy, as well as show Thara’s love for her best friend, Kara. She gave her life to ensure that Supergirl would live, not to mention the other Kryptonians. That’s what heroes do.
And I thought CAFU knocked that sequence out of the park. Brilliant artist.
As for Chris Kent, just where did the Nightwing entity whisk him off to?
Nrama: Hmm... good question. Another question that some have asked about is that the art implied some Kryptonians who were around the Mars base died under the red sun while others lived, including Superman and Supergirl. Is that accurate? Can you describe what happened?
Preview page from War of the Supermen #4Robinson: Basically it was a crapshoot. The sun was only red for a moment. Some lived, some died. Superman and Supergirl were lucky. Red Shard, Superman's old unit on New Krypton, weren't so lucky. But indeed, although it isn't shown, I always imagined some other Kryptonians surviving along with Supes and Supergirl.
Gates: Though you can make a case for Superman and Supergirl having more yellow sun energy stored in their cells, giving them a moment’s advantage over the others. That’s how I imagined it shaking out, and the rest of the survivors were lucky, as James said.
Nrama: Despite all the losses, there were a lot of moments in this issue that were fun for long-time Superman fans to see: The interaction between Superboy and Nightwing, the reference to the Newsboy Legion, rarely seen heroes showing up to fight the Kryptonians... much like your nod last week to Young Justice. How in the world did you find time in a 100-minute war to get that stuff in there? What are some of your favorite moments so far? And are there more Easter eggs to come?
Robinson: Some of that was me. Some was Sterling. I did the Power Girl moment, and all those three-panel pages, showing the Kryptonian assault and the savagery of Ursa. It always bugged me that we didn't do more with Power Girl in the Super books, and I wanted to get at least one moment with her. We wanted to show that the war was affecting heroes all over the world/the world in general, but that it was happening quickly, quickly. My regret is that we didn't have the space to show more of G.I.Robot leading the army of Green Kryptonite Metal Men. That was always meant to be a bigger sequence, which is why I showed him in the gallery of 7734's robot collection back in Superman 692.
Gates: I like Jimmy Olsen, so I wanted to do that Newsboy Legion moment. I’m going to use Jimmy Olsen in Supergirl after this is all over. You can’t keep a good cub reporter down, especially not when he’s got a Legion behind him.
And James is responsible for Frankenstein cutting a Kryptonian in half, which I think is a boss moment. I wish I’d written it.
Nrama: Some of the heroes made it out in time to battle Kryptonians -- with the results varying. Since it all went down so quickly, we didn't get a blow-by-blow story. Anything you can tell us about how you two imagine the fights in the panels we saw (and maybe fighting we didn't see)?
Preview page from War of the Supermen #4Robinson: Frankenstein using his magical sword to hack Kryptonians to pieces. G.I.Robot's Green Kryptonite troops cutting a swarth through the Kryptonian army. Power Girl kicking ass. Oh and we never showed it at all, but I like to imagine areas of Mexico were safely defended by the combined might of Iman's armored technology and the supernatural-based powers of El Muerto.
Gates: I wanted to do a scene where there was a platoon of Kryptonians acting as Living Orbital Lasers, firing heat vision down on the populace. We ran out of room in the issue, though, so I cut it. The L.O.L.ocalypse woulda been neat, though.
Nrama: In what hand-to-hand combat we did see in the attack on Earth, Ursa seems like she's enjoying herself. What's her mindset here in particular?
Robinson: Ursa is a mad dog. I can't even image what she's thinking. Is she thinking anything? "I like killing humans." Or is she merely whistling a Kryptonian show tune as she rips the head off the Japanese President?
Gates: I imagine part of her thought process is “I have my orders.”
Nrama: It's striking to see world leaders going down like that. How did you guys decide to approach the Kryptonian attack on Earth from a tactical standpoint? This all happened in mere seconds, didn't it?
Robinson: Yes, we loved the idea that Ursa assassinates all the leaders of the world in moments, thereby throwing Earth into confusion and disarray.
Gates: And credit where credit is due: The idea of Ursa blowing across the world and killing its leaders came from Greg Rucka. Greg was a big part of the early talks of this war, and he has a great mind for military strategy. When he said, “Y’know what Zod would send Ursa to do? Murder every world leader in seconds” at the table, all of our jaws dropped open. So, a huge thanks to Greg Rucka for that.
Nrama: It's also interesting to see the methods you're using to tell the story of a worldwide war in 25 minutes or less. How did you come up with the series of newscasts? And is there anything in that sequence we should notice?
Robinson: I just felt that was the best way to get across the confusion and urgency of everything. It's a great way to get across more info than you have room for, too, telling events through captions while showing other events through image.
Nrama: It's hard to imagine this whole war only lasts another 25 minutes. Was the conclusion to this story difficult to write within the "100-minute" framework?
Preview page from War of the Supermen #4Robinson: Within that framework, every issue is hard to write.
Gates: What he said, but I’d like to add that yes, the final issue was a monster. Especially the sequence where Superboy loses…oh, heck. That’d be telling.
Nrama: Well, without "telling," can you give us any hints about what's to come? Ursa vs. a ticked-off Supergirl should be interesting, and Superman's going to have his hands full against Zod and thousands of Kryptonians.
Robinson: There are resolutions. I won't say anymore.
Gates: I’d like to announce that the first two issues of War of the Supermen have sold out, and they’re going to be collected as a “Double Feature” book, available in mid-June. I think retailers should be hearing about it right around now.
We want to extend our thanks to all of the fans who’ve been picking up this series and enjoying it and telling their friends about it. It’s because of you guys that this Superman story is a success, and we appreciate that. Thank you, and I hope you enjoy the last issue.
It’s a rollercoaster, that’s for sure. The War of the Supermen marches ever onward!