Superman: World of New Krypton #3
Authors: Greg Rucka & James Robinson
Artist: Pete Woods
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Steve Wands
Cover Artist: Gary Frank
Variant Cover Artists: Howard Chaytkin with Edgar Delgado
Assistant Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
New Krypton is an interesting little ‘what if?’ scenario for Superman. What if Superman lived in a world where everyone had the same powers he has? What if he wasn’t special at all? What if he was just Clark Kent? Would he still make a difference? Except he’s not Clark Kent, the human reporter – he’s Commander Kal-El of the Kryptonian Military Guild. And yet, this series has done more to highlight Superman’s very human upbringing than any other. Superman is special, and what’s special about him is his humanity.
This all sounds very poignant for what is essentially a story about a hostage situation. That we get to see Superman negotiate a hostage situation at all just goes to show how interesting New Krypton’s basic premise is. While some readers are waiting for ‘something’ to happen, I’m enjoying all the very ‘normal’ situations Superman finds himself in, and how his intrinsic responses differ from that of his Kryptonian colleagues, particularly Zod. Now, I expect that ‘something’ readers and critics are impatiently waiting for is something along the lines of ‘Zod’s up to something, and it ain’t good’, and this story certainly alludes to that in some small measure, but I want to see this ‘what if?’ scenario explored first and played out to the full.
It’s true, General Zod does risk losing the menacing heights he achieved during Geoff John’s and Richard Donner’s “Last Son” story arc, if he doesn’t do something villainous soon. It seems that Superman and Supergirl aren’t the only ones who view New Krypton as a new beginning. Zod, too, has turned over a new leaf, it seems.
(For those not in the know, New Krypton consists solely of the citizens of Kandor, a city which was shrunk and trapped in a bottle by Brainiac long ago. As a result, the people of New Krypton are still adjusting to their newfound freedom, and are completely unaware of the nature of General Zod’s military coup back on Krypton proper. They were also completely unaware of Jor-El’s peaceful attempts to warn the Council of Krypton’s impending doom. Years later, Zod and company are the only survivors of Krypton’s destruction, and the only surviving Kryptonians who were ‘right’ about the whole thing. His attempt to forcefully ‘save’ Krypton from the Council’s ignorance is thus considered an act of heroism in retrospect.)
Superman and Zod’s new relationship is understandably awkward considering their embattled past, and while this is intended and entertaining, it’s also a little implausible. Zod seems far too reasonable for a man who was an egomaniacal madman not so long ago. And Superman seems far too composed for a man who – being the only one who knows the truth about Zod – is required to serve under his command! Zod appears to admire Superman’s non-lethal solutions to societal problems, and Superman appears to regard Zod as someone other than an egotistical madman. If they get much more familiar, it’s going to be very difficult for these two to lock fists to faces in the inevitable future. I suppose I’m just concerned that Rucka and Robinson have written themselves into a corner they can’t get out of (though I feel the same way about the whole New Krypton scenario altogether).
World of New Krypton explores another side of Superman that we’ve perhaps not seen before: Superman the Revolutionary. New Krypton still operates under a guild system as established on Old Krypton, but the Labor Guild (sound familiar?) is the only without political representation. Superman, the red-blooded American he is, sees this as fundamentally wrong and undemocratic, and in many ways planted the dissenting seeds that led to this situation. Members of the Labor Guild take Alura (Superman’s biological aunt and Supergirl’s mother) hostage, demanding reasonable working conditions and political representation. Before Zod orders their outright execution, Kal-El asks for 30 minutes to find a non-violent solution. Now this is what makes Superman, Superman!
Rucka and Robinson remind us again what makes Superman so important in the superhero landscape. There are some forces too good to be polluted by the evils of this world, and one such force is Superman. Even in a world full of superpowered beings, Superman sets himself apart with purity and ingenuity. You can have your post-80s grit, but I prefer my Superman squeaky-clean, thank you very much.