Archive for Clark Kent

Superman: World of New Krypton #3

Posted in Comics, DC, Superman with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 12th June, 2009 by Adam Redsell
You will believe a man can fly.

You will believe a man can fly.

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.

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The All-New Atom: Future/Past TPB

Posted in All-New Atom, Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 3rd May, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Don't be fooled - it's bigger than it looks!

Don't be fooled - it's bigger than it looks!

Collecting Issues #7-11
Author: Gail Simone
Artists: Mike Norton & Eddy Barrows

Were it not heavily discounted for Free Comic Book Day, and had Gail Simone’s name not appeared on the cover, I probably would have glossed over the “All-New” Atom.  I nearly missed it altogether, because it was so tiny, and nestled next to an oversized hardcover.  (Which is ironic – get it?  Because the Atom’s so small that you wouldn’t notice him!  Sorry about that, but it really is a small trade paperback, and someone had to say it.)

A bit of background: it’s called the “All-New” Atom, because the previous Atom – Ray Palmer – shrunk himself and disappeared when he found out his wife murdered the Elongated Man’s wife in Identity Crisis.  *I think.*  I don’t really remember, to be honest.  Maybe I should read that one again.  Anyway, the “All-New” Atom is Ryan Choi, an expatriate university lecturer from Hong Kong.  He’s lecturing at Ivy University, where Palmer was once a professor, so presumably this is how Ryan came into possession of the subatomic belt.  (See, it was the only All-New Atom on the shelves, so I assumed Future/Past was the first and last in the series.  After checking the inside cover, it appears that the All-New Atom lasted for *at least* 11 issues, and that this was the second collection of them.)

Gail Simone uses Choi’s expatriate status to great effect, playing on the character’s vocab-in-progress.  It was particularly humorous watching his attempts at superhero trash-talk, which steadily improved over the course of the book.  Dialogue is probably Gail Simone’s greatest asset, and she creates many opportunities to showcase it comedically.  The book kicks off with a troupe of cowboys (as in actual cowboys warped from the cowboy time period) crashing through Ryan’s front wall.  As an Australian, I can confirm that her spelling of their Deep Southern accent is spot-on, and is exactly how a non-American would hear it.  Ryan also has a pet disembodied alien head, whose speech (“can I get you anything, Head?”/ “Orange soda or death!”) is hilariously reminiscent of mis-translated Japanese Role-Playing Games (“All your base are belong to us”, “I am Error”, etc.).  There’s also a brief appearance from the taxi-driver that speaks in anagrams.  So it’s good to see that Simone has given our hero a strong supporting cast of weirdos and misfits.

The stories of time-travel and demon bullies are fantastical, but amidst it all Ryan Choi remains strangely believable.  He’s the school nerd we can get behind (or at least he was), like Clark Kent or Peter Parker, but he’s also a Chinese physicist struggling to come to terms with the very American superhero dichotomy of bravado, and never-say-die attitude.  And he doesn’t have much in the way of superpowers, either.  Simone comes up with some interesting applications of the Belt’s powers, but it’s hard to say what exactly its powers are.  I *think* it can manipulate the size and mass of the wearer’s particles, but sometimes it feels like Simone’s making up the rules as she goes along.  In some ways, I would have liked a bit more science fiction injected into these stories, but I’ve always found it’s wisely avoided if you don’t know what you’re talking about.  Maybe this is the case with Simone.  She does seem to know her Chinese superstition, though, which was good for a few twists and turns when Ryan returned to Hong Kong.  Speaking of which, these curious caption boxes keep popping up in strange places containing Chinese proverbs and quotes from JFK, and I have to say, I don’t get it.  The quotes don’t seem to have anything to do with what’s going on at the time, and I can only assume that these quotes are popping up in Ryan’s head (due to his Chinese heritage?).  Normally with an asterisk and a caption box, you’d expect to read a goofy message from Stan Lee plugging another comic book, so I guess it’s not all bad.

I suppose I should talk about the stories briefly.  The first story is called “The Man Who Swallowed Eternity” with a more cartoony feel from artist Mike Norton.  The Atom time-travels with literally half a professor through time to find his other half!  Yeah, it’s crazy, but it’s action-packed and fun-filled.  The second story is still crazy, but more serious in subject matter.  In “Jia”, Ryan’s high school flame (Jia) begs him to return and protect her from the school bully, now her abusive husband.  Except she forgot to mention he was dead.  Nice one, Jia.  Barrow’s pencil work is detailed, dynamic, and infused with horror elements that were perfect for the story.

You never would have guessed it, but Gail Simone – being a woman and all – has a gift for three-dimensional female characters.  Jia is seductive like most comic book vixens, but she’s also a complicated creature, and infuriatingly so!  Let’s just say that the ending is intriguing and leave it at that.

All in all, Gail Simone’s All-New Atom is a charming romp across space and time; definitely more about the journey than the destination.  Knowing that the Atom’s journey ends at issue 25 (and Gail’s at #19) helps to put things in perspective.  All you can really do is sit back and enjoy the ride.