By Andy Frisk
May 13, 2010 - 19:20
Mon-El, Superman’s Daxamite friend who has been the starring lead in Superman for about a year or so while Superman was away, finishes enlarging Brainiac's bottled cities, continues to die from the lead in Earth’s atmosphere (it’s poisonous to Daxamites), writes his girlfriend from the Metro Sci-Po a letter saying goodbye (which we are privy to none of), and goes back into The Phantom Zone to avoid dying just like he did before, thusly ending his role in the Superman Family titles…For a character that had so much time, energy, and though put into his development, and who was (I thought) going to be a member of The Justice League, Mon-El’s departure is amazingly and disappointingly lackluster. Was he really that unpopular? His story was actually well written and paced. We witnessed the young man grow up, get his first kiss, his first intimate girlfriend, and deal with the question of his existence and impending death maturely and thoughtfully while admirably trying to fill some big shoes as Metropolis’ stand in protector. Outside of Supergirl, Mon-El was one of the few truly dynamic characters in the DC Universe. Now, after the events of Adventure Comics #11 (he didn’t even get to wrap up his tale in the book he headlined for nearly a year), he’s basically reduced back to the character he was at the outset of New Krypton.
Disappointing? Definitely. Surprising? Not really. No one expected Mon-El to remain a front and center character in the Superman Family of books, we expected him to get his own book and join the Superman Family of titles. The built in dynamics of his character could have lent themselves to plenty of interesting stories. He’s the sort of character that could be used as a member of The Justice League while holding down his own series of tales quite effectively. He had an Earth based identity, and important job, a new love life, and a physical ailment to overcome. (By the way, his secret identity was Jonathan Kent, Clark’s cousin from England. Didn’t outing him sort of cast some suspicion on Clark?) His story was systematically unraveled though, and now he’s nearly worthless. A real chance to inject an interesting, new, long term, and important hero into the Superman mythos has been missed. I almost feel cheated by the way his story ended. It’s almost as if the past year of Superman stories that Superman didn’t star in, and that developed Mon-El as a character were a complete waste of time. Yeah, he ends up “saving the future” for a bunch of characters who have a hard time themselves holding down a regular title (The Legion of Superheroes will be trying to do just this again soon), but he could have had such a positive impact on the here and now as well.
Dynamic characters that truly change, grow, and mature before our eyes are pretty rare in mainstream comics that feature long term tenured, iconic, and basically unchanging characters like Superman. These characters, like Superman, can’t and really shouldn’t have to change. They are what they are for a reason. This is why characters like Mon-El (and pretty surprisingly thus far, Supergirl) are so important to Superman (the character) because they keep his supporting cast fresh, and create new story telling outlets. To dump Mon-El and his current persona so casually from the Superman Family of books, greatly reduces the dynamics of the books and allows a certain level of stagnation to settle back in. Sure, Superman is still in the process of being Neo-Silver Age retconned in Superman: Secret Origin (which is really good by the way), but Mon-El would have continued to fit into the DC Universe and Superman’s supporting cast well while keeping them fresh. If he resurfaces in the pages of Legion of Superheroes, he just won’t be the same…
It’s been fun watching Mon-El grow and develop as a character over the last year. I really thought I was going to lose interest in him rather quickly, but discovered the opposite to be the case. Apparently though there wasn’t enough interest in him by other Superman readers, so back to The Phantom Zone he goes. Oh well, at least he wasn’t killed off.