By Andy Frisk
April 8, 2009 - 19:47
Superman, settled into his role as a Commander in General Zod’s army gets a look at the newest in Kryptonian weaponry, the Archer-Class Infantry Assault Long Arm, perfect for “killing the enemies of Krypton,” to quote Zod, breaks up an initiation of Non by his unit into their ranks, shares a touching moment with his Aunt Alura, shares another touching moment with Kara aka Supergirl, stops a rampaging herd of Thought-Beasts without killing a single one of them contrary to Zod’s suggestion, and calls Zod “insane” for okaying the order to shoot to kill the members of the Labor Guild who take Alura hostage and demand equal recognition in Kryptonian society.
Things sure are getting morally difficult for Kal El/Superman on New Krypton. This development was bound to come to fruition though as Kal has a strict code against the taking of life, be it human or animal. Hence when he takes his unit out under orders from Zod to stop the rampaging Though-Beasts, Kryptonian rhino-looking creatures that have the psionic ability to inspire “images” of a frightful nature in the minds of those near them, by “whatever means necessary,” Kal obviously confuses his young unit when he orders them to “secure your arms.” Kal’s unit is going to get a lesson in the adage that the best path is not always the easiest path. Kal instructs his unit to use their powers to heat vision out a corral for the beasts to herd them safely thus preventing them from harming themselves or any other Kryptonian. A very telling and heavily foreshadowing comment from Aspirant Kir-Ta, one of Kal’s unit, that, “This is Labor Guild work,” spoken with an obvious disgust, countered by Kal’s “No shame in that,” response, sets the stage for the issue’s finale where members of the Labor Guild rise up to demand equal standing which they are most definitely, evidenced by Kir-Ta’s remark, not accorded.
Intricate, complex and morally challenging conundrums such as Kal having to be part of the Military Guild although he is sworn to the preservation of life, the decision to engage in dirty work to preserve the lives of the Thought-Beasts rather than have taken the easy route and “simply killed them” as Kir-Ta states, and his inevitable part in the upcoming quelling of the Labor Guild uprising, all compose the action and conflict in this issue. Putting aside all of the action and superpowers displayed to corral the Thought-Beasts, there are no fistfights or physical confrontations of any sort. All of the conflict that occurs is between different viewpoints, philosophies and values. For a superhero book full of about 100,000 beings with the full on scope of powers that Superman has always possessed, that’s quite an accomplishment. This accomplishment is a testament to the storytelling skills of Rucka and Robinson and the depth of the characters created and reinvigorated by them, namely Zod, Kal, Kir-Ta, Alura and Kal’s page and Labor Guild member Tyr-Van.
This underlying tension between characters and their moral convictions or lack thereof, is also conveyed with great clarity through the Wood’s pencils. Facial expressions, gestures, and stances all convey the violence just underneath the surface and foreshadow what has to be the inevitable conflict between the ideals of Kal in opposition to those of Zod. There are touching moments as well like Alura’s grasping of Kal’s hand, resting on her shoulder as a comforting gesture while they discuss her husband’s recent death. It is perhaps Gary Frank’s cover, with its ever Christopher Reeves looking Kal El grasping the Kryptonian Flag, dressed in his Military Guild Uniform with a look of mixed awe, fright and confusion that sums up most adequately this issues complexity.
Overall, SUPERMAN: WORLD OF NEW KRYPTON is easily, as mentioned in my review of issue #1 of this series, going to be a classic Superman tale if it isn’t living up to that moniker already. Its strong debut is followed up by this also strong issue that leaves us waiting, with great anticipation, for issue #3. It would be amiss to not mention the special guests that appear on the first page of this issue, setting the stage for a great confrontation later in this series, but it would be an even greater injustice to give it away here. Let’s just say that New Krypton hasn’t gone unnoticed by other inhabitants of the universe. Hopefully, you’re one inhabitant of this universe who hasn’t missed this series’ start. If so it is a situation that requires immediate attention!
Rating: 10 /10