By Andy Frisk
February 8, 2009 - 08:19
Being a huge Superman fan, I’ve anticipated my monthly and now (YES!) weekly installments of the Superman “Family” books. Also being a child of the 90’s, I just about flipped for joy over the return of the “triangles.” Harkening back to the heyday of modern Superman tales, namely The Death and Return of Superman story lines, the “triangles” refer to the little numbered triangles on each cover of the Superman titles that marked the continuity of the current storyline. Also, since there was a Superman title published weekly, Superman’s readers didn’t have to wait a month for the next installment of the current Superman storyline. Ah, the joys of hurrying up to the local comic shop each week for the newest installment of my favorite hero’s current adventures! Well, luckily for me, those joys came back with the outset of the “New Krypton” storyline, along with a few other joys, not the least to include some, dare we say it, deep thoughts inspired by a Superman comic book.
To begin with, being the (aforementioned) child of the 90’s and fan of the Superman yarns of the day, squarely built upon the shoulders of John Byrne’s Man of Steel mini series where several “new rules” were established, which have now been completely undone by Dan Didio and crew, how could I accept that not only Kara Zor El was back as a Supergirl who wasn’t a shape shifting angel thing but a tried and true Kryptonian, along with Krypto and 100,000 other Kryptonians? Wasn’t what made Superman so great was the fact that he was the ONLY survivor of Krypton? Wasn’t he a singularly special being, gifted with incredible power by our yellow sun, raised in Kansas by loving parents who instilled in him (just as well as Uncle Ben did Spidey) that “with great power comes great responsibility?” Wasn’t his arch nemesis a slick business man with an ego to rebuild over Superman’s dead body? Wasn’t Superman unique because he was, at least biologically, alone? The answer ends up being a resounding, NO.
Throughout “New Krypton” the portrayal of Luthor as the mad scientist/genius bent on destroying Superman not just because, like in the Byrne storyline, Superman “stole his city” thus bruising his ego, but for the more deeply and frighteningly darker reason that Superman is the “other,” the “alien” is much more powerful. Luthor’s disdain for Superman stems from an evil, but all too common, human failing of hating someone or some group for the reason that they are different despite the actions of that someone. In opposition to Luthor, and several like minded members of Kandor, we get a portrayal of Superman whose moral code rests squarely upon his upbringing, not his super powers, and whose measured actions are based upon what is right and just to him, namely the preservation of life and the celebration of the diversity of the “other” who, to the Kryptonians and the humans, are each other. Along with Luthor and Superman, we get a portrayal of Supergirl who, as an emotionally conflicted teenager capable of violent mood swings, suffers great emotional stress caused by the death of her father and the battle between her cousin and mother but still has a moral code that respects life.
This opposition of moral values, Luthor’s and the Kandorian militants latent racism and disregard for life and Superman’s promotion of diversity and life gives us an all too realistic metaphor for the battle between these two viewpoints in our real world. Conflicts such as these make for great and thought provoking storytelling about ourselves and the state of our world. In turn, Superman, as a character with a complete mythos that includes other survivors of his home planet, makes a great vehicle for telling this kind of tale.
So, as a necessity to tell a tale as interesting and thought provoking as “New Krypton” then I guess the existence of a Kryptonian Dog, conflicted Krytonian teenager and 100,000 other Kryptonians isn’t such a bad thing. Superman isn’t the ONLY Kryptonian left and he’s better off for it. Well, at least Superman storytelling is. Superman isn’t a great character because he is Kryptonian or has super powers or at one time was considered the ONLY survivor of Krypton. He is a great character because he is written as a man who has the courage to stand up for his convictions and call the evil doer to justice even when it is a member of his family.
All the new tweaks in Superman’s origins, legacy as the Last Kryptonian no more, etc. come together masterfully at the hands of Johns who brings us a tale with a purpose and depth of meaning that is almost unheard of in comics and reveals a new importance to the genre as a storytelling medium. Superman has been around for 70 years. His origin, costume, family members, or lack thereof and status as only surviving Kryptonian have changed and been rebooted many times over those years. Johns helps us to see that Superman isn’t great just because of his physical attributes or the technical details of his past but because of his convictions and sense of justice. This is a Superman for the children of the ‘00’s and we are all children at heart when we hear a great story and actually walk away from it with something important to ponder.
Oh and one more thing…I suspect Johns has a few more excellent and engaging stories left to tell, what with those Kryptonians having their own planet now…can’t wait for next week and its triangles.