Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton, along with War of the Superman, will determine a large part of whether the Superman: New Krypton saga was a success or failure. Certainly it has offered ambitious storytelling, and I hope DC decides to return to the episodic multi-character approach that's breathed new life into the Super-books lately (if maybe with greater emphasis on Superman himself). At the same time, it seemed when writer Geoff Johns left the title, so too did the story's thematic elements; it's unclear if remaining writers Sterling Gates and James Robinson remember New Krypton's genesis in the death of Superman's father Pa Kent, and how the story examines hope, even false hope, in the face of tragedy.
There are glimmers of a satisfactory ending in Last Stand's first volume, but they're not quite enough yet for me to declare the New Krypton story's ultimate triumph.
What's good for the reader, if bad for the New Krypton planet, is that Brainiac returns and succeeds in getting his hooks back into the city of Kandor. Artist Pete Woods does a good job echoing Gary Frank's initally chilling sequences of Kandor's capture in Johns's Superman: Brainiac (easily the best unofficial chapter of New Krypton) and the latter brings the story full circle with the former. There's no question what the Kryptonians are fighting for or what horrors Brainiac offers as a villain; even if some of that stands on the shoulders of Johns's earlier story, Gates and Robinson create a convincing sense in Last Stand of impending doom.
I also liked the way in which this book posits the new Superman family. Supergirl Kara Zor-El dubs Superboy Conner Kent her unofficial cousin in these pages; Kara and Conner met prior to Infinite Crisis, but Conner died soon after and Kara was not as "nice" a version as she's become under Gates's writing, so this emerges in a way as their first team-up. The Legion of Super-Heroes's participation in New Krypton has always seemed somewhat unnecessary, despite my enjoyment of the newly-returned classic team, but their coming to Superman's aid feels very natural here. My long-standing qualm about the Legion has been their separation from the events of the rest of the DC Universe; if the Legion might continue to reappear at times such as these, especially as part of and integrating with the Superman supporting cast, that's a role I'd welcome for them.
The threads tied up in the first part of Last Stand, however, don't as yet make up a whole cloth. The hidden Legionnaires that reveal themselves as having been watching Superboy and Mon-El explain that they were sent to the past on instruction of Legion mentor RJ Brande to assure the creation of the Legion in the future; this is well and good, but no mention is made of other Legionnaires having come to the past for the events of Justice League: The Lightning Saga, nor is there recognition of Starman's part in resurrecting Superboy in Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds. One can fill in the gaps themselves, I'm sure -- and possibly what I'm looking for is collected in some other book (the New Krypton trades are considerably fractured at this point, especially when it comes to Adventure Comics), but the "Legion revelation" scenes didn't quite live up to what I'd hoped for.
Second, one ongoing thread of the World of New Krypton miniseries has been Superman's efforts to unite the guilds of Krypton split by prejudice. World of New Krypton ended, unfortunately, with no great resolution on this point. I appreciate very much that Gates and Robinson address this plotline, but they do so by having Supergirl with the Legionnaire Tellus mind-control the Kryptonians into getting along. I'm writing this, again, from the perspective of only having read volume one, so if in volume two or War of the Supermen, the Kryptonians elect to join together on their own, so much the better; if mind-controlling the Kryptonians is the last word on Kryptonian prejudice, however, it seems a rather easy patch on a far more complicated issue.
Both the Superman and Batman titles have been effectively telling the same respective story since just after Infinite Crisis four years ago. On the Batman side, the story that began in the lead-up to Batman RIP and continues in "Batman Reborn" has been wildly successful, and continues even now. On the Superman side, we already know that "New Krypton" has been less of a critical success, due at least in part from the Man of Steel's absence in his own titles. The first volume of Last Stand of New Krypton is no Star Wars, but if the second volume pulls off an Empire Strikes Back-quality performance, maybe things will turn around; maybe in the next volume the Legion gets a chance to explain themselves, the Kryptonians realize the error of their ways, and Superman remembers that all of this began with the death of his father. Certainly I hope so.
Contains full covers. Printed on glossy paper.
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