Friday, March 11, 2011

Graphic Novel Review: Superman - War of the Supermen

When I first heard about a Superman miniseries called War of the Supermen, well that title alone caught my attention. As I delved deeper into it, I started to discover that this was in reality the finale to a long-term Superman story that had been running in the comics devoted to that character for a number of years – a way of wrapping up those loose ends before J. Michael Straczynski took over the reins of the book (which turned out to be short-lived, but that’s neither here nor there). But long-term wasn’t really what I was looking for – I didn’t want to go back and read years-worth of Superman collections to be able to read this War of Supermen. So, I decided to give it a try on its own, to see what I thought of it as is. And amazingly, it actually stands pretty well all by itself. Oh sure, it feels like the final act in a much longer story, and I’m sure that if I had been an invested reader in the book I’d have gotten even more out of it. But, it was entertaining for this fan of the character – and it’s not such a bad story for fans of the films to read a little Superman action either. This is all a part of a story called New Krypton, in which Superman and Supergirl discover the shrunken Kryptonian city of Kandor (filled with Kryptonians) and they proceed to free them and make them a part of Earth society. Only the Kryptonians are met with hatred from much of the Human race, and led by Zod they found their own new homeworld in our Solar System – but neither race intends to leave the other alone. Superman has tried to work from the inside with the Kryptonians to get them to stop their plans for war against humanity, but as this story opens, it is an inevitable clash. Meanwhile, Supergirl must decide where her loyalties lay – with her mother, a woman who has no issue torturing humans to achieve security for Kryptonians, or with the people of her adopted planet. Superman knows that Zod must be defeated, but even he is unprepared for how far the people of Earth are willing to go to stop the Kryptonians – between the use of weapons of mass destruction and casualties in the millions – this is a book that doesn’t hold back. I like how this book brings in some of the mythology of the Superman movies (in the form of Zod, Ursa and Non) as well as trying to expand the Superman cast to include some of the aspects that were used in ages past (like Flamebird and Nightwing) – but updating those concepts along the way as well. It seems that along the way Clark and Lois got to raise a Kryptonian boy (Zod’s son I believe) – the child they could never have for themselves, though his fate along with many others are left in question at the very end of this story. I’ve read mixed reviews of this story, and perhaps it’s because of how little is really resolved at the end of the story – yes the war is over, but it’s not because some peace has been agreed upon, more that those who were perpetuating the war have been isolated. But there’s nothing preventing these circumstances from arising again. As a way to highlight battles between Supermen though, this succeeded on multiple levels. Clark doesn’t have to hold back – these enemies can take all he can give (and will give back in return). There are some genuine shocks to be found within these pages, but perhaps most shocking of all is how easily a person who hasn’t read the entire New Krypton saga could easily read this and understand what’s going on. Everything you need to know is within these pages, including a summary of what’s gone before. With all the Superman books I’ve been reading recently, you’d think I’m a much bigger fan of the character than I am (I’d say I’m only a mild fan), but I’ve certainly been enjoying most of what I’ve read and that’s got to count for something. I felt like War of the Supermen would make a great superhero action flick, the kind of thing you wish you’d see in a Superman movie. I only hope Christopher Nolan is paying attention.


Charles Gramlich said...

After reading "the death of superman" and finding the writing sophomoric, at best, I've avoided all superman comics like the plague.

R. C. Fountain said...

I'm happy to see how the writing and art have improved in the comics industry over the years. Long gone (and good riddance I say) are the days of newsprint comic books!

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

These Kryptonians sound like jerks, what happened to the ultramodern futuristic Kryptonians of the past? I can understand Zod and his crew being the bad guys, but is everyone on Kandor pretty much bad, too? Does it work for the story?