Saturday, December 19, 2015

Superman: Krypton Returns (comics)

Writers: Scott Lobdell, Tom DeFalco, Michael Green, Mike Johnson, Justin Jordan, Michael Alan Nelson
Artists: Kenneth Rocafort, Mahmud Asrar, Ed Benes, Dan Jurgans, Rob Lean, Ray McCarthy, R.B. Silva, Paulo Siquera
Collects: Superboy #0, 25, Supergirl #0, 25, Superman #0, 23.3, 25, Action Comics Annual #2

Ladies and Gentlemen, Superman: Krypton Returns, brought to you by a crew of hundreds.

This is a bizzare crossover than sort of ran through the Superman family for a month and ate up a bunch of specials. Pretty much the entirety of their Zero Month inventory was dedicated to setting up this story, as well as a villains month issue. You get a chance to put out clean origins for your characters and you use it to set up a crossover? I don't know, I'm not a businessman; clearly it made sense to someone.

It's a weird read, too. The high concept isn't a bad one. Basically, H'el - a recent addition to the rogues gallery - has used some time travel shenanigans to his advantage, managing to save Krypton from its destruction. Couple problems with that. For one, his actions have basically screwed with the timeline to the point it's causing devastating cosmic storms. For two, after learning his origins, he cracks and just takes over Krypton outright, ushering in a rule that is devastating to the planet.

None of the story from there plays out like you might expect. The three heroes basically split up into different points in Kryptons past, with the job of ensuring the planet dies for the good of the universe. Again, intriguing chance for drama here. But it also feels kind of flat. There's not a lot about the story that's all that exciting and their given tasks are, for the most part, completed without a lot of trouble. Supergirl has to stop a clone war that damages Krypton - why is never explained, despite Kara herself bringing up that doing so seems at a cross purpose to their ultimate goal - and just kind of warps in where the clones are hanging out and wrecks them. Superboy has to ensure past Kara is saved. He warps in where she is and saves her from some dude that's trying to kill her. Superman himself has to stop H'el from saving Krypton. He warps in where he needs to be with a brief stop to meet his younger parents.

Why? How do the three tasks correlate? It's not explained that well. They're given by an "Oracle" - who I don't think we've ever seen before - who speaks first through Kon and later through Faora*. It feels more like they needed something for everyone to do, including a chance for a heroic sacrifice, rather than an organic plan.

Speaking of which, it's shown within the story that portals to the present will show up once a task is complete, allowing the character to get back. This doesn't happen when it comes time for the heroic sacrifice. Before you ask, I don't know why either. It just doesn't. Like I said, there's not a lot here that's well explained.

That said, Krypton Returns is written fairly well from a character standpoint. A problem I had with Lobdells earlier volume was that every character he touched seemed to act like a dick. Here, everyone fares better. Superman feels like himself - right down to refusing to accept that Krypton is destined to die and trying a hail mary pass at the last moment, even if, again, this is not well explained - and Supergirl feels like she has it together more than she did during H'el on Earth. I want to be smarmy and suggest this might be because there were a ton of other writers involved, but even Lobdells chapters seem to have a better handle on things.

Plotwise, it's a vague mess, but at least everyone is acting more like themselves than the last time I checked in.

Unfortunately, I may have to play bad cop a bit on the art front. There are some storytelling issues to be found here and sadly, they are mostly confined to Kenneth Rocaforts chapters. I like his art a lot - and enjoy the fact that he doesn't just do static layouts - but there are instances of confusing storytelling. Some of his layouts leave you a bit confused as to where to look next. Not all of this is his fault - some of the blame is on a lot of oddly placed word balloons and interchangable dialogue - but it has to be said. Most of the other art flows fine, but you run into the usual problem of stylistic clash; no one else attempts the kind of interesting layouts Rocafort does and no one even attempts to ape his style, so it's painfully obvious when he is and isn't on art duties even without looking at the credits.

All told, Krypton Returns isn't bad. It isn't good. It just is.

My Opinion: Skip It

* Yes. That Faora. From Man of Steel. Her appearance here doesn't amount to much, as she's there to drop some exposition and exit stage right after about five pages. It's clear she's here because the movie was out around that time. It's pointless.