Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Candid Kandor: Thoughts on "New Krypton"

Sorry I haven’t been blogging very much lately. The library has been busy, and there hasn’t been much time with the whole “writing for fun thing.” But that’s just an excuse. And I promised long ago that I would stop making excuses. The truth is I’ve been playing way too much Star Trek Online and working on Pretty Little Recaps in my off-work time.

One thing I have been doing is reading up on The Man of Steel for a major annotated library blog I’d like to do at one point, so I have been reading comics on a regular basis again (or as regular as I get).

Over the past few weeks, I finished the New Krypton series. I didn’t realize Superman stories could engage me so much, or that this one would in particular, but I actually really liked it. The premise is this- Brainiac, who has appeared in the Superman cannon many times and in many forms (many of his non-Lex Luthor villains have this problem: they don’t just stick to the one thing) returns to Earth and starts some trouble. Superman stands up to him, but finds a much more physically opposing Brainiac than he’s used to. This happens in Superman: Brainiac. You find out Brainiac essentially never leaves his ship (or the information he’s obsessed with collecting), he sends out “probes” to collect it and bring it back to him - hence the many different Brainiacs that Superman has fought over the years.

But the real deal comes to Earth to f#$@ up humanity. And Superman has a tough time defeating him. But defeat him he does, and in the process, he reclaims the bottle city of Kandor. The shrunken capital city of his dead world.

This is something of a hot button issue in Superman comics. In the 1986 John Byrne reboot (which I still have yet to read- dear DC Comics - why is this not ALWAYS in print? Why do you hate me?), an effort was made to make Superman the true last Kryptonian in existence. It’s one of the main reasons Supergirl died on Crisis on Infinite Earths and the Phantom Zone villains weren’t dealt with for many years after. Superman is less special if there are many Supermen flying around... right? Well, Supergirl is back, and too many people love seeing “Kneel before Zod!” in print to get rid of those Phantom Zone baddies, so that reboot has pretty much been retconned.

The idea behind the bottle city is: Brainiac managed to capture the advanced capital city of Krypton, shrink it down, and then had it as part of a crazy collection of other cities- preserving specimens and knowledge for him for all time. It’s a little creepy, and I prefer the animated Superman Corey Burton - type character that was Kryptonian in design and simply annihilated cultures after he took what he needed. No bottles. Bottle free, really. But this comic Superman we are dealing with here loved his bottle cities. Following his defeat, Superman gets Kandor back.

The story takes a weird twist when he manages to get it back to normal size.

In the arctic, there are suddenly thousands of active Kryptonians living on our planet. Predictably, our government isn’t happy with this. Weirder still, the new leaders of Kandor (or ‘New Krypton’ as the eventually call it) are Supergirl’s parents, which make them related to Superman- they are his aunt and uncle. And let me just tell you guys, Superman’s aunt is a real bitch in this story. She does not like human beings and definitely does not like sharing the planet with us.

The 4-part series does have holes; when Superman returns to Earth to go get an escaped Kryptonian villain, we never actually see it. It must have happened in a monthly Superman title that wasn’t part of the limited series. Zod is written as an interesting character, mainly because he’s basically policing all these people with powers and even Superman can agree- he’s kind of the best person for this job. It does get kind of nuts- they ‘reverse engineer’ Brainiac tech to make their own planet, which then has an opposite orbit to Earth- what? But the shades of grey that Superman has to deal with, as well as his unabashed joy at having a life with ‘his people’ he thought lost forever- are interesting.

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