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Cover date: October 2009
"The History Lesson"
Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Javier Pina
Inker: Javier Pina
Reviewed by: Neal Bailey
Mon-El goes to a club and dances to forget the history in his head.
Mon-El goes to see Mitch for some Spaghetti, and Mitch advises him not to avoid the past, because the future comes too quickly, and if you don't know the past, you can't appreciate the present. Consequently, Mon-El examines the history.
He learns that the history of Daxam starts with Krypton, and that like all races, Kryptonian men came from the mud, made their lives perfect on their planet, and then took to the stars in a conquistador style conquering called the "Great Inquiry."
A young pilot named Dax-Am is sent to a habitable planet around a red star, and he founds Daxam. Though the Kryptonian Great Inquiry was pushed back, the Daxamites remained on their planet and interbred with the locals, creating a different genetic race.
Within a few centuries, most knowledge of Krypton was lost.
Zax Vane aspires to the stars, and pleads with the Grand Assembly to be allowed to explore for the betterment of Daxam and the stars they plan to go to. The Daxamites head for the stars, but without the conquest of Krypton, in the name of peace.
Though Kryptonian genetics make it impossible to interbreed with other societies (other than the first Daxamites), Daxamites have an easier time mixing their genes. However, it is still forbidden. Nonetheless, a woman astronaut from Daxam visits South America and is impregnated by a local warrior. As she leaves, she pleads with the warrior to say her name.
On Daxam, she has her child and it lives and dies without knowing of Earth, despite the fact that the mother left her ship programmed to return at a certain point. The ship becomes covered with vegetation as the years pass. The descendants of the woman all seem more inclined to space travel, and most take to the stars, despite laws being passed against travel.
The society becomes more xenophobic, perhaps because of the Kryptonian Eradicator. This leads to the Science War, which destroys a quarter of the population of Daxam. The Eradicator uses subterfuge to stop the Great Inquiry, and alters people in order to stop them from exploring and conquering. On Daxam, it made the council xenophobic and caused the populace to forbid space travel.
In the recent past, Lar Gand (Mon-El) finds the ship, and prepares to use it to go to the stars. Consequently, a male and female friend die when the xenophobic Sorrow Council find out, and he takes to the ship as an emergency measure.
He arrives on Earth, meets Clark, and goes in to see Ma. We learn that the spacefaring female astronaut whose descendants were more eager to explore space was named Bal Gand, a distant relative of Mon-El.
Story - 5: This is what happens when James Robinson tells a story. It rocks. We've been dealing with a long-term holding pattern of late in many stories, or indulgent explorations of minor unrelated concepts. This story, however, turns that corner and tells a rich and vibrant history of Daxam, exploring in the meanwhile some of the revised Kryptonian history. This would have been a great first and second issue of the Mon-El run, if you ask me, and drawn me in much more than what's been going on.
There were a few indulgences, names in dialogue, and a few splash pages that didn't really need to be splashes, but they were (very critically) few enough to be allowed indulgences given the decompression, as opposed to a way to pad the story.
This story managed something that was actually fairly impossible. It got me interested in Daxamite history beyond the device of their similarity to Kryptonians. They're essentially a Krypton that survived, and few have harnessed that well.
Originally, long before New Krypton, I had a story idea pitch that would obviously never work now, but the idea was to finally and fully deal with Kandor. Superman would find a way to save them, and it would result in the world turning against Superman, because the release of so many Kryptonians would make the world under the thumb of the Kryptonian race. The ultimate solution was to release them to the planet Daxam, because then they couldn't go across the universe with Superman's power, but could still live their lives. That's why Daxam is a fascinating entity, and that's used well here. It's essentially New Krypton, but more benign, and with a different, more xenophobic culture.
I think this explores a lot of the best aspects of the space travel aspect of things in the DC universe without highlighting the idea that Krypton probably could have escaped its destruction in the current continuity incarnation. It also makes me care about Mon-El and his past, which is a great accomplishment.
Art - 4: For the most part, the art works. There are a few places where people mysteriously have no faces, or where the expressions look odd, but there are also a very large number of unique and well paced scenes that pulled me along with the writing into being immersed. I'll be honest, I usually read the book as I'm summarizing it for reviews, and this one was good enough to make me read it before I re-read it, and the art was a large part of that.
Cover Art - 3: A decent enough image, but it's a bit busy, and it's also misleading. It shows a small part of the larger whole with Mon-El and Clark, and Dax-Am wasn't nearly as big as he was in this issue. If anything, I'd have done Bal Gand and her warrior over Mon-El.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2009.