Cover date: July 2009
"World of New Krypton - Part Three"
Writer: James Robinson and Greg Rucka
Penciller: Pete Woods
Inker: Pete Woods
Reviewed by: Ralph Silver
Superman, trying to prevent a bloodbath and also save Alura's life, urges Zod to let him handle the situation. Although Zod is very tempted to give the order for Gor to shoot his captives and thus set an example, he gives Kal-El 30 minutes to try a different approach and hopefully find a peaceful solution.
Superman grabs one of the deadly Archer rifles, and fires a burst of red sun energy at himself to temporarily remove his powers. He does this in order to negotiate with the Labor Guild captors while completely unarmed and defenseless. This is a risky strategy, but one that shows the sincerity of Kal-El's deeply held belief that he can get people to behave reasonably if he demonstrates good faith. Zod mocks Kal-El a bit, but then grants his request and orders Gor and his unit to stand down.
Superman confers briefly with Supergirl. We learn later that he asks her to keep her eyes open and be ready to help out during the tense moments ahead. As Superman prepares to enter the building and commence with his negotiations, Zod suggests the notion that Kal-El may be marching to his death.
Once inside, Kal-El is briefly attacked by a hot-headed member of the Labor Guild. But cooler heads prevail, and Kal is protected and taken to Tam-Or, the leader of the Labor Guild uprising. Kal proves to be an outstanding hostage negotiator. He speaks to Alura and to Tam-Or, and through his words, begins to defuse the situation. He elicits from Tam-Or a list of the Labor Guild demands; and then gets Alura to agree to two of them, and to make a small concession on the third if the Labor Guild members will lay down their guns and surrender. Superman tells Tam-Or that this is a start, and encourages him to take the offer. It seems to be clear to Tam-Or, as it is certainly clear to us, that Superman is sympathetic to the wishes of the Labor Guild.
Meanwhile, outside, Zod and Gor are having a very heated exchange. Gor is angry that he was ordered to stand down, and that Commander El got the opportunity to try diplomacy. Gor would have preferred to slaughter his Labor Guild captives, and calls them "dogs". This draws a very angry rebuke from General Zod, who orders Gor to release his prisoners, and then redeploy his unit around the plaza in counter-sniper positions in case Kal-El's diplomacy initiative fails.
The Labor Guild captors surrender and exit the building with their former captives. Alura addresses the crowd, announces that the hostage crisis is over, and appeals for all to avoid any violence. Superman walks out with Tam-Or, reassuring him even as Tam-Or wonders aloud whether he helped his cause today.
From his sniper position, Commander Gor fires his Archer rifle at Tam-Or, obviously trying to kill him. The red sun blast finds its mark; but the ensuing bullet does not hit its target because a speeding Supergirl intervenes. As she holds up the bullet she has caught, her feat draws warm praise from her cousin. Then Alura offers some high praise of Kal-El for solving the crisis and preventing any violence from occurring. Meanwhile, Gor suffers another angry and humiliating rebuke from Zod.
The next day, things at first seem to be back to normal. Superman has his powers back. Commander El is busy training his unit (the Red Shard) in the use of their heat vision. Tyr-Van comes by to thank Superman for his efforts on behalf of the Labor Guild. When Commander Gor shows up and tries to pick a fight with Kal-El, he refuses to take the bait, and walks away. But the persistent and underhanded Gor blindsides Superman, attacking from the rear.
Kryptonian military code demands that the two combatants engage in a duel. Zod arrives and orders the duel. Now Superman is forced into the fight with Gor that he was trying to avoid. As the duel commences, Gor seems to land more blows initially. But Superman is really sizing up his opponent to ascertain his weaknesses. Although he does not mention his close friend Batman by name, Superman reveals that he has trained with perhaps the Earth's greatest master of hand-to-hand combat. This training has given him keen insight into martial arts techniques and strategy. Superman uses those techniques, attacking pressure points and keeping his opponent confused and off-balance; and pretty much mops the floor with Commander Gor.
As Superman delivers the final crushing blow to Gor, some visitors arrive. He looks up to see three members of the Green Lantern Corps. In the foreground, we see his JLA teammates Hal Jordan and John Stewart. Based on his costume, the third figure appears to be Sodam Yat, the Daxamite Green Lantern. Hal tells Superman it is time they talked.
Story - 5: This was another strong entry in this series. This issue was a pleasure to read. I find myself really looking forward to reading the next issue of World of New Krypton each month.
What struck me is how realistic the dialog felt throughout. From the first page through the last, it all seemed very believable and in character.
For example, the entire sequence where Superman acts as a hostage negotiator was extremely well done. Superman reacts the way an astute, experienced crisis negotiator would in this situation. The first thing he does upon arriving is reassure Alura that Kara is safe, and make sure that Alura and the other captives are all right. Superman then encourages the Labor Guild members to put down their weapons and talk. When Tam-Or starts venting, Superman calmly resets him, and gets him to speak about the Labor Guild demands. When Alura resists making an important concession, saying it has NEVER been done that way on Krypton, Superman gently mentions that "This isn't Krypton, Alura. This is NEW Krypton"; getting her to think outside the box. He shows earnest sympathy to both sides, gaining everybody's trust; which of course is the key to his success here.
I got a real chuckle when Tam-Or said "Damn yellow sun. It's ruined everything." And he goes on to explain how, in a twisted way, their new powers have caused the Labor Guild members to be exploited further. This was a novel idea that really helped make this scene come alive for me. Also, I thought the Labor Guild demands were well thought-out and believable.
And consider this. Superman is used to being the most powerful man on Earth. In this scene, we see just the opposite. By voluntarily removing his powers, Superman temporarily becomes the weakest man on New Krypton; the only non-super-powered being on the planet. And yet he goes inside the building and gets the job done. Remarkable!
In situations where Superman has to rely on his wit, his moral authority, and the art of persuasion rather than the physical advantage that he is accustomed to on Earth; he is handling the challenges before him in ways that are admirable and very consistent with his core values. Superman's determination to prevent the bloodthirsty solution to the hostage crisis; his desire to avoid a fight with Gor even though he knows he will probably be able to pound him; these reveal what we have known all along; that Superman will always choose violence only as a last resort.
I liked seeing Supergirl save the day during the assassination attempt. In fact, I really like how Supergirl is being handled in this series. After seeing Supergirl in the early issues of her own book acting like kind of a brat, it is heartwarming to see her here showing maturity, resourcefulness, good judgment, and extreme warmth and loyalty to her cousin. This is how it should be!
I thought the fight scenes during the duel with Gor were very well done. As someone who studied the martial arts (jiu-jitsu) for years, I got a kick out of seeing Superman use pressure points and similar techniques to confuse and weaken his opponent; setting him up for the final crushing blow. Batman taught him well!
I am trying to figure General Zod out. While we know he has evil instincts and a very bad track record, there is a sense that he genuinely believes his ways are best for New Krypton. He does the right thing at times; letting Kal-El try the peaceful approach to the hostage crisis; and scolding Gor when his behavior crosses the line. Zod seems complicated to me: mostly evil and self-serving, but with a grain of something else that is either decency or pragmatism.
Commander Gor, on the other hand, is nothing but a (expletive deleted)! His eagerness to slaughter the Labor Guild members, his obvious disdain and contempt for them, his unauthorized assassination attempt on Tam-Or, his sneak attack on Superman, and of course his previous murder of the Metropolis Science Police members, show him to be a truly despicable Kryptonian. He is like "Adolf Hitler with super powers"; which is a really scary notion, if you think about it. I was happy to see Superman put him in his place.
I have a question. When Superman trained the Archer rifle on himself, I was wondering why he was not wounded; only weakened. I guess there is a setting on the gun that lets it emit the red sun rays but does not cause it to fire the projectile. Or perhaps his military uniform contains a bullet-proof layer that absorbed most of the impact of the projectile. What do you think?
The arrival of the Green Lanterns on the final splash page poses yet another challenge for Superman. Superman may be feeling a bit like a "double agent"; setting up residence on New Krypton while he is still secretly very loyal to Earth and its inhabitants. If the Green Lanterns press him for answers, a frank discussion with them about the true nature of his mission might serve to "blow his cover".
DC has put some of their best talent on this book; and it shows on every page! This is comic book storytelling at its finest!
Art - 5: Pete Woods' artwork shines again here. I continue to like how he is able to convey emotion in his facial expressions.
Take the first page, for example. As Superman is making his case to Zod to give diplomacy a try, the frame of reference shifts to reveal each key location of the conflict. We jump from Superman addressing Zod, to Gor and his team aiming their weapons on their prisoners, to Alura held captive, and back to Superman and Zod; all while Superman is making his plea. This rapid shifting to each location effectively lays out the scenario and conveys the tension in the air. We see Gor, and the look of eagerness for violence on his face. On Alura's face, we see defiance and impatience, and a dignity that hides her fear. The final panel shows a look of horror on Supergirl's face as she contemplates her mother's death; while Superman shows angst and determination, and Zod shows arrogance.
I love the panel where Supergirl holds up the bullet she just caught while saving Tam-Or from possible death. Her expression and body language reveal a mature confidence with just a hint of youthful innocence and eagerness. This is about right for a girl who is on the verge of becoming a woman. She seems very pleased that she did not let her cousin down. And I love the panels on the next page where he compliments her, and she just beams.
The panels showing the duel between Superman and Gor also stood out for me. I particularly liked the panel at the bottom of the page where Zod orders them to duel. Superman, after trying to avoid this fight, says "Happy Gor?"; and the two glare at each other. You can feel the tension between them.
Cover Art - 5: Gary Frank does an outstanding job once again!
Zod points an Archer rifle at one of his captives, who is kneeling and bowing in submission, looking defeated and scared. Zod shows arrogance, but stares defiantly at Kal-El, not his victim. Superman is practically snarling in anger, as he protests the imminent slaughter, while two military men attempt to restrain him. Onlookers show shock and horror, and are restrained by more military men doing crowd control. The tension in this scene just jumps off the page.
This cover works best if you regard it as third in a sequence. If you lay WONK #1, 2, and 3 side by side, the covers show a steady progression revealing Superman's shifting emotional state. #1 shows him in awe of his new surroundings; revealing hope, optimism, and an almost gleeful expression. By #2, that expression has changed to ambivalence, concern, and uncertainty, as he worries that things may be headed in a bad direction, and that he may not be able to contain the military threat. By #3, his emotional state has deteriorated, to reveal horror and extreme anger. His worst fears seem to be materializing; and Superman is not used to feeling this helpless.
Cover Art (Variant Edition) - 4: It seems clear that DC will offer a variant cover each month, with a different artist rotating in each time. This is a very cool idea! This month it is Howard Chaykin's turn.
Superman is back in his red and blue costume, watching as the sky is filled with New Kryptonians, flying along. He seems to be posing. Superman's cape is wrapped tightly around his left arm, for some reason. The image of Superman is a good one, but I cannot read his expression. Is it concern for the threat posed by New Krypton, or pride that he is back with his own people, or... what? Actually, it is kind of a blank expression; as if he is deep in thought.
This cover does not do a whole lot for me. I prefer a cover with some tension or energy; and we have caught Superman here in a very quiet, pensive moment. This cover is also very generic, as if it were designed to be used on any installment in this series. But it is a good picture of Superman, so I gave it a 4. Add a point if you are a huge Howard Chaykin fan.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2009.