Cover date: October 2009
"World of New Krypton" - Part Six: "Codename: Patriot"
Writer: James Robinson and Greg Rucka
Penciller: Pete Woods
Inker: Pete Woods
Reviewed by: Ralph Silver
In the crowd, the shooter shouts "For my people"; his gun still smoking. Members of the crowd converge on him and attempt to capture him. The shooter fights back using his heat vision; but there are just too many people fighting him, and the shooter is taken down rather forcefully. Kal-El exclaims that the crowd may tear the shooter apart; and moves in to prevent that. Commander El and the Red Shard disperse the angry mob; and then discover the shooter lying in his own blood, looking half dead.
We learn that the Kryptonian chain of command dictates that leadership falls to the commanders: Kal-El, Gor, and Ursa. But Ursa seems too upset by Zod's shooting, and only wants to be by his side. So Kal-El and Gor are in charge of the military; with Kal-El appearing to take the lead.
Kal-El and Gor disagree about what to do with the shooter. Gor wants to throw him back to the mob, so they can continue ripping him apart. Kal-El wants to interrogate him, to ascertain if the shooter is part of a larger conspiracy. Kal-El convinces Gor that interrogation, not annihilation, is the right course of action.
We learn that the shooter's name is Ral-Dar. When Kal-El and Gor ask him if he acted alone, he is evasive. When Kal-El is summoned by Alura, he tells Gor to put Ral-Dar back in his cell, for further questioning later.
At the medical facility, Kal-El learns from Alura that Zod's condition is not good. Whatever he was shot with did tremendous damage on a cellular level. The doctors' efforts to arrest this effect only seem to amplify it. They have had to put Zod in stasis to keep his health stable. Alura says that Zod regained consciousness just before he was put in stasis, and asked for Commander El. Kal-El seems surprised by this news.
Alura is told by a subordinate that the crowd is growing fearful due to the assassination attempt on Zod. That fear is amplified by memories of Brainiac's attack on their city. Alura goes outside to speak to the crowd; to calm them and allay their fears.
Kal-El compliments her on her speech; and in a moment of candor, Alura admits that she hates public speaking. Alura looks to Kal for assurance that the shooter acted alone. Kal-El indicates that they are still trying to make that determination. Alura asserts that if it is revealed that the attack originated from outside of New Krypton, things could get ugly.
At Alura's urging, Kal-El heads back to continue the interrogation of Ral-Dar, with Kara by his side. They discover that Ral-Dar has escaped, using the same Sunstone device that Tyr-Van used last issue to disable Kal-El's prison cell. Kara observes that the device may have been used outside Ral-Dar's cell; implying that he had assistance in his prison break.
Nar indicates that, using their surveillance hardware, they spotted Ral-Dar. He was seen leaving New Krypton and heading on a course towards Earth. Relations between New Krypton and Earth are already fragile; and Kal-El is concerned that an appearance by Ral-Dar on Earth could move things closer to war. Kal quite sensibly orders the Red Shard to stand down; since an appearance on Earth by a Kryptonian military unit will inflame things. He indicates that he and Kara will handle this mission alone. Kal also correctly observes that appearing on Earth dressed as Commander El will be inflammatory. So he heads back to his apartment; reaches for the familiar costume; and utters very familiar words, that "This is a job for Superman".
Story - 5: With this issue, things move in a new direction. Kal-El assumes a position of greater authority on New Krypton, even as he moves to protect Earth by acting to prevent the threat of war between the two planets. Clearly, the authors agree that this issue signifies a break and a new direction; as implied by the fact that they have reset the shield numbering system at 1.
The "Codename: Patriot" storyline will move between all four Superman/Supergirl books in August. This issue "sets the table", as we see the events that temporarily cause the focus for Superman and Supergirl to move off New Krypton and back to Earth. We will see the story move to Action Comics #880, then Supergirl #44, and finally Superman #691.
On my first reading of this book, it felt padded. That was due to the inclusion of six consecutive pages of virtually dialogue-free artwork at the beginning of this issue. There are some people who have a preference for dialogue-free content in their comic books. Generally speaking, I am not one of those people. For my money, a great comic book is the synthesis of great artwork and great ideas, as reflected in stimulating dialogue. However, used sparingly, the technique of silent pages can be effective. I must admit that these six mostly-wordless pages do work well to convey the sense of chaos and mob hysteria that of course would follow an assassination attempt on the military leader of a country or planet. Despite the determined efforts of Ral-Dar, the numbers are just too overwhelming; leading to his inevitable fall. Without the intervention of Kal-El and the Red Shard, he would indeed have been ripped apart by the angry mob. As it is, the damage was quite considerable.
The pace of this issue, like its predecessors, is measured and restrained. The authors seem in no great hurry to reach their destination. I really like this; and feel it makes for great storytelling.
Kal-El's fortunes have gone up, then down, then up again in this series. In issue #3, he was heralded by Alura for his role in disarming the Labor Guild crisis and preventing violence. By issue #5, he has been charged with treason and is on trial for his life. In this issue, he is back in a leadership role; in charge of the New Krypton military, and essentially calling the shots. We will see if this roller-coaster ride continues, or if things continue on an upward path.
I love the little bits of information about Kandor and the key players that you pick up. We learn that New Kryptonians are somewhat paranoid because of the memory of the very traumatic attack by Brainiac. It is rather unusual to think that a whole planet of inhabitants this powerful would be afraid of anything at all. However, the Brainiac attack has clearly scarred the collective Kandorian psyche.
We learn that Alura is so averse to public speaking that her hands shake afterwards. I am sure that this is actually true for some prominent politicians, who have learned to "fake it" well; while other politicians really relish being in the limelight. I like that Alura admits this; showing that her relationship with Kal-El is evolving into one of real openness and honesty.
We learn that Ursa is basically useless when Zod is not around to give her orders.
With this issue, there are more mysteries to unravel. We know from Supergirl #43 that Superwoman (Lucy Lane) was on Kandor. Does General Lane have more agents on New Krypton? Did one of those agents help Ral-Dar escape? And if not, then who did? And what of Gor? Kal-El left him to watch over the prisoner. Did Gor have a role in the escape? Did Ral-Dar act alone in shooting Zod, or is he part of a bigger conspiracy?
This series continues to impress and entertain.
Art - 5: Pete Woods does his usual solid job.
In the aforementioned six pages of the mob reacting to the shooting and the shooter, you can really feel the energy level on those pages. The pages feel almost animated.
Cover Art - 4: In the cover by Fernando Dagnino and Ra'l Fernandez, we see someone who appears to be a composite of Superman and General Zod. A vertical line down the center divides the two personages, showing a half of each character. Behind him is Superman's "S" shield, looking shiny and intact. As I see by looking at the previews at the DC Comics web site, this theme will be carried forth for the remaining covers in the CODENAME: PATRIOT story arc. It appears that each cover will feature one or more characters who is a hybrid of the hero and a villain, drawn in a similar fashion, with a vertical line dividing the two characters. The Superman shield, which is shiny and new looking here, will get progressively more tarnished and decimated with each successive cover.
This is a symbolic cover, signifying... what? That Superman has elements of Zod due to the position of authority he now holds in the New Krypton military? Or merely that Superman and Zod are both tangled up in the current storyline?
Cover Art (Variant Edition) - 4: The variant cover by Eddy Barrows and Julio Ferriera is a nice image, showing Superman and other Kandorians in flight. It is generic, and does not particularly relate to the story inside. But it is a nice image of Superman; so I gave it a 4.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2009.