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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Action Comics #846

Action Comics #846

Scheduled to arrive in stores: February 28, 2007

Cover date: February 2007

Writer: Geoff Johns and Richard Donner
Penciller: Adam Kubert
Inker: Adam Kubert

"Last Son: Part Three"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

General Zod, Ursa, and Non enter the Fortress of Solitude and, because it is attuned to respond to a Kryptonian as opposed to Clark, Jor-El tells them the story of the Phantom Zone, including Jax-Ur and a number of other criminals.

Clark and Lois stammer into the Daily Planet with a bespectacled Chris, who they both claim as a cousin inadvertently. Jimmy starts to take a picture when a blast of heat vision comes down and knocks them all off their feet.

Clark begins to change into Superman as Jimmy hits the signal watch. Non appears, smashing Clark (changing into Superman) through multiple buildings. Superman, still half in his Clark clothes, smashes Non, who spits out a tooth unthinkingly.

Zod smashes Superman into the ground, berating him for adopting an Earth disguise. Superman recognizes Zod from Kryptonian history and his prison outfit.

Ursa demands Lois give her her child, Lar-Zod, and blasts Lois in the arms with heat vision when she refuses her.

Zod and Superman fight, with Zod telling Superman that he's planning on remaking the world in his image of Krypton. Superman asks him what army he'll use to do this, and Zod indicates the pods crashing to Earth filled with Phantom Zone prisoners.

Zod sends Superman to the Phantom Zone.

5Story - 5: Insert obligatory statement about lateness of book and how it sucks here.

Now that that's out of the way, I'll judge the piece itself.

It's hard not to like on first glance. Zod, Ursa, and Non kicking the heck out of Superman. An army of baddies from the Phantom Zone. Actual character depth for a villain. Zod is conflicted as opposed to a blind despot, and much more believable.

We've got signal watch action, some great comedy, awesome character work, and a strong storyline.

The only flaw, and this is odd for Geoff with me, are a few issues of implausibility and continuity conflict that nag at you on the second read. First read, it's gold, second read, a few things stand out.

Normally, I'd dock points for that (and I have, in the past), but time served counts for a lot, and I have hopes that these loose ends will be tied up.

First off, the obvious, hard-to-believe bit is that the Fortress is just wide open for someone to walk in, so long as they're Kryptonian. In the past, it's been shown that there are security measures in the Fortress, and even if they go down for Kryptonians, at very least Kelex would be raising hell and sending messages. It's hard to see them just walking into a computer that advanced just by using the key.

Assume that continuity is, uh, wiped clean or whatever they're saying these days, and the Fortress is simply open to any Kryptonian. One would still assume that even the most rudimentary advanced computers would be able to tell the difference between Kal-El and Zod.

Beyond that, there is the change to the Phantom Zone from a disembodied hell to what seems almost a kind of tesseract where time and mind stand still. Sympathetically cool for Mon-El, not exactly a very good prison for the likes of Zod.

This change, and the continued implied constant presence of this Phantom Zone throughout Superman history changes a number of things in the past, most rudimentarily the fact that there is already a Zod in the Phantom Zone who has crafted a Metropia out of it and seems to enjoy himself there. Right?

Ah, continuity, how you've been ignored, even by the best.

Beyond that, the immediate question arises... if the Phantom Zone is not punitive, but rather a means of suspended animation, why didn't Jor-El and Lara and most of Krypton hop right into the thing? You know, with a little note on a projector in Kal's ship, "Do not open for at least a few years. Love, Dad-El."

It is also implied that Jax-Ur in this story is imprisoned for attempting interstellar travel. I don't tend to do that fanboy, sneering flinch, I really don't, this is just analysis, but at this point I just sat back and said to myself, Geoff, you REALLY kept that aspect of Birthright? Krypton is alone in the universe? What about Doomsday? What about all the space-faring species? Jor-El just CONJURED the ability to make interstellar travel safe and possible on one prototype craft small enough for one person in a society where such research was banned, and yet genetic engineering and scientific thought were paramount?

It's really hard to buy. Yeah, I know it's also hard to buy that with interstellar travel to Krypton they didn't all just hop off planet either, but then there's xenophobia through scientific elitism, which works just as well, and allows for Doomsday and other interesting stories.

Superman not recognizing this Zod or recognizing him from more than history would help make the Azzarello Zod more clear to fans. I know the story sucked, and it's now been sort of wiped away (unconfirmed) through Infinite Crisis, but how about a little lip service here...

Geoff, by the way, I'd love to clear any or all of this up through an interview. Name your time and place.

I'm also confused as to what those pods are, if Krypton was not into interstellar travel and it's simply the body that's imprisoned in the Phantom Zone. Don't get me wrong, they look awesome, but what are they?

5Art - 5: Adam continues to deliver, if late. The art is spectacular. I'm still proud to have one of his pieces on my wall, one of four pieces of comic art I display. He's a great artist, a great guy, and I think, in the end, DC not giving him enough time is the culprit, as opposed to Adam working slow. He works slow, and puts out great work. DC, knowing this, should have planned around that or chosen someone else. I still don't blame Adam, or fault Geoff for bringing his lateness out.

The splashes are great, every character is distinct, and the panels, for the most part, are incredibly dynamic. Awesome stuff.

I only had one complaint, and it stuck out like a sore thumb. In that awesome, poster-worthy double splash of all the pods landing, the Daily Planet globe had no letters, not even the hint of them passing around the back, and it just stuck out. I was like, "Where are the letters?"

Still great.

5Cover Art - 5: Continuing in the vein of the last few, the perspective in this is awesome, particularly the depth that comes from Superman and his shadow pushing the image up off the page. Yeah, the Phantom Zone villains are making a kind of hokey face, but it works, it really does, especially with the effect of the cracks which almost makes it like a marble floor. I love it.

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January 2007

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