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Mild Mannered Reviews - DC Universe

Superman: The Last Family of Krypton #1

Superman: The Last Family of Krypton #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: August 4, 2010

Cover date: October 2010

Writer: Cary Bates
Art: Renato Arlem

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

Jor-El awakens from a dream of Kal-El's rocketship being destroyed as it leaves Krypton. His wife reassures him, and it is revealed that they are in Metropolis.

Eighty-seven days earlier, in Metropolis, a large alien craft arrives. The military accidentally fires upon it, and the ship turns into a warship, but after the dust clears, Lara stops the ship from engaging defensive measures. Jor-El introduces himself to the gathered military personnel.

After a media blitz, Jor-El and Lara help the world through varying endeavors, savings lives and growing accustomed to their new world.

At the White House, the family decides where to live by having young Kal-El heat vision a globe. It lands on Metropolis.

Jor-El sends the ship, which builds a large tower for them to live in.

Lara goes looking for Clark, and instead finds an enclosed, defensive Sanctum of Solitude that Jor-El has used to conceal his plan for Jorcorp, a plan to pool Earth tech with Kryptonian science.

The El family sees that Clark is facing a media blitz as the years wear on, so, inspired by a news report of a meteor striking a field near the Kent farm, then decide to let the Kent family help raise Kal-El.

Jor-El and Lara grow apart as Clark grows up with the Kent family. Lara writes a book about a new age philosophy she calls "Raology."

Clark feels uncomfortable with not using his powers, and his biological father is no reassurance. Martha and Jonathan, however, help him find a place in the world.

Lex Luthor is plucked from school for his genius by Jor-El, and recruited for Jorcorp, after humiliating the teacher in front of Clark and Lana.

Jor-El and Lara quarrel over how distant Jor-El has become. They chase each other across the sky, then make up in front of the sun.

Nine months later, Clark has a twin brother and sister.

2Story - 2: God, it sucks to have to give a negative review to Cary Bates, and I'll preface it with a thank you for his many years of respected work as a precursor. I have to be honest, though.

This story, like many of the Elseworlds that I haven't found much identity with, sticks to formula. It focuses on the novelty of the situation, the strangeness of why things are different, and then it moves straight to weaving the story in much the same way it happened in the regular comics. It's part of the reason why the Ultimate universe over at Marvel failed for me in the end. It was just too much like the thing it was supposed to be completely different from.

Where it deviates, however, it is frustrating. Lara as a new age guru? Jor-El like Lex Luthor, and in fact, hiring him as a protégé while neglecting his son? I find no identity in the characters, thereby, and I would even argue it's out of character, for what little we know of Jor-El and Lara. I also find it difficult to accept the idea of the two being on Earth for a decade with Jor-El actively trying to change things without any real major changes being present.

Beyond those plot issues that nagged at me, there was also the technical issue of the writing that drove me absolutely stinking buggy. When I have spoken to professionals about how to write a comic over the years, one piece of advice keeps cropping up. Tell the story with pictures. Right? Common sense. You don't have an avalanche coming at a crowd of people and have them shouting "Rocks!" while a caption reads: "It was ROCKS!" I think I heard Bendis mention that one once at a signing, and for years I've wanted that picture to throw into reviews when I see a violation of this wise principle.

Well, to put it mildly, almost half of this narrative was a singular violation of that principle. I wrote down these examples of where something was said by characters to indicate something that was already happening visually, and didn't need to be said:

"The overload is corrupting all the firing sequencers!"
"Our mortars are bouncing off their hull like ping-pong balls!
"We were just hit by a stray motor!"
"[They] Took out the tail rotor!"
"This damn thing's a warship!"
"It just folded up all its super-weapons!"
"Whatever she said shut it down like a heart attack." KLUNK.
"We're droppin' like a stone!"
"Someone just grabbed me!" "Me too!"
"We're all black and white... like some scene out of an old movie!"

The description of the tower being built followed much the same fashion, with some details that couldn't be inferred, but many that could.

I know, this is Cary Bates, he's been more successful over time than many writers in comics ever dream to be, who am I to critique his writing? But at the same time, these things stuck out at me, and made my experience for my dollar less pleasant, thus the rating.

4Art - 4: I dug the art. I think I'd rather see this artist doing a street-level story, something akin to Criminal, but his talent in faces and framing of the scene is awesome, and it goes a good way to making this story shine.

3Cover Art - 3: Nothing horrible here, but nothing that leaps out at me, either. It's an accurate representation of the story, but it doesn't draw me in, either. I think the "El on Earth!" is redundant, and annoying. Other than that, just a typical cover.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2010

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