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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton #3 Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton #3

Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton #3

Scheduled to arrive in stores: April 28, 2010

Cover date: Late June 2010

Part Nine: "This is the Way the World Ends"

Writer: James Robinson and Sterling Gates
Penciller: Pete Woods
Inker: Pete Woods

Reviewed by: Ralph Silver

Click to enlarge

At the end of Superman #699, we saw Lex Luthor use Brainiac's technology to expand one of the bottle cities. But he did this while he and that bottle city were still aboard Brainiac's ship! This maneuver wreaks havoc as the expanding city bursts through the hull of Brainiac's ship, causing major damage leading to mechanical failure.

This issue begins with heroes and villains caught off guard and reacting to this new development. As Brainiac's ship begins falling, the Legion members focus on saving the other bottle cities aboard the ship. They urge Mon-El to join them and head to the future, but Mon is reluctant to abandon Superman out of loyalty. But Superman steps in to urge Mon-El to go with the Legion. He tells Mon-El that the Legion is his destiny. The Legion, including Mon-El, must focus on the mission of saving the bottle cities and saving the future; while Superman, Supergirl, and Superboy must handle Brainiac, Luthor, Zod, and the Kandorians.

Brainiac's disabled ship is in flames and hurtling towards New Krypton. Supergirl and Superboy come racing on the scene as the ship smashes into one of Kandor's many futuristic skyscrapers. The ship continues to soar wildly as Superman, Supergirl and Superboy provide counter force in an attempt to slow it down. Alura and many other Kandorians arrive and join in the effort, pressing against the ship to help stop it. But the heat of the spreading flames, the ever expanding city within, and possibly the stress of all those Kryptonians pushing against the thrust of the powerful engines are too much for the ship to handle, and a cataclysmic explosion occurs before the remnants of the ship finally come to rest.

The city that Luthor expanded is still growing, now putting Kandor at risk. As Brainiac 5 works on the problem, Supergirl is shocked to discover Superman impaled by pieces of Brainiac's ship as a result of the explosion. Superman appears to have been fatally stricken. Luthor, reeling from the explosion, is nevertheless somehow pleased with all the destruction he has caused. Brainiac confronts Luthor and is furious that Lex sabotaged his ship. Luthor mocks him and spits in his eye before Brainiac angrily snaps Luthor's neck, killing him.

Meanwhile Zod is eager for a final showdown with Brainiac, who calls Zod a coward for confronting Brainiac with his powers intact and an army of super-powered Kryptonians at his back. In response, Zod fires the red sun radiation from an Archer rifle at himself, to remove his powers and thus supposedly level the playing field as he prepares to take Brainiac down.

Brainiac 5 works feverishly to save Superman. He gives him a transfusion of Conner's blood. Then he bathes Superman in a very large dose of concentrated synthesized yellow sun rays that Brainiac 5 has brought with him from the 31st century for just this moment. Using these techniques, Brainiac 5 is able to revive Superman. We see Superman standing and able to talk, as Kara and Conner look on with delight.

We join the battle between Zod and Brainiac. Despite the loss of his powers, Zod is able to get the upper hand and force Brainiac to his knees. Zod is about to shoot Brainiac when Superman intervenes. This causes a heated argument between Superman and Zod. Zod commands his soldiers to restrain Kal-El so Zod can proceed with the execution of Brainiac. Brainiac 5, sensing that this is his moment of destiny, steps in and then teleports himself and Brainiac off of New Krypton.

Zod contemplates these latest events. Although he is disappointed that he was denied the opportunity to kill Brainiac, there is great satisfaction in having defeated Brainiac in hand-to-hand combat and averted the threat to New Krypton. Also, these events have solidified Zod's position as the true leader of Kandor. Zod's popularity on New Krypton is soaring. In a speech to the populace, Zod claims himself to be the supreme ruler of New Krypton, and announces that the Council is defunct. Only Alura survives; and Zod is taking that leadership role away from her.

Meanwhile, we learn that Lex used a Luthor robot, supplied by Toyman, to accomplish his mission on New Krypton. It was the robot that was "killed" by Brainiac. Lex is very much alive and discussing with General Lane how his objective, to bring chaos to New Krypton, was achieved. Lex has been working as an agent of General Lane all along. The disarray that Lex caused is considered Lane's window of opportunity as he prepares for the impending war with New Krypton. Lex receives a Presidential pardon for his efforts.

We close with Zod rallying his people as he declares war on the planet Earth.

To be continued in War of the Supermen #0.

5Story - 5: After 12 issues of WONK and 3 issues of LSONK, plus the ancillary issues in the other titles, we are left with a rather dramatic and satisfying conclusion, as we lead up to the inevitable war between New Krypton and Earth.

Readers of my previous reviews know that I was a huge fan of the entire World of New Krypton series. That series was subtle, character-driven, and full of suspense. It had excellent, believable dialogue that moved the story forward while providing interesting character interactions. That series took a couple of broad themes and explored them in detail: (1) Zod versus Kal-El as competing role models for the people of New Krypton; (2) The Guild system, its evils and shortcomings; and how it colored every aspect of Kandorian life; (3) Superman's moral code against killing; and the extent to which he will always stay true to his core beliefs no matter what.

The main battles in WONK were fought with words and ideas rather than fists. I loved that!

Last Stand of New Krypton was essentially an addendum to WONK. Although it picked up where WONK left off, it was a different kind of series. Compared to WONK, it was less subtle, less character-driven, more plot-driven, more action-oriented, less restrained. It featured a much larger cast of characters; not only Superman, Supergirl, Alura, and Zod; but also Superboy, Mon-El, and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Whereas WONK felt intimate, LSONK felt epic and rather busy. In LSONK the stakes were higher: the very existence of the Legion's future, the lives of countless inhabitants of captive alien bottle cities, the need to capture and control Brainiac, a very ruthless and dangerous villain.

Since LSONK had so much more going on, it could have deteriorated into a rather confusing, cluttered, chaotic hodgepodge, as some major DC event books and series have done in the past. (For example, in my opinion Final Crisis suffered badly in this way.) But Robinson and Gates avoid this pitfall, and manage to keep everything under control. The story is lucid and well-paced.

If WONK was a battle between Kal-El and Zod for the soul of New Krypton, it appears that Zod has now won that popularity contest. By defeating Brainiac in hand-to-hand combat, Zod's popularity has soared. This definitely seems misguided and unfair to me. Supergirl and Brainiac 5 were actually the ones who enlarged Kandor and freed its citizens. But somehow Zod gets all the credit.

Robinson and Gates do a good job of providing logical reasons for behavior and tying up loose ends. For example, on the first reading, I thought that Luthor's behavior was irrational, and thus way out of character. Luthor never acts randomly and capriciously. He always has a master plan and a motive that is clear and self-serving, however ruthless. Creating destruction for the sake of destruction is more the Joker's territory. So I was bewildered about Luthor's role in the destruction of Brainiac's ship, and about his alliance with Brainiac in general; right up until the revelation at the end that Luthor was acting as an agent for General Lane, and was promised specific rewards, including the Presidential pardon. Then it all made perfect sense.

Some logical details are not explained, but are left to the reader's imagination. For example, in LSONK #2, Brainiac 5 was not able to bring others through the time barrier. He was only able to make the trip solo. But at the end of this story, he is preparing to head back with a team of Legionnaires this time. My guess is that because they have rescued the bottle cities, the time stream is beginning to repair itself, making time travel easier. Also, I of course presume that the future has been fully restored, and that Brainiac 5 and the others are heading back to a world that feels familiar and is intact; although this is never explicitly stated.

How can Toyman create a robot that can spit? And more importantly, how can Toyman create a robot that is so lifelike that it can even fool Brainiac as he snaps its neck. This certainly reveals the extent of Toyman's brilliance as an inventor; and also the extent of my ability to suspend disbelief. :)

5Art - 5: Pete Woods' art is rock solid once again. I love the layout on page one where we see a series of closeups that reveal everybody's momentary reaction to the ship lurching and falling. And the two-page splash page (the title page) showing Brainiac's ship in flames and soaring out of control and heading for downtown Kandor while Superman bursts out and positions himself to try to stop it; well that image is just amazing! In fact, there are a series of two-page images showing the runaway ship; and they are all magnificent!

2Cover Art - 2: The cover by Ryan Sook is just too cluttered for me. It is rather muddy. It also makes little sense. Brainiac, in a rage, fiercely attacks General Zod while Superman looks on pensively and... does nothing!

A good cover is eye-catching. It is aesthetically pleasing. It grabs the reader's attention, and says "Purchase me; you will not be disappointed!"

This cover does none of that.

I do like the look of unbridled rage on Brainiac's face. But Zod's expression makes him look just plain goofy.

4Cover Art (Variant Edition) - 4: The variant cover by Chris Weston is more to my liking. This time, the image is clean and uncluttered. Superman serves up a powerful left hook to one of Brainiac's fighter robots, decapitating it in order to save one of the bottle cities.

This cover kind of jumps out at you in a way that the first cover does not. It seems more three- dimensional. It draws the reader in. This variant cover is far superior to the regular cover, in my opinion.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

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