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Superman: World of New Krypton #9 Superman: World of New Krypton #9

Superman: World of New Krypton #9

Scheduled to arrive in stores: November 24, 2009

Cover date: January 2010

"World of New Krypton" - Part Nine

Writer: James Robinson and Greg Rucka
Artists: Pete Woods and Ron Randall

Reviewed by: Ralph Silver

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At the end of last issue, Jemm, Son of Saturn and his henchmen had burst into the Council chamber unannounced, interrupting a meeting of the ruling Council. Specifically, the Council was engaged in peace talks with Wing-Master Dae, commander of the Thanagarian military, when the Saturnians muscled their way in.

As we begin, there is general chaos as a result of the violent and abrupt intrusion. Several of the security guards are down. Indignation is expressed by everyone present. Wing-Master Dae is highly insulted at being interrupted during this important meeting.

Jemm and his thugs are in attack mode. The Saturnians' powers include super strength, flight, and the ability to fire powerful energy beams from their forehead. We see them use those powers aggressively as Jemm taunts the Kryptonians rather arrogantly. But when the Saturnians pull their weapons, General El has seen enough. He disarms them at super speed, and then responds with a little bit of force of his own; although it is very restrained considering the provocation. General El confronts Jemm, and introduces himself as Superman; since he and Jemm have had dealings in the past, but Jemm may not recognize Superman out of costume. Superman tells Jemm that this is not the time for fighting, and convinces Jemm to stand down.

But the war of words continues. Jemm is angry because the Kryptonians felt entitled to move one of Jupiter's moons around as if they owned it. Wing-Master Dae is angry because the Saturnians sided with the Rannians against the Thanagarians in the recent war. And General El is just trying to keep a lid on everything. Jemm does put in a good word for Superman, calling him noble, and thanking Superman for helping Jemm in the past during a time of need. It is out of gratitude for Superman's past good deed that Jemm, having spoken his peace, agrees to withdraw with his henchmen. He warns that the Saturnians "will be watching".

But on the way out, Jemm does a curious thing. (At least I thought it was curious.) He bows before the member of the religious guild who is present, and graciously gives praise to Rao as a "majestic God". Jemm and the other Saturnians then depart.

As Wing-Master Dae prepares to leave, General El asks her if they have established peaceful relations. Dae replies that no, they only have an accord. She indicates that this is as much of a concession as you ever get from the Thanagarians. On her way out, Dae tells General El that the Thanagarians also "will be watching". Superman must feel like he is hearing double.

With the battle in the Council chamber over, things seem to get back to normal. Superman is invited to join the Council during recess, and he gets to see a member of the Artists Guild and a member of the Military Guild having a very heated exchange about militarism versus peaceful coexistence. We learn that these arguments are a daily occurrence within the Council. When Superman weighs in with a message of peace, his words are lost on the Military Guild Member.

The scene shifts, and we observe members of the Red Shard, Kal-El's military unit, gossiping about their members. They observe that Non follows General El around very closely, and ridicule him for doing that. They then mention that Lieutenant Nar similarly spends a lot of time with General El. They speculate rather derisively that Lieutenant Nar has strong romantic feelings for General El, and is trying to make it with him. Nar walks in on this discussion, and is visibly annoyed. She scolds them, telling them to respect their General, and to respect themselves.

Another scene shift, and we are watching the military in combat training. Commander Gor is aggressively bullying and hurting other members of the Military Guild, when Non jumps in and gives Gor a powerful and well-deserved taste of his own medicine. General El seems to really appreciate this, and uses it as an example to his troops; telling them never to be cocky, because there is always someone stronger.

Yet another scene shift, and we observe members of the Labor Guild complaining that they never got representation on the Council, as they feel they had been promised. Someone asks Tyr-van to talk to General El, and ask him to put in a good word to the Council on their behalf. Tyr-van expresses severe regret that he no longer has clout with General El since their falling out.

We switch to General Zod, still in stasis and recovering from his wounds. Zod requests a private conversation with Kal-El. They talk about Non, and why he sticks so close to General El. Kal-El suspects that Non may be keeping an eye on him out of loyalty to Zod; to protect Zod against an attack that Non imagines Kal-El is planning. But Zod reveals that the opposite is true. Non sticks to Kal-El because Kal-El reminds Non of Jor-El, who was Non's very close friend on Krypton before Non had his lobotomy.

Zod also asks Kal-El if New Krypton is ready for war. Kal-El indicates that while New Krypton is ready to defend itself if necessary, he is tired of hearing talk of war, and has no taste for it.

Suddenly, General El is alerted to a new security threat. Kal-El goes to investigate at the home of Council member Mar-Li (the member of the Artists Guild we saw quarreling earlier), and finds the Council member down, covered in his own blood, and apparently dead. Standing over him, much to Superman's shock, is his old friend Adam Strange.

5Story - 5: This was another interesting and enjoyable installment in what has been an outstanding series.

I continue to be impressed with the Robinson/Rucka method of storytelling that emphasizes human interactions and dialogue, rather than expository text, to convey mood and plot. I like that things really jump around a bit from scene to scene; kind of "checking in" with all the key players to see how certain plot elements and themes are moving forward. It works just like a good movie; where each scene is interesting on its own, but also combines with the various other scenes to draw the big picture.

The focus at times is on dramatic events (the invasion of the Council chambers by Jemm and his men; the apparent murder of a Council member). At other times, the focus is on more ordinary, day-to-day concerns (people gossiping about their military leaders; Labor Guild members brooding about their lack of government representation; folks quarreling about issues of war and peace.) But it works together, all of it, to convey a mood and paint a picture of life as it exists right now on New Krypton. We get a real sense of the conflicts that are bubbling to the surface in Kandorian society.

Also, I think that focusing on the small interactions, not just the big dramatic events, helps to add a sense of realism to this series.

As I was reading this issue, I asked myself the following question: "Are the Kryptonians a warlike, aggressive race, or a relatively peaceful race?" At the start of this series, I might have answered "aggressive and warlike". But I might be changing my mind. In the last two issues, the Kryptonians encountered and fought against two races that are truly very aggressive and warlike: the Thanagarians and the Saturnians. Both of these species make the Kryptonians appear quite peaceful by comparison. What I see on New Krypton is that when you have an aggressive, militaristic leader like Zod, his influence trickles downward. Now that General El is exerting much influence of his own, public sentiment is perhaps more divided on the topic of war and peace. As Kal-El continues to preach peace, not war; hopefully his way of thinking will become popular with Kandorian society as a whole.

In the scene with the Saturnians, Superman once again shows that he commands respect by virtue of his reputation for integrity. And once again, Superman's willingness to show restraint in combat is a powerful deterrent against aggressors. I love that this series does such a good job of showcasing Superman's role as a moral leader. Superman is always ready to respond with might when diplomacy fails. But he will always try the peaceful gesture first. I loved the scene where Superman asserts that we should always see how we can turn our enemies into friends. That sentiment is pure Superman; and something that we should all aspire to.

I loved the scene where Zod asks General El if the Kryptonian military is ready for war. And Kal-El replies "Did you have an enemy in mind General? Or just the universe as a whole?" This scene made me chuckle. Kal-El is not afraid to ridicule Zod, if necessary, to get his message of peace across.

Just a quick observation: In the scene where the Red Shard is gossiping about General El, one of the members says "You know what the monkeys call him?" Well, I am guessing that "monkeys" is a derogatory slang term for us, the inhabitants of Earth.

And in the scene where the Labor Guild is complaining, they assert that Alura promised them a seat on the Council. Well, I went back and checked WONK #3, which featured the Labor Guild uprising. For the record, Alura did not promise the Labor Guild a seat on the Council. She said she would "consider it". Big difference. But I hope they get their seat when all is said and done.

And what of the scene where Jemm bows before a member of the religious guild and gives praise to Rao as a "majestic God". Jemm does not respect the Kryptonians, but praises their God? What is that all about? Can somebody help me out here?

The next issue is subtitled "Mystery in Space", an homage to the DC comic book of that name that ran in the 1950s and 1960s, and featured the adventures of Adam Strange for several years. It should be a good one.

5Art - 5: Pete Woods and Ron Randall do a solid job again here. I appreciate their penchant for detailed backgrounds, and their ability to convey emotion using close-ups of facial expressions. One example is the close-up of Wing-Master Dae during her discussion with Jemm. When the Saturnian leader brags about the might of his soldiers, I see on Dae's face a combination of disdain and begrudging awareness of Saturnian might on the battlefield. Another good example is the set of close-ups of Lieutenant Nar as she walks in on the Red Shard and scolds them for their gossipy ways. Boy, does she look angry.

I also want to mention an observation about captions. When I read comic books as a kid in the 1960s, you would often see little yellow rectangles at the top of a panel, saying something like "Later that day..." or "The next day, in Perry White's office...", and so on. They were often used to indicate a shift in time or scenery. Captions were commonplace then, but are used quite sparingly now. They have gone out of favor. You occasionally see them, albeit rarely. But you never see them in WONK. The authors and artists bend over backwards to avoid them. They instead use pictures to convey the same information.

For example, after Wing-Master Dae leaves New Krypton, we see a nicely drawn landscape showing a section of Kandor, with mountains in the background. In the next panel, we see that exact same landscape after the sun has gone down; the lights in the buildings shining brightly. This nicely conveys the passage of time without the use of those pesky captions :-)

We see a similar technique used effectively on the two-page spread showing Lieutenant Nar and the Red Shard. Across the top, we see New Krypton rotating in its orbit; the city of Kandor moving from night into day and back into night. This technique also nicely conveys the passage of time. These little touches add richness to the book.

4Cover Art - 4: I am a huge fan of Gary Frank. But I am ambivalent about this cover. On the one hand, the image is very detailed and nicely drawn. On the other hand, the image is very misleading. General El kneels on one knee as he addresses Jemm, who sits on what appears to be a throne containing an image of Saturn carved into the back of the chair. The scene appears to be aboard Jemm's spacecraft. This never happened in the story. But my big problem is that Kal-El appears to be in a very submissive pose, kneeling before his adversary. But there is nothing submissive about Kal-El's behavior inside the book. So I had to subtract one point for this discrepancy.

4Cover Art (Variant Edition) - 4: I like the variant cover by Mark Buckingham. A lot! Superman is hovering above the fire falls of old Krypton. (Or maybe they have recreated the fire falls on New Krypton.) Anyhow, this is a great image, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the story inside. Nothing! So, although it is a great drawing, I feel that I cannot go higher than 4.

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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