Rich Kreiner’s Yearlong Best of the Year: New Krypton

Posted by on January 23rd, 2010 at 1:00 PM

We’re in the midst of complimenting, amazingly enough, aspects of three ongoing commercial mega-crossovers. Last time, acknowledgment went to crafted early moments of Brian Michael Bendis’ Dark Avengers which displayed real cleverness in conception and smacked of authentic presidential malfeasance. This time it’s the more complex social and political framework underlying the “New Krypton” cycle in DC’s Superman-related titles.

“New Krypton” is the realm created by the enlargement of Brainiac’s bottled city of Kandor, a Silver Age artifact familiar to Superman readers of longstanding. That enlargement unleashes a flood of super-powered Kryptonians on Earth, in essence 100,000 new Supermen, itself a wrinkle that might awaken some curiosity in readers of almost any standing.

Early on there are glimpses of what that many endowed aliens might mean to the storyline. Among the glistening spires of New Krypton, a newly supered-up visitor dumps a blue whale carcass in a pristine courtyard: “I found this in the water. It tried to eat me. I punched it. It stopped trying to eat me.” At street-level Metropolis, two Kryptonians exhibit indifference, then disdain, at a traffic accident; they were moved neither to prevent it before nor to mitigate the severity of the injuries after. It all tends to heighten the clash of sensibilities and, in the process, throw into high relief the deep-seated humanity the Kents bequeathed their adopted son Clark during the course of his upbringing.

From Superman: New Krypton Special #1 (December 2008), written by Geoff Johns, James Robinson and Sterling Gates, penciled by Pete Woods, Gary Frank and Renato Guredes, and inked by Pete Woods, Jon Sibal, and Wilson Magalhaes. ©2008 DC Comics

Of course things get worse for almost everybody. There’s an admirable coordination between the saga’s authors, among them Geoff Johns and James Robinson, in conveying the astonishment and confusion rippling along both sides of the species divide.They provide the satisfying progression from nervousness to apprehension to suspicion to antagonism to provocation and hostility between the sides, an escalation accelerated by sheer foreignness and disparate wherewithal. On “our” side are wary citizens, overmatched costumed good guys and, well behind the scenes, bad guys forwarding their own agenda. The other side boasts a multitude of strange visitors from another planet, augmented to unmatchable levels, carrying out their own agenda in plain sight. And why wouldn’t they? What have they to hide or be ashamed and hesitant about? Anyway, who could do anything about it?

From Action Comics #872 (February 2009), written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Pete Woods. ©2009 DC Comics

In one proactive bit of vigilante housecleaning — not to trivialize death, even in funnybooks — several cops are killed in the line of duty by Kryptonians (unnecessarily, it appears to readers). The newcomers’ leader, Alura, explains: “there’s an earth term I’ve learned of late – collateral damage. These policemen were unlucky.” Eventually she will allow that humans are “Pathetic and inferior yet mired in hubris. Let them all die.”

Not to trivialize real-world horrors — especially as funnybook inspiration — but it’s difficult not to map specific incidents, twists or snippets of dialogue onto those real-world horrors.  First to mind are the conflicts of the Middle East. American servicemen and women, armed and armored like relative supermen, alien supermen, intervene in Iraq, hoping that shock and awe can pave the way to immediate objectives. Perhaps a closer mapping still is that of the Palestinian / Israeli fighting during the winter of 2008. There, the latter, enjoying a similar superiority of armament and weaponry, inflicted wildly disproportionate degrees of “collateral damage” upon their opposition. Theirs was a premeditated response that could have flowed directly from the position enunciated by the fictional Alura: “Until we are absolutely safe, there can be no limits.”

As for our escapist entertainment, Superman, compromised by his multiple allegiances, is superimpotent to effectively intervene, unable to prevent unfolding tragedies. So’s Supergirl, twice over, as her mom is Alura.  By way of contrast, Lex Luthor remains an exemplar of unswerving motivation, pure as driven soot. All in all, the opening act made for a tight and tidy dilemma for its principle players.

As of the end of the second collected volume of the “New Krypton” storyline, some of the most intractable problems mentioned here have seemingly been sidestepped, put on a back burner by the fabulous developments possible only in comics. Thank goodness this is only an imaginary story, eh?

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.