Superman has his ups and downs in terms of storytelling last month. First, we had the lackluster conclusion of the “Super Sons of Tomorrow” crossover. It was dark, bleak, and just flat out confusing. On the other end of the spectrum, we had the beautifully illustrated story of Superman giving cancer patients the greatest day trip ever. While that story put the biggest smile on my face, I do worry about the future of the Man of Steel. He has looked into his son’s future and has learned of its destruction. Will we see Superman his son away or teach him to be better?
**Some Spoilers Below**
On the anniversary of Krypton’s destruction, Clark takes Jon to the Fortress of Solitude for a history lesson. He explains to his son that, as long as they live, Krypton will live. Before the lesson concludes, however, Superman gets an interplanetary signal. In a far-off universe, a planet is on its last legs ready to implode like Krypton. Superman decides he will not let another race suffer Krypton’s fate and goes off to save them, with Superboy in tow. When the Man of Steel arrives, they are welcomed by the alien race before they tell the Kryptonians the truth: they WANT the planet to explode. The aliens see their death as the ultimate sacrifice to their god.
When I read this, I had the strangest feeling of deja vu. That’s when I realized that the Green Lanterns series had a near exact story less than four months ago! The only difference between that story and this one is that the Green Lanterns story was more character driven. Without that character-driven plot, this issue of Superman falls short. The beginning was interesting, with a humorous jab to the ‘Last Son of Krypton’ title, but after that, it’s just going through the motions the Lanterns did in October. This is the first half of a two-part story and unless it is able to find a way to make this connecting more to that Krypton lesson at the start, this story might be one to skip.
Doug Mahnke returns to illustrate this story and it really doesn’t fit a Superman story. I went into his art before in my review of Superman #33, but to elaborate, his style is too creepy. It causes our heroes facial expressions to come off as more villainous. There is a panel that has Superboy smile at his father and he looks like he’s being infected by Joker serum. The Superfamily should be friendlier to look at instead of creepy.
That being said, the back half of the story shows off what Mahnke is good at illustrating. When Superman refuses to leave the planet to its fate, the seahorse aliens turn on him. As silly as that sounds, Mahnke’s style makes them genuinely scary. They look like terrifying monsters to tear apart Superman, despite clearly being in the shape of a seahorse. When it comes to the villains and darker worlds of Superman, he does great. It’s only when Mahnke tries to draw something friendlier, it doesn’t work. I would love to see his work in a story like Black Dawn or something horror themed…just not on Superman.
This issue was not my cup of tea. Despite an interesting opening, the story devolves into stories we’ve heard before. While the art can make the aliens creepy to fit the story, it does the same to Superman and Superboy. On its own, I cannot recommend this issue. Hopefully, the conclusion of this story will bring it back from the edge.