Thursday, October 9, 2008

I love Action Comics

so I'm really going to miss it starting next month.

Hell, I'm gonna miss all my Superman books. My one monthly Superman fix right now is coming from Superman/Batman, which I think is currently, by far, the best it's ever been... call me crazy, I really loved that "Lil' League" story. All-Star Superman has finished its magnificent run, and I'm really sad to say that. Superman writer James Robinson is proving that he really doesn't know the first thing about writing the Man of Steel (lecturing the citizens of Metropolis? Dude, I don't care how good your Starman was... bad call)...

But back to Action. Action has been quite excellent for some time. I absolutely loved the "Superman and the Legion" story a few arcs back, and the "Braniac" story that finished up yesterday was off to a great start. As I've said before, Gary Frank's art is fantastic and it's a shame he hasn't really had many noteworthy mainstream projects before, and Geoff Johns is someone who knows what to do with Superman... at least mostly.

But now we've got to deal with New Krypton.

In case you haven't heard the news (or read the latest issue of Action) here's the deal: Superman is no longer the "last son of Krypton." We are indeed about to have a whole city-full of super-powered aliens descend on Earth, all in that pretty Alex Ross "coming down from above" art style.

(I love Alex Ross, but you have to admit his cover poses are pretty generic).

Anyway... I am really not a fan of this "New Krypton" business. To tell you the truth, I think it's a terrible idea.

The reason? To me, Superman ought to be the only Kryptonian still alive and kicking in the DC universe. This is one of the defining aspects of his character... that no matter how much he loves his adopted home and how much he tries to fit in, he will always be alone. It's bad enough we have to deal with his cousin Kara (whose book DC is tying into "New Krypton" to increase sales... pretty sneaky, sis) ... and then there was that "third Kryptonian" story in Superman about a year ago that was totally pushing it (she was a gardener hanging out on Earth?! WHAT?!). If you have to give Superman someone from his home planet to pal around with, make it Krypto (just please don't give him caption boxes). Superman having a Kryptonian dog is cool. Superman having a city of Kryptonians to go chill with... definitely not.

The obvious response to this criticism, I think, is to say "what DC is doing here is testing Superman in a way never before done; they're going to define his character even better by putting him next to a ton of Kryptonians and showing him and us that maybe his being the 'last son of Krypton' is better for him than he thought."

Well, maybe. My response to that is that we can and have done those kinds of stories without resorting to thousands of Kryptonians floating around. What about all those Daxamite stories, for instance? I know there've been a couple Superman tales that deal with the super-powered sister species of Superman's people coming to Earth and not fitting in at all (which, come on, we know that's where New Krypton is going)... content-wise I can't imagine this new story will be that different from those older ones, and I definitely don't think it's worth the price of completely removing the idea that Superman is his planet's remaining survivor. That's just too important and too unique to the mythos of one of fiction's great characters. But don't take my word for it...

"Think about it, Rao. Wouldn't bringing life onto a planet that is inherently unstable add to the beauty of the life? If at any moment it could explode.... Truly, it would only be perfectly beautiful, a perfect piece of art, if one single life-form escaped. To remember, to mourn, to despair."

Neil Gaiman wrote that, and Despair of the Endless spoke it, in the graphic novel Sandman: Endless Nights. It is, to be honest, probably my favorite part of that whole book because in two panels Neil Gaiman shows us the true origin of Superman... he is Despair's little project to the universe, a being who should embody the suffering of an entire race because he is alone forever.

So apparently I have some good company in thinking Superman should be the last of his kind. And that's not to say that I want Superman to be some emotionally unstable wreck or something... actually it's saying the opposite. Because, see, in that quote above... Despair is wrong. Her intent is that this being she imagines (who just happens to be our Kal-El) will manifest despair more than any other being in the universe... but the total reverse is true. Superman doesn't cry, Superman doesn't feel bad to the point of depression... Superman goes out there and beats all the odds (I mean, my god, the second-nastiest of the Endless has it in for him!!) and gives himself completely to bettering his new home of Earth. Being the last survivor of his race isn't a cause for sorrow... for Superman, it's a motivator to do good, perhaps the most important one he has... because he doesn't want to see what happened to Krypton happen to Earth or any other world again. And I just don't see why DC is trying to take that away.

See, regardless of how "more alone" Superman feels after not jiving with these newly-restored Kryptonians... he's still not the last one any more. That particular motivator is gone... and with it, we have a Superman that I find is significantly less unique, and a good deal less interesting.

... I'll always have All-Star, huh?

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