I have often lamented the lack of truly good Superman stories. In comparison to Batman, Superman just doesn’t have the range of memorable stories. Definitely not as a solo act. As part of the Justice League yes. As the goody two shoes playing straight man to Batman yes. But solo stories, not so much.
We all know the origin story. Baby sent away by grieving parents on a spaceship as his home world of Krypton explodes. Lands in the farmlands of Kansas and raised to become America’s greatest superhero. There is the death story at the hands of the creature known as Doomsday. Currently there is a storyline of Doomsday actually being a virus of some kind that infects Superman turning him into a super Doomsday that looks good and another one beginning with a nemesis that is billed to be Superman’s Joker. But in between, any Superman stories that have become part of mainstream lore? Not so much.
So I was very happy to come across Geoff Johns graphic novel – Superman: Last Son of Krypton.
The Last Son of Krypton brings together two storylines by Geoff Johns which originally appeared in Action Comics 844-846, 851, 866-870; Action Comics annual 11; Superman: New Krpyton Special 1. They appeared between 2006 and 2008 and featured two of Superman’s greatest foes not named Lex Luthor. General Zod and Braniac.
The first tells the tale of Chris Kent. A spaceship crashes in Metropolis and is brought to a halt by Superman. Inside the craft is a young boy. A Kryptonian child. Superman immediately bonds with the boy in the hopes that he is another survivor from Krypton. But though the child is Kryptonian, he is not from Krypton. He is in fact from the Phantom Zone and the child of General Zod. The General uses the child to escape from the Phantom Zone prison and invade Earth. Superman must form an uneasy alliance with Lex Luthor and his band of Superman killers to fight Zod and his super powered army. In the end, Superman must watch as the child who he adopted as Chris Kent makes the ultimate sacrifice to help imprison General Zod back into the Phantom Zone.
The second tale is of the miniature city of Kandor and the evil that is Braniac. Accompanied by his cousin Supergirl, Superman learns of the fate of the city of Kandor and how Braniac attacked the city and then took it captive. Keeping it aboard his spaceship as part of a collection. The citizens of the city still alive but miniaturized and imprisoned. Braniac attacks Metropolis in the same fashion and the super cousins must battle Braniac to save the cities. But in the end the battle comes to Earth and as Superman revels in his victory over the defeat of Braniac, he does not hear the cries of the collateral damage of the great battle. The cries of Martha Kent over he dying body of her husband, Jonathan Kent. Superman saves Metropolis and the world from Braniac, but is too late to save his father.
The emotional toll taken from Superman in these two stories is unlike anything I have every seen written on the Kryptonian. The possibility of having a child, something Lois cannot give him, and to have that child taken away in a noble act of self sacrifice. The child doing what he believed Superman would have done. The battle to save the world from a great super-villain at the cost of the life of the man who raised him. Superman is brought to his sense of humanity by two powerful moments that he, with all his strength, was powerless to stop.
This is good comic book writing. It is powerful drama in a format that is often too streamlined to tell such