By: Greg Rucka and James Robinson (writers), Pete Woods and Ron Randall (artists), Nei Ruffino (colorist)
The Story: Adam Strange and Kal-El are in a pickle. Adam gets them out, but not for long. Then Zod, out of nowhere, gets them out of the next pickle. Then Adam Strange is dismissed from the series as quickly as he appeared (Zeta beam = handy plot device for writers). Kal-El and Zod then set themselves to solving the ill-defined mystery.
What’s Good: For a brief time, Kal-El takes center stage and shows some backbone. The cover by Frank and Anderson is breathtaking. And the internal art and colors are bright and evocative: I loved the Zeta-beam effect (both times).
What’s Not So Good: You can tell from my summary that this issue suffers from the same lack of cohesiveness that has dogged this series all along. Things come together in the end, but the web of cause and effect is so loose, and even tenuous, that the reveal doesn’t unify this episodic story. There’s a rule in mystery stories: you have to be fair with the reader – he has to know as much as the detective, so that the reader has a chance to figure out the puzzle, even if they rarely do. The villain responsible for the illness among the laborers, the assassination of the councilors, and even the shooting of Zod, turns out to be somebody I can’t even remember having seen in the series more than a couple of times, and I’ve followed this title since issue #1. His motivation is opaque and his logic caused me to scratch my head. The writers weren’t playing fair with the mystery.
Furthermore, Kal-El largely continued in his role as the passive observer of his world. Whenever Zod is around, there is no doubt whose book this is. Kal-El did put himself in danger for the villain who took his time to explain his convoluted plot, but it was obvious and uninspired that Red Shard or some other helper was waiting to spring on the criminal. None of this helps elevate Kal-El to the stature he deserves as the number one hero of the DCU, and that’s unfortunate.
Conclusion: This issue has been a year in the making and all along, the series has implicitly promised something big. Did it pay off? We find out who was behind the apparently random things that happened over the last year, but did it satisfy? Was there an “Aha!” moment? No. And, maybe harder to take, the series ends on a cliffhanger, to be continued in Superman: The Last Stand of New Krypton. As Cartman would say: “Weak.”