By: Too many to list—check out the review.
The Story: Invasion of the Space Babies! They’ll overwhelm you with their cuteness!
The Review: The coming of Superman to Earth as a babe rocketed from the doomed planet of Krypton is probably the origin story of origin stories, one which still retains a lot of its purity and sense of wonder to this day. There’s just something inescapably poignant about the idea of a mother and father doing all they can to save their child, putting their trust in an unknown world to foster him, and him becoming its savior in return.
It’s a great story, but one that’s been told and retold so often, and with so little variation in the telling, that it’s become a bit tiresome to hear. Weariness is the predominant feeling you get when reading through the first half of this issue. For anyone who knows anything about the Superman mythos, nothing Grant Morrison writes will surprise you. The classic details are all here, untwisted, and while that’s a relief on a lot of levels, it’s also rather dull to read.
The changes Morrison introduces to the story are few and subtle in nature. Lara has a more critical role in Kal-El’s sojourn to Earth; she helped Jor-El build the saving rocket, and she’s the one who arrives at their last, desperate option to save their son when Jor-El freezes. You discover that before they put Kal into the rocket, they attempted to save themselves by escaping into the Phantom Zone, only to find it already occupied by the worst of Krypton’s sadists.
While a lot of the issue is at least readable, if not refreshing, Morrison dives into some very exotic turns of phrase when writing the voice of the rocket’s Brainiac A.I. I’ve never liked it much when Morrison puts on his beat poet hat; it just seems distracting and sometimes confusing: “Then blinding gulfs of superspace. Of un-time. Exquisite calculations. The last son of Krypton dreams. And searching. And now!”
And that’s before you get to the completely baffling sequence involving a time-traveling chase of the Anti-Superman Army by Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and grown-up, body-suited Superman (as opposed to folksy Superman). This scene not only breaks into the middle of the “Collector of Worlds” arc (which doesn’t continue this issue), it delivers puzzling language of its own: “This, all the K in the universe—the colored isotopes synthi-K and Kryptonium…”
Andy Kubert does a fine job penciling the issue, but his light, sleek style, complemented by Jesse Delperdang’s inks, lacks the depth of drama Morrison’s script demands. In contrast, Gene Ha’s rich, textured work in #3 was a lot more convincing, and besides, he drew a much more attractive baby Kal-El. Kubert’s Kal is evidence that Krypton, for all its advanced technology, might have child obesity problems of its own.
I had no use for Sholly Fisch’s Steel back-up last issue, but this one, featuring the Kents’ journey to becoming parents, works a whole lot better. For one, Fisch sticks to clean, natural dialogue which helps keep the story moving and effectively transitions the scenes. For another, he has a much more relatable, human tale before him, one that becomes quite moving as you watch the Kents’ painful attempts to hold onto their hope as they confront one disappointment after another. Criscross has a fleshy, organic style that calls to mind Doug Mahnke or Patrick Gleason, only less refined. He can deliver some greatly affecting expressions, and rather beautiful settings (like that of First Light Baptist Church), but occasionally, his characters look a bit disfigured, especially Martha’s ever widening lips.
Conclusion: A touching back-up feature, a competent (but not inspired) retelling of Superman’s origins, and a completely disconnected plotline makes this issue one severely mixed bag.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – It’s official: instead of a sweet, Danish-looking mutt, Krypto is now a wolfish, almost feral beast with retractable claws the size of your face. Cooler-looking by far, but I’ll miss the happy-go-lucky canine he used to be.