Superman: War of the Supermen #0 (June, 2010)
“War of the Supermen, Prologue”
“Filling in the Blanks”
Writers – James Robinson & Sterling Gates
Pencillers – Eddy Barrows, Julian Lopez, Aaron Lopresti, David Finch, Gary Frank, Cafu, Ethan Van Sciver & Diogenes Neves
Inkers – J.P. Mayer, Bit, Joe Weems & Vicente Cifuentes
Colorists – Rod Reis, Blond
Letterer – John J. Hill
Assistant Editor – Wil Moss
Editor – Matt Idelson
Free Comic Book Day
Today we’re gonna look at one of my, relatively-recent Superman blind spots… and I’m going to complain about contemporary Free Comic Book Day offerings.
We open with a rather peeved off Superman bursting through a wall. He has arrived at a Kryptonian Military Installation located one mile below the surface of New Krypton. He’s there to… you guessed it, talk to Zod. Can’t have a Krypton story without him… unfortunately. To fill us in a bit, Zod was made General of New Krypton’s army (seems a stellar idea, don’t it?)… and Superman had left Earth for a time to serve in that army… and make sure Zod doesn’t act all Zoddy.
Speaking of acting “Zoddy”, Superman is here to confront the big Z has because he’s declared war on Earth. The two exchange punches for a bit, until Ursa (who I initially mistook for Zaora) slashes Superman across the chest with a Kryptonite knife! She claims it hurts to even hold the thing, but the satisfaction wielding it brings outweighs the pain.
Superman blasts the knife away with heat vision before once more, stepping to Zod. Zod’s having a grand old time, and brings Superman up to speed, advising him he was about to surrender… and I am pleasantly surprised and thankful Robinson and Gates didn’t resort to using this to shoehorn a “hilarious” “Kneel before…” reference. As Superman approaches, he is crushed from above by the body of Non (who I mistook as Quex-Ul). Zod always seems to have one big dude and one lady as his seconds.
With Ursa and Non holding Superman at bay, Zod reminds him that on New Krypton, he’s no “super” anything… he’s simply one of one-hundred thousand… all with the same powers.
He continues running through his justification for the war declaration. It appears General Sam Lane and his spies were responsible for the death of Supergirl’s father, Zor-El. Zod’s own spies claimed to have uncovered Earth/Sam Lane’s own plans to declare war on New Krypton… before they were killed. It all feels very he said/he said… but whattayagonnado? Zod does wrap up his monologue by ensuring Superman that this isn’t just about New Krypton’s safety/sovereignty… it’s also personal. He hates the House of El, and is still looking for revenge. If he can destroy Kal-El’s adoptive home, and kill everyone he holds dear… well, that’s all the better.
Superman breaks free, swearing to stop Zod before he can initiate the plan. As Ursa and Non tackle our man again, Zod just laughs and goes all Ozymandias on us… ya can’t stop what’s already happened, Clark… everybody knows that.
Our back-up is framed around Lois Lane writing a story for the Daily Planet… nothing we haven’t seen before. This is pretty good stuff though… it serves to fill all of us Johnny-DC-come-latelies (and, read-this-stuff-so-long-agos,-we-can’t-remember-what-happeneds) in on the New Krypton clusterschmazz. Of course, we open with a page telling us about that fateful day a rocket was sent from Krypton with a “baby on board” placard. Seems we can’t go more than an issue and a half anymore without reading about that.
We jump ahead years later to Superman and Supergirl rescuing the Bottle City of Kandor from Brainiac. Upon enlarging it, they discovered 100,000 new Kryptonian brothers and sisters. Humans would invade the city (Which apparently wasn’t destroyed-to-dust upon enlargement like the first time this story happened) and Supergirl’s father Zor-El would be killed. This led to Zor-El’s wife Alura creating a new planet for the Kryptonians… a New Krypton, if you weeeeell.
For protection, these New Kryptonians would turn to… no, not Superman… General freaking Zod. Ya kinda get what you deserve sometimes, right? I don’t understand the logic of grabbing a fella you imprisoned… for e-ter-ni-ty… and asking him to protect you. Gotta figure there might be some sour grapes there, no? Anyhoo, this is where Superman decides to move to the new planet, and join its army.
While away from Earth, Superman made arrangements for his adoptive home to be protected. This crew includes, Kon-El, Mon-El (and, I just realized their names are only one letter apart!), Steel, Krypto, the Guardian, and Nightwing and Flamebird.
Lois next discusses Project 7734, which is a military black-ops organization focused on countering potential alien invasions. It is being run by her father, ol’ General Lane. She talks about some of the operatives, which includes some 1st Issue Special love in Atlas… also, Lois’ own sister Lucy Lane is now somehow a “Kryptonian killing machine” going by the name Superwoman. I don’t remember that at all.
She begins to wrap up her article, discussing the death of her pal and co-worker, Jimmy Olsen! It appears he “got too close” while investigating Project 7734, and was found at the bottom of the harbor. If only that were true… because a few panels later (a still wet?) Jimmy arrives with all the information Lois was looking for. He claims that Natasha Irons rescued him and kept him out of sight (but not dry). Now, Lois can learn the whole truth about her father.
Man, whatever happened to DC Free Comic Book Day issues that meant a damn? All we get these days are garbage reprints with zero context aimed at people who only go to the comic shops one day a year… if they remember “which Saturday in May” they get free crap handed to them.
This is how ya do it! What a great way to kick off a story… a free issue front-loaded with prologue, and back-loaded with everything you might need to jump into the impending event. Both stories promise “to be continued… in four days”. If you wanna get readers (new, old, lapsed, whatever) interested and excited, this is the way to go. You don’t promise something “in thirty days” or “Summer 2017” or with a nebulous “Next”, you give them less than a week. You remind some of them that comic book shops are open more than one day a year… and you also catch shop regulars who may not necessarily be into Superman… but decide to give him a go after checking this out. It’s crazy, it’s almost as though DC thought this one out!
For the story itself… well, it’s called a prologue and that’s precisely what it is. We learn of our threat… and it ramps up to the point where it’s about to boil over. A great bit of storytelling that sets the stage for whats to come. I’m still no fan of Zod… I find him kind of a bore. I’m just thankful there were no requisite cutesy “Kneel before…”s in here.
The backup was really well done, even if framing a story with “writer writing about something” is a bit tropey. I suppose things become that way for a reason. This worked well for me, as a lapsed reader… who, if I’m being honest, walked away from the Superman books early/mid-New Krypton… so a bunch of this was new to me.
The art throughout the issue was another high point. Another really good use of the platform (and opportunity) that Free Comic Book Day can (and should) be. I hope I’m not coming across too angry (or old-manny) sounding here, I just feel pretty strongly about using things like FCBD as ways to promote comics and comic shops… not whatever movie might be coming out. Contemporary “throwaway” offerings, like an issue of Suicide Squad without context or a half-decade old (and no longer in continuity) issue of Action Comics are part of why I sometimes refer to the event as “Pretend you care about Comics Day”.
Overall, if I were to have read this during that weekend in May, 2010… I’d be totally psyched to check out the War of the Supermen and the entire New Krypton schmazz. Having read it in 2017… I only wish I had the time to! If you’re interested in checking this one out, you’ve got no excuse not to… it’s available digitally FOR FREE!