Friday, May 04, 2007

Last Son: Part Three (DC comics)
Action Comics #846 When: February 2007
Why: Geoff Johns & Richard Donner How: Adam Kubert

The story so far...
A long time ago on the planet Krypton, a brilliant scientist named Non served as mentor to a man named Jor-El. Together they made the grim discovery of the impending destruction of their own planet. A discovery that saw them chastized by their own leaders, and the two were commanded to cease further investigation.

Jor-El chose to use the knowledge to save his only son, Kal-El, by building a rocket ship that could travel to a planet far away and sustain him so that Krypton may continue through his blood.
Non, on the other hand, took his message of doom and attempted to inspire enlightened dissent in the Kryptonians.

Non was captured and his mind was irrevocably damaged as punishment for his disobedience. It was this act that finally inspired the militant Zod into action, and together with the brutish Non and another named Ursa, they rebelled.
Though Zod attempted to recruit Jor-El to their cause, it would ultimately be the scientist who would defeat him, imprisoning him in the Phantom Zone, recognising his motivations as greed, rather than nobility.

Decades later, Zod has been set free, and he is most displeased...

Previous Form:
Superman (#7): Superman has struggled against competitive competition.
General Zod: Zod has not yet been featured on the site.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Zod 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 6 (Sound Speed)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Superman 3 (Athlete)
Fighting Ability: Zod 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Draw 5 (Lasers)

I wonder how many people actually read this area. Some of it has to come down to the match-ups I've been going with lately, but is this not the most boring part of the blog? Hmmm... I suppose there are a lot of boring parts...

There isn't a great deal of an analysis that goes into a fight like Superman/Zod. These guys both experience similar benefits to being Kryptonian in our corner of the galaxy. They both have the super speed, the flight, the strength, the laser eyes, and all the other subtle variations on the powers we all know and love.

Not sure if Zod has any of those lesser known one-off Superman powers.
There's every possibility Zod could lay a French kiss on Superman, and make him forget who he is, and all that he can do. There's just no way of knowing that until it happens, right? Maybe keep your eyes on All-Star Superman for that one...

The broad physical strokes are obviously highly comparable, but as characters the basic points of their psychology tend to diverge. The temperament of the two characters are where we can expose the differences in their fighting potentials.

There's a simple truth to each character and the way they approach the world. Even in his many incarnations, Zod is a militant self-serving zealot of great arrogance. His concerns for others are minimal, painting a steady contrast to Superman.

Not to discount Superman's commitment to good, but the grungey determination a Zod shows is easily compounded by his total disregard for collateral casualties. Superman's soft-touch approach is generally more reactionary and distracted by other interests and commitments. While this might not be his final undoing, it certainly paints a picture of victory in battle for Zod, if not war.

The Math: Draw (Super Class)
The Pick: Zod

What went down...
Harboring a young, mysterious Kryptonian boy, (allegedly Zod and Ursa's son), Clark Kent and Lois Lane's tour through the Daily Planet is interrupted by chaos pretty standard for Metropolis. Even so, Jimmy Olson hits the alarm on his S-shaped watch as lasers blast through the impressive windows of the building.

As the high pitched beeping sounds out in a frequency inaudible to human ears; Clark Kent is already pulling his shirt apart and looking for a suitable exit from the quaking building. He is blissfully unaware of the coming ambush!

At super speed Non flies through the air with ease, using his boot to steer the disguised Superman through the skyscraper wall, out into the air. Their exit reveals a hole in the floor above -- Non's sneaky path!

The descent of the two Kryptonian's is barely interrupted by the multiple metropolitan skyscrapers that stand in their way. After shattering through at least four major buildings, they finally come to a craterous landing in the park.

Remarking on the destruction of his suit [which his mother bought for him], Superman unloads with a thunderous right. The dimwitted Non seems bemused, shifting around in his mouth before spitting a tooth out. With that he grabs Superman by the shoulders, lifts him up, and in one fluid motion drives him into the pavement walkway!

At this point Zod descends, making himself known, smugly divulging all he has discovered about the Earth-people's "Superman." He is surprised that Krypton's "last son" recognises him, but apparently Superman has studied long enough to know Kryptonian prison garb when he sees it, and connects the dots.
[Fortunately Superman is not as easily distracted or concerned with past continuity as some readers. Like me. Bad, bad, definitely bad... - Rain Mike]

Zod does not take kindly to the ease of the assessment.

While Ursa menaces Lois Lane for the Kryptonian child, Zod engages Superman in physical and verbal combat. Like so many villains before, he attempts to plead his case, making a valid claim to his role as a persecuted would-be savior of their home planet of Krypton. He leaves out the unpleasant bits.

With his true colours shining, Zod declares his dedication to the mission, and promises to do as Kal-El should have, and Jor-El would not. He promises to take possession of the Earth, and remake it in Krypton's image.

Grappling evenly with his counterpart, Superman humorously asks, "You and what army, General?", as though General Zod were just another silly super villain name.

As Lois is whisked into the air by Ursa, Superman gets his unfortunate answer.

An armada of peculiar shell-like pods hail down from the sky with streaking tails of blistering heat, presumably from the entry into Earth's atmosphere. They thunder down atop Metropolis, seemingly following a beacon eminating from the Daily Bugle. Superman breaks from Zod and does his best to protect the innocent citizens below, colliding with one of the pods at speed.

The coiled pod breaks apart, freeing the inhabitant -- someone also dressed in Kryptonian prison garb. Someone responsible for one of the greatest tragedies in Kryptonian history: the man who lost Kandor -- Jax-Ur.

Jax-Ur furiously propels himself into the intervening Superman.
They plow into the streets below, leaving a massive hole in the roads Superman was trying to protect.

As he pulls himself from the hole, he finds Zod hovering above with an army of Krypton prisoners flying around the destruction behind him.

Holding something glowing intensely, Zod declares, "I am here to do what your father could not. I am here to save our world. Farewell, Kal-El."
And with that, the world is obscured by light, and then... it shatters...

The hammer...
Despite a somewhat vague conclusion, I'm forced to kneel and give this to General Zod and his fellow Kryptonians.

There's an ironic comedy in referring to the character as General, given just how many distinctly different versions of the character there have been. Even the mugshot I've gone with, from the 2005 Brian Azzarello/Jim Lee story, differs dramatically from this particular take on the more youthful and fashion-chic Zod we have depicted here.

Presumably the lure of film and television writers has gotten so great that, like lengthy time delays enjoyed on projects like Wonder Woman, the requirements of cohesion are being tossed aside in favour of a name.

I should be forth coming, I'm not a big fan of the Donner films, so much so that I haven't even been enticed yet to see Superman Returns, which smelt like a Donner love-letter from day one. Even so, I can't deny that there isn't a quality to this story as a passing Superman adventure tale. Donner's concepts from the film are honed and tweaked here, presumably benefitting from the input of veteran Adam Kubert, and the scripting of Geoff Johns.

My real objection here is just inconsistency. There's an unfortunate tendency for a lot of new readers to readily jump on the illogical bandwagon that DC's universe is somehow impenetrable because their rebooting techniques have been better publicized. Which is silly, and dismissable, but when that attitude becomes justifiable fact, it can really grind on a fan.

I'm the kind of guy who likes the idea of moving forward. I prefer an approach of when mistakes are made, we live with them and move on. I don't like to have a seventh take on a character emerging two years after what was a pretty decent interpretation in an equally promoted storyline.
Particularly given than forty years after the fact, we're getting a story where Zod is apparently only just now making himself known and encountering Superman for the very first time.

It's just too much for on-going story. The best part of a century into the medium, we should also be much better than this. We should be able to live by the convictions of our characters and the reality in which they are defined, and live, and die by. This isn't an answer, Richard Donner, or not.

Superman is a character described by many as lost, broken, or unsalvagable.
I love to disagree with that. I love to believe in the power of this character, and his value to the medium, but even I can't argue against instability.

Intelligent change will take this character into the future, but unnecessary retreading is what has led most characters into their darkest hours, and tightest corners. And Geoff Johns surely has only so-much Hawkman in him.

The Fight: 3.5 The Issue: 3.5

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