DC makes its grand return to the Elseworlds imprint! Will Last Family of Krypton shine as brightly as past Elseworlds imprints such as Superman: Red Son? Or will it be a failed attempt to reclaim lost glory?
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Wed, August 4th, 2010
Returning to a character he's long been associated with, legendary writer Cary Bates explores a different side to Superman's legend in an Elseworlds tale that hinges on the fact that while baby Kal-el has rocketed to the distant planet Earth from his doomed homeworld of Krypton, he was not alone. How does a world handle the emergence of the Last Family of Krypton as Jor-El, Lara and Kal-El make Earth their adopted home?
The most important thing about Superman: The Last Family of Krypton #1 is not its plot, its art or its relation to the DC Continuity as a whole. It is the little penny-sized symbol located on the upper right hand corner of the cover. A little star surrounded by the word “Elseworlds”. For those of you unfamiliar with the meaning the world, Elseworlds is the name of the DC Imprint that published stories featuring DC characters out in unfamiliar situations and allowing the story to play out. What would happen if Superman’s rocket landed in Russia? What would happen if Batman lived in Victorian England? Some of these stories are the finest stories of the last twenty years and showcase the true character of the superheroes readers have come to love. Stories like Superman: Red Son, Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, and JLA: The Nail are easily some of the best that DC has to offer.
The Elseworlds imprint was scuttled in 2005 by Dan Didio, who believed that the quality of Elseworlds stories had gone down in quality and lost some of its luster. After five years, the Elseworlds imprint is back in the form of Superman: The Last Family of Krypton. Written by Cary Bates and illustrated by Renato Arlem, the story, while not shining as brightly as some of its Elseworlds predecessors, still manages to give the imprint a solid foundation for a possible return to glory.
The question posed in the story is a simple one. What if Kal-El had been accompanied by his parents to Earth? Bates answers the question straightforwardly. Jor-El and Lara become celebrities and heroes to the masses, Kal-El still manages to end up with the Kents, and Lex Luthor still manages to act like a prick. Bates chooses to focus on Jor-El and Lara’s relationship and the balance they attempt to reach between maintaining their Kryptonian lifestyles and adopting the lifestyle of their home. However, this leads to the main flaw in Superman: Last Family of Krypton, namely the lack of an external conflict. While the book makes for an interesting character study on Jor-El and Lara, there’s no hook to keep the reader interested. Kal-El and Luthor are both still children, Jor-El and Lara’s marriage, although suffering a minor rough spot, is still secure, and Jor-El’s apprehensions about mixing Earth’s culture with Kypton’s are allayed by the end of the issue. Bates relys solely on his strong character development to keep readers Also, Bates’ dialogue is a little stilted at times, although this could be an effort to help illustrate the difference between Jor-El and normal humans. Besides these two shortcomings, Bates delivers a strong first issue.
Renato Arlem’s art is a mixed bag. There are times where the art is strong and there are times where the pencils are weak. Arlem’s pencils is at its strongest when depicting Jor-El. He manages to portray Jor-El in a manner that mirrors many of the characteristics of Superman while remaining unique. Arlem’s pencils portray Jor-El as a character that carries himself different than Superman. While both carry the weight of worlds on their shoulders, Jor-El seems more stiff and rigid than how Superman is typically depicted. However, Arlem’s art falters when drawing children, especially Kal-El. Overall, Arlem does a serviceable job on the art, which neither adds nor takes away enjoyment from the book.
Superman: The Last Family of Krypton #1 is a good book despite its flaws. Bates’ strong character development is enough to draw the reader in and keep them invested in future issues. Hopefully, DC can use this miniseries to start the rebuilding of the Elseworlds imprint into something resembling its former glory.
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About the Author - Christian Hoffer
Christian Hoffer is the exasperated Abbott to the Outhouse's Costello. When he's not yelling at the Newsroom for upsetting readers or complaining to his wife about why the Internet is stupid, he sits in his dingy business office trying to find new ways to make the site earn money. Hoffer is also the only person in history stupid enough to moderate two comic book forums at once.
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