Comic Book Review: Action Comics #874: New Krypton

Action Comics #874 paves the way for the new direction of this title in the wake of Superman’s departure. It should be interesting to see how reader’s react to Superman’s exit. For the most part, I have enjoyed the New Krypton story so I expect that Robinson will deliver another dependable read with Action Comics #874. Let’s go ahead and hit this review.

Creative Team
Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Pablo Raimondi and Renato Guedes
Inks: Pablo Raimondi, Walden Wong and Jose Wilson Magalhaes

Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Superman being overwhelmed by numerous members of the Kryptonian military guild. Superman rants and screams that they are all crazy to have freed Zod and made him their General. The military men subdue Superman and hold him down to the ground. Zod approaches Superman and points out that while on Earth Kal-El might be Superman, that here on New Krypton he is no different than any of the other Kryptonians. That Superman is nothing special at all.

Superman asks what Zod wants with him now that Zod has captured him. Zod replies that he wants nothing from Kal-El. While Zod might have wanted to kill Superman back on Earth that things are different now and Zod is also different. Zod says that he has his people back. And he has his army to lead.

Allura arrives on the scene and tells Superman that Zod speaks the truth. Superman tells Allura that Zod is up to something. Zod answers that he truly is not up to anything. Allura points out that Zod was placed in the Phantom Zone for attacking the Kryptonian High Council. Zod says that the High Council ignored Jor-El’s warnings about Krypton exploding. That if the High Council had listened to Jor-El then they could have built space arks and even more Kryptonians would be alive today.

Allura points out that if Zod had won his attack on the High Council that Zod would be viewed as a hero and not the terrorist that Superman views Zod. Allura continues that Zod and his patriots have served their time in the Phantom Zone and that their sentence has been served. Zod and his followers have been pardoned. Allura says that Zod is an innocent citizen that Superman has just attacked. Allura asks who the wrongdoer is now.

Superman exclaims that Zod tried to enslave Earth. Allura points out that that was on Earth and that was then. Also, that Earth is where Zor-El was murdered. Ursa then states that it is Kal-El who should be investigated. That Kal-El just appeared now, but that Brainiac’s ship disappeared yesterday. Ursa says that possibly Kal-El stole the ship. Superman responds that he had no idea that Brainiac’s ship was stolen.

Allura says that she believes Kal-El because he is honest to the point of weakness. Superman says that he does not feel wanted on New Krypton. Superman asks about Kara. Allura says she is fine. Superman asks about Chris. Zod responds that his son, Lor-Zod is no longer Kal-El’s concern.

Allura tells Kal-El that he is welcome on New Krypton. That everyone here acknowledges that they owe their freedom to Kal-El. Allura asks Kal-El to say that he is Kryptonian first and foremost and to renounce Earth and everyone on it. Allura asks Kal-El to reclaim his birthright and be one with his people. Superman responds that he needs to think about this.

Allura says goodbye and that she hopes to see Kal-El again. Zod adds that believe it or not he feels the same way as Allura. Superman flies off. Allura asks Zod if Kal-El will return. Zod says that it is uncertain. That Earth’s charms hold sway over Kal-El. Ursa then says that they need to focus on who took Brainiac’s ship and where it is located.

We then cut to the military base where General Lane and Lex are located. They both are standing in front of Brainiac’s ship. Lane says that he will enjoy unwrapping the secrets of Brainiac’s ship along with Lex.

We slide over to the Daily Planet. We see Jimmy doodling the number “7734” on a sheet of paper and lost deep in thought. Lombard walks over and jokes that Jimmy is daydreaming and slacking. Lombard asks if Jimmy is trying to come up with numbers that spell words when put into an upside down calculator.

Jimmy responds that he is busy working on a story and has no idea what Lombard is talking about. Lombard points out that “7734” spells “hell” on an upside down calculator. Jimmy gets a surprised look on his face.

We shift to Lois and Clark’s penthouse. Clark is standing by himself on the balcony. Lois approaches him and asks how he is doing. Clark responds that he needs to be alone to think about everything that is going on. Clark says that he needs solitude. Clark picks up Lois and they fly off into the sky.

We cut to a news report at the Daily Planet stating that the United Nations passed a resolution banning all Kryptonians, except for Superman, from Earth. We zip to Coast City and see Nightwing and Flamebird watching the same news report. The two heroes state that this means that the clock is ticking.

We zip over to the Fortress of Solitude. Clark tells Lois how Krypton looked so perfect in all of the old images in the crystals at the Fortress. However, now that he has seen his people in real life, he realizes that they have the same flaws and weaknesses as the people on Earth. Superman says that the Kryptonians need him. Clark says that he knows that Zod is planning something.

Suddenly, Clark hears someone crying for help. Superman races over to the room where he has the Phantom Zone Projector and the window to the Zone where he can see Mon-El. Mon-El tells Superman that a void is spreading and swallowing up the Phantom Zone.

Mon-El asks Superman to pull him into Earth. Superman says that Mon-El will die from the lead in the air. Mon-El counters that he will die for sure in the Phantom Zone as the void swallows it up. Mon-El says that he would rather die with Clark. Mon-El says that he does not want to die as a phantom.

Superman reaches through the portal and pulls Mon-El out of the Phantom Zone. Mon-El thanks Clark. Mon-El slumps to the ground. Superman holds Mon-El. Mon-El says that he can now die as a man.

We get an Origins and Omens back-up story with Scar reading the Book of Black. In the pages of the Book of Black is the story of the Guardian. Scar states how the Guardian is a brave man, but that he is afraid. We see the Guardian hiding his fear over if he is doing the right thing or not from his men on the Science Police force. Guardian leads the Science Police officers into battle against a giant teddy bear created by the Toyman that is rampaging through Metropolis.

We see the Guardian fearlessly taking down the giant teddy bear. We get a little back-story on the Guardian about how he is the clone of Jim Harper. That he was created by Cadmus. That the Guardian rescued a young female clone of Jim Harper and is raising her as his own daughter.

We cut back to Scar reading the Book of Black. Scar states that the Guardian fears that being a clone makes him less of a man. That the Guardian fears for the safety of his “daughter.” Scar says that in these times to come that the Guardian will know anger, courage and grief. We see a panel shot of the Guardian holding his either unconscious or dead daughter.

Scar says “So it is written. And so it will be.” Scar closes the Book of Black. End of issue.

The Good: Action Comics #874 was a good read. Robinson does not deliver much in the way of action in this issue. Instead, Robinson dishes out an enjoyable character driven story. This issue begins to set the stage for the new direction for both Action Comics and Superman. Even though there is little action in this issue, Robinson grabs the reader’s attention at the start and never lets go until the end. And that is a credit to Robinson’s well crafted dialogue and good character work.

The dialogue had a nice natural flow. The characters are all nicely fleshed out. Robinson treats the reader to a version of General Zod that is far more intriguing than what Johns has ever given us. Gone is the over the top, handlebar moustache twirling and egomaniacal villain. Instead, Robinson gives us a man who has regained his people and in turn also regained his position in life as Krypton’s General.

And this change in Zod’s personality is quite logical. Zod is a proud man who loves his people and derived dignity and honor from his position as General. Losing both of those and then being imprisoned in the Phantom Zone for decades is enough to make any man completely consumed by bitterness and rage. It was nice to see how Robinson was able to take the events of New Krytpon and show how they would impact and change Zod’s character.

Robinson also does a great job handling Allura’s character. This was the first issue that I actually found her to be an interesting character. Her sudden over the top and villainous heel turn never really worked for me. Instead, the more calm and rational Allura that we get in this issue makes more sense.

To be sure, Robinson makes it clear that Allura has no love or care for Earth and its people. But, that is fine. Allura is Kryptonian who has no connection or relationship with Earth. There is no reason why Allura would look to Earth and Earthlings and care at all about them. Robinson tempers Allura’s disregard for Earth by emphasizing how she loves her people and desires to have Kryptonians live in peace and to prosper on their new planet.

Robinson wisely has Allura readily admit the fact that Kal-El saved each and every Kandorian. And that they all understand that and are grateful for that fact. Robinson shows that while Allura and Kal-El may disagree about matters concerning Earth, that she still loves him and that everything she does is with the best interests of her people in mind.

The scene on New Krypton was by far and away my favorite scene in this issue. This thorny situation that Superman finds himself placed is fascinating. There is plenty of substance in this plotline for the reader to digest. Robinson does his best to make the difficult decision before Superman one that is not black and white, but instead nothing but shades of grey. And, in turn, Robinson makes it difficult for the reader to decide which side makes the most sense.

Honestly, after this issue I will admit that I have a hard time viewing Zod as a villain. In Earth’s history, one country’s hero is quite often another country’s villain. And it makes perfect sense that this would remain true when dealing with not just two different countries, but when dealing with two different planets and two different species. Zod seems at peace with his dignity restored, his position as General restored and his beloved people returned to him and blessed with a new planet in which they can rebuild their culture and society.

Robinson smartly points out the fact that Zod, Ursa and Non have more than served their time in the Phantom Zone for their crime of trying to overthrow the High Council. And that once people serve their sentence they have a right to rejoin society in a productive and useful manner. And on top of it all, Robinson reminds the reader that Zod supported Jor-El’s belief that Krypton was doomed and that if Zod had been successful in over throwing the High Council then perhaps more Kryptonians could have been saved.

I actually find myself siding more with Allura and Zod in this debate with Superman. The fact is that the Kryptonians do not owe the people of Earth anything. The Kryptonians do not have to love and embrace Earth. Nor do they have to integrate their society and culture with Earth like Superman has chosen to do.

The Kryptonians have the right to preserve their own people and way of life free from the interference and culture of the Earthlings. And it is not Superman’s position to tell them otherwise. It almost makes Superman seem arrogant with him stating that his way of embracing Earth is the only way for Kryptonians to live.

Then again, Superman’s desire to see everyone living together in peace and harmony is noble if not incredibly naïve. And it is always nice to think that this could happen. Superman’s side of the debate is certainly where ideally the reader would like to side. The internal debate that occurs inside of the reader while reading this scene shows how Robinson does such a good job presenting both sides of this debate in a fair manner.

Having said all of this, I know that in the end that Superman will probably be proved right that Zod and his followers cannot be trusted. And that Zod, Ursa and Non are evil and are up to no good. I will admit that Ursa still seems evil to me. She definitely gives me a bad feeling.

Robinson unveils the expected plot twist of Earth banning all Kryptonians except Superman. This xenophobic move will only make it tougher for the idealistic Superman to support his adoptive planet. Superman is certainly facing an extremely difficult decision.

Superman’s dream of having his home planet and people return to life has come true. But, the cost is he has to forsake his adopted planet and the people that he loves in order to be with his people on New Krypton. If Superman leaves to go live on New Krypton in order to keep an eye on Zod then I would imagine that might place a serious strain on his marriage with Lois. It shall be interesting to see how supportive Lois is in that situation.

I liked the short scene at the Fortress of Solitude between Superman and Lois. Robinson does a great job with the inevitable feelings of disappointment that Superman would experience with the return of Krypton. Superman had built up this perfect image of Krypton in his mind. It is much like how a fan will often build up their idol into this image of a perfect person. And then once they meet that idol, often the fan becomes disappointed as they realize that their idol is just like every other person with the same problems and defects.

Superman is having to reconcile this perfect image of Krypton that he fashioned for himself while growing up with the reality that Kryptonians are just like any other being. That Kryptonians have the same problems and foibles that everyone else has.

Robinson performs a little plot progression on Jimmy’s plotline concerning the story that he has been working on. We learned in Adventure Comics Special #1 that “7734” was the number assigned to the U.S. military project designed to kill Superman. And that outside of that number, the project had no codename. We now learn that “7734” stands for “hell.” I am looking forward to having a little more time and effort devoted to Jimmy’s plotline and this mysterious military project.

Robinson ends Action Comics #874 with a quality hook ending. We see that some mysterious void is destroying the Phantom Zone. And we have Mon-El out of the Phantom Zone and dying of lead poisoning. Since I love the Legion of Super Heroes, I am looking forward to Mon-El getting some more panel time in Superman’s absence from Action Comics and Superman.

Robinson also does a solid job using Action Comics #874 to cue the reader into the new directions of both Action Comics and Superman. We are told that Nightwing and Flamebird are now racing against the clock in some mysterious mission and that we can follow them in Action Comics.

We then get the back-up Origins and Omens back-up story which informs the reader that we can follow the Guardian’s adventures in Superman. Luckily, I am intrigued by Nightwing and Flamebird and I have always liked the Guardian so I won’t be too upset that Superman will be taking a little holiday from both titles.

The back-up story was nothing amazing and it certainly was not inserted in this issue for readers who picked up Adventure Comics Special #1 starring the Guardian. This back-up issue basically condenses Adventure Comics Special #1 and gives readers unfamiliar with the Guardian a nice distilled and condenses history of the Guardian. This enables readers to get all the pertinent information about the Guardian that they will need in order to properly follow the Guardian’s adventures over in Superman.

Guedes turned in some serviceable artwork. Guedes is a bit hot and cold with me because he is not as consistent as I would like. Some panels look great while others are rather ordinary.

The Bad:I like Pablo Raimondi’s artwork depending on the title he is working on. His style worked for me over on X-Factor. However, Raimondi’s style of art does not work for me here on Action Comics #874 at all. And, maybe I am going crazy, but Raimondi must be photo-tracing. Zod clearly looks like Ian Mcshane, in particular in his role as Al Swearengen in Deadwood.

Overall: Action Comics #874 was a solid read that sets the stage for the exit of Superman from this title. While I have my issues with DC pulling Superman off of Action Comics, I have to say that I am intrigued by what they have in store for us. Action Comics #874 is a great jumping on point if you have decided to follow this story of what happens in Metropolis while Superman is gone.

4 thoughts on “Comic Book Review: Action Comics #874: New Krypton

  1. This is particularly interesting after Lo3W just made it clear that Mon-El does still spend 1,000 years in the Phantom Zone. Maybe the Zone is shifting “dimensional vibrations” or something rather than being destroyed. Or maybe this is a clue that Mon-El in Lo3W is not from this universe?

    If the Zone is being destroyed…is it wrong that I hope Chris Kent is still inside? (I know. He’s new Nightwing, isn’t he? Feh.)

  2. I would agree with you about the recharacterization of Zod, except for the fact that it appears to be clearly foreshadowing the idea that he’s just using the people of Krypton for his own evil purposes. If that happens, all nuance and intrigue is tossed out the window because at the end of the day, he’s still just a black-and-white bad guy.

    Re: the Ian McShane likeness, I thought the same thing. I’m going to start thinking of Zod as Frank from Hot Rod.

  3. Since it now looks like Conner is coming back as Conner, I’d be okay with Chris as New Nightwing. Not that I’d buy his book, of course.

    Who else should it be?

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