Saturday, 3 October 2009

The World of Krypton #1


Writer: John Byrne
Breakdowns: Mike Mignola
Finishes: Rick Bryant
Letters: John Workman
Colours: Petra Scotese
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Artist: John Byrne, Walt Simonson
Cover Date: December 1987
Release Date: 01/09/1987

Over 100, 000 years ago…
Van-L and Vara, young Kryptonian lovers, go for a joyride out of the city. Vara flies too recklessly and crashes, suffering serious, life-threatening injuries. Van-L takes her to the hospital, where she makes a full recovery within an hour. While there he meets the overly macho Kan-Z, who is distraught at the news of a personal loss. Returning home, Van-L and his mother worry about Ran-L, Van-L's father, who is currently thought to be in the riot-torn city of Kandor. Ran-L has managed to escape the city before the violence started, and the family prepare for the evening's ceremonies.

At the event, Kryptonian society is gripped by discussions of clone rights. We discover that every Kryptonian has three clones kept in storage for use as spare parts. These clones are the cause of the disruption in Kandor, where the fight for clone rights has erupted into violence. Nyra, mother of Kan-Z, announces her son's forthcoming nuptials, but is confronted by an angry and drunken Kan-Z, who shoots her before committing suicide.

In the aftermath, Kan-Z is found to have murdered his fiancée as well. Investigating further, and sensing a link to the clone riots, Van-L and Ran-L enter the clone banks. There they discover that one of Nyra's clones is missing. The full story shocks Van-L and Ran-L: Nyra had removed her own clone, allowed it to develop its own personality, then engineered her clone's engagement to her son. Kan-Z discovered this and was sent into a murderous rage. Ran-L realises the consequences of this - if word escapes that clones can and have developed independently then Krypton will succumb to civil war.
The first of three mini-series published to explore the background of Superman (the other two minis are World of Smallville and World of Metropolis), and the first Superman work for future Hellboy creator Mike Mignola. Mignola’s style is rather muted, probably as a result of his breakdown credit (by issue #4 he would be credited as a penciller).
The story is rather dark, a pseudo-Oedipal tale where the tragic figure not only sleeps with (a clone of) his mother but kills her and himself, all the time being a supporting character. This is a book of reaction rather than action. Van-L is a rather passive figure, unable or unwilling to understand the great changes occurring around him until the very end.
Even though the events in this issue take place millennia before the destruction of Krypton, it is easy to see the seeds of the sterile Krypton as seen in Man of Steel #1. Many functions, including medical care, are taken by robots, and the reliance on cloning forshadows the birthing matrices and emotional isolation of most Kryptonians.
As well as leading up the death of the planet, this series introduces the clone issue that would lead, via the Cleric, to the construction of the Eradicator (as seen in Action Comiccs Annual #2), which in turn would lead to several attempts to resurrect both Krypton itself and Kryptonian society. Although this version of Krypton is no longer canon thanks to various revisions, the tale told is a strong background to Superman's homeworld.

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