Sunday, 21 February 2010

The World of Krypton #3

History Lesson

Story: John Byrne
Breakdowns: Mike Mignola
Finishes: Rick Bryant
Colors: Petra Scotese
Lettering: John Workman
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Artists: John Byrne, Walt Simonson
Cover Date: Febuary 1988
Release Date: 13/10/1987

A thousand centuries later...

Jor-El intently studies recordings of the final battle of the Clone Rights War. Two servo-bots, including the original Kelex, express their concern over Jor-El's pre-occupation with events of the past, and note that Jor-El posseses a great heart, unlike most Kryptonians. As Jor-El studies, visitors arrive at his building - his father Seyg-El, the Master of the Gestation Chambers, and Nara, grandmother of the young Lara who has been selected to become Jor-El's wife. Seyg-El berates his son for not greeting them, and Jor-El begs to be able to finish studying his recordings.

The recordings pick up just after the events of the previous issue. Van-L and the scarred lady to whom he gave his warning to have traveled across Krypton in battle-suits to the stronghold of Black Zero. The battlesuits easily penetrate the defences, and the two Kryptonians are surprised when the terrorists readily agree to take them to their leadership. Proceeding on foot, Van-L is confused when his companion alludes to having met him before, even though he is unable to recognise her.

As they enter the inner chamber of Black Zero, they are taken aback to discover a giant silver egg-shaped device suspended over a shaft that appears to lead to the core of Krypton. As they wonder over the engineering skills required to build such a device, they are greeted by the leader of Black Zero - Kem-L, who has lost his mind following his murder of his mother and her clone. 

At this point, Seyg-El's patience wears thin and he forces his son to come and meet their guests. As Jor-El leaves, the recording continues.

The silver egg houses a nuclear device that he plans to fire into the core of Krypton, destroying the planet. The scarred lady shows her mechanical arm to Kem-Z, showing him that Kryptonians have moved beyond cloning to maintain their bodies. Although this seems to pacify him, Kem-Z takes the opportunity to activate the device via a concealed control panel. Energy shoots out, injuring all in the chamber. Van-L is able to summon his battlesuit and enter it, using its weaponry to prematurely detonate the device, destroying it and the entirety of the Black Zero compund. 

In the aftermath of the explosion, Kryptonian troops led by Jan-L, son of Kem-L, find Kem-L's battlesuit. Although weak and unsteady, Kem-L leaves his suit and finds the broken body of his scarred companion. He promises to take her to a hospital, but she tells him that she can't be put back together this time. As she dies, he realises that she was Vara, his long-lost love. The recording ends as he cradles her body.

Back in the present, Jor-El is informed of the untimely death of another Kryptonian, which has created the space for a new child. He is introduced to Nara and told that he is to produce this new child with her granddaughter. Defying Kryptonian tradition, he asks to see the face of his mate, and upon seeing her proclaims her 'beautiful'.

This third chapter in the history of Krypton wraps up the 'clone wars' story whilst simultaneously bringing us closer to the destruction of Krypton and introducing us to Jor-El. The closure to Van-L's story is effective, if unspectacular. Of the two surprise reveals, one works and one doesn't. The revelation of Kem-Z as the leader of Black Zero is gently surprising, partly because he hadn't been seen firsthand in the series since he killed his mother, and partly because the story could have allowed for anyone to lead Black Zero. Vara's reveal is less effective, mainly because the mystery around her identity is basically a whodunnit with only suspect, the other 'eligible' character having been killed offscreen and revealed as a clone in the opening of this series.

With the introduction of Jor-El into the series, we are invited to make comparisons between him and his ancestor Van-L. However, this issue and the next make it hard for us to do so. We are told so much about Jor-El, either from Seyg-El, Kelex or, in the next issue, Clark Kent, but all we witness him do firsthand is watch some videos in a darkened room then fall in love with the first girl he sees. This doesn't exactly compare favourably with the leader of Krypton who risked his life to save his planet but lost his love in the process. We are told that Jor-El is something of a rebel, and un-Kryptonian, but we see so little of modern Krypton that we are unable to see this for ourselves. The changes to Kryptonian society in the wake of Infinite Crisis and that we see in the current New Krypton storylines make it even harder to see this difference - if anything, Jor-El is restrained and stoic compared to the inhabitants of New Krypton. It's also a shame that the climax to the issue is Jor-El's proclomation of Lara's beauty, without a reaction from the traditional Kryptonians.

As a side note, Seyg-El is far less testy and forgiving of his son that the semi-maniac seen in Starman #51, even though the two stories would appear to take place fairly closely, going by the fact that Jor-El describes himself as still a child.

Next time on World of Superman: We take a jump forward again, as Superman tells us all about the last days of Krypton.

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