It’s time to look at yet another Superman comic! I have to say that I feel a little bad for the casual comic enthusiast who may be trying to keep up with the Superman trades. DC certainly didn’t make it easy as you have the Superman Action Comic volumes, Superman volumes, and then the unnumbered Superman volumes like this one and Doomed. It makes it kind of tricky for fans to know when they all take place. This one only has 1 actual Superman issue along with a .3 in there somewhere, a few zero issues, and then issues from the other members of the Super family. I guess you could say that this is actually Superman volume 4.5. We temporarily get a break from the Psy War plot, which is certainly a good thing!
Superman was just minding his own business when he bumps into Supergirl and Superboy in space. For reasons unknown to them, they have been summoned to that area! After a little wondering, a cosmic being appears and his herald lets the heroes know that H’el has begun his latest assault on the universe. If he succeeds, everything dies! Each hero is given a task to complete to save the timestream. Superboy must go to the past and make sure that Supergirl gets onto the rocket. Supergirl must defeat the clones in one of the battles of Krypton’s past. Finally, Superman needs to make sure that Krypton actually blows up since H’el wants to stop that! It’s a race against time, but the heroes are ready!
Unlike the first arc where H’el showed up, this is a very small event. It’s so small that technically, the heroes aren’t even on screen together for almost the entire adventure. I thought that was a bit of a cop-out as some more team fights would have been a lot of fun. Each comic is a stand alone adventure for the heroes like in the classic DC/Marvel comics of old, but there are some cutaways so they aren’t completely isolated.
Before the plot began though, we got to see the 0 issues for Superman, Superboy, Supergirl, and H’el. It’s interesting because I’d already read Superman’s and Supergirl’s in the past thanks to their respective collections, but Superboy and H’el’s were new. Origin stories are always intriguing. The Superboy one definitely had some interesting plot points that would probably come into play in his series. The main villain certainly has a cool design at any rate. It’s also neat how Superman’s actually foreshadowed an event that happened in this collection as he witnessed Krypton explode in person. It’s impressive since the issue came out way before this arc began.
H’el’s is a little tragic for the character even if he seriously overreacted. It turns out that everything he has ever known was basically fake so his life was a lie. Now, he doesn’t want to save Krypton so much as he just wants to rule it and destroy everyone who gets in his way. Any sense of heroism is gone now and only the villain remains. He looks a lot weaker than he was in hte original event, which is a good thing since the fights won’t be so lopsided now. He didn’t really get to fight anyone though so it’s hard to say if his true ability was really lowered or not, but that’s just how it goes.
Supergirl’s adventure was likely the most straight forward. As she was under a red sun, she needed to use her hand to hand moves to defeat the clones. She does know some close combat skills thanks to an old friend of hers so she manages to hold her own. After that, she has a quick rematch with H’el as he tries to fight the heroes across time and space. The issue was good although I wish that she had maintained her super abilities since a high speed fight with H’el would have been cool.
Superboy’s issue was surprisingly the best one as it easily had the most action. He got to fight the actual essence of Krypton when it wanted to explode. It turns out in a neat twist that all planets have a hidden life form that makes sure that the planet will die when it is supposed too. It’s one of those random things that will likely never be mentioned again, but this also gave Superboy a good opponent to fight so I am certainly fine with that. The design for the villain was cool and Superboy even got to get along with Supergirl for a change. Their rivalry is certainly very intense on Earth so their’s no shot of getting along there.
Still, they put aside their differences when necessary. I like all three of the Super characters and I assume that they can patch things up eventually. As for the Superman story, not much happened there for a while, but eventually he got to meet up with H’el and have a fight. Granted, H’el was super weakened from fighting Superboy and Supergirl while also having most of his body melt thanks to Superman’s father, but Superman still took a decisive victory in this match. It was a decent climax and while H’el’s end in the first arc was probably better for him as a character, at least this one cemented him as a villain.
As expected, the art is solid. The weakest issue in that regard would likely be Superman 0, but they’re all quite good and live up to DC’s strong reputation for having well drawn comics. The fight scenes are good and the character models stand out as usual. The art would have likely been even more impressive if the collection had only had some more action. Alas, it was simply not to be!
As for the writing, it’s certainly a step up over the last two Superman volumes. This time, Superman actually acts like his typical heroic self for the most part. Even at the very end of the comic where his father tries to destroy H’el, Superman quickly stops him. Destroying the guy simply isn’t right and Superman took a stand. That being said, Superman’s father actually managing to get into space and go across the timelines was a little iffy. I think that the comic went a little too far trying to show how much of a genius he was in that scene. It’s also very intriguing that he would create H’el in the first place as it seems a little out of character to do such morally dubious acts.
If there’s just one issue that I had with this event, it’s that it just felt like filler. I feel like DC only half heartedly brought H’el back and just used him as a time waster. As I explained earlier, it doesn’t feel like much of an event because of how isolated all of the heroes were. Some plot elements also feel random like Superman’s father arriving and Superboy fighting the essence of Krypton. As a result, the collection was also decently light on the action angle. I think that a few more issues for the event would have helped it out a lot. As it stands, half of the collection was made up of origin issues.
Overall, Krypton Returns is still a fun collection. It’s certainly a big step up from the last Superman volume that I read! The action scenes that we got here were much better than the Psy War’s and the writing has also improved. It’s always nice to see Supergirl and Superboy as well. Especially Superboy as I never see him anywhere else and he seems like a fairly good character in the New 52. I prefer this streamlined version to his Young Justice counterpart. H’el was not as impressive as last time, but that’s probably a good thing. Maybe he will return again someday and the cosmic being will have to call Superman to action. If so, I’ll be ready for that! I’m afraid that the Superman reviews will likely stop here for a while, but no worries. Soon I shall have a Marvel one up to counter this! If you’re a comic fan who likes some action, then I definitely recommend this trade paperback to you!