Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Zods and Zodesses

I don't care what they say: I'm enjoying the Richard Donner/Geoff Johns "General Zod" storyline in Action Comics.

Or, as I like to call it, Attack of the Phantom Space Bagel Brigade.

As longtime readers may remember, I'm no fan of Richard Donner's Superman films or the Zod mythos. So I have zero prejudice in favor of the current Action storyline; if anything, I'm prejudiced against it.

Riddle me this:
How do you get out of being imprisoned in a Phantom Space Bagel?

Remove the lox.

But I like it nonetheless. For one thing, the art is beautiful. Adam Kubert's backgrounds, structural details and sense of layout arrests my attention, and I'm not usually moved to comment on the art in comics.

Second, I'm enjoying the pacing, which seems a clip faster than what passes as plot progression nowadays. For my taste, too many comic books today read like time-lapse photography done by court sketch-artists.

Third, the story is entertainingly silveresque. "Lost relative" of Superman shows up on Earth, causing secret identity shenanigans? Hoaxes planned by string-pulling Phantom Zone criminals? Byzantine plan to take over the earth for no particular reason? Odds are even some colored kryptonite turns up before the story's over.

Still, it's got some surprises (to me): Zod and the Zodites have been given a more complex and layered background. Sure, some of its a stretch, but anything involving Krypton is a stretch, folks. And just when I was saying, "Oh, okay, here's where Superman is temporarily defeated by the three bad guys, and then will come back later and trick them into the Phantom Zone," something rather astonishingly and frighteningly different happens. Love that.

One thing, though, does leave me puzzled, which is the Kryptonian sense of design. Structures based on crystal generation? Iris-patterned prisoners? For people supposedly so divorced from nature and the environment, their design sense seems to be rooted firmly in natural phenomena as opposed to abstract geometrics... . Do you think they have the Athramites do all their decorating?


jon said...

Did you happen to read the Action Comics Annual that came out last month? That has all the multi colored Kryptonite you can shake a stick at, plus the overall feel of a Silver Age 80 pg. giant. I don't want to spoil it, but it sets up what looks to be an amazingly fun year for Superman.

Tom Foss said...

I have to agree with you on this one, Scip. After the misstep with Bizarro, Johns and Donner have forced me to put my "I am So Sick of General Zod" post on an even longer hiatus, because this is the best he's ever been (barring perhaps the Donner cut of Superman II).

Also, welcome back.

Jake said...

I agree that I love the pacing of the storyline, my only problem (and it's not even a problem, more of a worry), is that with a few dozen Kryptonian criminals running around on Earth, you'd assume that basically every hero who's not busy will either have to fight them or come up with a very good excuse.

And then of course since they're fighting Kryptonians, there'd be a very high body count.

So I'm worried that either this storyline will be wrapped up insanely quickly, or else we'll have to pretend for awhile that Superman is the only superhero on the planet.

Shon Richards said...

For me this issue felt like Steve Gerber's Phantom Zone mini-series was making a cameo. I was tickled.

law dog said...

Glad to see you're back. As always, love your articles.

Julian said...

I agree. The Kubert art is jaw droppingly gorgeous, exactly as it should be with superhero comics.

And I think that we just recently witnessed Zod (Ursa and Non too) getting an intersting retcon in the pages of Action Annual #10.

totaltoyz said...

Riddle me this: What brand of shirts do Kryptonian generals wear?
Answer: "I, Zod!"

Tim O'Neil said...

I know it gets no love here, but I always loved Byrne's Krypton designs and was sorry to see them go.

kyle-latino said...

Now, I am a recovering Superman hater, so I haven't read the comic. So, could you tell me if they explained how it took Cal-el his entire childhood to get powers, yet the criminal-filled donut brigand all have powers right off the bat?

Chris Fung said...

I'm also enjoying this storyline. The delays between issues have been uber frustrating though. I truly enjoyed the last issue and the motivation for Zod and his flunkies was well done.

You're quite right this does have a very Silver Age feel to it but it's always good to see a simpler and faster paced story compared to the other books i've been reading. (BATMAN, DETECTIVE, SUPERMAN, B&TB)

As for Kubert's art in the last issue. I dunno, I kinda find it a little too cartoony at times. Some panels/pages look spectacular and others looked kinda rushed to me. Still it doesn't detract from the book. I'm also like you where I don't really notice or complain about the art. I think 80% of art in comics are adequate at the very least but it seems we only hear about the really great stuff or the really putrid stuff.

I'm very interested in seeing how this story concludes and unlike you I loved the Donner movies so I find his involvement very interesting. I just wonder HOW involved he's been.

Benari said...

I would argue that environmentally-based architecture is perfectly suited for a scientifically-minded civilization. A fusion of geology and geometry - it's a science council's fantasia!

David Lawson said...

For people supposedly so divorced from nature and the environment, their design sense seems to be rooted firmly in natural phenomena as opposed to abstract geometrics.

Speaking as an engineering major, I'm not surprised. Scientists and engineers have been going back to nature for design concepts as of late. The idea is that since natural 'design' has worked for billions of years there is no reason to invent something new which will only become obsolete in a matter of years.

So Krypton's advancement may not be divorcing from nature, but an improvement on it.

Scipio said...

Actually, Tim, I agree with you about the Byrne version of Krypton.

Jon said...

"Colored Kryptonite" sounds ridiculously racist, like it should have its own water fountain, or something.

...I'm just sayin'.