At SpringCon, I happened to pick up Superman #668-670 in a cheapo bin. A storyline entitled “The Third Kryptonian” written by Kurt Busiek, it’s probably one of the more fun Superman stories that I’ve read in a while.
I should explain: I had bought some Superman comics prior to 1986, but from John Byrne’s reboot onward I was pretty hard-core. I bought every issue, and a lot of them I absolutely loved. In the early 1990s, following Superman’s death and rebirth, the books started really dragging. I didn’t mind Superman’s long hair…but it is definitely the hallmark of the era when the Superman books started sucking in a major way. The comics had become one big soap opera, and when Lori Lemaris turned up alive I said Sayonara. (It may seem a petty thing, but I’ve always loved the post-Crisis retelling of the Lori Lemaris love story and the stirring ending of the tale being turned into a whalesong as a memorial to Lori. All that gets ruined if she just turns up alive.)
Aside from buying the Wedding issue, I hadn’t gotten a Superman comic book since 1995 until Eddie Berganza took over as editor. The whole storyline where Superman forgets to take off his wedding ring intrigued me, so I bought some issues from 2000-2001, but left again when Lex Luthor became President. (I always hated the idea because it didn’t make any sense. As Dwayne McDuffie elegantly put it in the animated series version, “Do you have any idea how much power I [Lex Luthor] would have to give up to become President?”
On top of all that, you have the whole B13 Technology storyline that makes no sense (why would flying cars only be a Metropolis thing?), and then the “Return to Krypton” and “Birthright” stories that polluted the post-Crisis history of Krypton/Superman beyond my ability to keep straight. “Smallville” takes off on TV, and suddenly Pa Kent looks like John Schneider and Superboy is having sex with Wonder Girl in a barn that looks like the one in the TV show, and then for no reason all of a sudden Kryptonian technology gets all crystalline just like the Christopher Reeve movies. Long story short…
What few Superman comics I’ve bought in the last decade either confused me, failed to entertain me or downright ticked me off.
So… “The Last Kryptonian”, from 2007. Here’s why I like this:
- Accessible. Despite being very out of recent developments, Busiek gets me up to speed on everything relevant (I had no clue Superman had a foster child, but it’s an awesome idea). This arc stands on its own.
- Busiek the fanboy. When Superman has to give his kid a watch with a device inside it, he uses a Zoo Crew wristwatch with Pig Iron on it. Batman even uses “Pig Iron” as the codephrase for the watch! There’s also a character with the cover identity of Kristin Wells, who Pre-Crisis was Superwoman.
- Serious without being universe-destroying serious. This time, the threat is just to Kryptonians, but it is a very serious threat. Batman gets called into action, and his use of a Kryptonian battle-suit and the Fortress of Solitude is…well… can I just say “awesome”? At the same time, we don’t see a whole lot of death just to show how bad the bad guys are.
- Heart-warming moments. The best part of the whole three-parter is when Batman and Robin meet Christopher Kent for the first time. Tim Drake hangs out with the boy and teaches him some gymnastics, while Superman and Batman commiserate about how each of them is suddenly a father of a foster son. Busiek got a smile out of me (and I re-read that part after I was done to savor it).
If only more current comic books were like this story!