Well, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting a huge amount from this, because I’m not at all keen on this year-long “world without Superman” concept. Compromising the Superman titles for a full year so that you can tell a story about the character trying to carve out a temporary life on the planet newly-created by his fellow Krypton survivors just feels like a recipe for disaster, for a number of reasons : if you buy Superman or Action Comics, you can reasonably expect to find stories about Superman, not about Mon-El (who admittedly I quite like) and “Nightwing and Flamebird”, whoever the hell they turn out to be; it’s already been done, back in 1993; and we’re already going through six months of Batman books without Batman in them at exactly the same time. I don’t hugely object to the premise, I think it’s a pretty interesting idea for a year-long story (although I can’t see it being sustainable long-term – the more Kryptonians you have kicking around, the less relevant Superman and his origin become) – but I can’t see why they didn’t just run it in the main title for a year, and show the effects of his absence after he returned.
Still, a miniseries it is, and upon opening it – once you get past the incredibly clunky title and logo; it’s certainly not a book that jumps off the stands as an “event” – it becomes apparent that that’s the best way to take it. Ignore its place in an increasingly boring Superman mythos and instead just take it as the first chapter of a completely standalone story. And on those terms, it’s really rather good. Robinson has so far failed to dazzle, save for sporadic moments, on his run on the main title; but this feels like the idea that he was always building towards. With Rucka onboard as well, things feel a little tighter and more focused – and the pair complement each other to the extent that the odd instance of Robinson’s voice aside (noticeable thanks to my many re-reads of Starman) it feels like the work of a unit rather than two people writing different bits.
In establishing the new world in which the series is to inhabit, the issue does a fairly good job – while the Guild idea, as a source of conflict, is a little heavy-handed, it does at least allow for an explanation for the various modes of Kryptonian dress shown in various continuities over the years, and that’s demonstrative of a nice sense of attention to detail. The series certainly doesn’t want for antagonists, meanwhile – Alura quickly becoming one of the most annoying characters in the DCU, while there’s an intriguing and overdue repositioning of General Zod’s role, even if it’s a little too reminiscent of the way Lex Luthor was reimagined in the ’80s – but you just wonder whether it’s going to struggle for sympathetic supporting characters. Twelve issues is a long time if Superman’s alone among a bunch of irritating, smug Kryptonians, and it’s hard to know whether the (deliberately?) Jimmy Olsen-esque Tyr-Van only exists to make a point in this one issue, or is likely to be around for longer.
On the art side, I’ve liked Pete Woods on the Super-books ever since he turned in some stonking work on the One Year Later arc a few years back. He’s never really hit those heights against since, but his work here is more solid than his other recent franchise appearances. It’s a little loose to begin with, but he settles into his stride by the closing pages, and it’s confident work overall, with a colouring job that immediately gives the setting a defined and distinct feel.
Despite having been initially excited by Robinson’s arrival onto the books, I was unsure about whether to stick with them for this year-long story. I’ll still give the first Man of Steel-less issues of the main series a try, of course – but Superman : World of New Krypton has thankfully done a solid job of setting itself out as a genuine substitute. I still disagree with the publishing setup, but a good story is a good story – and this one looks pretty decent to start with.