Written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner
Drawn by Adam Kubert
Published by DC Comics
This storyline ran through the title Action Comics back in 2006. It’s notable because it was co-written by Richard Donner. Yes, THE Richard Donner. The famous filmmaker who directed the original Superman film among many others. He and Geoff Johns had a history together as Johns was once one of Donner’s assistants. The premise of the story is that a spaceship crashlands in the middle of Metropolis and a young boy (no specific age is given but he appears to be somewhere between 5-10) is found inside. The government picks up the boy and takes him to a secret military installation to study him where the boy soon exhibits superhuman powers and is discovered to be Kryptonian. Not liking the idea of this boy being “raised” by the government Superman takes him away and convinces Lois that the two of them should adopt the boy and raise him as their own (Lois was skeptical at first, until Lex Luthor sent Bizarro to try to capture the boy). Luckily the boy is a quick-learner, they teach him English (he could already speak Kryptonese) and name him Christopher (an obvious homage to you know who) and have Bruce Wayne fake background papers for him, so they can pass him off as a human boy.
Okay, some spoilers are ahead.
It turns out that the boy is really the secret son of Kryptonian criminals General Zod and Ursa. Who had been trapped in the Phantom Zone along with their ally Non. I won’t say how, but Zod and Ursa found a way to procreate inside the Phantom Zone and then send their son out of it to Metropolis as part of a plan to escape themselves and come conquer Earth.
And for the record, let me just say, but have any comic-book writers or fans ever thought about how utterly cruel the Phantom Zone is? At least how it’s always been depicted in the comics. When you’re put in there, it’s just a vast colorless void, where you become an immaterial phantom, like a ghost, just floating around unable to feel or touch anything. No contact with the outside world, only able to talk to the other phantoms trapped there. No aging, no dying. And if you’re never let out you’re stuck for ETERNITY. It’s said in this book that Zod, Ursa, and Non were set to be executed for their crimes, but Jor-El (Superman’s bio dad) considered that “barbaric” and sent them to the Phantom Zone instead. But in my opinion that’s WAY worse than death. But I digress…
The Kryptonian criminals arrive on Earth, they battle Superman and manage to send him to the Phantom Zone, where he discovers how Christopher was conceived and how they got out. But when Superman gets out and returns to Metropolis, an undetermined amount of time has passed during which Zod and his cohorts have conquered Metropolis and set up a fortress where they’ve imprisoned most of the citizens (including Lois) and other superheroes. In order to stop them, Superman is forced to seek out and team up with the one free man left that he believes has the means to help: Lex Luthor!
Plus Metallo, The Parasite, and Bizarro.
That’s the end of the spoilers I’ll be giving. I don’t want to ruin the big ending, you’ll have to read it yourself to find out. And you should, because it’s a pretty good story. That’s not to say it’s perfect. First, in my opinion, the attempts to mimic the look of Donner’s Superman film feel a bit unnecessary and almost distracting. Superman’s Fortress of Solitude has the same ice-crystals the movie had, the image of Jor-El looks similar to the Marlon Brando version. There’s also a whole bit when Clark and Lois are deciding how to explain the adoption of Christopher, since the existence of the “Kryptonian boy” had already been announced to the press, and they decide to disguise him by having him wear glasses. It’s repeatedly pointed out what a flimsy disguise that is. Yes, of course it is. But that’s the basis of Superman/Clark Kent’s disguise for decades, so just go with it. Pointing it out in the comic itself just makes it harder to suspend disbelief, in my opinion. But despite those little complaints I enjoyed the story. It had the right amount of action and drama. The way Superman identified with Christopher and his paternal instinct to protect him felt natural. And the fights between Superman and the Kryptonians, as well as the Kryptonians vs. the military and other superheroes were brutal. And drawn by Adam Kubert, doing some of the best work of his career. It’s good stuff.
And while I got this collected edition for that man story, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that it also includes a 2nd story. This one is titled “BRAINIAC”. Written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Gary Frank, with inks by Jon Sibal, we learn in this story that every previous encounter that Superman has had with Brainiac since the John Byrne revamp were actually just various avatars of the real deal, whom Superman has never encountered before. The real Brainiac is more dangerous that Superman has ever imagined, having destroyed countless worlds, and now he’s coming to Earth.
No spoilers on this one, except to say that it’s the fight of Superman’s life, with the fate of the world at stake. What I love most about this one is the way Johns builds a sense of foreboding as Supergirl reveals Brainiac’s history and the sheer terror she feels when she learns he’s on it’s way. I wish Kurbert could have drawn this story too, but Gary Franks does a more than fine job on it. This story also gets:
Each story-arc is worth reading alone, but put together in this collection makes it a definite must-have for any Superman fan.