“The Third Kryptonian” (conclusion)
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Rick Leonardi
Publisher: DC Comics
Kurt Busiek’s run on both Superman and Action Comics has been a bit strange since he took over the Man of Steel following Infinite Crisis. His major story arc “Camelot Falls” has dragged on for nearly a year and a half, his “Third Kryptonian” storyline following suit. In terms of scheduling, Busiek’s run has been a bit of an oddball. I’m not saying I am not enjoying his run, quite the contrary; the fill-in issues done usually by Busiek or Fabian Nicieza are quite strong and have been rather satisfying. However, one does easily notice how spread out “Camelot Falls” has been and, in turn, notices how quickly the third Kryptonian has come and gone. A storyline that seemed so heavily hyped should have been drawn out for at least two or three more issues. While I felt the idea behind the “Third Kryptonian” story as strong, it really seemed bogged down in order to fit into three issues.
Three issues are definitely not enough for this story. The idea is great and Busiek had a well developed back story for Kristen Wells. Not only did it offer insight into the history of Krypton, but it also provided a look into the life of the new Superwoman. I refer to Kristen as Superwoman because her name, Kristen Wells, is a reference to the pre-Crisis Superwoman. I really felt that the first two issues of this series were executed rather well. The first issue explored the dynamic of Superman’s relationship with his adopted son and also set the stage to finding Kristen. The second issue went into depth about Kristen’s past and how she survived the destruction of Krypton. The second issue also explored the antagonist, alien slayer Amalak, a bit more and left enough mystery to make the character somewhat intriguing. However, the second issue seemed to drop the whole Superman / adopted son dynamic. In fact, the dynamic isn’t even present in this issue. While it’s not crucial to the story, it’s just odd how that whole dynamic is just dropped.
The two biggest problems with the final issue of an otherwise well thought out idea are the heavy compression to squeeze the final chapter of this story in, and the over-exposition to the point of cliché. “Bing, Bang, Boom.” That’s probably the easiest way for me to describe this story-arc. It started and it ended. To Busiek and Leonardi’s credit they wrapped the whole thing up in about five weeks, that’s impressive. However, I felt like there could have been more between Kristen and Superman. I mean, she tells him her life story; they bond not only as Kryptonians, but as adopted humans. I understand Kristen has been on Earth for many years, but I think it would have been nice for Superman to show Kristen his life as well. Busiek also could have used that opportunity to re-establish Superman’s supporting cast and daily life. Sure it’s been done over and over, but it hasn’t really been done post-Infinite Crisis.
Either way, this issue picks up where the last one left off. Amalak has found Kristen and Superman, it is soon revealed that the once glorious Kryptonian Empire conquered Amalak’s homeworld. So he’s got a vendetta. Cue the typical Superman vs. vengeful alien slayer with “Kryptonian-killer” weapons slugfest and you’ve pretty much figured out what takes place in this issue. Not only does this story feel compressed and a bit rushed, but the action and fight taking place seems to fall into the Superman cliché category. The narration is also a bit much. We are dealing with a visual medium, the artist draws all of Amalak’s weapons and we get the idea that they are designed to kill Kryptonians. Nevertheless, Busiek proceeds to narrate the action as it takes place. He describes the weapons, basically describes everything we can see to the point that it slows this story down a little bit. I suppose that’s not a terrible thing seeing as how I feel this story’s ending was rushed but either way it’s still telling instead of showing.
So what about Superwoman? While Superman, Supergirl, Krypto and Power Girl battle Amalak and his hordes she runs to her secret hideouts to fetch a device that allows her to fetch her spaceship which is orbiting Earth. I feel like the ship would have been better having been hid underwater. How did Luthor never find the spaceship? I know, I know this is a new story we are dealing with and it was hidden inside an asteroid, but come on, Lex would be all over that, but he would never look underwater.
There are three major plot points of this issue that I really did enjoy. The first was the return to Superman’s South American fortress of solitude. That fortress did not have a long life, it was damaged during a battle with Blackrock, but after that fight it was never really mentioned again. I love that Busiek makes reference to and even utilizes that fortress. Excellent use of pre-Infinite Crisis storylines, good play Mr. Busiek.
The two other things I really enjoyed were the subplot involving Kandor and Batman in the Kryptonian battlesuit. The whole Kandor angle opens up new story possibilities. Kandor has become a very interesting place, especially since Joe Kelly’s “Godfall” story-arc. Kandor seems to vanish in this issue and I’m intrigued to see what happens. I also love Batman in the battlesuit. I completely buy it because Bats is one of the only people Superman whole-heartedly trusts.
Rick Leonardi’s artwork did not appeal to me as it did last issue. It was starting to appeal to me in the previous issue but this issue it doesn’t at all. The artwork looks rushed, it feels rushed, and given the compressed story taking place here, it only adds to that feeling. Some of the action isn’t bad and the first half of the issue looks decent but as a whole it definitely feels a bit rushed.
Overall, the idea behind this story definitely gets five silver bullets. The execution however leaves much to be desired. I really wish this story-arc had been stretched out a bit longer. The ending also does not feel satisfying as it just leaves everything wide open for future visitation. I would, however, be very interested to see a mini-series focused on the space adventures of Kristen Wells; perhaps she possesses the willpower to possess a certain green ring. This story ended much too quickly and could have benefited from being drawn out at least two more issues.
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