DC Comics starts off the new “Krypton Returns” storyline in “Action Comics Annual” #2 by Scott Lobdell, Kenneth Rocafort, and Dan Jurgens, which oddly is scheduled to continue into every other Superman title except this one. While this is the same kind of puzzling and frustrating scheduling DC imposed on the recent “World of Krypton” back-up feature that also crisscrossed between annuals and monthlies, that’s about the worst that can be said for this decently-entertaining introduction.
The storyline builds off of other Superman stories like September’s Villains Month issue featuring H’el and the recent “H’el on Earth” crossover. Lobdell smartly elects to make this story more accessible by allowing those others to remain optional, though, and jumps straight into this one, taking the readers with him and explaining past events as necessary. There’s no prologue or buildup here; Lobdell makes the most of the page count he’s given, quickly bringing the Super “family” together to investigate the strange and destructive occurrences in space caused by the seeming return of the long-dead Krypton. The brevity of the sequence might seem a little jarring to anyone not reading the other Super-comics that led up to the events of this one, but it’s not really a concern, as it has no impact on anything in the story going forward.
The triumvirate of Superman, Supergirl, and Superboy encounter a large, bald, observant, and all-knowing alien being who breaks his vow of silence to describe the nature of the disturbances in space, which sets up the story nicely. It also sets up an opportunity for Rocafort and Jurgens to provide a very alien-looking and eye-catching portrayal of Krypton, although it’s one surprisingly altered from the Krypton these characters thought they knew, or at least knew of. Both the skyline and nearby Kryptonian moon are strikingly detailed, and from this point on the story is set amidst these beautifully unfamiliar environments. Lobdell doles out a good deal more exposition than action that gets a bit convoluted, but it all puts forth an interesting notion that makes the reason for Krypton’s changes all the more fascinating.
Late in the story, Lobdell somewhat foreshadows each character’s role and involvement in future chapters, not giving anything away as much giving readers an idea, intentionally or otherwise, as to whether they might want to stick around for the remaining installments. Yeah, it’s kind of wordy, but Lobdell reaches out to readers, informing them not only of what’s come before but also what’s yet to come, and in doing so keeps them engaged for the entirety of the issue with a story that otherwise might have come across as a little too complex.
Lobdell’s story gets points for its accessibility as much as its originality, has an interesting twist, and is visually attractive. “Action Comics Annual” #2 does well for its attention to the fundamentals, and makes a story that could have readily been dismissed a lot better, making for a decent introduction to the next Superman event.