I’ve been critical of David Curiel’s coloring on this book before. His use of white highlights, especially on skin tones, rarely looks good, and his pastel palette doesn’t give the characters the weight they need. His coloring on Atlas, over the summer, made the character look less like a Jack Kirby demigod and more like a silly bodybuilder made from yarn. But I have to admit that his light and airy approach to coloring looks pretty good this month. His style hasn’t changed, but when James Robinson, Renato Guedes, and Jorge Correa give us the showdown at New Krypton, with dozens of theatrically-dressed characters zipping through the air, Curiel’s coloring fits much better. These Kryptonians look fragile, even though they’re insanely powerful, and that contrast works well for the story. Curiel’s gentle tones have finally found a suitable subject.
But enough about the coloring.
How about the story itself? How about James Robinson? Has he finally found his voice on “Superman” after a shaky start in 2008?
Well, the story is part nine of the “New Krypton” arc (which has been running through this title, “Action Comics” and “Supergirl”), so that should tell you something. This issue is basically useless on its own, and only makes any kind of sense, or has any kind of resonance, as part of that larger Super-crossover. But since “New Krypton” has been very good overall, it follows that this issue would gain from that association, and it does.
Many of the plot threads established elsewhere finally come together here, as the Guardian shows up to smack down some murderous Kryptonians, and members of the JLA and JSA let their concerns be known, with fists flying.
Sure, it’s mostly a big fight (or, more specifically, moments of anxiety followed by a few pages of punching), but there’s a grace to the combat, and it means something in the framework of the larger story. It’s the Earth heroes saying to the Kryptonians that they can’t just do whatever they want. It’s the Earth heroes drawing a line in the sand, and Superman and Supergirl are caught walking that line, unsure of which side to sand on.
And though there’s not a whole lot of dialogue in this issue, Robinson seems more comfortable with the characters now. He seems to have gotten into the groove, even if that groove is largely directed by what Geoff Johns has designed for the bigger picture.
Like “The Sinestro Corps War,” Geoff Johns has created a small crossover event in “New Krypton” that’s mostly told within a few similarly-themed titles. It lacks some of the grandeur of “Sinestro Corps,” but it’s no less effective as a story structure. “New Krypton” may end by changing the status quo of the DC Universe, or the Kryptonians may just end up back inside a glorified mason jar, but no matter how it ends, a good Superman Family story is being told along the way. And it’s been a while since we’ve had one of those.