As you may have already heard, there’s a bit of controversy and mystery circling around “Superman” #712. On incredibly short notice, the originally scheduled story (part of the “Grounded” storyline that began in #700 and will conclude in August) was pulled, with a different one appearing in its place. There’s all sorts of theories and suggestions on why the book was pulled. The only people who know for certain, of course, aren’t saying anything of substance.
Personally, I find it a little amusing that the replacement story for “Superman” #712 was another comic that was pulled from publication at the last minute, and which everyone assumed we would never see published. (So to Chris Roberson, J. Michael Straczynski, Eddy Barrows, and J.P. Mayer, hang in there! Your story might still see print in a couple of years.) There’s a strange sort of symmetry to the entire situation.
But more importantly, as for the issue itself? It’s a shame that it took this long to see print, because while some of its power has been blunted, it’s an excellent comic.
Kurt Busiek’s story was set during the period between “Infinite Crisis” and “Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds,” when Superboy was dead. With court battles (which are still ongoing) threatening the permanent removal of Superboy from DC Comics, it was a death that felt a little more potentially permanent. And so, with Superboy gone, Busiek shows us from the perspective of his faithful dog Krypto just what it’s like for a pet to mourn the loss of an owner.
The book shifts between Krypto’s memories of Superboy, and the (then) present day as Krypto tries to figure out where his beloved master has gone. There are so many strong moments here, from Krypto eagerly looking up every time something flies by (from a bird to a plane, a clever touch), to Krypto seeking out his favorite toy that he would use to play with Superboy. Krypto might be smarter than the average dog, but alien species or not, he’s still a dog and Busiek brings across that confusion and sadness every time Superboy fails to appear. As the story builds and it becomes more and more clear that (at least for the time being) Superboy wasn’t returning, and Krypto grows more frantic, it’s hard to keep from feeling bad for the poor dog.
Rick Leonardi and Jonathan Sibal are on the art for the issue, and their relaxed, expressive style is one that over the years I’ve grown to love and look forward to. They’re up to their usual form here; everything from Krypto’s hopeful waiting as he lies on the porch to his questioning looks as he scours the globe looks good and natural. I never thought I’d say, “The flying dog looks just like a flying dog should,” but darn it, it’s true. Perhaps most impressive is that while I will freely admit I remember little of the finer details of “Infinite Crisis” now, the scenes set in there still make perfect sense thanks to how Leonardi and Sibal draw them. You don’t need to know the plans of the villains or such; instead the art focuses on the details that were important to Krypto, and how they relate to Superboy’s death.
It’s too bad this comic wasn’t published several years ago, when Superboy was still dead and it genuinely looked like he wasn’t coming back. It would’ve had an extra level of impact, and really hit home. That said? It’s to Busiek, Leonardi, and Sibal’s credit that even now it still works well. That final page is heartbreaking, and they did a great job. I’m glad that, on the eve of the relaunch, we finally got to see the comic. It was worth the wait.