The second part of the “Krypton Returns” arc gets the story rolling in “Superboy” #25 by Scott Lobdell and Ed Benes, splintered into three separate albeit related plot threads featuring not only Superboy, but Supergirl and the Man of Steel himself. Unlike the somewhat more cohesive introduction in “Action Comics Annual” #2, this chapter is a far more fractured effort, spanning three different time periods and even featuring one of the three-super family in two different incarnations.
With three credited scripters, who happen to be the current writers of these characters’ own titles, it’s pretty apparent that each was simply turned loose on their own parts of the storyline without much in the way of coordination. Lobdell ensures that the central plot which spawned these three different subplots is at least mentioned early on, reminding readers that there is a plan somewhere amongst all this, but it does little to keep this comic from reading like a disjointed mess.
It’s a nice-looking disjointed mess, at least, as rendered by Benes who has always capably handled whichever Super-title he’s supported, and he does an admirable job giving these all three parts of the storyline a nicely consistent look and masking the disconnect somewhat.
A little bit of Monday morning quarterbacking makes it all too easy to realize that this story might have gone down better had each character’s exploits unfolded within the pages of their own titles, rather than in this mash-up fashion. Presumably the editorial intent was to cross-promote characters in titles other than their own, as is often the case in crossovers such as this one, but anyone trying “Superboy” for the first time certainly won’t be sold on the title by the merits of this issue. It’s not really aiming for any fans outside of the Superman universe, anyway; anyone familiar with the New 52 incarnations of these characters, or even those who know a thing or two about the overall super-mythos, probably will be able to figure things out if they pick this comic up cold. But Rao help those on the outside, who will find this chapter to be convoluted and nigh-incomprehensible.
Execution and accessibility aside, this issue disappoints because it doesn’t focus at all on the actual return of Superman’s home planet, nor its unexpected present-day condition, large-scale and important elements which would lend themselves to plenty of stories in their own right. Instead, it spends its time on all of the various efforts to stop the events that altered Krypton’s history, never once stopping to consider that perhaps there might be a way to fix Krypton’s problems and save the planet, rather than assure its destruction; actions that — logically — all three characters would be far more willing to undertake than the somewhat questionable ones they do. The initial chapter just barely sold the idea to readers, but this one makes them rethink it.
“Superboy” #25 looks good, but is continuously at odds with itself, working up a sweat trying to make sense of a story that has cut itself into pieces, reaching out to readers half-heartedly and then offering nothing to keep them, and then ignoring a potentially interesting side of the story to instead deliver a far more complex and contrived one. If this is what happens when Krypton returns, it’s better off going away again.