Superman: Kryptonite Review

Within the first paragraph of the book’s introduction, writer Darwyn Cooke confesses that Superman is an extremely difficult character to write. The Man of Steel’s limitless power and clean cut personality has left him a bit out of touch with current comic book readers. Fans today want their heroes to be dark and gritty and the “big blue boyscout” has trouble fitting that mold. What seems to be the most popular attempt by writers to spark readership in Superman stories would be to introduce a new foe that’s far more powerful than that of the heroic protector of Metropolis. Darwyn Cooke wisely avoids that idea and instead decides to focus more on the “man” than on the “super” in his work Superman: Kryptonite.

Superman Kryptonite Volume 1

This graphic novel tells the tale of a young Superman struggling with his relationship with Lois Lane as well as his responsibilities as a super hero. But relationship problems soon become the least of our hero’s worries when the mysterious Jason Gallo, a known crime lord, opens a casino in downtown Metropolis. Gallo’s vast wealth and power has absolutely no interest whatsoever to Superman’s arch nemesis Lex Luthor. The single Gallo possession that does catch his eye is a rare radioactive mineral that appears to be harmful to the once believed indestructible Man of Steel. The story as a whole of Superman: Kryptonite seems pretty forgettable and, for the most part, I can’t really disagree with that. Whether it be a single shard or a massive bolder, Kryptonite is simply overused in Superman comics. At times, and Cooke uses it here, the glowing green rock can serve as a brilliant symbol of Superman’s inner vulnerability. Kryptonite is a small remnant of Superman’s destroyed home world of Krypton. The only pieces of this planet, the one place where he truly belongs, are now completely toxic to him. And it this is unique characterization of The Man of Tomorrow that makes Superman: Kryptonite well worth a read.

But this Superman is different from other incarnations found in pop culture. Unlike the classic Richard Donner Superman film of the late seventies, Kal-El was rocketed to Earth without any Kryptonian historical technology. Cooke’s Clark Kent has no knowledge of his alien heritage and the extent or purpose of his amazing powers. Without the guiding words of the seemingly omniscient Jor-El, Clark Kent is left more confused by his abilities than the citizens of Metropolis. This leaves a more human depiction of Superman who lacks confidence and constantly worries over his own mortality. This version of the character seems fresh and even more heroic. Clark dawns the red and blue costume not because he’s sent to earth as its protector but because he was raised believing that man should help one another to the best of their ability.

What hurts Superman: Kryptonite is the portrayal of Superman’s main squeeze, Lois Lane. By the time the story begins Lois and Superman have been dating for sometime now. But the demands of being a super hero is beginning to cut in on the young couples alone time, making Lois more and more irritable. This is a tired cliché of comic book stories and it presents a problem without a real solution. Lois Lane is a fascinating character and seeing her playing the role of “nagging girlfriend” is down right upsetting. There are moments where the reader sees Lois Lane as the brilliant journalist but those moments are buried between scenes where she’s just simply unlikable.

The artwork is provided by Eisner winning artist Tim Sale who’s retro style I generally love but here, it just feels constrained. His character designs, like in his previous work in Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Dark Victory, are fantastic for crazed maniacs where he’s completely free to warp facial features and exaggerate expressions but it seems a bit out of place for this science fiction comic. This left me thinking I would have favored this graphic novel more if Darwyn Cooke had both wrote and drawn this Superman story himself. Superman: Kryptonite is a strong introduction of the character for new readers interested in the last son of Krypton but long time Superman fans will find the book to be a big bag of “meh.”

 

Final Score: 6 out of 10

3 / 5 stars      

David McMillin

David McMillin

Film / Graphic Novel Reviewer David writes movie and graphic novel reviews at That's It Guys.