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.
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