Current Reviews


Adventure Comics #8 (#511)

Posted: Saturday, March 6, 2010
By: Thom Young

DC Comics
"Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton Prologue Part One: The Future is Prologue" by Sterling Gates, writer, and Travis Moore, penciler.

"Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton Prologue Part Two: The Future is Now" by James Robinson, writer, and Julian López, penciler.

"Awake" Part 1 of 3 by Eric Trautman, writer, and Pier Gallo, illustrator.

I guess DC has a new "Superman Crossover Event" coming out that is titled "Last Stand of New Krypton." I haven't been following the Superman titles and I have been trying to stay away from crossover events that require readers to purchase issues of various titles that they might otherwise not buy.

I enjoyed Grant Morrison's Final Crisis a great deal, but the only "crossover" title that I enjoyed was Morrison's own Superman Beyond. I purchased most of the other "Final Crisis Crossovers" (though not the "Aftermaths"), but they really didn't add anything to Morrison's story. The two issues of Superman Beyond as well as Batman #682-83 (oddly enough) were the only issues that actually tied into Morrison's story. Not surprisingly, they were all written by Morrison.

Anyway, since then, I've mostly kept away from crossover events--aside from reading three random issues of some "Blackest Night" tie-ins that I was slightly curious about. Thus, when I saw on the cover of Adventure Comics #8 (#511) that the issue is connected to some event called "Last Stand of New Krypton," I was worried that I might not like it as much as I've enjoyed (more or less) the previous seven issues of this re-booted series.

Unfortunately, I had every right to worry. This issue has three features in it (not three stories, but three "features"), and two of them little more than preludes for Last Stand of New Krypton #1. The third feature is also connected to that crossover event, but it appears that it might stand on its own more. I'll discuss it later but first I want to focus on the two "prelude" features.

The issue starts out with a Legion of Superheroes feature that I initially found to be interesting. Instead of opening in the early 31st century (such as A.D. 3010), it begins in the late 30th century (perhaps A.D. 2990 or so--keeping in mind that when the Legion concept first began in the late 1950s this story would have opened about A.D. 2950 or so).

Young Brainiac Five (about aged 10) is bullied at his Coluan school and then confronts his father (Brainiac Four) about the decision to use the name of their villainous ancestor. It was an interesting glimpse of the life of the young Brainiac Five before he joined the Legion, and it continued DC's revamping of their continuity toward an approximation of what DC continuity was during the Silver Age (such as Clark Kent having been Superboy and associated with the Legion when he was a teenager, et cetera).

I had not read any work by Sterling Gates before this issue, and it seemed to be fairly well written. I was pleased . . . until I got to the fifth page of the feature. By that point we had jumped ahead 20 years from the opening three pages as the adult Brainiac Five and five of his Legion teammates attempted to deal with a rift in the fabric of spacetime near Earthgov Science Outpost Delta 2 (a space station somewhere in the Milky Way Galaxy).

Hey! What's a DC crossover event without a rift in the fabric of spacetime, right?

Anyway, after analyzing his data about the rift, Brainiac Five discovered:
That rift was the size of a pinpoint two hours ago. . . . If my calculations are correct--and they're always correct--if the rift's growth goes unchecked, it will destroy the outpost in the next six minutes. . . .
It sounds dire, doesn't it? I was still enjoying the story up to this point, but then Gates made an unfortunate error in the next panel--which promptly took me out of the story:
. . . then go on to swallow the universe in a matter of days.
What? Swallow the universe? In a matter of days?

It's clear that Gates has no idea at all what the cosmos is actually like.

According to the Big Bang Theory, the universe began expanding about 14 billion years ago. If that expansion was uniform (and it probably wasn't, but let's just say it was for the sake of simplicity) and if the expansion occurred at just under the speed of light (let's say 99.9% of light speed), then it would mean that the universe is currently almost 28 billion lightyears in diameter.

A universe that is 28 billion lightyears in diameter means that it would take 28 billion years for light to travel from one edge of the universe to the opposite edge. Of course, by the time the light had traveled those 28 billion lightyears, the universe would have expanded by almost another 28 billion lightyears, which would mean the universe would then be 56 billion lightyears in diameter and the light would have only traveled the radius of the universe rather than its diameter.

The notion of light ever traveling from one edge of the universe to the opposite edge is akin to Zeno's paradox of the race between Achilles and the tortoise--only in this case the tortoise has a 28 billion lightyear headstart and isn't traveling at one-tenth the speed that Achilles is traveling; he's traveling at 9.9-tenths the speed that Achilles (the light) is traveling. It's safe to say that light would never be able to reach the other side of the universe.

That paradox being the actual case, do you see how ridiculous Brainiac Five's statement is about the entire universe being swallowed by the rift "in a matter of days"? I thought Brainiac Five was supposed to be the smartest being in DC's 31st century.

Unfortunately, the reality is that Brainiac Five can actually only be as intelligent as the writer who is writing the story in which the character appears. In this case, Sterling Gates clearly needs to brush up on his astrophysics.

But wait! There's more!

Brainy eventually determines that the rift is "a chronal tear" (a rift in the fabric of spacetime, but with the emphasis being on "time" and not just "space"). However, on page nine, Brainy also tells us (or Cosmic Boy, actually) that the Time Institute has informed him that "rifts like this have appeared across the universe"--not "across the galaxy" (which would be more believable given that the Legion uses Einstein-Rosen Bridges to travel and communicate instantaneously within the Milky Way) but "across the universe.

While it is somewhat farfetched to have instantaneous repots from across the galaxy, the idea of using artificial Einstein-Rosen Bridges (or "star gates") to gather galaxy-wide information is within the realm of possibility. However, it is not within the realm of possibility to use that type of technology to gather information from a roughly spherical-shaped universe that has a volume of nearly 11. 5 trillion cubic lightyears and that contains (according to current estimates) about 100 billion galaxies!

Of course, Geoff Johns would have us believe that 7,200 Green Lanterns could patrol those 100 billion galaxies within 11.5 trillion cubic lightyears of space, and I understand that Gates's writing assignments at DC have been related to Johns's writing assignments on the Superman titles, so I guess Gates learned his cosmology from Johns.

Aside from these astronomically stupid errors by Brainiac Five (or Sterling Gates), the first feature wasn't too bad. The plot seemed to involve the type of threat that the Legion has effectively faced in the past--such as Jim Shooter's Sun-Eater that first challenged the Legion in Adventure Comics #352 in late 1966 (or late 2966, as it were). I was looking forward to seeing how the plot would be resolved--while doing my best to ignore the errors in cosmology, of course.

Unfortunately, the last page of the first feature informed me that I could follow this story into Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton #1. However, I don't want to follow this story into another series. I want to follow this story in this series.

Fortunately, the final page also told me that I should "be here next month as Brainiac 5 tries to go pack to the past to save the future." I only hope that the next installment will make sense if I didn't follow the story into Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton #1.

A similar problem occurs in the second feature of this issue--written by James Robinson, who used to be one of my favorite comic book writers back when he was doing his Starman series, but whose work has not impressed me since he returned to comics a year or two ago. My primary complaint about his recent work is stilted dialog, and we see a bit of that problem in this feature as well--though not to an extent that kept me from mostly enjoying this Conner "Superboy" Kent feature.

The plot here involves Element Lad from the Legion of Superheroes revealing his presence to Conner Kent because of an impending crisis--which is connected, of course, to the Last Stand of New Krypton event. Early on in this series Geoff Johns had been showing various members of the Legion Espionage Squad in the early 21st century for some purpose that would eventually be revealed--and now that purpose has been exposed!

The Legion Espionage Squad was sent back through time by Brainiac Five to aid the 21st century heroes against the first Brainiac's scheme, which seems to involve rifts in the fabric of spacetime in the 31st century--just one of which will be able to consume a universe of 11.5 trillion cubic lightyears in "a matter of days" (and there are actually several of these rifts scattered throughout those 11.5 trillion cubic lightyears, which means we're really down to "a matter of minutes" by my calculations).

Of course, Robinson isn't responsible for the errors in Gates's plot (though the entire Last Stand of New Krypton event has undoubtedly been jointly plotted by all the writers and editors involved, so Robinson is somewhat responsible in that regard). However, if the threat to the 31st century is only occurring "now" (relatively speaking, obviously), and if Brainy only just discovered that the rifts are associated with an event that transpired in the early 21st century, then how did he know to send the Espionage Squad back more than a year ago (a few years ago if we consider Thom "Star Boy" Kallor's arrival back in 2007).

Still, for the most part, this second feature is interesting--with just some slightly awkward dialog on the feature's eighth and ninth pages. First there was a somewhat odd exchange between Chameleon Boy and Star Boy that was undoubtedly meant to show the familial camaraderie of the Legion but that didn't strike the right chord with me. Then there was the stereotypical superhero hyperbole uttered by Conner and Mon-El while they flex their biceps and make fists to show their eagerness for action:
Conner: All right. Fix the present, save the future. Got that, too. So let's book.

Mon-El: I'm with Conner, when do we start?
This feature also seems to require readers to be familiar with recent events that have transpired in other series. For instance, it's indicated that Element Lad must have asked Conner to bring Mon-El to the meeting of the Espionage Squad because after revealing that Conner's chemistry teacher, Mr. Tucker, is actually Element Lad the next panel shows Conner and Mon-El flying over a street in Metropolis along with an editor's footnote that tells us, "To see how Superboy recruited Mon-El, check out last week's Superman #697."

However, I don't know if I really need to check out last week's Superman #697. I imagine that Conner recruited Mon-El by flying up to him and saying something like, "Hey, a guy named Element Lad from the 31st century asked me to bring you to a meeting of the Legion of Superheroes in Smallville. Will you come?"

I then imagine Mon-El said something like, "Yeah, let's book!" or "You bet, when do we start!"--while flexing his biceps and making a fist to show his eagerness for action, of course.

Overall, this second feature was mildly interesting--though I really had hoped for a much more intriguing reason for the Espionage Squad to be working undercover in the 21st century than that Brainiac Five wanted them to watch Conner and Mon-El for a couple of years. I was fascinated by Johns story in which Tellus was living in a swamp outside of Smallville and terrorizing people as a "swamp monster." Are we really to believe Tellus was playing the part of a terrifying swamp monster as part of his cover story to spy on Conner Kent?

Anyway, in a conclusion that is even less pleasing than the conclusion of the first feature, this second feature ends with, "To Be Continued in Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton #1." There isn't even the promise of being able to come back next issue to follow this story further. Apparently, if I want to know more about the plot in this second feature, I have no choice but to follow it over to Last Stand of New Krypton--which I'm even more certain that I won't be doing since I really have a negative reaction to that type of coercion in crossover events.

The only feature in this issue is the third, which is a feature that is normally not found in Adventure Comics. Instead of this feature involving either Conner Kent or the Legion (as all of the previous seven issues of the re-booted series have), the final feature is a story about a Kandorian named Car-Vex (which, unfortunately sounds like the name of both a popular lip balm and the largest used car retailer in the United States).

The plot in this first installment (written by Eric Trautman) involves Car-Vex attempting to infiltrate General Lane's special forces unit (that's Superman's father-in-law, in case you didn't know). Car-Vex has assumed the Earthling identity of a police officer named Romundi, and she has brought General Lane information about a Kandorian living in the woods outside Toronto, Canada.

It's a well-written feature that I enjoyed a great deal. As with the Conner Kent feature, the editor inserted a footnote to inform the readers that aspects of this feature's plot are continuations of events that were revealed in earlier issues of other comic book series--in this case, Action Comics #885 and Superman #696. However, everything I needed to know was actually contained in this feature. I don't have any reason to seek out those two earlier issues from other series.

Trautman provided good exposition without resorting to clunky dialog. In fact, all of the dialog in this issue was well-written. Finally, the best part of this third feature is that it doesn't end by telling the readers that they have to pick up Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton #1. Instead, it simply ends by telling us that this feature is "Awake" Part 1 of 3.

I assume I will be able to read parts two and three in Adventure Comics #9 and 10 (or #512 and 513, using the numbering of the original Adventure Comics series). Unfortunately, I'm not certain that I want to spend eight dollars for the next two issues to read parts two and three of a feature that will probably only be given 10 pages per installment. In effect, I would be spending about 40 cents per page for the feature that I am interested in reading, and I don't actually want to support the features that indicate that I need to read Last Stand of New Krypton if I want to follow the plots that began in this issue.

Obviously, though, Trautman's feature with Car-Vex is also related to the Last Stand of New Krypton event--so I might not be able to fully grasp what is going on in this story unless Trautman remains aware of how to provide non-awkward exposition so that his readers can enjoy his tale without having to read other comic books.

The "collector" in me that was interested in buying every issue of a series that I've been reading is mostly dead, and I'm not certain there's enough of him left in me to buy Adventure Comics #9 next month. However, if you want to read what seems to be a well-written peripheral story to Last Stand of New Krypton, then I can recommend Eric Trautman's "Awake" feature in this issue.

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