It's Sad, But the Krypto Thing Is Seriously My Favorite Part
Superman's tragic launch from his dying homeworld gets retold in this issue of Action Comics, and for once, it is actually a worthy retelling that dares to tweak the classic story in substantial ways without losing its important core aspects. This series continues to be one of the very few DC titles to hold true to the promises of the New 52, giving our familiar star framed in more modern ways.
Superman's origin is one that gets retold all of the time with varying degrees of success. In fact, it feels like Geoff Johns and Gary Frank just finished doing their own version. Every time, we usually ask ourselves if it is really necessary to go over his origin again, and the answer is usually no. But in this case, Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert are fortunate in that this time it is actually necessary. We have a new continuity and a new Superman. That makes for a rare worthwhile opportunity to retell this story, and the pair do their best to make the most of it.
One of the traps writers sometimes fall into when going into this territory is that impulse to try to keep everything the same because it's all so classic, ignoring the whole point of retelling it. Now, Morrison does make some efforts to keep as much as possible from some of the more popular versions of Superman's origin, such as blending both the sun-powered explanation of his abilities with the higher gravity of Krypton explanation. This is fine, because he doesn't let it get in the way of retelling the story in some important ways.
The most important change that Morrison makes is to the benefit of Jor-El and Lara. Kal-El's one-baby rocket launch off into space is no longer an alarming example of really bad parenting. Instead, Morrison goes to the trouble of crafting a good reason for Superman's parents doing something so insanely reckless. It is no longer a premeditated act of child endangerment. It now makes sense that Jor-El did not construct a vessel that could save his whole family or at least his wife along with his son.
Krypto fans also have reason to be pleased with this retelling, because it gives the hound a worthy new origin as well. And no, he is thankfully not dead. But that is all that I will spoil about it.
A back-up feature by Sholly Fisch and ChrisCross that focuses on Jonathan and Martha Kent pre-Clark serves as an excellent counterbalance to the story of Krypton's destruction. It was a really clever decision on DC's part to pair together both sides of the story leading up to Clark's arrival on Earth, especially since the story of the Kents is one that would so often be overlooked in favor of the much more dramatic story of an alien world exploding.
Despite being one of the better versions of Superman's escape from Krypton, it's not perfect. This issue does suffer from one of Morrison's weaknesses as a writer. Ideas are his thing, but dialogue sometimes isn't. The story leans heavily on this tendency Morrison has where it seems like he believes if you just have exposition said an overly dramatic way then it disguises the fact that it's exposition. It does not. It not only remains clunky expository dialogue but dialogue that feels like it is being spoken by really bad actors.
An extension of this problem is the sometimes-narrator of the story, Superman's ship. Honestly, the story probably would have been better without this voice in it. Most of what it does is hammer you over the head with overdramatic nonsense to the point it starts to sound like a bad voiceover in an old scifi B-movie. It does have moments where it has interesting things to say, but these are buried in a lot of unneeded proclamations trying to amp up the drama of moments that could manage it on their own just fine.
Fortunately, the weaknesses of the dialogue barely put a dent in this well done retelling of how the infant Kal-El ended up with the Kents on Earth. Morrison and Kubert mingle together just the right amount of old and new, crafting a rare version of Superman's origin that actually feels like it is worth the pages it was printed on and the time it took to read.