Tom Taylor continues to expand this alternate universe while delivering a slow burn with the second volume's plot. Truth be told, it's a pretty nice contrast to the pacing of the first volume. Year One was hit after hit, never giving us too much time to breathe before another epic moment or shocker struck us. Don't get me wrong, I'm obviously more than vocal about my love for Year One, but it's nice to see Taylor take his time as he moves all of the pieces into place instead of simply repeating the first volume's formula. This way, the upcoming conflict feels more earned and the consequences it'll have will hopefully come off as more impactful.
This chapter is able to concisely tackle bigger issues while also adding a nice little twist to the role the Guardians have played in Kal-El's history. It's pretty much a no-nonsense argument that gets straight to the point and does what needs to be done to keep the narrative moving forward. To top it off, a really good laugh is added at the perfect time. Even when this book has a foreboding tone and is full of bleakness, Taylor manages to toss in a little bit of levity when it's truly needed.
Unlike the other chapters, this one is divided by two of the series' regular artists: Bruno Redondo and Mike S. Miller. The first half of the issue jumps back to Krypton and gives Miller and colorist Rex Lokus a chance to show off. The splash pages are gorgeous and completely absorbing; you can fully appreciate the cold and vast beauty of space. A particularly powerful moment from Man of Steel is executed very well, too. The second half doesn't have nearly as much spectacle but it still looks good. Redondo's character work remains solid, but what helps it standout is the way quite a few of the panels are framed. More than a couple of them have a focal point that helps to sell the tension and allows you to fully comprehend just how aggravated the characters really are. Lokus and inker Julien Hugonnard-Bert also play a critical role in boosting the level of intensity in this half of the book. Be it vivid or foreboding, they're able to match the tone just fine.
I understand why the series jumps back to Superman's brief time on Krypton, but when the issues are already so short, I would have preferred to have that time spent on other matters. It certainly looks gorgeous and keeps the memory of what happened fresh in our heads so we can better relate to Superman later in the issue, but it's still an incredibly familiar scene and doesn't really add anything new to this fantastic alternate universe. Sure, the new twist is hinted at in the flashback, but the core of the reveal is saved until later on. For me, the discovery would have been just as effective without the flashback. Without it, it would have been really neat to potentially have that additional space dedicated to the conversation with Ganthet. Or, that extra space could have been used to give the final character a little more time.
Minor gripe: this issue flies by because there's four splash pages and numerous pages only have two panels. It's hardly that big of a deal since we're talking about chapters that are only $0.99 each, but I was a bit surprised when I reached the end so soon.
Not really a "bad" thing but worth adding: John Stewart may be on the cover but he isn't actually in the issue. Just wanted to give Stewart fans a heads up.
I have a feeling a number of you won't be as enthusiastic as I am about this one (especially based on the community's response to the last installment), but I think Taylor's doing a great job delivering a huge amount of buildup. It's a concise, well-written and visually satisfying issue which assures the book will take a more explosive turn sooner rather than later. The tension continues to grow and there's no doubt it'll make you anxious to see what stems from this development. Now comes the tough part: waiting two more weeks for the next chapter.