While Grant Morrison has been doing his thing over in Action Comics, the Man of Steel's other title has suffered from not really knowing what Morrison is doing. That's a problem, because Superman is supposed to be telling us about the modern-day iteration of the Man of Tomorrow, but without nailing down the past that Morrison's in charge of, creators have been a bit hamstrung. So we're told by George Perez, former writer on the book. That, and a bunch of editorial interference from on high within Warner Bros. seems to have set Superman adrift,
DC's is now hoping the answer to that is putting writer Scott Lobdell at the helm, hoping he can right the ship and steer it back into steadier waters. Lobdell has been writing Teen Titans and Red Hood and the Outlaws and, as you can clearly glean from those titles as well as Lobdell's presence at convention panels, he is not going to get caught up in trying to match what Morrison sets up. In fact, Lobdell doesn't even try to match his own established canon, as evidenced by having to go back and erase some of his dialogue from Teen Titans #1 in the trade collection. All bets are off.
So, in Superman #0, Lobdell starts by revisiting the oft-told tale of Jor-El, his wife Lara, and the discovery that the beloved planet Krypton is about to be destroyed. It unfolds mostly as we've seen – Jor-El learns Krypton is doomed, the higher-ups on the Science Council try to smother that discovery, and he learns that Lara is pregnant with the boy we know will become Kal-El.
This is a story that's been retold so many times that it's impossible to say what's been done and what hasn't, but from my perspective, here's what's different about it. For one, Lara is a physician and a kung-fu martial arts butt-kicker, as evidenced by what happens when jerks, led by Jor's college girlfriend Arana, break into their home and try to hold her hostage. Secondly, Krypton is apparently not dying by natural means, but rather the machinations of the mysterious Eradicator and his jerk-filled "doomsday cult," thus introducing two concepts from Ye Olden Deathe of Supermanne arc from the beforetimes, the long long ago. It seems their goal is setting the universe right by "cosmicide," the end of everything, although it also seems they are champions of the cause of entropy, so maybe all they're doing is trying to cover up the natural demise of Krypton until they're sure it's too late. Thirdly, and perhaps most surprisingly, the entire story is being observed and narrated by Kal-El himself, who appears at the end of the book, perched atop a Kryptonian building, observing his own parents. Obviously, some sort of time travel is afoot… or perhaps this is a clone, or some Fortress of Solitude shenanigan, or something or nothing or whatever. Who knows where Lobdell is going with this?
Lastly, a giant red bug-man emeges from the primal depths of Krypton, blows a big funky horn, and dies. The narration (not Kal-El this time) refers to him as a herald who has just served his master – a master known as "Oracle." This is the thing that's likely to prick up the ears of Bat-fans. While the continuity errors in the New 52, particularly the Bat-family, are well documented, but through reading Batgirl and others, it's seeming highly unlikely that Barbara Gordon was ever Oracle, as we remember from the aforementioned beforetimes. So will that name be completely repurposed for some Kryptonian god, or is there some old character from Superman lore being brought back, or is Lobdell just careening about recklessly in whatever direction catches his fancy? We'll see.
The art from Kenneth Rocafort is interesting, with an odd unfinished and sketchy quality to it. There is no credited inker on the book (Rocafort is credited simply with "art"), and any shadows at all are extremely light. Heck, most of the lines seem really lightly placed. That might be intentional, as Krypton is usually considered a very bright and shiny world of the future. The end result is a look that sometimes works very well, and other times comes off as a bit rushed, and that's quite possibly what happened, given the merry-go-round of creators assigned to this book.
Superman #0 raises questions that may or may not be answered anytime soon. Lobdell has indicated that he's got a very in-depth plan for what he wants to do with this title, but there's no telling how much editorial influence may be exerted on him to change that. It's The Man of Steel, and there's a movie bearing that name coming out next year and all. I'm curious enough to check back in for the next issue, but I can't say that's not without reservation. How's that for a triple negative?