“Krypton Returns” begins this week with the release of Action Comics Annual #2. The villainous H’El—from the “H’El on Earth” arc last spring—returns as his new, sinister plot is revealed.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen H’El, but his return brings a new threat to not only the House of El, but the omniverse, as a whole. H’El, the menace of the first Kryptonian tie-in issues of the New 52, was cast out in the mayhem that ensued after Kara stabbed him with Kryptonite. In his absence from Superman, H’El has been observing the history of Krypton. Through his studies, he’s able to see things in a new way and develop an understanding of jumping between universes. This has allowed H’El to restore the entire planet of Krypton, albeit in his own image. However, rather than revive Krypton’s legacy, he creates a shattered and distorted version of the once prominent planet.
Scott Lobdell finally explains the plot of “Krypton Returns” that most of the House of El books have been signaling to for months. It’s surprising that this arc will only be four issues long, as opposed to the fourteen included in “H’El on Earth” but the release of a larger annual format satisfies Lobdell in a way so the reader will understand where the story is heading without dragging it out too much. As a result, the issue begins in a very abrupt way; our heroes are thrown into what appears to be Krypton as they try to make sense of the chaos.
A quick start serves the story well because it allows for groundwork of “Krypton Returns” to be laid, as well as establishes the dangers and consequences of H’El’s actions. Although this issue is very dialogue-heavy, it appears that the remainder of the arc will be solely action based. Seeing Superman, Supergirl, and Superboy work together again is very gratifying. Most important, though, is seeing them all drawn once more by Kenneth Rocafort.
Rocafort is arguably one of the most creative artists in DC’s repertoire. His style is very different but it highlights the scenery in a way that simply cannot be matched. He has taken a respite from the Superman series for a few months and seeing him return in an Annual release is well worth the wait. Rocafort thrives when given a world to develop and he began doing this briefly in the Superman series when handling Krypton in flashback sequences. He uses these tools once again and creates breathtaking scenes across not only Krypton, but the reaches of space as well. Seeing his artwork again after what feels like millennia makes this issue worth picking up at your local comic book store.
Although this Annual should be highly regarded for its presentation as well as its story development, there are a few issues with the story. Superboy is simply too whiny. Lobdell has worked with Superboy before and although there are times where the adolescence of Superboy is prominent, it’s quelled for the most part. It feels as though Superboy is mishandled in this issue because he seems to have reverted back to his younger days at the beginning of the New 52. This is strange because Kara has grown leaps and bounds since the start of the New 52, and this fact is recognized during a very touching moment in this issue. Not giving Superboy his own moment of clarity and understanding makes him feel hollow and less part of the family that Lobdell is trying to convey.
This Annual reads very slow. Whether it’s the large script or the stunning artistic framework that causes the reader to slow down, this issue feels like it’s all too much. While this is understandable—as Lobdell enjoys beginning arcs using a very information heavy style—the fact that he employs this style for an Annual makes the overall experience longer than the reader will anticipate. It doesn’t detract from the story, as the plot is all very interesting, but be prepared to sit in that chair for a while as you go through the comic.
Despite its flaws, Action Comics Annual #2 is a strong start to “Krypton Returns”. Although it may be over faster than we would like it to be; only four issues, it appears that the story will go in a very interesting and exciting direction. Kenneth Rocafort continues to do wonders with his artistry and it’s apparent in every page of the annual.