Superman #41, by James Robinson, Ed Benes, and Dinei Ribeiro, wraps up The Last Days two parter in a fun and thought provoking, if a little cliche, fashion as Superman, Jon, and an alien scientist race to save what they can of a civilization that has made its peace with its impending doom.
The issue begins with Superman, Jon, and Klaine racing to Klaine’s lab. Klaine’s scheme to save his planet is much like Jor-El’s was- send his offspring (in this case, since it’s an aquatic species,a clutch of his and his slain wife’s eggs) to another planet. Not sure of his calculations are correct, he asks Superman and Jon to escort the rocket he’s built to its destination. They agree, but their pursuers catch up to them. Klaine is killed and Superman sends Jon away with the eggs. The alien leader comes and he and Superman make their peace, as Superman pleads one more time with the leader to allow him to help. The leader refuses again, and the planet explodes. Superman and Jon go to complete Klaine’s dying wish.
One of the main focuses of this issue is the role of religion in a society and it does this in a smart, if a bit run-of-the-mill, way. The religious orthodoxy of the planet killed all the scientists in the past, but Klaine himself still believes in their god, saying with his dying breath that he believes in god, science, and truth and that they aren’t mutually exclusive. In his final plea to the alien leader, Superman says that maybe it’s their god’s will that he save some of them and the leader basically calls him arrogant for that. Both of these examples deal with a core problem in the way society deals with religion. Are science and religion compatible? What right does an outsider have to judge the beliefs of others? The only answer given for those questions is at the end when Jon asks his father what he believes in. Superman says he believes in something, but something isn’t everything. It’s a powerful point and one the book underlines repeatedly.
James Robinson again does a good job with the relationship between Clark and Jon and he gets though all the religious stuff with a respect for the subject that keeps the book from veering into ugly territory. The subject of religion is always fraught with peril, but Robinson handles it in a manner that is both intelligent and a bit on the nose. That said, it’s probably the best way to go, as people can get very offended when it comes to this topic. Klaine was able to believe in many things at once and had hope. The majority of the planet didn’t, but they went to their deaths with no fear. Which of them were right and who is to say?
Beyond all the philosophical stuff, the book is a fun one. It’s always nice to get something a little thought provoking that also has some cool action in it, and this book delivers that in spades. Ed Benes’ art is perfect for this issue. His figures are detailed, his action scenes are crisp and clean, and the backgrounds as they are escaping to Klaine’s lab are some of the best parts of the issue. Benes also draws a really good Jon, which isn’t something you can say for every artist. The art in this issue is an improvement over the art in the last and it helps elevate the whole thing.
Superman #41 doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it’s not going to solve all the world’s problems with religion, but it’s a good time and it tries to tackle to difficult subject without being preachy or judgemental. It succeeds at that rather well, even if it’s basically preaching to the choir.