Jor-El tells his son a story about Krypton’s destruction in Superman #13, by writer Brian Michael Bendis, artists Brandon Peterson and Ivan Reis, inker Joe Prado, colorist Alex Sinclair, and letterer David Sharp. This issue shows a bit more of Bendis’ retconning of the destruction and… it’s actually pretty good. In fact, there’s some ambiguity to the whole thing that fits very well.
In the past, Jor-El tells Lara about his meeting with the Kryptonian Science Council and how they ultimately rejected his evidence about Krypton’s impending doom. Later that night, he goes to the Circle for help, a mysterious cabal of beings who make galaxy spanning decisions in secret. Seeing as how he has helped them all multiple times, he expects them to help him, but none of them seem to want. When he threatens them, the Oan delegate brings up Rogol Zaar, and the whole thing ends tensely. Afterward, Jor-El goes to the lower levels of the city to ask around about Rogol Zaar, but is attacked by Thanagarian assassins. He escapes them and goes home. He tells Lara it’s time to get the baby off the planet, but then the ground starts shaking. He calls the CCircle for help, but only two of the delegates answer and neither of them are willing to do much to help Krypton nor do they believe that this is actually the end of the planet. In the present, Jor-El finishes his story to Superman, and they argue about Jor-El’s methods. Superman asks why they’re going to Krypton’s remnants, and Jor-El tells it’s so they can find the truth. On Earth, Lex Luthor goes to Lois Lane and makes her an offer that she can’t refuse.
So, for the past year, a lot of fans have been dreading the whole reveal of Bendis’ destruction of Krypton retcon. The entire thing with Rogol Zaar destroying Krypton seemed a bit much to many readers. Krypton’s destruction, brought on by the hubris of its people, is one of those story beats that is kind of perfect and fits into Superman’s character- instead of being an arrogant superbeing, he’s a humble man just trying to do good. Bendis’ history of retconning things to make his stories work is one of the things that many readers don’t like about him, and when he does do it, it’s usually not very good. This issue gives readers a glimpse into the events leading up to the death of Krypton and, really, not much has changed. Sure, Rogol Zaar is mentioned, and readers don’t know what part he played in the destruction of the planet, but the way this issue presents it makes it seem like the planet has already begun to destroy itself in the way that readers have always known. What part, if any, that Zaar plays in the destruction is unknown at this point, and that’s a very good thing. Perhaps when he gets there, the end of the planet has already begun, and he just does something to exacerbate it. Whatever happens, so far, this seems like smart writing.
Superman and Jor-El arguing about Jor-El’s part in the Circle is great, as well. Superman is a person who is definitely against shadowy cabals making decisions that affect the lives of others and takes to Jor-El to task for it. Jor-El, in his own defense, compares the Circle to the Justice League, not understanding the fundamental difference between the two. Jor-El has been shown to be a character who doesn’t really understand other people and can only look at things through his own perspective without understanding what the other person is. To quote Tolkien, “He only understands things through his own malice.” If he was part of a shadowy cabal, he wants to believe his son would be as well, without understanding the massive difference between the Circle and the League. The issue ends with Lex giving Lois a mysterious box, tying in the whole Year of the Villain arc that DC is doing and it’s a beautiful ending. Lex and Lois have always had a strange relationship of grudging mutual respect, and it feels like he’s entrusting her with something here. This works very well with how the characters have interacted. Lex would trust Lois to do the right thing, even at the cost of the heroes. Especially at the expense of the heroes.
Brandon Peterson is back for most of the art in this one, and his work is terrific, as usual. His clean, detailed line work make the pages really pop. His character acting is top notch, really allowing readers to get what’s going on emotionally to the characters, making Bendis’ dialogue that much better. The three-page action scene where the Thanagarians attack Jor-El is excellent. It’s kinetic and perfectly paced. The detail never slacks for a moment. Ivan Reis handles the last three pages, and they’re fine. There seems to be a little too much shading at some points, giving those pages a dark, almost grainy look. Following up Peterson’s super clean, hyper-detailed pencils, they are kind of lackluster.
Superman #13 is a treat. Bendis made his retconning very non-obtrusive so far with this story, and that works in its favor. There are a few flaws, the Tamaranean delegate of the Circle refers to his cousin’s bar mitzvah and makes a phone joke that doesn’t work at all, but the rest of the issue is pitch perfect. There’s an understanding of these characters, throughout the chapter, that is quite different from Bendis’ usual style of writing. The art is the icing on the cake. Brandon Peterson has only gotten better over the years, and his work on this title is some of the strongest of his career. Ivan Reis’ pages aren’t as good, but they certainly aren’t bad. This is a near perfect comic.