Title: Superman: Kryptonite.
Writer(s): Darwyn Cooke.
Illustrator(s): Tim Sale.
Colourist(s): Dave Stewart.
Letterer(s): Richard Starkings.
Publisher: DC Comics.
Format: Hardcover – Deluxe Edition.
Release Date: January 8th 2019 (first published December 5th 2007).
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.
As complicated as it is to create stand-alone stories in a comic book industry where everything is retconned, there are stories that successfully manage to bring in a significant tale that ultimately ends up being immortally relevant for a character’s lore. Superman’s stories have always been one of the most difficult ones for writers and artists to innovate with as the direction they could take are innumerable and limited at the same time. With a character of such importance and status, there is a fine line to travel on where originality clashes with pertinence. Lucky for us, a number of talented individuals will always push things forward with the proper initiative and ideas to give us memorable and iconic moments in a hero’s journey through life. This is where legendary, award-winning creator Darwyn Cooke and the equally legendary and acclaimed artist Tim Sale join forces to deliver a wonderful tale that introduces Superman to his greatest weakness for the first time in his superhero adventures: kryptonite.
What is Superman: Kryptonite about? Collecting issues #1-5 of Superman Confidential and issue #11, the story follows a young Clark Kent in his early days as the Man of Steel when he juggles both of his professions only to quickly realize that even Superman has vulnerabilities. Drawing upon the foundation set by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale in Superman for All Seasons, this story continues to explore Clark Kent’s identity and struggles on Earth by giving fans an inside look at a hero struck by the dreaded feeling of fear that he has never known before. On one hand, Louis Lane investigates the mysterious figure Anthony Gallo by utilizing all the necessary strategies to get inside information on his suspicious activities, while on the other hand, Clark Kent finds himself pulled towards his undying desire to help the world while putting his own life second. In this story arc, Superman discovers far more about himself than he ever thought he would in his life on Earth.
What happens when you grow up acknowledging that you’re invulnerable and indestructible, only to suddenly discover one day that you can be harmed? Learning about the subtle sensations that encapsulate both fear and pain is a process explored throughout life from birth. To be struck by a wave of these emotions without knowing how to put it all in words is undoubtedly one of the scariest thought ever and it is one that Superman himself discovers when he is forced to bail on an intimate arrangement with his one true love in order to save a whole island from a roaring volcano. This brings him to not only realize the struggles of juggling two identities (one as Clark Kent and his journalism, the other as Superman and his superheroism) but also to realize that he is just as liable as any other human being. His quest for self-discovery is further explored when the first traces of kryptonite is introduced into the story and brings Clark Kent to introspect on his identity, his strengths but especially his weaknesses. The ultimate lessons he learns from all this is what makes this story so engrossing, regardless of a couple plot holes towards the end.
The artwork is reminiscent of Tim Sale’s previous work, especially in Batman: The Long Halloween, and is not a style that will please everyone unanimously but remains strangely captivating and appropriate. Several panels convey the stronger emotions, such a fear, anger, and pain, with a lot of intensity, especially when it regards Clark Kent/Superman. Some character designs are bit rougher around the edges, but the overall structure promotes a fluent read that quickly draws the readers attention to key elements to focus the story-telling on the dialogues and events. In fact, a lot of panels contain so much subliminal information that a general feeling of exhaustiveness is felt throughout the story arc. In fact, the dual-perception between Clark Kent and Louis Lane was clever and brilliantly conveyed. The creative team that worked on this project is without a doubt an astonishing combo that offers fans the chance to see what happens when great talent get together.
Superman: Kryptonite is a tale of self-discovery that introduces the Man of Steel to his unbeknown psychological and physical vulnerabilities.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada and DC Comics for sending me a copy for review!