Superman: Last Son of Earth
Steve Gerber, writer,
Doug Wheatley, artist
(DC Comics, 2000)

This two-part Elseworlds tale simply reverses the Superman legend. Jonathan Kent is a university science professor in Metropolis when he discovers a truth the governments of the world refuse to believe: the Earth is in the path of a massive asteroid which will devastate the planet. So Kent and his pregnant wife, Martha, return to the family farm in Smallville where he builds a small, orbital rocketship to allow Martha and his newborn son, Clark, to survive the impact and return to Earth in the aftermath. But Martha prefers to die with her husband -- apparently believing the infant will be able to care for itself once the rocket lands. Fortunately for the baby, the craft is caught in a spatial anomaly and flung through space, where it crashes on the emotionless world of Krypton. There, he is found and raised by Jor-El, a rebellious thinker who disobeys the mandate prohibiting contact with the outside universe.

The tale of young Kal-El's growth is interesting enough -- instead of becoming superpowered by the experience, he has trouble even moving in Krypton's denser gravity field without the aid of an exoskeleton. I was looking forward to seeing how he was going to overcome this disability and become a superman in spirit, if not in powers, but no -- writer Steve Gerber took the easy way out and had the youth discover an abandoned Green Lantern ring at an archeological dig. Suddenly, the boy has powers, and he manages to save Krypton from a well-timed cataclysm of its own!

In the second half of the story, Kal-El uses the ring to uncover hidden memories from infancy, so he sets out to discover the world of his birth. He finds a planet where survivors are clinging to life with a Road Warrior sort of mentality, and among the first people he meets are the leaders of a beseiged colony -- Perry White, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and, oddly, his own mother, Martha Kent -- headquartered in the old Daily Planet skyscraper. The fascist leader of a competing group, Lex Luthor, is about to steamroll the colony with a squadron of tanks....

The Earth portion of the tale is fairly predictable, given the groundwork established. More interesting is the earlier section, with the effect the young outworlder has on Krypton society. Art by Doug Wheatley, with color and separations by Chris Chuckry, is excellent, with particular attention to details such as facial expression. It's not the best Elseworlds tale I've read in recent months, but it's a good, solid entry into the field.

[ by Tom Knapp ]