Superman and Booster Gold have crash-landed on planet Jekuul, a few decades in the future where it’s now going by the name of New Krypton. General Zod is the supreme leader of the planet, joined by his wife, Ursa, and his now fully-grown son, Lor-Zod. The Man of Steel and the Greatest Hero You’ve Never Heard of are at the mercy of the Kryptonian royal family and time is running out.
Artist Brett Booth was born to draw super hero comics. His action is top notch and so exciting. The first chunk of Action Comics #997 is a heated battle with Superman and Booster Gold on one side and the Eradicator and Lor-Zod on the other. Booster unfortunately doesn’t add much to the fight as he’s pretty outgunned, but Superman more than makes up for it. This is a clash of god-like beings and you really get the sense of the size and scale of this with Booth’s artwork.
There’s a nice mix of large, bombastic panels where the action has a lot of room to breathe and smaller, detailed panels focusing on specific elements. The layouts are often varied and dynamic, creating a unique reading experience that keeps the book fresh. You get to see the battle from every angle so you rarely see the same shot twice.
Superman makes quick work out of Lor-Zod. He points out that the petulant son of his arch-enemy is poorly trained and over-confident. After all, Lor-Zod has never faced a real challenge. He’s basked in the glory and abilities provided by a yellow sun for most of his life and hasn’t encountered anyone near his power level.
In many ways, Superman and Lor-Zod are like mirror images of one another. While General Zod has always been a formidable foe for the Man of Steel, it’s a proxy rivalry. Zod is really angry at Clark’s biological father, Zor-El. He’s just taking out his anger on Clark. Meanwhile, Lor-Zod is of the same generation, although raised very differently. He represents what Clark could have become if Krypton hadn’t been destroyed. We saw glimpses of this possible life in previous issues, but Lor-Zod is like the dark alternate take on it.
This dynamic makes me hope we see more of the character. This is a time travel story and Lor-Zod is a child in the present day, so there’s a chance the adult version could come to our time and serve as a worthy adversary for Superman. His brash, entitled behavior flies in the face of everything Clark stands for.
One thing I was surprised about with Action Comics #997 is how much Zod and Ursa have aged. Zod’s hair is completely white, although he looks as strong as ever. Kryptonians age differently than humans, so I’m not sure how far into the future this really is. Ursa wears it much better, showing only some small wrinkles.
Zod has previously shown himself to be one of Superman’s greatest enemies. Things get more personal here as the General raises the stakes. He has Superman chained up under a piece of Kryptonite as he threatens to use the time machine to go back and murder his family. Zod even says he’d kill Jon as an infant, showing just how evil the man is. This intensifies the closing moments of Action Comics #997 as Zod and his brood prepare to destroy Kal-El once and for all. Superman has to dig deep to stay alive because if he fails now, his family and the world are in grave danger.
Speaking of his family, this issue continues Lois’ quest to save her father from behind enemy lines. Jon tagged along and has finally revealed himself. My one criticism of Booth’s artwork is that Jon looks too old. He looks more like a high schooler than a ten year old. I haven’t been a fan of this side story since the beginning and this chapter makes it even worse. It points out a number of flaws with the logic behind it.
General Lane does not know that his son-in-law is Superman, nor does he know that his grandson (who he has never met) has super powers, so what possible explanation could Lois have for bringing her ten year old son into such a dangerous environment? Nothing this incredibly intelligent woman could come up with would possibly provide a valid reason. Any answer Lois gave would still result in a justified call to Child Protective Services. The issue closes on a cliffhanger dealing with this plot thread that is clearly a red herring so it lacks the emotional punch that we’re getting from the main story.
Action Comics #997 is another in a long line of impressive Superman stories from writer Dan Jurgens. This arc has been awesome and action-packed from the jump. The duality of the El and Zod families has become even more interesting and enthralling with this run, cementing the General as a quintessential villain in the Superman mythos more than ever. This is the dark path that Superman could have gone down had he not been raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent.