Superman: Last Stand on Krypton – Steve Gerber

3 out of 5

Though still told with appreciative restraint, Steve Gerber’s sequel to his 2-part Superman Elseworlds tale is closer to what we might expect from these What If-style concepts: more references, and a continuity-resetting style conclusion. Last Stand on Krypton is also a bit less conceptually dense than the preceding tale, pretty much just giving us the Luther / Superman showdown we’d previously sidestepped, paced out to 60ish pages. This is a little disappointingly typical, especially given how Steve starts things out, closer to the social cynicism which is a frequent topic for him, but presented in a rather mature and reserved fashion: Earth has well-advanced since Kal-El brought Krypton tech to town, and now, despite his assistance in bringing the planet back from a literal brink, humans are starting to go all human again, and demanding Kal clue us in on the tech he’s surely hiding. Superman leaving the planet to its own devices is an interesting wrinkle, and gives Gerber the chance to return us to Krypton, which got the short end of the story stick after we left it in the first series. Here, again, there’s a lot of promise: Kal’s father was inspired by his son to break further from Kryptonian tradition, which has put him (and his followers) at odds with the ruling class. This sets us up to study the planet in a mirrored fashion of Kal’s exploration of Earth in Last Son… and then Luther shows up, makeshifting tech Kal had left on the planet to rocket through space, and now ready to go to war and conquer Krypton.

A lot of fun stuff occurs hereafter, but it’s all whizz-bang climax – there’s really nothing to think about – and Luther goes comically evil, which rather imbalances the otherwise sober tone of the writing.

Art-wise, Doug Wheatley and Chris Chuckry and letterer Bob Lappan have grown in leaps and bounds together: Wheatley’s art is now intensely detailed in both fore- and background elements, and feels weighty and succinctly paneled throughout. Chuckry’s colors are smooth but sharp, no longer with a “painterly” touch, but still fine enough to make all of Wheatley’s linework shine. And Lappan still has a light, somewhat loose, hand-lettered style, but it’s less cramped, and somehow maintains its “frail” look while also being bold. If our main narrative has lost a bit of depth, the art helps to distract from that by delivering consistently beautiful and exciting pages.

A solid sequel, helping to bring Steve’s Elseworlds Superman full circle, but it’s also very much a sequel, doing the Bigger and Louder dance in sacrifice of some story originality.