Collects: Action Comics #812-813, Adventures of Superman #625-626 and Superman #202-203
Writers: Michael Turner and Joe Kelly
Artist: Talent Caldwell
By Doran Murphy
When the fine people in Hollywood try to convert comic books into movies, they often end up on the receiving end of some rather harsh criticism from fanboys for not doing their favorite stories "right". In some cases, the fanboys are justified, and the studio's abuse of the story is a crime against story telling — like the recent Hulk, Punisher, and Daredevil movies. However, in the impending Dark Phoenix saga in X3, it gets so convoluted and complicated that without some form of "dumbing-down" the movie would be a million years long and ultra-complicated.
Superman: Godfall is one of those stories that would not translate to film very well. In fact, it would be a massacre. It is very, very complicated. To appropriately understand the book, you have to know quite a bit about Superman and the DC Universe. Without a knowledge of the complexities of Superman's world and a background in the existing relationships around the Superman mythos, one would read Godfall and break down in tears of utter bedevilment. In fact, I got to the end of it, and was still kind of fuzzy on some very important points, and I'd like to think I know a fair bit about Superman.
Anyway, without really spoiling anything, you're introduced to Krypton, after the death of Jor-El. Kal-El and his wife Lyla both work for the government; Kal is a junior secretary to something or other, and Lyla works in the Terraformer, which keeps the planet Krypton from exploding. The Terraformer is Jor-El's legacy to Krypton. Now, even the most uninformed fan of Superman read that, and went, "What the fuck?!" Because we all know Krypton exploded, Kal-El is known to us as Clark Kent and Superman, he's really married to Lois Lane, and works as a reporter for the Daily Planet.
Back to Krytpon, which is seemingly governed by an army of cyborg supermen (and not the one from when Superman died). Kal goes about his job, living constantly in the shadow of his father. Meanwhile, the army of (really cool looking) Kryptonian police, called the Citizen's Patrol Corps (henceforth CPC) run around, oppressing aliens who come to Krypton. Of course, this produces a rebellion. Kal is in a unique place here: he works for the government and is thus associated with the CPC, but Lyla is an alien.
Even more confounding, Kal-El has no memories of Earth; it's like he's never been there. And because he's on Krypton, with its red sun, he's never had his powers before. That is, until he gets some sweet, sweet yellow sun powering up. But he's still on Krypton, and none of this makes any sense at all. You're going to have to trust me when I say things pan out by the end of the book. I can't really detail any more for you without spoiling the whole thing. The way the story is presented is meant to befuddle the reader; it takes the typical Superman paradigms, and spins it on its head. You're almost watching the story unfold through the eyes of Superman/Kal-El, and you're just as confused as he is up until the end.
The story may confound you, and you wouldn't be the only one who had a bit of a headache while reading it. However, the artwork is nothing short of dazzling. From what we've seen in other Superman books of Krypton, it's a world much further ahead technologically than Earth. Big diamond/crystalline structures and all that jazz. Godfall depicts all of these images very, very well. The fight scenes are brilliantly rendered, and the pages are laid out very, very well.
A scene where a speeder bike goes flying straight up in the air, Doomsday wailing on Superman, and Superman looking like he's about to kill everyone are all depicted in this book, and are utterly flawless. A two-page spread where Kal-El is staring eye-to-eye with Preus is among some of the best Superman art ever made, or maybe that's the page before; where Preus is surrounded by fire; or maybe that's a couple pages before that, where Doomsday wails on Superman; or maybe it's... I could go on. The artwork on this is eye-poppingly dazzling.
Overall, the insane complexity of the story kind of hinders the beauty of the book. But the artwork itself is some of the best in comic book history. It's really brilliant and beautifully done. But overall, you've got to place a larger emphasis on the story itself than the utterly awesome art. After all, without a story, all you're left with is some pretty pictures of some really cool-looking characters. It's what the characters say and how they act that makes them very cool. So, I'm going to give this one a 7.