Saturday, June 28, 2008

Michael Turner—R.I.P.

FanBoyWonder would like to acknowledge the passing of comic book artist Michael Turner who died last night at the age of 37 following a long battle with cancer.

We confess that beyond the six-issue Supergirl story-arc from a few years ago in Superman/Batman, as well as his various covers, we weren’t thoroughly familiar with Mr. Turner’s work. We’ll also be quite honest in admitting that we weren’t his biggest fan as his vision of artistic expression did not always conform to our personal tastes.

Yet there is no denying Michael Turner’s latent talent—particularly in the eyes of his female subjects—and we regret the loss of an artist who will never now achieve his full potential.

Below is his obit in full from Comic Book Resources

FanBoyWonder wishes to expresses our sincere condolences to Mr. Turners family and friends.


Michael Turner Passes Away At 37

by Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer

Sat, June 28th, 2008 at 1:50AM PST
Updated: Sat, June 28th, 2008 at 2:32AM PST

We here at Comic Book Resources are very sad to report that artist Michael Turner has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 37. Aspen Comics’ Vince Hernandez told CBR News Saturday morning that Turner passed away Friday night at 10:42 Pacific Time at Santa Monica Hospital in Calfiornia. The news spread quickly at Wizard World Chicago, during what would have otherwise been a riotous night at the hotel bar, the mood suddenly turned somber with remembrances of Turner from friends and acquaintances. A minute of silence will be observed during Wizard World Chicago Saturday afternoon.

Turner is an artist best known for his work on books like “Witchblade,” where he got his start in comics, moving on to titles such as “Black Panther,” “Superman/Batman” and his very own creator owned series “Fathom” and “Soulfire” through his publishing company
Aspen Comics. A prolific artist, he’s done work for both DC Comics and Marvel Comics, and has provided covers to some of the best-known comics published in the last ten years, including Brad Meltzer’s “Identity Crisis.”

In 2000, Turner was diagnosed with cancer -- chondrosarcoma in the right pelvis, which resulted in his loosing his hip, 40% of his pelvis and three pounds of bone. What followed was 9 months of radiation. The cancer has gone into remission and returned multiple times since he was first diagnosed.

For anyone who’s met Turner, they’re likely to tell you what a genuinely nice guy he was and how his spirit for life was higher than anyone else they had ever met. Oddly, my path crossed with Turner’s numerous times. We both live in Los Angeles, and on at least five different occasions we would run into each other at clubs or special events around the city. He seemed like the kind of guy who was up for anything and had a great sense of adventure, especially as evidenced by his love and excellence at water-skiing and martial arts.

Last year during Comic-Con International in San Diego, I invited Michael Turner out to the CBR Yacht for an interview. He was happy to come out to the boat. His colleague and friend, Vince Hernandez, called me the Saturday afternoon the interview was scheduled to say they were running late, but were on their way. I went to the end of the dock to greet them and there, off in the distance, was Michael, Vince and a friend of theirs walking slowly towards our slip. They were walking slowly because Michael was on crutches, recovering from the latest round of surgeries and treatment. It was a hot day, but there was Michael, making his way to the boat with a smile on his face. His strength of will was truly inspirational.

The resulting interview was a wonderfully sweet one. I remember talking with him about his comics, his covers, his health and much more. After the interview he and his crew hung out on the boat for a while, enjoying the calm moment away from the convention with a soda and good conversation.

Sadly, that video interview never made it on to the site (not for anything to do with Michael or the content of the interview), but we’ll make sure that video is encoded this week and published in his memory and so that all of you can see what sort of man Turner was.

Turner’s fight with cancer was truly inspirational. He fought it with dignity and grace.
More details concerning Turner’s passing are forthcoming. Those wishing to send their condolences to Michael Turner's family are encouraged to send them to:

Aspen MLT, Inc.
C/O Michael Turner
5855 Green Valley Circle, Suite 111
Culver City, CA, 90230

Aspen Comics also encourages anyone wishing to make a charitable donation in Turner’s name can do so to his requested charities, The American Cancer Society or The Make-A-Wish Foundation

CBR extends it’s heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Michael Turner. He’ll be sorely missed.

Friday, June 27, 2008

FanBoyWonder Film Review—Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Next to apple pie and baseball, there’s nothing more pure American than Indiana Jones. Sure he’s a fictional film character but he’s an icon. FanBoyWonder practically grew up with Indy—having first saw the original Raiders of the Lost Arc on our 11th birthday in 1981.

So FanBoyWonder was quite pleased this past weekend when Brianna The Girl Wonder chose (with absolutely no influence from Grandpa FBW) to see Indiana Jones rather than Kung Fu Panda during our long-awaited movie time together. (Worry not, we’ll be taking her to see the martial arts panda sometime next week during our vacation).

More than anything else we wanted to share with her the experience of seeing an Indiana Jones movie in the theatre—the only way to see some classics.

Rated PG-13, there were a couple of times—especially during some particularly gruesome bad guy endings—that we questioned the wisdom of us taking a just turned 7-year-old to this movie.

To her credit, Brianna said she was scared at times—we figured that out when she jumped our lap and held on for dear life—but she was very proud of herself for seeing it and very glad she did it. Indy got a big thumbs up from The Girl Wonder—the highest of high praise indeed.

Here’s the Upshot from Paramount Pictures: “The newest Indiana Jones adventure begins in the desert Southwest in 1957 – the height of the Cold War. Indy (Harrison Ford) and his sidekick Mac (Ray Winstone) have barely escaped a close scrape with nefarious Soviet agents on a remote airfield.
“Now, Professor Jones has returned home to Marshall College – only to find things have gone from bad to worse. His close friend and dean of the college (Jim Broadbent) explains that Indy's recent activities have made him the object of suspicion, and that the government has put pressure on the university to fire him.

“On his way out of town, Indiana meets rebellious young Mutt (Shia LaBeouf), who carries both a grudge and a proposition for the adventurous archaeologist: If he'll help Mutt on a mission with deeply personal stakes, Indy could very well make one of the most spectacular archaeological finds in history – the Crystal Skull of Akator, a legendary object of fascination, superstition and fear.
“But as Indy and Mutt set out for the most remote corners of Peru – a land of ancient tombs, forgotten explorers and a rumored city of gold – they quickly realize they are not alone in their search. The Soviet agents are also hot on the trail of the Crystal Skull. Chief among them is icy cold, devastatingly beautiful Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), whose elite military unit is scouring the globe for the eerie Crystal Skull, which they believe can help the Soviets dominate the world... if they can unlock its secrets.
Indy and Mutt must find a way to evade the ruthless Soviets, follow an impenetrable trail of mystery, grapple with enemies and friends of questionable motives, and, above all, stop the powerful Crystal Skull from falling into the deadliest of hands”.

In a word, this film was “cute.” We don’t mean that in a condescending way but rather we left the theater feeling good. It was a nice nostalgia trip for those of use around for the first adventure but an amusing tale for both veteran and newcomer alike.

It’s not exactly a light-hearted romp but the filmmakers closed the book one of the most beloved adventure serials with a wink, a nod and a crack of the whip.

This was the last chapter of Indiana Jones and he goes out with style. SPOILERS WARNING BELOW

While Harrison Ford looks great at 65, Team Indy was smart in not pretending that Dr. Jones was still the 30-something action hero. Indy acknowledged that it’s “not as easy as it used to be” but he never dwelled on his being the aging adventurer.

We were oddly reminded of the Batman from the Dark Knight Returns but in a decidedly lighter tone. Make no mistake, Indy may have many more miles on the odometer but he’s still one tough customer.

Our arse-kicking archeologist gives as good as he gets to those red commie bastards who—given that it’s 1957 during the hottest time of the Cold War—have replaced the Nazis has the bad guys.

Speaking of the Red Menace, Cate Blanchett was kind of cute (there’s that word again) as the sassy Soviet who at times is more than a match for our guy Indy. She wasn’t given much to work with but she managed to keep her near-cartoon of a character, Col. Dr. Irina Spalko, from digressing into a total imitation of Natasha—as in Boris’ other half from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show (Is Grandpa FBW showing his age here????).

We are more aware of than familiar with her body of work, but Blanchett is an English actress (yeah we know she’s an Aussie but “English” as in the classic old school sense) so almost by definition she can phone in a role (which she seems to have done here) and still be as good or even better than the flavor of the month would-be starlet that Spielberg & Lucas recruited as the fem fatale during the last film—1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine the Indiana Jones from the original Raiders of the Lost Arc not only eating Comrade Spalko’s lunch but making her like it. But the 1957 Indy model has lost some of his edge—in every sense of the word.

It’s not just that he’s not as agile as he used to be but he’s—if not kinder and gentler—wary and worn-down. The world is changing around him and his professional accomplishments—as well as his record of service during “The War” (World War II) as “Col. Jones” for the OSS (the Office of Strategic Services—the counter-espionage predecessor to the CIA) doesn’t seem to count for much in this fearful new world of the Red Scare.

Professor Jones finds this out “at work” at Marshall College as J. Edger’s Bureau has concluded that Indy’s kidnap by the Soviets, their forcing him to help them break into and steal an alien (as in Extra-Terrestrial) body from Area 51 and his subsequent escape and his association with pal turned traitor Mac (Ray Winstone) of course make him guilty of being “a Red” and a security risk so they lean hard on the college to fire Dr. Jones.

It falls to the dean of the college and Indy’s friend Charles Stanforth (Jim Broadbent) to break the news. Broadbent’s character takes the place as Indy’s academic colleague and confident Marcus Brody, who like the actor who played him, the late Denholm Elliott, has passed away.

We learn that in recent years Indy has also lost his father Henry Jones Sr. (Sean Connery who remains very much alive but who passed on coming out of retirement for what would have been a cameo for the film).

Stanforth points out to his friend and to the audience that Indy has reached the point of life where life takes away more than it gives back.

Jim Broadbent does a good job as Indy’s loyal friend in ever treacherous academia but he’s no Marcus Brody.

In a touch that we most enjoyed, the script remembered Brody’s character and placed his image prominently in a couple of scenes—including a laugh out loud moment with a statue of Brody and the bad guys on campus.

Henry Sr. and Marcus Brody were important characters in Indiana Jones’ life and it impressed us to no end that the script not only did NOT contradict (to the best of our knowledge) events of the previous films but it actively sought to incorporate Indy’s history into this film.

Here character continuity was Job One—two thumbs up guys.

We especially liked seeing more than just a tease of how “Professor Jones” lives. Shot on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, FanBoyWonder’s old college stomping grounds (New Haven, NOT Yale) and dressed up to look like 1957 anywhere U.S.A.. We tell ya, the Elm City never looked so good us.

It’s not too long after the introduction of the Rebel Without A Clue young Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) that a wacky chase with Indy on the back of Mutt’s Harley ensues as those darned Reds want the map that Mutt has just given Indy in exchange for Indy’s help finding Mutt’s mother Marion.

It was actually quite thrilling to watch the chase though the timeless campus of Yale and onto Chapel Street.

It’s takes longer into the movie than it should have to for Indy to realize that “Marion” is Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) his love interest from the very first movie and that Mutt is actually Henry Jones III—but don’t call him “Junior.”

It’s good to see Karen Allen again. The years have been quite well to her and she actually had a couple of significant action things to do, although they could have and should have found more for her in the film.

We learn that Indiana ditched Marion a week before their wedding (damn fool) BEFORE he learned that she was preggers. So she moved to England and married another man to raise Indy’s baby—Mutt. Yet even though he left her at the alter, Indy has carried a torch for Marion all these years.

It would have helped to actually have Indy and Marion spend more time together on screen as they weren’t quite able to re-capture the chemistry they shared onscreen during the original Raiders given the time constraints.

Nonetheless, Marion’s return brings the Indy franchise full circle and we never thought that the other Indiana Jones films were quite as good without her.

What is the treasure that Indy and company are chasing? It almost doesn’t matter as we were just so damn glad to see everyone again but as soon as we saw Area 51 and heard about Roswell, we knew it would be aliens.

Indy and company must return the Crystal Skull to it’s temple of origin in South America in order to rescue the mind family friend and Mutt’s surrogate father Professor Herald “Ox” Oxley (John Hurt) and try to stay ahead of the evil Soviets for good measure.

Three guesses how that return of the Crystal Skull turns out and the first two don’t count.

The film wraps up back at Marshall College with wedding bells. Twenty years and four films later, Dr. Henry Jones, Jr. and Marion finally tie the knot and it was cute (yes that word again). It really was like watching two old friends march off together into the sunset.

When we asked her afterward what her favorite part of the movie was, Brianna The Girl Wonder answered immediately. “The wedding.”

In a bit of shameless commercialism, Lucas & Spielberg leave the door WIDE open to continue the franchise with Mutt Jones but as far as we’re concerned this is the end of the line for Indy and he went out in the best way possible—leaving us wanting more.

Thanks so much for the ride…. “Junior”.

Monday, June 23, 2008

FanBoyWonder Film Review—The Incredible Hulk

Here’s The Upshot from Marvel Studios and Universal Pictures: “Scientist Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) desperately hunts for a cure to the gamma radiation that poisoned his cells and unleashes the unbridled force of rage within him: The Hulk.

“Living in the shadows, cut off from a life he knew and the woman he loves—Betty Ross (Liv Tyler)—Banner struggles to avoid the obsessive pursuit of his nemesis—General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt) and the military machinery that seeks to capture him and exploit his power.

“As all three grapple with the secrets that led to the Hulk’s creation, they are confronted with a monstrous new adversary known as the Abomination (Tim Roth), whose destructive strength exceeds the Hulk’s own.”

FanBoyWonder has had decidedly mixed feelings since we saw The Incredible Hulk.

Overall, The Incredible Hulk was a good, not a great, but a good comic book movie. When compared to it’s predecessor film—Director Ang Lee’s HULK from 2003, The Incredible Hulk was at the same time much, much better than yet also not quite as good as 2003’s HULK.

Incredible Hulk did everything that both a comic book film and an action movie should do—advance the hero/protagonist (along with viewer) through the adventure—sometimes a break-neck speeds.

Yet we also have a greater appreciation of Ang Lee’s HULK—that is to say what Lee was trying to and ultimately failed to accomplish.

Ang Lee’s HULK—I think, therefore me HULK.
Edward Norton’s Incredible Hulk—Hulk SMASH!

HULK had nuance and character development. Incredible Hulk has action, action, action. This is not to say that HULK was action-less or that Incredible Hulk had zero hints of character or feeling.

Take the best part of both Hulk films and Marvel would have had the Ultimate Hulk experience—think chocolate and peanut butter together.

However, even if one takes 2003’s HULK out of consideration, The Incredible Hulk is still not without its problems. It’s essentially a chase film. It’s also the victim of its top-notch first act in which Bruce Banner is hiding out as a day-laborer in the crowded slums of Rio de Janerio, Brazil.

It’s a beautiful, original setting for an action film and chase sequence. For all our talk of character development in HULK, Norton gives us a great glimpse into the loneliness of Bruce Banner as he struggles to eek out a living working in a bottling plant.

As the only gringo in the joint, Banner is not universally welcomed by his co-workers but we see that despite his deliberate efforts to maintain calm and not lose control of his heartbeat and trigger a transformation, our boy Bruce is NOT a pushover.

The Brazil location was such a beautiful setting (despite the overcrowding and abject poverty) that we wouldn’t have minded the whole film taking place there.

Without much dialogue devoted in terms of character development, Norton does a great job of adding little character bits his Bruce Banner—such as trying to learn Portuguese while with an English/Portuguese dictionary in front of the TV.

It’s here where we get a cute cameo of sorts by Norton’s television predecessor—the late Bill Bixby in a clip of the Courtship of Eddie’s Father—in Portuguese.

When General Ross (William Hurt) finds Banner in Brazil, he sends a black ops team but the our boy Bruce isn’t a genius for nothing and he has an escape plan read to go and off starts one of the best chase sequences we’ve seen on film in years.

Of course, Banner cornered—by local street toughs who get more than they bargained for when they trigger a Hulk-out. The creature in shadow makes short work out of the thugs and he doesn’t take much longer against the black ops team led by Captain Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) who finds himself both frightened and fascinated by the most powerful thing he’s ever seen.

Unfortunately, the film can’t sustain its strong first act and it slowly deflates. That’s not to say it wasn’t entertaining but there was a promise of a better film that went unfulfilled.

The film did manage to avoid a common cliché by avoiding having Banner—now barefoot and nearly naked but for a pair of tattered, too big for him pants, panhandling on the streets of Mexico enough Samaritans gave him enough pesos to purchase half-way decent clothes.

Another running gag through the film was Banner’s efforts to avoid wearing purple pants—often the only color that stretch pants came in.

With his efforts for finding a cure and his data lost following Ross’ Rio raid, Banner is making his way North to see his long lost love Dr. Betty Ross—The General’s daughter and Banner’s former lab partner. But it’s the data he needs, as much as he wants to see her—she’s moved on and he knows he’s radioactive to her life.

Of course the do encounter each other and before you know it there’s another military attempted snatch up Banner, which goes wrong and triggers a Hulk-out and suddenly there’s a REALLY big man on campus.

Here we get to see in full view a look at this Incredible Hulk. It didn’t look bad but to us it looked no more or less fake than Ang Lee’s HULK. Once one suspends disbelief, you can see pass the CGI.

What made the battle interesting was not Hulk vs. the Hardware but Hulk vs. a new Super-Solider serum enhanced Blonsky—the closest to a Captain America cameo that we get in the film.

Still it’s interesting to see Blonsky greatly out run the other soldiers and use his new found agility to play cat and mouse with the Hulk…until Hulk swats him across the campus.

Still craving more, Blonsky wants what Banner has…he wants to be the Hulk….and then some. And he gets wish thanks to Dr. Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson) the scientist that Banner has been communicating with to find a cure…or so Banner thinks.

Sterns injects Blonsky with Banner’s gamma blood and the Abomination is born…and perhaps so is the Leader in time for the sequel.

This sets up the climatic battle of the third act. It’s was okay but nothing to write home about…especially as the longer the battle went, the more CGI it looked.

To Ang Lee’s credit, his HULK actually conveyed a sense of overwhelming power….especially with those 3 miles high, five miles long leaps of his. This Incredible Hulk fell short in that regard.

In the end, the movie ends where it starts, with Banner on the run in hiding and ready to Hulk out for a sequel.

Other notable cameos included Lou Ferrigno as a university security guard with whom he and Norton’s Banner share a moment—all the while winking for the audience. Stan Lee of course has his cameo—this time as an ill-fated customer who drinks a bottle of pop contaminated with Banner’s blood. Excelsior indeed!

Roth’s Blonsky wasn’t given much to work with in the script but he carried it by force of personality. Ironically, he became much less interesting when he transformed from man to (computer generated) monster as the Abomination.

William Hurt’s General Ross was little more than an anti-military stereotype—but he was true to the comic as that’s how Thunderbolt Ross was played in the comics—shoot first and if you ask questions later, you must be a pantywaist.

Liv Tyler as Betty Ross we liked as she had some spark and she wasn’t just the screaming Vicky Vale of the picture. Unfortunately, she and Edward Norton had absolutely zero chemistry as Betty and Bruce.

The much-talked about cameo of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark same at the end of the film—so no one need sit through the credits waiting for an “Easter egg” such as with Iron Man.

As we said, we consider The Incredible Hulk good but not great yet much more watchable than 2003’s HULK.
However, five years and two films later, the same basic story of the Rampaging Hulk has been told—it’s time for filmmakers to move on beyond this well trampled ground.

In a sequel, let’s see the Grey Hulk—the version of Hulk that’s smaller and weaker yet smart and mean. He’s not evil but he’s not very nice at all. And or let’s see an intelligent Hulk or heck…let’s go all in and let’s see the Maestro—the older, stronger, evil and just plain crazy version of Hulk from an alternate future—as first seen in Peter David’s classic Future Imperfect graphic novel.

Next time, let’s see Hulk smash into new storytelling territory

George Carlin—R.I.P.

"I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately."

FanBoyWonder would like to humbly add our voice to the world-wide chorus of those mourning the passing of the legendary comedian, philosopher and all-around cool guy George Carlin.

Mr. Carlin passed away yesterday (Sunday) in New York hospital of heart failure at the age of 71.

We first remember Mr. Carlin as a young FanBoyWonder listening to his classic stand-up act on our local rock station on Sunday evenings. When we were growing up one of the best shows on the radio waves in the Hartford area was the Comedy Hour—every Sunday at 9 p.m. and Mr. Carlin was a regular feature.

It was there that we were first introduced to Mr. Carlin—his hippy dippy weather man, the difference between football and baseball and it was from him that we were first exposed to clever, edgy and thoughtful political humor.

We also got to see him live while in college—circa 1990—and he was every bit the master comedian.

He later gained fame for later generations in the movies—as Cardinal Glick in Kevin Smith’s Dogma—among other roles but unlike many other comedians who make it to film, he never abandoned his first, best outlet of his wit—the stand-up comic stage.

George Carlin will perhaps be most famous or infamous for a certain seven “dirty” words—but the one word that will rule the day today is “sad.”


Here are a few memorable George Carlin quotes thanks to

"If someone loves you and they leave and don't come back, it was never meant to be. If someone loves you and they leave and come back, set them on fire."

"The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live."

"The very existence of flamethrowers proves that sometime, somewhere, someone said to themselves, "You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done."

"Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

FanBoyWonder Book Report: The Last Days of Krypton

A funny thing happened while FanBoyWonder was at our local public library a couple of weeks back—while scanning the “latest selections” section, lo and behold what did we see but The Last Days of Krypton by Kevin J. Anderson.

As regular FanBoyWonder readers may remember that last fall we did an advance preview of the upcoming release of this novel chronicling the history (at least the tail end) of Superman’s home planet.

The novel hit stores last fall but as we’ve had frivolous things to pay for such as food, shelter, weekly comics fix plus the return of Brianna The Girl Wonder (and family) on our plate; we could never seem to find that extra $25.95 (hardcover) to purchase this particular piece of prose.

So we thank the guy or gal in charge of book purchases at the library for it was their wise selection that allowed us allowing us to travel back into time and space through the 28 known galaxies far, far away to visit the most famous fictional dead planet in history.

Despite some 70 years of Superman, not much is known about the Planet Krypton. It’s famous for blowing up shortly after delivering its last son to Earth but the story of Krypton itself has always been fertile yet woefully under-explored storytelling territory—until now.

Unfortunately, we found Anderson’s novel to be a mixed bag. The reader doesn’t learn a whole lot new about the late Planet Krypton yet he manages to capture and keep the readers’ at throughout the author’s long and winding (and at times long-winded) story.

Here’s the Upshot from HarperCollins: “Everyone knows how Kal-El—Superman—was sent to Earth just before his planet exploded. But what led to such a disaster? Now, in The Last Days of Krypton, Kevin J. Anderson presents a sweeping tale of the pomp and grandeur, the intrigue and passion, and the politics and betrayals of a doomed world filled with brave heroes and cruel traitors.

Against the spectacular backdrop of Krypton's waning halcyon days, there is the courtship and marriage of Kal-El's parents, the brilliant scientist Jor-El and his historian wife, Lara. Together they fight to convince a stagnant, disbelieving society that their world is about to end. Jor-El's brother, Zor-El, leader of the fabled Argo City, joins the struggle not only to save the planet but also to fight against the menace of the ruthless and cunning General Zod.

“The diabolical Zod, future archenemy of Superman, avails himself of a golden opportunity to seize power when the android Brainiac captures the capital city of Kandor. As Zod's grip on the populace tightens and his power grows, he too is blind to all the signs that point to the death of the very civilization he is trying to rule.

“Through all of this, Jor-El and Lara's love for each other, their history, and their son allows for Krypton to live on even as the planet is torn apart around them. For in the escape of their baby lies Krypton's greatest gift—and Earth's greatest hero.

“The Last Days of Krypton is a timeless, ground-breaking exploration of a world that has never been fully defined, and reveals the extraordinary origins of a legend that has never ceased to amaze and astound generation after generation.”

The novel has been described as reminiscent of The Last Days of Pompeii in style—with a dash of James Cameron’s Titanic—in that it will tell the story of the lost civilization of Krypton in epic form.

The Kryptonian society that Anderson describes does indeed have a very Roman feel to it—with a subtle but a very real social/political caste system with certain prominent families, such as the House of El, at the top of the heap.
The ruling Council of Krypton governs by indecision and precedent with its mantra being “it’s the way we’ve always done it” followed close behind by “Thou shall not rock the boat.”

This is a civilization with its best days long behind it even as the planet is faced with multiple perils—a building pressure at the planet’s core, Krypton’s red sun Rao that could go Super Nova tomorrow or in a thousand years and a comet that’s on a collision course with Krypton—talk about overkill.

Jor-El and his brother Zor-El, scientists both, are celebrated in Kryptonian society for their intellect and their just plain inability to be ordinary, average and un-ambitious.

The white-haired Jor-El is almost certainly designed to make the reader think of Marlon Brando from the Richard Donner Superman movies—but considering we never liked Donner’s vision of Superman; this was not a big selling point for us.

Ditto for Jor-El’s nemesis Zod, who we see introduced not as a General but as Counselor Zod—he’s head of the Commission for Technology Acceptance.

Zod is a bureaucrat who is more devious and wily than gifted and brilliant. Zod—who likes to speak of himself in the third person early and often—uses his position as the planet’s technology czar to confiscate any and all of Jor-El’s inventions that is deemed to be potentially dangerous.

Yet rather than destroy those inventions, as is his mandate, Zod stockpiles keeps the goodies for himself, waiting for the right time to use whose weapons to “protect” Krypton and no one is the wiser—the fox guarding the hen house to be sure.

The author Anderson paints the picture of a civilization where its best days were long ago. The Krypton of Jor-El’s time is afraid of change and afraid other life beyond it’s own planet.

Given the number of different interpretations of Krypton over the years, it’s easy to understand why Anderson went with the version that people know best—the version that has been force fed into the public mind for some 30 years—the Richard Donner Superman movie version.

We found it difficult to picture the white-haired Jor-El in these pages as Marlon Brando but we had no trouble picturing the pompous, blustering Zod as the actor Terrance Stamp. Yet the character we most enjoyed—felt the most connection with--was Jor-El’s brother Zor-El, who in these pages is essentially the mayor/governor of Argo City.

Zor-El isn’t as naturally gifted a scientist as his brother and he knows it. But he does have innate people and political skills that serve him well in the story—he certainly sees Zod as the despot he turns out to be LONG before his brother the alleged genius.

Although Last Days does treat the reader to the meeting and courtship of Superman’s parents Jor-El and Lara, we truly wish the author had drilled down beyond his superficial presentation of Krypton’s customs, traditions and history.

Far too often, Anderson superimposes contemporary Earth slang and metaphors in his description of this advance, extra-terrestrial civilization in a galaxy far, far away. It proved to be an unnecessary distraction.

Instead, Anderson spends a disproportionate amount of the novel on Counselor Zod’s rise, General Zod’s reign and the fall of Zod and his subsequent banishment into the Phantom Zone—which ironically saved his life and the lives of his accomplices.

They would of course live to fight Jor-El’s son Kal-El another day under Earth’s yellow sun.

Fortunately, since Anderson was hell bent on focusing the novel so much on Zod, at least he made Zod interesting—which is to say the reader got to know and really got to despise Zod.

We really hated Zod’s ass three-quarters through the novel but we REALLY hated the people of Krypton, especially Jor-El, even more for falling under the spell of this guy who made Snidely Whiplash look like the master of subtlety.

Zod is a punk!
There we said it.

It’s not that Zod was so tough or so clever—although he certainly did corner the market in the ruthless department—but Zod was really a snake among sheep.

To Anderson’s credit, we could tell we were really into this book when we kept waiting and hoping for someone to give this blowhard some push back. Zor-El was one of the few characters to stand up to Zod and that’s what endeared us to the father of the Supergirl.

What makes Zod a punk? Because he was tough ONLY when he had the upper hand. During a scene in the book, Zod nearly came apart when his military attack on Argo City was stopped in its tracks by Zor-El’s force-field dome (the same dome that would protect the city and allow it to survive intact when Krypton blew up).

We didn’t sense any inner iron in this blowhard—not say like Lex Luthor. Put Zod and Luthor in the same room with a red sun lamp and you can count the minutes until Zod would be crying like a little girl. Heck, even the Toyman would eat his lunch.

Zod in the end of course was vanquished—thanks to Jor-El—but it was done in a not completely satisfying way.

Meanwhile, for all of his genius, Jor-El is among the most obtuse in his dealings with Zod and it costs the character dearly. Despite his instrumental role in ending Zod’s reign, the public’s fear and distrust of Jor-El and his close association with Zod make them deaf to Jor-El’s warnings about the danger to Krypton and it kills them all in the end.

So much time was spent in the novel on Zod that we felt that Krypton’s destruction got the short shrift. The scenes where Jor-El and Lara rocket baby Kal-El to Earth in a desperate gamble to save his life were forced—as it the writer were running out of pages and had to get that minor little plot detail out of the way.

Despite this we felt a Titanic-like tug at our heart strings in hoping these people would somehow find a way to survive even as we knew they wouldn’t.

When all is said and done, Last Day’s of Krypton was an amusing waste of time so long as you don’t accept it as cannon, not unlike a Star Trek novel. It counts unless something comes along in the comics to say it doesn’t.

Yet the novel represents a missed opportunity to really explore this lost civilization and addresses some long-unanswered questions.

Questions such as:

-- Just WHAT makes someone from Krypton SO powerful under a yellow sun that they would have the powers of a god nearly everywhere else in the universe?

--We would have liked to have had some sort of mention of Daxam—Krypton’s offshoot race and home of Lar Gand/Mon-El/Valor of the Legion of Super Heroes.

--Just how is it that Kryptonians look identical to Earthlings—North American, Caucasian Earthlings?

Bottom line: The Last Days of Krypton could have and perhaps should have been better but it was definitely worth the effort. While we’re exploring long-dead characters, how about a novel featuring the courtship of Thomas and Martha Wayne or the life of Hippolyta before Paradise Island?

Great Krypton indeed!
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