Last Son is not the greatest Superman story, but it is an enjoyable one, giving the hero some genuine emotional stakes to be fighting for, and nicely balancing a character-driven premise with exciting action. The story has to do with the unexpected arrival of yet another Kryptonian child on earth, and the mystery of his identity. Superman must not only cope with this newcomer who is in some ways so similar to himself, but also to how his adopted planet responds to an immensely powerful alien being whose arrival is so much more public than his was. As such, the battles become very personal for the hero, and help to sell the story.
The arc, which was one of the first to come out after DC’s big deal company-wide crossover Infinite Crisis, re-introduced the classic Superman villain General Zod into the mythos. It had been many years since Zod had appeared in a such a straight-forward fashion – as the “villainous Kryptonian military commander who led an uprising and escaped his home planet’s doom courtesy of the Phantom Zone holding a serious grudge against the progeny of Jor-El” that most fans know him to be. Even though I appreciate and enjoyed all of DC’s efforts to keep Superman truly the “last son” of Krypton for all those years after Crisis on Infinite Earths, it is refreshing to see this direct take on the character (rather than having him be from an alternate dimension, etc.)
The story also introduces Chris Kent, the abused son of Zod and his underling, who finds more of a sense of home and identity with Clark and Lois than he ever did with his biological parents. He helps to bring out an interesting side to our heroes that we don’t normally get to see, as they wrestle, at least briefly, with the notion of raising a child. And fortunately, Chris is also pretty likeable, so that helps things as well.
Last Son came out in a season when DC was making a habit of “stunt-writing” – engaging scripters who were not known for their comic work. In this case, it was Richard Donner, the director of the first 1.5 Christopher Reeve-Superman movies. Here, he co-writes with DC Comics stalwart (and his former employee) Geoff Johns. The story helps to establish a new status quo of sorts for the series – retaining pre-Infinite Crisis elements such as Clark & Lois’ marriage, and Clark’s surviving foster parents, but at the same time drawing heavily from older elements such as very clumsy and oaf-ish Clark Kent and an open approach to using survivors from Krypton. It also shows inspiration to Donner’s movies with things like the design of the Fortress of Solitude, and having Zod be accompanied by Ursa and Non, two characters from those movies, rather than their traditional comic book counterparts, such as Faora and Kru-El.
In additional to being an enjoyable read, Last Son also plants many seeds for the upcoming mega-storyline New Krypton. These include both General Zod and Chris Kent, but also mentions of the disappearance of Kandor and some brief appearances by Mon-El. It doesn’t directly lead into it, but it’s significant to understand the backdrop of that story. As such, it operates as a decent starting point for anyone who wants to exert the mighty effort that it takes to plow that entire epic. After this, their next stop would be Superman: Brainiac.
The art here is by Adam Kubert, whose scratchy style was jarring when I first tried to read it back in 2006, but whose work I now enjoy on the book quite a bit. My trade paperback also includes an introduction by Marc McClure, of all people, who played Jimmy Olsen in five different movies, including the one(s) that Donner directed.
Superman: New Krypton Index
Last Son • Brainiac • New Krypton vol. 1 • New Krypton vol. 2 • Mon-El • Supergirl: Who is Superwoman? • Nightwing and Flamebird vol. 1 • New Krypton vol. 3 • Codename: Patriot • Supergirl: Friends and Fugitives • Nightwing and Flamebird vol. 2 • Supergirl: Death and the Family • Mon-El – Man of Valor • New Krypton vol. 4 • Last Stand of New Krypton vol. 1 • Last Stand of New Krypton vol. 2 • War of the Supermen