Superman: Codename Patriot

Codename: Patriot, by Greg Rucka, James Robinson and Sterling Gates, follows right on the heels of New Krypton vol. 3, showing the aftermath of the assassination attempt on General Zod.  The culprit flees and Krypton’s military, now led basically by Commander Kal-El (the other two ranking officers being the brutish and dopey Commander Gor and the psychotic but lovestruck Commander Ursa) trace him to earth.  He follows, but in his more traditional guise (the first issue ends with the book’s best moment as he takes out his familiar costume and says, “This is a job for Superman.”)

On earth, the would-be assassin starts attacking humans, and at first it appears that his plan is just to get everyone angry at each other and start a war.  But then it becomes apparent that his actual plan is, well, exactly that, but that he’s really doing it at the behest of none other than General Sam Lane.  It turns out that the Kryptonian is kind of a dope and has been deceived by Lane and given his own codename – the titular “Codename:  Patriot”.  He tricks him into attacking the president of the United States, all so that he can dramatically reveal himself from the apparent dead and become the people’s hero to lead earth against the inevitable Kryptonian invasion.

General Lane has quite the assortment of creeps and villains at his disposal to help him do his dirty work, including Metallo, Reactron, some girl with magic powers, Codename: Assassin, and more.  One presumes that off to the side his facility is also filled with the likes of Codename: Plumber and  Codename: Chartered Accountant, but we never get to see them.

Also these nefarious doings are opposed by our heroes, who all show up in force in this volume:  Superman, Supergirl, Mon-El, Nightwing & Flamebird, and even the Guardian a bit.  But all their work comes to nothing.  Instead, Lane manages to arrange is so that Mon-El is built up as a hero just before being murdered, with Supergirl, Nightwing and Flamebird being framed for the crime, and Superman being discredited on earth.

It’s a bit discouraging seeing our heroes come on the bottom of every situation so relentlessly.  We know we are only roughly halfway through the story so there’s still time for things to pick up, but nonetheless it’s tiring to have General Lane be the only character who seems capable of developing plans and making them stick.  Everyone else is just flying around and reacting.

So things do happen in this book – Lane becomes a public hero and all the real heroes are down and out.  But it still feels retreading what we’ve already read.  The freshest element is that we get to have a little bit of married Supes & Lois together – in retrospect it’s coming close to being a last hurrah at that little relationship.

Oh, the end of the book is a Jimmy Olsen special where things go badly for him as well, as General Lane arbitrarily decides it’s time to kill him, so Codename:  Assassin goes and does his thing.  It’s not bad, actually, and brings Natasha Irons (Steel’s daughter) into the picture.  There’s a lot of well-paced action, and Jimmy going down as he does is brutal and realistic (although of course, we know he’ll be back).

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