Monday, November 06, 2006

Krypto the Superdog #2

Krypto the Superdog #2, December 2006, DC Comics
writer: Jesse Leon McCann
penciller: Min S. Ku
inker: Jeff Albrecht
letterer/colorist: Dave Tanguay
assistant editor: Rachel Gluckstern
editor: Joan Hilty

This month, while more mature fans of the Superman family wonder how Geoff Johns and Richard Donner will write themselves out of the potentially complicated “Last Son” story arc in Action Comics, in which another apparent child from Krypton falls to Earth, younger readers can enjoy two equally perilous adventures with the last dog of Krypton, Krypto. In the comic book incarnation of his Cartoon Network series, Krypto is still side-by-side with his human caretaker, the excitable Kevin, and together the two wag their tails in the face of danger, figuratively speaking, of course. Although these tales are intentionally kid-friendly, they also impress with the abandon of a Silver Age story, when the concept of “The Superman Family” was whole-heartedly embraced. Can you believe that Lois and Jimmy each carried their own titles, in addition to Supes’ and Supergirl’s respective books? Jimmy may have been Superman’s pal, but nothing beats the dog can be a superman’s best friend.

The title of the first story in this issue convinced me to buy it: “Crisis of Infinite Kryptos.” Yes. Therein, a chunk of red kryptonite piggybacks a meteor to Earth, sending Krypto and Kevin on a tour de force through parallel dimensions, during which they meet a Krypto made of wood, an army of cloned, enslaved Kryptos, and a Krypto on a world where everyone is giant (except the insects trying to conquer it). On each pit stop, the Superdog saves the day, much to the surprise of inter-dimensional doppelganger. Although the writer failed to capture the real potential of this story, which could have referenced other elements from the animated DCU while satirizing the idea of parallel dimensions altogether, I understand that his intention was undoubtedly to entertain. Mission accomplished, friend. Krypto doesn’t ponder his place in the cosmos as fervently as God the Dyslexic Dog, but he’s just as capable of fulfilling it.

The second story stars Lex Luthor’s indignant iguana Ignatius, who “borrows” a space vehicle to fire solar flares into the sun because Lex keeps his office too cold. Hey, the best-laid plans usually have the simplest intentions, okay? Krypto and Streaky the Supercat join the Dog Star Patrol to defeat the threat, lest Earth burn to a crisp. After an impressive display of super pet tricks against Ignatius’s seemingly unlimited supply of missiles, Krypto uses his X-ray vision to read the ship’s instruction manual and turn up its heat, so the iguana has no choice but to give up his pursuit and ironically return to Earth to cool off. This story dragged a bit, and I can’t imagine a child as terribly interested in the plot as he may be in the colorful roll call of the DSP, thanks to an almost-splash analyzing each pooch’s powers. As a kid, I always enjoyed the proverbial tutorial page that offered a little expository on a character’s origin and/or powers, or a blueprint of the Batcave or some such diagnostic, that would inevitably fall victim to a continuity shift anyway. Two of my favorite pages of this type diagram the Joker’s infamous utility belt, a tale that can be found in The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told, and the JLA Watchtower in JLA #16. The Dog Star breakout panel may not have been as detailed, but it brought out the kid in me, which is the point of the Johnny DC line in the first place, I reckon.

A word on the art. Min Ku -- who was kind enough to personalize a drawing for me at a local comic shop signing years ago, a sharpie sketch of Batman, the Flash, and Hawkgirl that hangs in my office to this day -- presents crisp, clear pencils, tying these lofty stories together with a sense of adventure that would capture the imagination of any child. The artists illustrating these franchises recreated as animated TV series have a harder job than one may think; the cartoony style of these titles may seem less detailed than mainstream layouts, but the pressure to reproduce television quality work, to essentially imitate award-winning storytellers like Bruce Timm, is a tremedous responsibility. As I eluded in my post re: Action Comics #844, creators making waves the other way -- from film to comics -- aren’t burdened with these expectations. Apparently, they can pave their own way. Fortunately, Ku and co. can handle it, and I appreciate their effort.

So, in conclusion, Krypto offers some light, inconsequential fare inspired by the Superman legend for either younger fans or faithful readers tired of the adage, “with great continuity comes great marketability.” Yes, unfortunately, these Johnny DC books are just too under the wire to survive for too long, especially since series like Justice League Unlimited and Teen Titans aren’t tethered to an on-air equivalent anymore. Even I can’t say I’ll follow the last dog of Krypton as faithfully as I will his in-continuity keeper in the coming months, but if I have a chance, I may casually chase these tales again.

“Chase these tales.” Get it? C’mon, throw me a bone here.

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