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Graphic Novel Review: Superman: Kryptonite by Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale

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Darwyn Cooke has a knack for getting back to the early days of iconic superheroes. He’s done runs on Batman, Catwoman, and the whole DC Universe. In New Frontier, he was so successful recreating the superheroes of yesteryear that the graphic novels were turned into a made for DVD movie that became highly successful.

In Superman: Kryptonite, Cooke manages to write about Superman’s first encounter with the dreaded meteorites from his exploded home planet, and to find a way to get Superman in touch with his Kryptonian heritage for the first time. I thought the story was well done and presented a number of surprises in a story that everyone thought they already knew.

I was somewhat dismayed by the fact that Cooke didn’t draw this one. It took me a little while to get used to his artwork, but now I’m a fan. His artwork is more cartoony and exaggerated than I normally like because I was a big Neal Adams fan while growing up. But Cooke brings a lot of energy and edginess to his illustrations.

Tim Sale drew the pages, and his artwork underscored the simple yet involved story Cooke recounted. I liked the way the pages were broken down into panels, though I don’t know if that was Cooke or Sale’s presentation. The brightness of the colors on the pages, the heroic stances, the clear definitions between good and evil really took me back to my younger days when I’d spend hours reading comics and imagining what it would be like to have super powers and a secret identity.

Superman’s relationship with Lois Lane during the early years after they met is shown really well in this story. I liked the feel of the old school relationship while couched in a world filled with computers and cell phones. Jimmy Olsen has a newsboy look about him that doesn’t fit in today’s world, but he’s got a violent and street smart streak through him that was fascinating to watch in action.

I also really enjoyed the way Superman didn’t know his own limitations, and the way he wondered if each increasingly dangerous encounter he had would be the one that seriously injured him or killed him. I hadn’t really thought about that before. In other comics I’d only been exposed to the idea of Superman getting hurt by magic, by equally tough villains, or while under a red sun. Seeing this worry reflected in the pages of this book was interesting.

The way Superman talked to his parents was amazing. I liked the way Jonathan told Clark to never mention his fear or his pain to Martha because she wouldn’t be able to take it. And then Martha got onto Clark for listening to his father. It was touching and comical at the same time, and at the heart of the way Cooke understands characters.

If you haven’t read this one, you owe it to yourself to pick it up. Cooke and Superman both shine in this graphic novel.

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