Superman freed the bottled city of Kandor from the clutches of Brainiac in a brutal battle, that ended with his adoptive father Jonathan Kent being killed by the mad alien. 100,000 Kryptonians were freed, and due to the different views between them and people of Earth they fled the planet. Several figure-heads behind the scenes of Earth are not satisfied with the Kryptonians existence, since they all possess Superman's powers. As a result, they embarked on a genocidal campaign led by Lois Lane's father General Lane. The two sides are approaching a full scale war.
Brainiac's attack on New Krypton has failed and the villain was defeated by Zod. After witnessing Lex Luthor on Brainiac's ship, Zod has all the reason to believe that his attack was aided by the people of Earth. In retaliation, Zod declares war on the Earth, and he has ordered the surviving Kryptonians whose numbers are still around 80,000 to attack. Superman hopes to reason with his people and prevent a massacre on both sides. -summary
War of the Supermen concludes the New Krypton saga wrapping up two years of storytelling. And typical DC, the ending is nowhere near as strong as the beginning. This finale heavily focuses on the big brawl to settle it at all, while the thought-provoking aspects that took place earlier is all jettisoned. I can't say that the story is bad, in fact, it's not bad at all if you're sold on the action, plus the first half of the story kicks ass from well, Earth to New Krypton. Superman: War of the Supermen definitely could have been a lot better, if as usual, DC decided to take some risk. Written by James Robinson and Sterling Gates, this TPB collects War of the Supermen 0 - 4 and Superman 700.
Robinson knew how to get things in motion, because the build up leading to the climax could definitely get anyones blood pumping. Superman smashes his way to Zod's command post vowing to put an end to his plan, only to learn that Zod has sent the entire military to Earth. During this time, General Lane's plan to wipe out the Kryptonians unfolds with explosive results; with their numbers quickly dwindling, the Kryptonians eventually make it to Earth and all hell breaks loose. Casualties on both sides increase rapidly, but humankind suffers the most by a 1 to1000 death ratio with the British and Japanese Prime Minster's being torn to pieces, along with the White House being annihilated. Earth's heroes and even some villains are trying to fight them off with several falling during the onslaught.
The action will no doubt entertain many, and I would be lying if I said that the character interactions and flying fist, such as the battle between Supergirl & Ursa, as well as Superman & Zod didn't grip me. The problem I have here among others is the rushed feel, and damn does it feel rushed. Once the attack on Earth begins it never lets up and it feels way too rapid. It's almost as if DC got tired of the story, and told Robinson to close the books on this and it shows.
When you look at this final chapter on paper, it has the potential to be the best knock down-drag out in a very long time, because you know all of these Supermen/women are going to bump heads with Earth's finest heroes. Which is why I thought the battle with the Justice League was so disappointing, and even with the JSA, they both were so lazily put together. Characters who played large roles are quickly disposed of, and the ending was just too deus ex machina for me.
Some of the criticism on this book is aimed towards how Zod was handled. During the course of the series, he was developed as someone you can relate to who was all about the people, and there was always that possibility Superman was wrong about him. So to see him degenerate into just another villain put a bad taste in readers mouths. Towards the end, he seemed to care more about wanting Superman dead for his father banishing him to the Phantom Zone than winning the war. I guess I can see where the fans frustration comes from, but it all goes back to Superman never trusting him in the first place and always believing he was a maniac, I can buy that to a certain degree. However, this goes back to what I mentioned about DC not taking risk. They could have easily allowed Robinson to make Zod into a sympathetic figure, but they chose the villain route only to make Superman right about him. Could it have been so hard for Superman to be wrong just this once and have two possible heroes with different views, as opposed to the hero vs. villain cliche? Anyway, I will give it some extra credit mainly for the development of General Lane's character, as Robinson was able to examine the destructive tendencies of a paranoid man with power.
The artwork in the first half has some very good moments. Supergirl's expressions when she hoisted her people's flag and tried to fly full speed to Earth, as well as attempting to pummel Superman told her story very well without the use of dialog. She was clearly in a rage and out for human blood. The second half has its flaws mainly towards the end, and like the story, it feels rushed as well with a lack of detail in several characters on some occasions. Fortunately, the good outweighs the bad here.
This is one story that I really hoped the recent re-read would have helped me like it more. It didn't get worse or better; my feelings for it are still the same and I would give it 3 1/2. War of the Supermen is definitely readable and easy to get through. If you mainly prefer action in your comics, then you'll more than likely enjoy this. New Krypton is still a crossover I recommend, but it shouldn't be very high on your list. Definitely not higher than War of the Green Lanterns.