Thursday, June 13, 2013

Before Man Of Steel, The Man Of Steel: The Prequel . . . Is Unnecessary, But Cool!

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The Good: Imaginative, Decent artwork, Establishes well the Superman Universe
The Bad: Not truly consequential, Huge unresolved plot/character issue!
The Basics: In digital form via VUDU, Man Of Steel: The Prequel fleshes out the universe of Superman for the audience before they go to see Man Of Steel!

As audiences flock early to see Man Of Steel (reviewed here!) tonight, I thought I would check out the exclusive features to the preview event sponsored by *shudder* Wal-Mart and (annoyingly making my computer more complicated) VUDU. VUDU, apparently, is an online movie service and it is the only way (currently) to get the digital comic book: Man Of Steel: The Prequel. Man Of Steel: The Prequel is the subject of tonight’s review; there does not seem to be a physical version of the book (yet) and right up front, the 40 page comic book is NOT worth shelling out $8 for.

That said, Man Of Steel: The Prequel is a forty-page story that very loosely leads into the summer film Man Of Steel. The overlap between Man Of Steel: The Prequel and Man Of Steel is tangential; the book does not feature the character’s primary characters. This volume is much more like Transformers: Dark Of The Moon - Foundation (reviewed here!) than, for example, Star Trek: Countdown To Darkness (reviewed here!). In fact, the underlying purpose of Man Of Steel: The Prequel might just be to flesh out the idea of who the Kryptonians are and what their powers and reach are (as well as eliminate one little nitpick some viewers might have with the presence of the buried Kryptonian ship on Earth).

Opening on Krypton, during its Golden Age Of Exploration, Kara Zor-El is in her final test to be one of the planet’s explorers. Leading the group, which seems to come easy because Kara Zor-El seems more interested in completing the mission than passing the course, Kara has her teammates, who include her boyfriend, Kell-Ur, split up to complete the mission. In the process, one of her teammates, Dev-Em commits murder, killing Kell-Ur and assaulting Kara, who is able to incapacitate him.

The murder causes a schism amongst the elders of Krypton and, unsure what to do with Dev-Em, they imprison him while they deliberate. When Kara goes out into the galaxy on one of the thousands of Kryptonian ships exploring, she goes into suspended animation oblivious to the fact that Dev-Em is a stowaway aboard her ship and he has sinister plans for her and her crew!

Man Of Steel: The Prequel is a very simple story that establishes the look and feel of Man Of Steel without fundamentally spoiling any of the film for those for whom their first viewing is their first experience with the franchise. Instead, Kal-El’s cousin Kara Zor-El is presented as the protagonist of her own story divorced from any mention of her extended family. This is very much her story.

As one might expect from such a comic book prequel, Man Of Steel: The Prequel is predictably low on character development. This is a one-shot much more concerned with establishing some sense of Kryptonian culture and teasing the abilities Kryptonians have when they encounter Earth’s son more than telling a well-rounded character-driven story. While the romantic subplot works well to humanize Kara Zor-El, the book is spent with Kara reacting to situations as opposed to creating her own destiny and moving the plot forward. It does, however, tease the codex from the film!

The artwork in the book is actually impressive and enough to make me believe that there is a physical version of the comic book either in existence or to be included in a forthcoming anthology (though I would bet this digital version would be on the DVD or Blu-Ray as a bonus feature!). The story is not exceptional, but it does what it is supposed to: it establishes the Kryptonians as they will appear in Man Of Steel and effectively generates enthusiasm for the film. It does not, however, do more than that.

For other Superman books, please visit my reviews of:
The Death Of Superman
World Without Superman
Superman: Sacrifice
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
Superman/Batman: Supergirl


For other book reviews, please check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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