Apocalypse Then. Its prose aptly—on occasion annoyingly—portentous, this Superman prequel is action-packed, depicting a lost world in fanatic detail.
In pop myth, Krypton is Atlantis—all the more fascinating for its murky mystery. Anderson (Of Fire and Night, 2006, etc.) has combed decades of Clark Kent lore to craft a chronicle true to the DC Comics legend. The origin tale of Superman’s home planet, however, has been sketchy, leaving Anderson a wide-screen canvas to fill. And he’s a zesty painter. We get a culture groaningly Roman—crowds cheering races of hrakkas (“brawny short-legged lizards”), before repairing to indolent evenings at levitating ballets and “opera tapestries.” The indolence is the rub. Because Krypton is doomed! Jor-El and Zor-El alone know this and, as the planet’s scientific geniuses, they’re Ayn Rand-ish titans, masterminds scorned by the herd. Most Kryptonians are carb-loaded with self-satisfaction, and like China in the Age of Magellan, the civilization has poutingly turned its back on hi-tech, beyond-its-borders exploration. As Krypton’s Rao, its red sun and tutelary god, threatens to go supernova and explode, and as the planet is also threatened at its core by volcanic eruption, these superbrothers mount an against-the-odds mission to stop the crash. From here Anderson sends the plot into overdrive. He’s better at conveying the pathos of this damned Eden: “To Zor-El, the impending loss of Argo City, of Krypton, made everything seem more beautiful…”
Sci-fi of Miltonic ambition.