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Cover Date: March 2001
Cover Price: US $2.25
Issue Tagline: The Real Truth About Krypton
Format: Color; Standard Comic Issue
This is a version of the following issue:
Superman (1987) #166 - Fathers
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Letters Column: Metropolis Mailbag (Superman stories: better to share one across the titles, or to give each title its own?)
Narrated by Superman's fathers, this story tells of a day in Superman's present, when another Kryptonian craft lands on Earth, this time nearly impacting on the Kent's farmhouse. The elder Kent goes to investigate the crash he's heard, when his son, called by Martha, arrives and fears for his father's safety. Superman soon discovers that the craft was sent by, and includes a hologram of, his natural father, Jor-El. When the hologram, after speaking in Kryptonian to Kal-El, vanishes, the whole craft goes with it, leaving only a single green crystal in its wake.Superman then tries to discover what the rod is. He takes it to S.T.A.R. labs, who can only identify it as having similar properties to transmissions from the Phantom Zone. The boys at the lab strap him into a machine they've been developing to help them make sense of Phantom Zone transmissions, and then go about trying to decode the isobar.Though the transference creates great stress on his body, he is able to telepathically speak to the memory ingram of Jor-El that was resident on the isobar.When he does so, he discovers that the Jor-El that had been depicted since Man of Steel #1 was a deliberate fabrication told by Jor-El. The image of Jor-El we've seen since 1986 melts away to reveal the red/green/gold-costume more reminiscent of the pre-Crisis Jor-El, who goes on to tell a very familiar origin story.Jor-El shows his son the Krypton that was generally depicted in comics for most of the 20th century. More detail is given here, though, about the council meeting in which Jor-El proposes that the government build a fleet of escape pods, and some of the heretofore Elseworlds or Hypertime descriptions of General Zod's place in the government is integrated into this "main continuity" story. His is the principle voice of opposition to Jor-El's plan, and the proximate cause of Jor-El's decision to concentrate on getting at least his son off world. As the ship departs, Lara--who is exclusively shown in her role as supporting wife and mother--asks the important question "Will the memories of Krypton, however faint, haunt him forever?" And though this version of the story doesn't give us a particularly strong, "astronaut Lara-El", she at least gets to ask the key question to unlocking the last 20 years of Superman's back story. Jor-El's answer reveals why Byrne's Man of Steel version of Krypton was so radically different than the one we've seen for years, and, indeed, the one we see here. Jor-El communicated a "lie" about Krypton to make sure his son would find Earth more appealing. In this way, Jor-El hoped Kal would look toward Earth instead of back to Krypton. This second transmission was provided for Kal's adulthood, when, it was hoped, Kal would've been fully integrated with his new society, and able to better balance his destiny as a man of two worlds.Unfortunately, just as this revelation is made, the stress of taking a direct hit off the isobar proves too much for Superman's body and he breaks out of the chair, destroying his ability to decode its contents. Until, that is, one of the boys at the lab offers Kal a chance to go to Krypton via some new tech they've been working on. He goes home to tell Lois, and she enthusiastically supports the mission--inviting herself along for the ride.Story continues across the Superman titles this month.
Walter Simonson's actual credit on this issue is "Inspires".This issue, this story, is one of the more important ones told in the regular run of Superman comics, in that it links up so many diverse elements from the entire history of Superman origins, from the original 1934 newspaper strip story to Smallville.Said Jeph Loeb at the time of publication: "These are the kinds of stories that we do well; we take a little bit of what was; mix it with a little bit of what is; and come out with something that has never been done before. We're going on record, right now, that this issue of Superman will be the most talked about Superman story in a decade. Well... actually in about 14 years."
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