Read an Excerpt
By Marv Wolfman
Warner BooksCopyright © 2006 DC Comics
All right reserved.
Chapter OneKal-El was asleep when his world exploded. His only memories were of shifting back and forth in the soft, protective confines of his mother's womb, dreaming of the gentle sounds she made. They were encouraging songs and tender coos that let him know how much he was already loved. As she sang, he knew her hand would gently brush against her swollen abdomen then come to rest on his small, bulging stomach. He anxiously waited for that all-too-brief moment, hoping that very soon he would look into her eyes and let her know he loved her, too.
He was sixteen hours old when he opened his eyes to see her standing over him, a sweet proud smile on her lips. "You are so beautiful," she said, playing with the fringes of his already thick, black hair. "And you deserve so much more than what awaits you."
He recognized his mother's voice-it had comforted him for as long as he could remember-and he returned her a small smile in response. Her fingers danced across his tummy again, tickling him. He giggled, the chubby flesh around his eyes wrinkled as he reached to touch her long dark hair. She was beautiful but her dark gray eyes were welling up with tears. He didn't understand what was wrong with her, but in the nine months he grew inside her he had learned to deal with her shifting moods.
Asecond figure entered the room. When he spoke Kal-El knew it was his father, a handsome white-haired man with piercing blue eyes. He had heard his soft voice, muffled and distant, many times before, but now there was an anger in it Kal-El had never known, and the words, which of course meant nothing to him, were spat out quickly, as if rushing through them would let his father get past the annoyance, whatever it was, and onto something more pleasurable.
"They won't listen no matter what I say and in spite of the proof I show them," Jor-El said. "They're fools, and the fools they are would let us all die." Kal-El watched his mother circle her arms around his father, comforting him. "We have our contingencies, Jor-El. We'll make this work. You know we will."
"I pray you're right, Lara, but you know how intractable they can be. You should have heard them. 'Krypton die? Oh, never, Jor-El. This is just another of your mistaken fantasies.' Fantasies?"
He paced the room angrily, slamming his fist against a bright white wall. "Those small-minded condescending buffoons don't know how close I came to ..." Jor-El unclenched his fist and dropped his arm to his side. "Unfortunately, I didn't do anything, as much as I wanted to. Korth-Or ended the meeting just in time, and I left without another word. Fantasies? After everything I've showed them, everything I've done, how could they treat me in this way?"
"They're frightened old men, Jor-El. They've spent their lives extolling the perfection of Krypton. How could they believe now that we will be victims of a cruel fate beyond our control?"
Kal-El suddenly laughed, wholly inappropriately, and Jor-El's anger faded. He turned to look at his handsome son, barely one day old. He'd been suddenly summoned by the Council from Lara's bedside, and this was his first opportunity to study his son closely. He looked so much like Lara; eyes steady but happy, lips curled into a wonderful, warm smile.
This should have been Jor-El's happiest day. This should have been a time for celebration.
His father was smiling back at him, but as with his mother, the infant could tell it was halfhearted. Jor-El's deep, reassuring voice had always given him hope, but he sensed trouble now, and he started to cry.
"Don't cry, Kal-El, everything is going to be so good for you." Jor-El nuzzled his cheek until Kal-El's tears sputtered out and were replaced with soft, happy giggles.
"Kal-El will never know another sunrise," Jor-El said, tickling the boy's stomach, working to keep him calm. "At least not ours. The sun that will one day warm him will be young and burn yellow, and it will be the source of his great strength. Lara, he'll come to cherish it, not ever knowing the star he was born under was red and old and dying."
They called him "Kal-El." That was his name. Jor-El was his father. And his mother was Lara. They were his family.
Jor-El carefully lifted him from the soft blankets and held him facing their wall-sized window to look out onto their beautiful world that, as far as he could understand, had always been there and always would. There was crystal as far as he could see, shining brightly, reflecting the growing red glow of Krypton's dying sun. Kal-El turned away and cried; it was all too bright and vivid for his still-innocent eyes.
Jor-El sat in the far corner of the room where Kal-El would be protected in the comforting cloak of shadows. He opened his eyes again and saw his father, his face drawn and tired, grimly looking at him.
"My son, although we failed more than we care to remember, you must know we were a great people once. Enlightened even. We yearned to touch the impossible, and more often than not we succeeded. You will take that greatness with you, my child, and it will comfort and guide you."
"The ship will hold?" Lara interrupted, taking the baby for his last feeding. "It is such a long journey."
He nodded, smiling thinly. "I harvested the crystals myself."
Lara kissed Kal-El's cheek, then made a sucking sound against it. He giggled again, and her tears, thought long ago spent, began anew. "It's not fair. We'll never see him crawl or learn to walk. Isn't there any hope?"
Jor-El shook his head; no matter how long one took to intellectualize what had to be done, there was no real preparing for the actual moment. "Not for us. But he will walk. He'll even talk. And when he gets there-he'll do so much more."
Kal-El cooed as his mother held him tightly, afraid to let him go. He heard her heartbeat quicken; it was not the same comforting, steady beat he had gotten so used to for all his short existence. Things were not right.
He wanted to cry, to bring their attention back to him, but instead he sputtered and gurgled some meaningless sounds.
Lara had worked alongside her husband for five years, three as his assistant before they were married, and two since, rechecking all of his calculations, then going over them again and again. For the past month she increased her efforts, all the while secretly hoping that they would learn the Council was right all along and that it was she and Jor-El who were wrong, that they had made some small, undetected error that somehow blossomed into his ridiculous theory.
Krypton's sun will go supernova? Impossible. Not in our lifetime or the lifetime of our grandchildren. Yes, it's a red giant, continuing to expand, and yes, it's been cooling for more than a generation, but it has eons to go before it explodes. Come, come, Jor-El. We'll all be long dead before that happens. Don't you understand, Jor-El, what you ignored is that Krypton is shifting in its orbit. That would explain the quakes we've been experiencing ... They had a hundred excuses why Jor-El was wrong.
But Lara knew as much as she prayed to Rao that one day she would cradle Kal-El's own baby in her arms, tweaking its little nose, and gently pinching its soft, pillow cheeks, at some point in the next ten hours, when there was no longer any margin for error, she would wrap him securely in the brightly colored blanket she'd bought the previous month and kept boxed in the corner of the freshly painted bedroom next to theirs, then she would carefully tuck the blanket around him as she placed him gently into the crystal star they had kept hidden in a secret panel in their inner lab. They had practiced the routine at least a hundred times. Kal-El's father would activate the security protocols to protect him during his journey, place the father crystal in the pod next to him, and then, after delaying the inevitable for as long as they could, Lara would reluctantly nod her consent, and they would send him off to his destiny.
His dreams would begin as theirs ended.
Mount Argo rumbled, shaking their laboratory again, but this tremor was weaker than they had been for months. Maybe we are wrong, Lara prayed as she gazed at the vast city beyond their window. Maybe it is just earthquakes. Maybe they are finally subsiding. Of course she knew better; she had completed the calculations herself, but that didn't mean she couldn't hold out hope for some unexpected miracle. Perhaps Jor-El didn't believe in Rao, or in his mercy, but she always had.
She heard the baby cooing in her arms and kissed his warm cheek again. Jor-El always said Kal-El was destined for greatness. But destiny was a thing of faith, too, not much different from her own. Lara turned again to look out into the city, still glowing with a strong, steady, internal light. As sure as she was of its fate, she couldn't bring herself to accept that its eternal greatness would, all too soon, simply cease to exist.
It had been a timeless city, strong and powerful. It survived the vast armies of three great nations waging war on its bloodied streets. It stood proud as the signing place of an everlasting peace. Since then, thousands of generations had lived here, and Lara, who was raised half a world away on the Crater Plains, and had spent her early years dreaming of living where Krypton's earliest founders had once walked, did not want to believe that this magnificence, and all it stood for, would soon be gone.
She had spent her first year out of the university touring the city and its outer regions, basking in its surprising history. She trekked out to the Valley of the Elders and camped there for over a month, living in the shadow of Krypton's greatest. She could feel the energy, raw and surging and still very much alive in the immense crystal monoliths that seemed to reach beyond the famed half dome whose vaulted roof protected the valley from the planet's temperature extremes.
At night she would huddle in her sleep cocoon, its warming fabrics giving her the courage to walk the next morning along the fabled roads that Sor-El, Kol-Ar, and Pol-Us, the chosen representatives from the three warring nations, must have taken when they created the original Laws of Humanity that governed Krypton since those troubled early days.
The Valley of the Elders was set in a deep, miles-wide canyon, and from the ground, those crystal monolith towers, constructed in a large circle, reflecting the full spectrum of light, looked to Lara like hands raised in reverential prayer, faceted fingers stretched to touch their enduring red sun if not Rao himself. The towers' exterior faces and interior walls were illuminated with the massive crests of the newly civilized Krypton's brave founders, each rune shape uniquely designed.
Lara remembered reading that the fabled three had argued against their inclusion here; with all humility they believed they had merely drafted a logical document of rules and order and did not deserve inclusion themselves in the circle of ancients. But when the grateful people of Krypton voted that they would have to be included, they begrudgingly accepted the honor. It was the people who followed the laws who deserved recognition, they said, not those who merely wrote them.
Kol-Ar's emblem was the open hand of truth and justice. Sor-El's crest was a diamond-shaped shield with a winding serpent inside, a warning not to return to the dishonesty and violence that once had plagued their planet. Pol-Us's sign was the open eye, to provide eternal vigilance against those who sought a return to the barbarous times.
These three, and the others who followed them, ushered in generations of peace. To Lara, being in their valley, breathing the air they breathed so long ago, gave her chills. She was sure the power she felt here would last forever. She could not know that in five years' time, in little more than the snap of her fingers, the valley, the towers, and everything around them, would be gone.
Kryptonopolis had been grown from a single crystal mount more than ten thousand years before, and it still showed no signs of decay. Other stones, resting atop the flat base, had been grown and shaped by the earliest Kryptonians into vast cities millions of buildings strong. The tall towers surrounding the great building that was home to Krypton's Science Council gleamed in the bright red sunlight. Lara was happy they didn't live closer to the Council. When she first came to the city to work with Jor-El, she believed there was probably no greater honor than to be welcomed into those halls. But even before the Council's reaction to Jor-El's discovery, she had come to loathe that sanctimonious institution with every angry emotion she could summon.
Lara and Jor-El's home, larger than typical for Argo's south wall, had been cut into the mount's face by Sor-El himself. It looked out over Argo's cliffs into the wide expanse of the Xan Chasm and its rainbow falls. Even after five years she could not look into that cavernous gulf and not feel humbled by its majesty.
Krypton was a world of wonders she had just begun to explore, and she cursed the fates that demanded its destruction.
Jor-El reached for the baby. It was time. For a moment Lara's eyes glazed over. No. I won't let you send him away. I want him to be with me for just one more day. One full day. But Lara knew changing her mind now would condemn their son to the same fate awaiting them. She snuggled her face into Kal-El's, kissed him for the last time, then handed him to his father. "But why Earth, Jor-El? They're primitives. Thousands of years behind us."
"He will need that advantage." Jor-El gently drew his finger across Kal-El's forehead, down his nose, and came to rest on his tiny, red lips. "To survive he will need that and more."
Jor-El returned Kal-El to the crystal pod as Lara again tucked him into the blanket. "He will be odd. Different," she said, trying not to look into those large, innocent eyes for fear of changing her mind, this time for good. Jor-El briefly touched his son's hand, then ran his fingers over the pod's internal crystals. They flashed in the expected order as the star's power began to charge. "But he will be fast. Virtually invulnerable."
Kal-El's tiny hand patted the inside of the pod, mimicking his father's actions, not realizing this small, cramped space would soon become his new mother and father and home for more than two long years. The crystals would feed, nurture, and protect him. And even in his long sleep he would spend the time listening to Lara's and Jor-El's voices talking to him, teaching him all that the twenty-eight known galaxies had to offer.
"We should go with him," Lara said suddenly. "He's too young. He'll need us." Jor-El laid down the special white crystal he was programming and put his arms around his frightened wife. He pulled her close and held her until he felt her rigid body soften and melt into his. "I promised the Council we'd stay on Krypton, but I said nothing about Kal-El." His hands slowly moved down the curve of her back as he nuzzled her long, slender neck, enjoying again her sweet perfume smell and remembering why he had fallen in love with her so many years before.
She was supposed to be his lab assistant, but unlike the others who had applied for the job, she was not only smart but seemingly unaffected by his position in the Council. He wasn't used to not being fawned over.
He was, after all, Jor-El, perhaps Krypton's greatest scientist, or so he'd been told repeatedly by nearly everyone who wanted something from him, which was pretty much everyone at the Academy.
And, of course, he was also a direct descendant of Sor-El himself. You're much too humble, Jor-El. Don't you realize how great you are? You discovered the Phantom Zone, for Rao's sake, the humane way of dealing with unrepentant criminals.
Increasingly of late, however, as he thought more of his own mortality, he began to question that discovery. Perhaps eternal damnation in some nameless limbo was actually worse than a simple and swift death.
But Lara never treated him as one of Krypton's best and brightest. She had worked with many of the other so-called greats since leaving the university, and she had begun to think that though they might have once been good, maybe when they were young, fame and fortune had turned them into little more than, well, idiots. And lecherous ones at that.
At parties she entertained her friends with her deadly accurate impersonations-the meaner they were in tearing apart their professors, the more everyone laughed. She delighted in explaining exactly how she could take all these oh-so-brilliant men's ideas, mix them together, and convert them into a single energy source, and they still wouldn't produce enough power to operate a child's top. They were rude and arrogant, surviving on the glory of their past achievements as well as the diligent work of their young assistants, of whom they took merciless advantage. She would then take her bow, and her friends, all young assistants, of course, would wildly applaud her.
Excerpted from Superman Returns by Marv Wolfman Copyright © 2006 by DC Comics. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I got this book and read it after I saw the movie. I was kind of disappointed that certain parts of the plot were either changed or completely omitted which alluded to a certain spoiler.But then I found out that the book was set to be released before the movie was available in theaters, and therefore they didn't want to spoil the fans. I just didn't read it in the order that they probably intended--but it's a MOVIE first and foremost, so I wasn't about to read the book first. Lord of the Rings? Narnia? Yeah, I'll definitely read the books before I see the movies. But Superman? Star Trek? Anything like that? Definitely seeing the movie first.
I was never really interested in Supes before, even when my mom told me we were going to see the movie, I was, like, whatever (Spider-Man is WAY cooler).... but THEN I saw it and it was soooooooooo awsome!!!! Now I've gone all crazy with buying all the Superman stuff I can!!! Even old comic books! Trust me the movie AND the book will turn even the most un-Superman person into a fan!!!
This is worth reading if you have seen and liked the movie. There are details and scenes that give more depth than the movie provided.You will find more about Superman's trip to his homeworld , his return to the farm in Smallville and more character details.Naturally since this book was released prior to the movie's premiere some of the key scenes read differently in the novel .Nevertheless the story is close to the movie. I usually don't like movie tie-in books but this is as good as the movie and worth the money .
I did not think that the book would be all that reat considering that everything about this upcoming movie is different but it is AWESOME! From the start when he is in space until the surprising end this book will capture fans of every age, and people that don't like super heroes. It is a true hero story that follows the Heroes Journey completly.
My husband has been waiting impatiently for the release of this movie to the point where he had me buy the novelization. Big mistake. The trailers and the first 5 chapters of the book are great, but the rest is just ...blah. The only thing that might save the movie is the special effects, but the characterization and plot are super thin. And the main point of Lois and Superman is never really resolved nor the theme of where does Superman/Clark really feel at home. Where is his home is the whole central theme? Krytpon? Earth? Smallville? Metropolis? Going by this novelization, he doesn't ever find out. The whole point of the movie seems to just have a lot of the same stuff that happened in the first movie happen here but there is no true story. Heck, there is even't much dialogue. It is all in everyone's heads moments. Everything changes the status quo of Superman's world, but there is no real point to it other than to make Superman feel more like a stranger in his adopted world. The other biggest problem is that they decided to make Lex the same campy villian as the first one. They would have done better using Lionel Luthor's mold from the TV series Smallville or Lex from the TV show Lois and Clark or even most shocking of all the Lex from the current comics? There was one moment about the five years comment to Superman that was a total Lex moment, but not even that can save this book. Pirates is going to kill Superman at the box office. Very sad. I guess Bryan Singer is Superman's kryptonite.