Wednesday, October 13, 2010

2006 "DC Universe: Last Sons" novel by Alan Grant

Metahumans, aliens, magical entities, or mortals driven by iron wills. Super heroes, renegades, or villains—out for justice, vengeance, or cash. Whether legendary, infamous, or little known, these extraordinary beings are the true champions of the…DC UNIVERSE


Interplanetary bounty hunter Lobo is a notorious maverick. Happily wreaking havoc as he brings in his prey, he cares little who his clients or targets are—even when his latest quarry is J’onn J’onnzz, Martian Manhunter of the Justice League. Suddenly Lobo finds himself confronting…Superman. Cogs in the machinations of a powerful artificial life-form, these three aliens, the sole survivors of the planets Krypton, Mars, and Czarnia, have only one thing in common—they are the last of their kind...LAST SONS

In February of 2006, Del Rey published this 336 page paperback as a teen+ novel. I thought it had an intriguing character selection when I saw the original solicitation blurb. In the Silver Age, Superman longed for his native planet Krypton, the only place he could live a normal life among his mental and physical equals-- not to mention get his superfreak on. Back then, Superman was always going back through time, trying to save his doomed home world. However, after his 1986 reboot, Clark Kent usurped Superman as the primary identity. Ever since, Superman has just been a well-adjusted kid from Kansas with a happy marriage to a human who only claims his alien heritage when convenient or unavoidable.

Meanwhile, J’onn J’onzz was an initially unwilling transplant from Mars to Earth, but he soon came to enjoy his new life playing detective on an alien world so much he didn’t return home when he had multiple chances. The Manhunter from Mars was often a Superman knock-off/stand-in, but was comparatively care free. It was almost fifteen years into his career before J’onzz invested deeply in tragedy with the death of most of his fellow Martians. Since 1988, the Martian Manhunter has been defined by the sorrow of the family and world he lost, once again filling a void abdicated by Superman.

Finally, there was Lobo, a sociopathic bounty hunter who had supposedly killed every other specimen of his Czarnian race in order to be unique in all the universe. Lobo cannot be killed, but neither can Doomsday, and that doesn’t keep Superman and Martian Manhunter from incarcerating him at every opportunity. Lobo is a natural enemy for the heroic last survivors of their respective races, yet he’s so often played for gallows humor or as an anti-hero, he’s given a free pass instead of doing time.

I lost most of my interest when I realized the novel was written by Alan Grant. While I’ve appreciated some of the author’s comic work, I usually find it insubstantial, cartoonish, derivative, and often painfully if intentionally dumb. Lobo and Grant were closely associated with one another after dozens of mini-series, specials, and an overly long-running ongoing series together. The pair bring out the worst tendencies in one another, and upon learning the novel was devoted to Lobo with our heroes cast as support, there was no way I was going to inflict reading the tripe upon myself.

However, “Last Sons” was reworked into a modern radio play in 2010, so I decided I was willing to listen to a dramatization over a series of CDs. Not without some wincing, mind, but it made for a pleasant enough diversion. I wouldn’t know where to start (or more appropriately, where to stop) in synopsizing a novel, but I think I can offer a decent enough shorthand recap of the audio version...


LissBirds said...

Oooh, I've been waiting for a writeup of this! To me, any story becomes instantly more entertaining when Lobo shows up.

There was another book in this series, JLA: The Exterminators, which did feature a good deal of Martian Manhunter "screen time," and was actually fairly decent.

Diabolu Frank said...

While researching for this series of posts, I realized that a) Exterminators had been released as an audiobook & b)J'Onn figured into it. On my list.

Lobo is a character that I really came to dislike in solo vehicles, but I agree that when used sparingly, he's an excellent spice. Way too much Lobo in this book, though.

LissBirds said...

I agree that a little Lobo goes a long way. He's getting a lot of screentime lately, though, between REBELS and GL.

Diabolu Frank said...

I haven't read his R.E.B.E.L.S. issues yet, but that seems to be the right place for Lobo to be.