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Literature / The Last Days of Krypton

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The Last Days of Krypton is an origin story for Superman, written by Kevin J. Anderson in 2007. Drawing from over 70 years of Superman mythos, it gives readers a look at Kryptonian society before its planet explodes.

Jor-El is a brilliant scientist, whose research and progress is continually stymied by the Ruling Council of Krypton, more specifically the Technology Commisioner Dru-Zod, who confiscates many of his inventions 'for the safety of the public'. What Jor-El doesn't know is Zod is actually hoarding his devices for his own use at a later date. While researching a singularity he created that leads to a 'Phantom Zone', Jor-El meets an artist by the name of Lara Lor-Van, and the two quickly start a relationship. However, Jor-El is worried that their planet may be on the road to destruction...

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The incredibly static Kryptonian society is given the shake-up of a lifetime when it is visited by aliens- the artificial intelligence dubbed Brainiac in particular, who steals the entire capital city of Kandor, creating a power vacuum on Krypton. Seeing this as his chance, Zod quickly takes control, and dubs himself General. As the power-struggle radically escalates, only Jor-El is worried about the planet's possible demise.

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This novel contains examples of

  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Lara sometimes thinks of her brother, Ki-Van, as this, but she still loves him very much.
  • Asshole Victim: In-universe example; Gur-Va is brutally murdered in his jail cell, but no one cares and when left with the mystery of who killed him, the Sapphire Guards barely look into it.
  • Beta Couple: Dru-Zod and Aethyr-Ka are a dark version of this.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Played with - Rather than allowing himself to be thrown unwillingly into the Phantom Zone after his trial, Zod runs and dives into it of his own volition.
  • The Cameo: Jor-El's monitoring station picks up a message from J'onn J'onzz (The Martian Manhunter) who tells of the destruction of Mars and its people.
  • Chariot Race: A staple of Kryptonian sports entertainment. The chariots are pulled by big, weird lizards.
  • Demonization: Zod purposely paints The Brain Interactive Construct (given the more sinister name Brainiac by Zod) as a Silver Age Card-Carrying Villain in order to use the possible threat of an alien invasion as an excuse to build power.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: In-universe example; parallels are drawn between Zod's policies and that of Jax-Ur, a conqueror from ancient Krypton.
    • After Zod's rise to power, his followers start wearing blue armbands.
    • Obstructive politicians ignore the El brothers' warnings about Krypton's geological instability because they don't understand their science and don't want to accept the reality of the situation if it's true. The parallels to the climate change debate are easy to draw.
  • Doomed by Canon / Foregone Conclusion: As anyone who is even remotely familiar with Superman's origins knows, Krypton's gonna go, no matter what happens. The only trick is how.
  • Doomsday Device: Zod reinforces his tenuous hold on Kryptonian society with a stockpile of doomsday devices. Three of them were once used to destroy an inhabited moon. Zod has fifteen.
  • Dumb Muscle: Defied - Many people think this of Nam-Ek, but he is actually quite intelligent, observant and is better at reading people than Zod at many points in the story.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Zod took Nam-Ek in as a boy and genuinely cares about his well-being. The feeling is definitely mutual.
    • After Zod's downfall, he secretly wishes for Aethyr and Nam-Ek to denounce him so they won't suffer the same sentence as him: exile in the Phantom Zone.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: One of Zod's defining characteristics.
  • Fluffy Tamer: Animal-lover Nam-Ek has a team of barely-domesticated hrakkas (big, vicious lizards) that he lovingly cares for.
  • Food Porn: The novel is loaded with extremely detailed descriptions of Kryptonian cuisine.
  • For the Evulz: The motivation behind Gur-Va, the Butcher of Kandor's slaughter of the animals in the Kandor Zoo.
  • The Ghost: Although he has been dead centuries before the beginning of the story, Jax-Ur and his war against Krypton effects the story as much as many of the book's principles.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Lara Lor-Van
  • Ignored Expert: Jor-El and Zor-El, mostly because no one understands their science and by the end of the story, Zod's pet engineer No-Ton becomes this as well.
  • I Have Your Wife: when Jor-El realizes what a ruthless dictator Zod is, he tries to leave Zod's forces only for Zod to take his wife Lara hostage.
  • It's All About Me: Zod, of course. As Jor-El realizes, everything Zod does, first and foremost, is to benefit him.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: When Zod uses the Rao Beam installation (Built to carve a hole in the planet and release the pressure that's building up) on a city that refuses to accept him as ruler, it's a clear sign to everyone that he's gone Drunk with Power
  • Kangaroo Court: Zoe sees his war crimes tribunal as this. He's not entirely wrong, Zod is denied council and is not permitted to cross-examine his accusers, something he opening points out during the proceedings. When he is finally permitted to speak in his own defense, he remains silent in protest.
  • Kneel Before Zod: Obviously.
  • Meet Cute: An odd sci-fi version- Lara meets Jor-El shortly after he trapped himself in the Phantom Zone and helps him get out.
  • Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: The Kryptonian Council. Jor-El and Zod share a mutual disdain for them at the beginning of the book.
  • Official Couple: Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van.
  • Oh, Crap!: Zod has two notable examples. First, when Brainaic's ship arrives, Zod thinks it is Donodon's people come for revenge. Since Nam-Ek killed Donodon on Zod's orders, he was right to be concerned. Later, this is his initial reaction when Jor-El reports to Zod that his space-monitoring system has found something (a comet). Zod had honestly not expected any further legitimate threats from space.
  • Only One Name: Aethyr refuses to acknowledge her family name (Ka).
  • Only Sane Man: Poor Jor-El is the only one trying to focus on the big picture, namely, the possible ways Krypton could end, than who's in charge.
  • Phantom Zone: Created in the first chapter and is a major plot device for the remainder of the book.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Zod's late father and former Council Head Cor-Zod was this. Even after his quick power grab, silencing of dissidents, senseless destruction of a rival city and pompous warmongering, General Zod sees himself as this.
    • Zor-El is definitely this. Besides being a decent scientist himself, he's also the ruler of his own city.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Inverted: Jor-El and Zor-El are both brilliant scientists and engineers, mostly specializing in different fields. They have a great deal of respect for one another. Jor-El thinks his brother is a bit impulsive (he's not wrong) and Zor-El considers his brother to be a bit naïve and idealistic (he's not wrong, either).
  • Science Hero: Zor-El is this from the get-go. Circumstances force Jor-El to become one.
  • Shout-Out: The alien visitor Donodon mentions an interstellar peacekeeping force, though he does not refer to it by name (The Green Lantern Corps).
  • Shrink Ray: Brainiac uses one to reduce the City of Kandor to convenient portable size. He's done this many times before.
  • What, Exactly, Is Her Job?: Lara wonders this about Aethyr's role in Zod's government. While it could be said that Aethyr is Zod's chief advisor and propagandist, most of these tasks happen behind closed doors.
  • The World Is Always Doomed: Throughout the course of the story, Jor-El discovers not one, but three threats that could spell the end of the Krypton. First, he was afraid that their sun Rao could go supernova. Then it was pressure building up in their planet's core. Then an impending comet collision. But in the end, it's none of these things. The Ruling Council decide to throw Jor-El's Phantom Zone projector into a giant hole created to deal with threat 2, despite Jor-El's repeated warnings that the projector is actually a self-contained singularity. Said singularity proceeds to eat the planet's core, causing the loss of mass to destabilize and destroy the world.
  • Villain Has a Point: He may have been an opportunistic tyrant, but Zod's critique of Krypton's Ruling Council, and their successors, wasn't unjustified.
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