I love Superman. I grew up with Superman, and his infallible spirit and drive to always do good has been a guiding force for my love of comic books for the last 40 years. And yet, for a character that’s been around for over 80 years in comic books, and has been featured in live action TV shows, animated shows, radio programs, and a handful of big budget Hollywood films, there are still parts of his life that have never truly been explored. All of that changed last year when Syfy and Warner Bros. unleashed Krypton, the story of Superman’s home planet, set hundreds of years before Clark Kent moved to Metropolis. The series was a hit, and the second season is set to premiere later this year.
In preparation for that second season, Warner Home Entertainment has released Krypton: The Complete First Season on DVD and Blu-Ray, so veteran fans can revisit the 10-episode series, and new fans can jump on board this magnificent look into Superman’s — and DC Comics’ — past.
The 10 episodes that make up the first season of Krypton introduce audiences to Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe), Kal-El’s grandfather. But the series opens up by featuring Val-El (Ian McElhinney), Kal’s great-great grandfather. By going back this far in the history, creators and showrunners David Goyer, Cameron Welsh (Constantine), and Damian Kindler are able to play with the myths without disturbing current canon. While Krypton sits in its own dedicated universe, the House of El sigil resembles the one used in the Man of Steel, yet the Superman “S” as shown on the cape that Adam Strange (Shaun Sipos) gives Sig-El is the “classic” Richard Donner “S,” making this a fine mix of different ideas and concepts.
Krypton takes place primarily in Kandor City, a place destined for rough times, as the comics have shown us. But when we first begin to explore this new world, Kandor is a city segmented by the various ruling guilds and the rankless, all ran by the monotheist Voice of Rao (Blake Ritson). What the Voice of Rao says goes, and the Law Guild, ran by House Vex, and the Military Guild, ran by House Zod, serve to do his bidding. The series opens with Val-El (McElhinney) being tried, convicted, and executed for divulging that there is life out in the galaxy and that Rao may not be the only god.
Val-El discovered the existence of a powerful entity that collects planets and civilizations, a being called Brainiac, and he tries to warn the guilds of Kandor, only to be rebuked by Daron-Vex (Elliot Cowan), the head of the Law Guild. His entire house is stripped of rank, and he is killed for his blasphemy. If only the Kryptonians would listen to the Els, DC Comics history would be so much different.
Fourteen years pass as Val-El’s grandson, Seg-El (Cuffe), lives in the rankless slums with his parents. Sig drinks too much and fights too much and does whatever he can to help his family make ends meet. After an act of heroism, Seg is arranged to marry Nyssa-Vex (Wallis Day), the daughter of the man who sentenced his grandfather to death. In secret, Seg is having an affair with Lyta-Zod (Georgina Campbell), even though she is betrothed to Dev-Em (Aaron Pierre), another member of the Sagitari, the elite guard of the Military Guild that they both belong to. The Military Guild is headed by Jayna-Zod (Ann Ogbomo), Lyta’s overbearing mother. And, of course, the Zods and the Els don’t get along too well, even this far back in Kryptonian history. As you can see, this story has threads upon threads interwoven with each other in intricate ways.
When earthling Adam Strange (Sipos) appears with his Zeta beam device and Superman’s cape, warning Seg of a threat from the future that could wipe his grandson from existence, the two men begin a journey that is full of shocking revelations and has enough twists, turns, and backstabbings to make George RR Martin squeal in glee.
Krypton does so many things well, like giving fans a near-perfect Brainiac, and by always staying true to the source material — even when anachronisms are all but guaranteed. This unexplored time period gives the Krypton writing staff so much to work with, as unlike Fox Television’s Gotham, there’s no need to drag in Superman’s menagerie of arch-villains to tell the story. That’s not to say there aren’t a few recognizable names and faces, but they are done in context and work for this story. And that’s all a longtime fan can ask for.
Krypton is one of the best lit TV shows I’ve seen since Ronald Moore’s Battlestar Galactica. The lighting effects — and effects in general — are eye-pleasing, and the set designs and art direction is up there with some of the biggest budgeted Hollywood films. I particularly love the costume designs for the Voice of Rao. His golden helmet, which features the faces of Krypton’s old gods, and long flowing robes covered in scripture scream both piety and danger, and Blake Ritson’s performance matches the costume well. When you mix a great story with a strong cast and then set them both loose on sets like this, the end product is bound to be great, and Krypton delivers.
If there’s one thing that didn’t work for me in Krypton Season 1, it’s the character of Adam Strange. This is not any version of Adam Strange I’ve ever read, and to make matters worse, he’s written and performed more like Michael Jon Carter, aka Booster Gold. I found myself hoping as the season went on that it would be revealed that Carter had stolen not only the Zeta beam, but Strange’s identity. It fits Carter better, and there is no bigger Superman fan in the DCU than Booster Gold. Seeing this line up so perfectly, only to get squashed when the character is called by the wrong name pulled me out of the series in multiple places. Maybe this is still something that will be revealed in later seasons, though there were some spots where they began to build on Strange’s character, and did so by name dropping Strange’s supporting cast.
Krypton: The Complete First Season comes complete with bonus features, including a gag reel, deleted scenes, two “making of” docs — which are very interesting to watch, and the 2017 San Diego Comic Con Krypton panel, hosted by Geoff Johns. The docs are full of good information, and there are some interesting things said at the SDCC panel about the show which ultimately didn’t pan out in the finished product, which is kind of neat.
The Krypton Blu-Ray has DTS 5.1 audio and is subtitled in multiple languages. The video transfer is clean and sharp in 1080p and there’s a slight uptick in clarity when watched on a 4K Blu-Ray player. Our copy came with a digital copy of the complete first season, but we did not test it out for specs.
Krypton: The Complete First Season is a must-own for fans of DC Comics or fans of great episodic science fiction. I’ve really tried to avoid comparing it to Game of Thrones, but the comparisons are warranted. Krypton 200 years ago was not the utopia that fans have read about in various comics over the last 80 years. David Goyer and his team have really created something unique here, and if you missed it in its run on Syfy, now is the best time to catch up and see what you missed. The second season is coming, and with it more of what made the first season Krypton so exemplary. Along with the shows that DC Universe is producing, like Titans and Doom Patrol, Krypton joins an ever-growing list of great DC Comics-based TV shows, and leave it to Superman — the greatest superhero ever — and his story to be leading the pack.
Krypton: The Complete First Season is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray. This review is based on a copy of the first season provided to us by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment for that purpose. All images courtesy of Warner Bros.