Over a year ago, I said that I really wanted to read KAL, an Elseworlds tale by Dave Gibbons and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez that answers the question, "What if Kal-El's rocket landed in Medieval England?"
I was finally able to read it, and wow.
This, dear Cubers, is just what art does to a book. Atrocious art can make the greatest plot and script unreadable. Great art, however, can elevate a serviceable story, and that's basically what happens here. There's not much to the actual narrative other than transposing Superman and his supporting cast (mainly Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen) into the medieval setting, and it's Gibbons' characterization that really makes the story pop — the type of subtle characterization that is executed masterfully here by the Maestro himself, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. (By the way, can I just call him JLGL from now on? His name is long, and that includes just his last name, and since my nephew has a friend named "Jose Luis," it feels weird to type that too. Okay? JLGL it is.) JLGL is adept at depicting any sort of facial expression or gesture, from Kal blushing with a knowing smile to Loisse being smitten by him to Kal tearing down castle gates. It's great, dynamic stuff, and even if the story doesn't actually say anything that substantial, it's a fun read simply because Gibbons has Garcia-Lopez do a lot with the premise. Who wouldn't want to see Superman lead an attack on a castle?
Mastery of the craft is evident in the entire book, from the cover alone making it look like a prized artifact from the era (how I wish they'd gone the full hardcover treatment with this — if any concept just demanded that treatment, it'd be this). The fonts used as well as the narrative balloons being depicted as scrolls really give a sense of "Middle Ages" to this story. I don't want to spoil anything from the book itself, so I'm going to show you this house ad for it. It's rare that an ad will actually indicate how good the book is, but this one does.
And wait till you get to the ending. That's just one rather awesome brain-tickler.
I'm quite surprised DC hasn't come out with a collection of Elseworlds tales yet. You'd think it'd be easy, since 90% of them feature either Batman or Superman, so grouping them wouldn't be a problem. I'd definitely put this one as the first story in a Superman collection. It may honestly be one of my top 5 Elseworlds stories that ended up being a done-in-one. I wouldn't say that storywise, there's more to it than your traditional Elseworlds story, but again, that's just how good the art is: it takes a by-the-numbers plot and pushes the quality up several notches on the strength of JLGL's storytelling.
Good read for Superman fans, great read for JLGL fans!