There was barely a wrong note to be found over the opening three collections of Kurt Busiek’s run on Superman, and Camelot Falls began so promisingly before coming off the rails over the concluding volume. It prompts doubts where previously there were none, so can The Third Kryptonian set things back on track?

The origins lie in Back in Action, where a troublesome alien named the Auctioneer made reference to three Kryptonians being on Earth. Superman knows about Supergirl, but who is the third Kryptonian? Batman helpfully points out that if it were that simple to trace a Kryptonian, the Clark Kent identity wouldn’t have survived long. One certainty is that Chris Kent, the foster child Clark and Lois now have, is exempt as he appeared after the Auctioneer’s visit. Chris, though, is the prompt for an entertaining visit to the Batcave.

Busiek doesn’t keep the mystery dragging on too long, and his solution is elegant. It explores the idea of someone aware they have super powers, but who chooses not to complicate their life by using them publicly for the greater good. Explaining her presence and backstory requires the entire middle chapter, which rolls out with efficient logic to set up the finale. It turns out the Auctioneer values money above discretion, and the presence of Kryptonians beyond Superman on Earth attracts galactic wrong’uns. These are people who can give Superman a battle, and have little in the way of an ethical code.

Rick Leonardi is a surprisingly under-rated superhero artist whose back catalogue is littered with efficient storytelling giving way to superhero dynamism. He delivers his usual solid work on The Third Kryptonian, with the proviso that his pencils look tidier when inked by Dan Green than when he handles the job.

What might have otherwise been a standard slugfest is given some heartbreaking context regarding why Kryptonians were disliked and feared before their planet blew up. It’s an idea Brian Michael Bendis picked up on and would later mine at far greater length. The guest-star packed finale hinges on whether the right thing will be done, and although double length, it doesn’t seem that way.

Before the continuity heads into 3-2-1 Action! There are two stories illustrated by Renato Guedes, both successfully sentimental in emphasising family ties. Dwayne McDuffie has Jonathan Kent flown into space by his adoptive son, and able to see first hand what makes Superman a hero. ‘The Best Day’ from Busiek with co-plotter Fabian Nicieza has the Kent family take a trip to an alien planet. The contrasts between young and elderly, Kryptonian and human and what’s right and what’s not play out in a story without a villain appealingly illustrated by Guedes, just as he brought out the drama earlier. The personality touches are important, and he ensures they’re all apparent in what lives up to the story title.