It's the anniversary of Krypton's destruction, and Superman has brought his son, Jonathan aka Superboy, to the Fortress of Solitude to observe the occasion. While the two men of Krypton are there, the Fortress' computers detect another planet undergoing the same processes which Krypton experienced before its destruction. Superman goes to help, and Superboy convinces his father to allow him to tag along.
But, how do you help a people who don't want to be helped.
This story immediately requires the reader to really push aside their disbelief to grasp some of the concepts. How does the Fortress of Solitude have computers powerful or elaborate enough to detect such things in the vastness of space? Why would Superman let his son watch their home planet die in real time? Why would Superman take his son halfway across the universe into a situation he really has no knowledge of beyond the dying of a planet?
Superman even recites the process of how these things usually go down for his son: arrive, amaze the people, get them to take you to their leader, offer your help. It makes the Man of Steel seem a little arrogant.
Once you push that aside though—well, you actually get Green Lanterns #33-34, where Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz try to save a people who are religiously devoted to their planet, willing to die to stay faithful. Superman #40 gives you that, right down to the religious devotion.
There are some differences, the Molites of Green Lanterns were more passive and kind. These aliens aren't quite like that.
Plus, if you've not been reading Green Lanterns or even those two specific issues, Superman #40 can come off as fresh. Plus, that premise is interesting and challenges one of the core concept of a superhero. Like I said above, how do you help a people who don't want to be helped? There is a lot you can do with that premise.
Without giving anything more away, this comic seems to want to focus more in the flaws with the religious aspect of the devotion too, focusing on dogma and mindless adherence to doctrine and the problems therein.
Some of the dialogue varies between being somewhat weak and far too on the nose too. However, that doesn't kill the comic, and it's not universal throughout.
Doug Mahnke's art is really good. There is a lot of detail in his world, and the design of the alien species is quite creative. Superboy has some weird faces here and there, but those aren't too common, fortunately. Superman looks as cool and heroic as ever too. Jaime Mendoza and Scott Hanna provide some solid inkwork too. Wil Quintana's color art is pretty good too.
Superman #40 is a decent if somewhat-troubled excursion to a dying world in an attempt to stop history from repeating itself. It's not perfect, but it's fun enough. Plus, Mahnke, Mendoza, Hanna, and Quintana bring some great art to the table. I can recommend this, even if it's not a must-buy. Feel free to check it out.