Saturday, 14 August 2010

Superman #702 review

Right, I'm halfway through the second issue of Superman's walk across America. I just need to bang my head against the wall for one minute ...

...

OK. I'm back. And I've read the rest of the comic.

Dearie Lord, I don't like the guy starring in this run by J Michael Straczynski. 'Superman' reaches Detroit and says hello to a chap on a porch. Then he does the old 'let the loser beat me at something' it - in this case basketball - so his very dim pals respect him.

Then he happens to come across a bunch of extraterrestrial refugees living quietly in the suburbs, as you do. There's a fight involving a big warsuit and Superman being mighty arrogant. And then, after everyone decides to just have a discussion, Superman turns out to be a massive ass.

If the aliens go home to Natalla, they'll be killed. They're living quietly, using their own resources, and bothering no one. Superman's view?

'Could you possibly have picked a worse time to immigrate here illegally ...?' and 'The point is: what are you giving back to the community?' Despite Superman's super-hearing. the aliens' very fair point, that he's an illegal immigrant too, falls on deaf ears. He leaves them with the passive-aggressive threat that 'I still haven't decided what to do about you. This isn't over. I just need to think for a while.'

God complex, much?

As it happens, Superman needs the aliens' help later in the issue, and the story ends with the strange visitors helping regenerate Detroit, and me feeling nauseous.

I really don't want to read about a pompous, judgmental, sanctimonious, empathy-free arsehole for 12 issues. I'd rather the book was turned over to the Natallans, they're at least amusing. Maybe they could start a new Justice League Detroit or something.
The very-human Natallans
There are some moments I liked: a scene with kids reacting to Superman's fight with the warsuit, our hero remembering he has a wife ... but overall, this is heavy going. Even if I weren't British, I doubt I'd be able to stomach heavy-handed allegories and lectures about the state of the US. As it is, I'm this close to dropping the book.

The only thing that's going to get me to buy next issue is the promise of a Batman appearance. Interfering in another hero's life is the sort of thing Bruce Wayne made an art of in the years before his 'death', so I'm intrigued as to what has placeholder Dick Grayson following Superman; it's just not the fella's style.

John Cassaday's style, on the cover, posits Superman as a big-headed chap with a plastic, action figure quality. Inside, penciller Eddy Barrows' style continues to be pretty, as inked by JP Mayer and coloured by Rod Reis. The layouts do the job, the people look good, Superman is the handsome hero. When we get to the big fight scene, the pages come alive ... and this is from someone who generally prefers soap to operatics.

There is an oddness attached to the tussle. Superman tells the warsuit-wearing Natallan that it's not actually tough to hurt him, 'the hard part is surviving me'. I took that as hyperbolic battle talk, but by the end of the fight he's covered in scratches. I wouldn't have thought twice about that, usually - alien tech has hurt Supeman in the past. But coming after the speech about his vulnerability, I'm wondering if Straczynski's Superman has been weakened to Golden Age levels, with the yellow sun acting as a healing factor. Certainly, by issue's end the signs of a scrap have vanished.

Along with my interest in this storyline. I'm pretty sure I'll buy next issue - I'm a Superman diehard, it takes a lot for me to drop his books. And I did say I'd give it three months. But one more issue of Preacherman and I'm out.

9 comments:

  1. This run really didn't appeal to me even from the Previews blurb, so I'm relieved to hear my reluctance to buy wasn't in vain. I might check out the tpb -- as I promised someone I would -- but I'm not looking forward to it.

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  2. This one didn't do a whole lot for me, either. But I'm still a little curious, especially about Batman (who it didn't occur to me was Dick until you mentioned it, since I don't read the Batbooks in real time). Plus, well... it's got a nice looking cover?

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  3. You may also be interested in my article, which also contains a poll:

    Is Superman outdated and needs a revamp?

    Here's the link:

    http://www.squidoo.com/SupermanOutdatedCharacter

    Thanks,
    Matie

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  4. Thanks for the comments, chaps. I'm still hoping this turns around.

    Matie, I voted no! All Superman ever needs is good stories.

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  5. This was a pretty bad comic.

    The problem with addressing real world issues is that compressed comic story-telling over-simplify them. The one issue per city format essentially assures that.

    So far, Superman has been a self-absorbed prick during the JMS run. That is pretty much exactly what the character did not need. Worse, there has not been the tiniest hint of wit.

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  6. I started reading Superman in the Triangle era. I loved all the silly villains like Riot, Atomic Skull, and Terra Man. Heck Silver Banshee is still one of my faves.

    Plus the 90's writers always introduced good supporting heroes like Alpha Centurion or the Supermen of America. I always knew Superman would be ok, but I'd get invested in the backups too.

    Most importantly? Fighting! There was a fight an issue, that's what I need! It sounds like this stuff wouldn't cut it with me at all.

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  7. Dean, I totally see your point about over-simplifying real-world issues. I got to the point where the aliens set up a medical research firm and gave everyone jobs, and I thought "Oh, come on!" But then I realized something:

    That's exactly how something like this would have been handled in the Golden Age. Find a problem, find a solution, and Outta Here!

    And while that isn't necessarily satisfying to today's readers (it wasn't initially satisfying to me), I think it's an interesting choice for JMS to make, particularly because it goes against the grain. And I have to consider -- do I really want five issues with pages devoted to the aliens putting this company together? There's something to be said for getting it done and capping it off with a happy (though facile) ending.

    When this storyline started, my biggest hope for it was that it would give us don-in-one stories of the "Social Justice" Superman of the Golden Age. And in this issue, that's exactly what we got.

    So now that I've seen it, I've got to decide... is that really what I wanted?

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  8. I feel similarly, Rob, though the difference between how Superman handled problems in the Golden Age and in this current run seems glaring - back then, he'd fly in, fists flailing, take action and fly away. Here he walks in, lectures, makes people feel bad about themselves, lectures some more, and walks away. It's so depressing.

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  9. Dean, while there were occasional klumnkers such as Agent Liberty and Sinbad, the post-Byrne years were indeed full of fun.

    And poignancy - I still get a lump in my throat, thinking of copy girl Alice living in the Daily Planet cupboard.

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