Thursday, 14 October 2010

Superman #703 review

Ah, that's better. After a month's delay, Superman #703 arrives and I finally enjoy an installment of the Grounded storyline.

Superman gives a stalker a taste of his own intimidating medicine in a page putting our hero in touch with his Golden Age self. Batman shows up and asks Superman what the heck he's up to with 'all this walking nonsense'. And remnants of New Krypton have a powerful effect on Earth folk.

So why the month's delay? Without wishing to overstate the power of fan opinion, I wouldn't be at all surprised if writer J Michael Straczynski didn't see reactions to the first couple of Grounded tales, and ask DC to allow time for some retooling. For this issue, without getting too heavy handed about it, deftly addresses some of the questions readers have raised, such as, why has the year-long New Krypton storyline that preceded current events been ignored? Isn't someone as powerful as Superman wasting his time trying to get in touch with the average Joe? Aren't small towns endangered by Superman's highly public presence? And, er, is he having a breakdown, or what?

The way this last question is raised reads like a direct reaction to (pair of links coming up, hover your cursor alert!) THIS POST at Colin's always thoughtful Too Busy Thinking About My Comics blog. Mind Colin, ever generous, does speculate that revealing Superman as being deeply affected by the loss of New Krypton has been Straczynski's plan all along. If Straczynski isn't now channelling Colin's blog, then Colin was bang on, and both guys are loads smarter than me.

(Actually, I knew that already...)

Whatever the case - and to be fair, it's likely that what we get this issue is the script as Straczynski wrote it, months ago - this story finally seems to be going somewhere. The rocks are more than just a motivation for the issue's requisite action sequence, they represent a problem to be solved, while Batman has Superman thinking about his behaviour in a conversation that looks set to be ongoing. Little by little, a concept is becoming a story. What's more, while there are still moments when Superman comes across as a pedantic bugger to the regular folk he says he wants to get in touch with, such as his response to a cop's briefing about New Krypton debris, Straczynski is getting more comfortable with Superman's voice.

The art team of Eddy Barrows and JJ Mayer shines once more, with Superman and Batman looking suitably larger than life against City of the Month Cincinnati. There's a rattling battle scene, and a good variety of ordinary chaps and chapesses. The only quibble I have is Batman's cape, which gathers like a set of Granny's net curtains. Colourist Rod Reis makes the pages glow with wonderfully lit scenes, while letterer John J Hill is quietly indispensable.

John Cassaday's cover is simple, yet effective, as a summation of the notion of Superman's walk, though I'd prefer something specific to this issue over a picture yelling 'MEMEME!' to whoever decides what goes on the front of the trade collection.

This was to be the make or break issue for me, but a decent issue guarantees I'll be back for more. I'm still looking forward to next month's fill-in spotlighting Lois Lane, mind!

10 comments:

  1. "Little by little, a concept is becoming a story." - That's a lovely line, Mart, it really is, because it makes me immediately grasp what's happening here.

    Thanks for the kind words. I'll be amazed if my speculations prove to have held any water at all, but the benefit of the doubt is always appreciated.

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  2. Have you had a chance to read the book yet, Colin?

    And thanks!

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  3. Couldn't DISagree more, on this one. :-)

    Superman has been turned into a mean-spirited bully that even I wanted to punch in the face by the end of this issue. Batman was canned dialogue that was only discernible as Dick Grayson through verbal exposition. By the end of this story, the reader is left rooting not for the title character but for the people whose lives he nearly destroyed.

    Interesting, perhaps, if JMS' point is to make Superman the villain of this piece. Maybe that's it? It's some big metatextual statement where the "Superman" title is actually about the ordinary Joes inside the pages, and their heroic struggle to thrive in the shadow of uncaring giants?

    OK, but even then, been there, done that with the Authority.

    No, given JMS' recent statements at NYCC about rewriting to introduce the new element of the human-affecting Kryptonite, I think it's the other way around. DC and JMS have seen the tepid reviews and are desperately looking to spice up this meandering nonplot with something like urgency if they are going to justify having Superman out of action for yet ANOTHER year-long stretch.

    Thanks but no thanks. Between this and Wonder Woman, JMS has completely worn out his welcome in the mainstream DCU for me.

    Bring on Samaritan X, where he can't do any more damage.

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  4. Oh, that's interesting, Chris, I never saw the reports of JMS at New York. So there is definite tweaking.

    I agree Superman is still not the guy I know, but the idea that he's having a bit of a breakdown (another 'been there ...', of course) at least might explain his boorish behaviour. The business with the stalker, for example, could be seen as him being too heavy handed while making a good point - this is how it feels to feel small and afraid.

    Of course, he should be turning guys like this over to the actual authorities.

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  5. The reason for the month's delay (and for next month's fill-in) is officially that JMS has been ill. So, apparently, his scripts haven't been done far in advance...

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  6. I did read JMS's comments on his illness, Snell, and don't doubt them. but that script still reads to me as revised.

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  7. I'm behind on this, but your review gives me some hope. I haven't been too impressed with the Walking Dude storyline, but then I think it is my problem.

    I imprinted my Superman comics during the maligned triangle era, so I want fights every month!

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  8. Well, there have been fights here and there. I grew up long before the triangles, but enjoyed that era lots. Have you seen Tom Bondurant's excelent piece this week on that era and, my favourite, the biweekly Batman?

    http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2010/10/grumpy-old-fan-crowd-control/

    Tell him I sent you!

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  9. RE: JMS and his illness, I've said it elsewhere, but he has apparently been sick for wuite sometime, and someone at DC should have taken that into account given him more lead time to get his scripts turned in on time.

    How many issues did it take for it to finally get good for you, Mart? I am just curious what your investment was to finally get something you liked.

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  10. Three issues, Travis ... about £6.50.

    But the books have proven priceless, in many ways ;)

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