This is an important comic book. It reveals that out there, in the heartland of America, there is something called Domestic Violence, and this is Bad.
What, you knew that already? Well, the Superest Hobo apparently didn't, as he gets terribly self-righteous about the sorry business.
Let's start at the very beginning (oh, I could so use a singing nun right about now), shall we? It's still the Grounded storyline, with Superman walking across America to reconnect with/patronise the common man. In Mount Prospect, Illinois, young William is excited because Superman is due to pass by. What little boy doesn't want to believe a man can walk? Mom isn't that interested, as she's chatting to someone about a promotion, while stirring a pot.
Nearby, Superman is confronted by a crowd in a park, afraid that his presence will lead to their community being wrecked when he gets into a fight; a reasonable concern, given that's what happened in the last place he visited, Danville. A woman calls him 'a gun' and he's super-sad, as he was in #700 when a woman whined at him for not being a surgeon. He really should keep away from strange ladies in parks. There's another one looming nearby like The Woman in Black, a teacher from Danville who is, as happens, possessed by Kryptonite. Superman ignores her - well, she might yell at him too.
There is a nice lady in the park, Mrs Superman, aka Lois Lane. They go off to a motel for conjugals, but Superman falls asleep and has a bad dream in which a big monster menaces a scared little woman. Good Lord, this is all too subtle for me. A dream version of the teacher nags Superman about his not being able to save everyone (shouldn't she be drilling some kids in their times tables?). He wakes up with a black eye - a super-stigmata? - frightening Lois, and looking ready to scream himself. Lois pulls herself together and adjusts his blusher.
Back at William's, he's made a banner to attract Superman's attention, in the hope that Superman will sort out his thug of a father. Thug of a father gives William a black eye and, when he tries to defend his mother (bless her, she tells William it's partly his fault Dad gets 'upset'), throws him in the cellar. Superman happens to be walking by, hears William's pleas and sorts out Dad. Soon Dad is in the hands of the police, while Mom and William are heading for secure accommodation. To reassure him, Superman gives William his business card - who knew? - and tells him to call every single day and reassure Superman he's safe or (turning to Dad), 'there will be consequences'. No pressure there, kid.
The book ends with another of Grounded's patented 'Superman is a dick to police' moments. Do please click to enlarge..
That's Superman with the super-hearing, who didn't initially make out William's cries for help, lecturing the ordinary, grateful mortal who's doing her best for the town, day in, day out.
Are we really supposed to like this fella wearing the Superman costume? If not for the rubbernecker's curiosity to see how writer J Michael 'Sledgehammer' Straczynski handles the coming guest appearance of New Coke Wonder Woman, and a keenness to see if new scripter Chris Roberson can somehow knit a silk purse, I'd be off for the rest of this storyline. It's insulting to the intelligence of readers, and a mockery of Superman.
The pencilling is split this issue, with Eddy Barrows joined by Wellington Dias (misspelled on the cover). It looks like the former handles all the pages with Superman on, while the latter looks after the primarily Billy scenes (if someone knows otherwise, please, let me know). The styles don't mesh perfectly, but neither are they distracting, and I certainly like the way Dias captures the body language of kids. He does put across the hoary old cliche of the abuser looking like an ogre to a kid (see also the otherwise marvellous Hole 3D movie), but I don't doubt that's a script direction. Barrows continues to draw a decent Superman, though I expect he's on Prozac after having to render 3,000 pages of Sad-faced Superman.
Inkers JP Mayer and Eber Ferreira do a nice job, while colourist Rod Reis and letterer John J Hill bring their own skills to the table with panache. John Cassady swings by with Grounded's best - though saddest - cover yet, smartly coloured by David Baron.
Despite the talent involved, I can't recommend this book. It's the comic book equivalent of being slapped in the face with a wet fish. Superman was scaring wifebeaters in his earliest adventures, 70 years ago, and without lecturing the readers. If DC has any sense, it'll have Chris Roberson wind this sorry saga up sharpish, and allow him to try some ideas of his own. I somehow think they'll be better than this.