Superman #707 review

Superman's S is one of the most-recognisable symbols in the world. Eight months into 'Grounded' and I suggest swapping it for a Z, as in Zzzzzz.

For this really is the most tedious of tales. I bought this month's issue to give new scripter Chris Roberson a chance to impress, but while there is a twist, the tone remains the same. And it's a tone dictated by Superman's sad sack attitude. Once more, the man meant to inspire us is all 'what good am I doing really?' and 'I don't know what I believe anymore'.

What I believe is that I may be the last reader of this book. I'm such a cock-eyed optimist, with such affection for Superman, that every month I expect him to just get a bloody grip. But he doesn't.

'Grounded part five' (there have been two fill-ins, but they were very much 'Grounded' fill-ins, so they count, as does the prologue - eight long months) begins decently enough, with a page of Superman helping the good citizens of Des Moines, Iowa. But then he's on the phone to Lois, wondering what his purpose is. Lois, reasonably, mentions the old 'truth, justice and the American way' mantra. 'Maybe those are just words,' whines her husband, ignoring the fact that as Clark Kent, he's built a career on the power of words.

Soon he's attacking a fire at a chemical plant with lax safety and environmental standards. Lois is already there, at the behest of a worker fired over his protests. Superman's all set to have the factory shut down, but an employee protests that this would put everyone out of work, and so be bad for the town's economy.

Goodness, Superman hadn't thought of that ...

Superman tells the shifty boss, whom he knows has been bribing safety inspectors, that, OK, he won't shut the plant down, if they maybe just try and be a tad cleaner, pretty please and cross your fingers. And he tells Lois, grabbing her by the arm, that she cannot print the story. 

Yes, he's lost it. But he thinks that perhaps he's seeing things as they really are for the first time, in shades of grey. Because, you know, the economy is having a tough time and maybe bosses do have to cut corners. And so long as no humans are harmed, who cares about a few plants?

Once upon a time, Superman would have cared. The guy who can change the course of mighty rivers with his bare hands, and so find a way to save jobs and the environment. But he's been replaced by a weak-minded ninny who folds before whatever the last argument made to him was.

On a more hopeful note, the super-powered teacher from a few issues back is still gunning for Superman (er, in a car - is everyone grounded?). And the final page sees the arrival of 'The Superman Squad', four futuristic characters in search of Mort Weisinger. Let's hope they take our hero somewhere and knock some sense into him.

Lois thinks her husband is under the influence of red Kryptonite. Oh, if only. He's under the influence of J Michael Straczynski, a writer who says he's a fan of Superman, but just doesn't seem to get him. 'Grounded' is right - he's grinding Superman into the ground. While a self-doubting, naive Superman might work in his Earth One graphic novels, here we have a grown man, a hero with decades worth of experience of the world, acting like an angsty teen with a mid-life crisis. With every month this quest, as the issue's legend has it, 'to rediscover truth, justice and the American way' becomes more tragically laughable.

Chris Roberson does what I guess he's been asked to do - keeps the script sounding very JMS, meaning Superman is whining and pompous by turns. Which is a shame; sure, he's working from JMS's notes, but I was hoping that at the very least, a new writer would have Superman cheer up, maybe meet a few puppies and smell the odd flower. Smile at people rather than lecture them. It's not actually impossible to ask questions while being an attractive character.

The artwork by Allan Goldman and Eber Ferreira is better than the storyline deserves, with a good-looking Superman and Lois in action against realistic backgrounds. OK, so maybe Lois shouldn't dress like Daisy Duke to investigate corruption at a chemical plant, but perhaps it was hot even before the blaze ...

John Cassaday's cover design fits in with the current DC Icons promotion, as would pretty much any of his pieces of art for this run. And it's very nicely coloured by the talented David Baron. It's a shame Superman isn't smiling, but I guess that's not allowed.


  1. It has gotten to the point that every time I hear a new writer talk about what a "fan" he is of whatever character s/he is taking over, I cringe a little bit. Too often the results end up like this.

  2. Sounds wildly depressing. No, wildly would be too energetic. I applaud your efforts to continue reading - what a travesty of the Superman ethos. I get that the US is depressed, but this is just ridiculous.

  3. Didn't make it to the last page, huh?

  4. If this was your first introduction to Chris Roberson please do take this as indicative of his work in general.

    Both his Cinderella mini-series and the iZombie ongoing show more wit and invention than a JMS book ever has so I thin you can safely lay any accusations of dullness squarely at his door.

  5. Thank you Lee. I hope the review doesn't come across as me having a pop at Chris - I'm assuming he's not got a lot of leeway. But good luck to him ... I'm hoping for some quiet subversion along the way!

    I hope I'm not having a pop at anyone, though my frustration at JMS taking over Superman, apparently having him kicked out of other titles, writing a weirdly depressing comic and then leaving someone else to clean up, may come across as grumpiness ...

    And I do mean to have a look at Chris' other work, ta for the reminder.

  6. I just think future superfolks showing up at the end to tell Supes he's been acting like a dick undercuts your assessment entirely.

  7. Oh, that crossed my mind, obviously. But with eight more issues or something promised/threatened, and JMS's notebook still looming large, I can't see it.

    For one thing, how many times have we seen folk from the future/claiming to be from the future appear and mess with Superman's head?

  8. You'll see next issue, my friend. Remember, Roberson's said he has an endpoint to reach, but a lot of authority here. I wouldn't be so quick to attribute decisions in the book to JMS.

  9. And if that's the case, and Superman wakes up and smells the boeuf bourguignon, I'll be ruddy thrilled to bits!

  10. Superman tells the shifty boss, whom he knows has been bribing safety inspectors, that, OK, he won't shut the plant down, if they maybe just try and be a tad cleaner, pretty please and cross your fingers. And he tells Lois, grabbing her by the arm, that she cannot print the story.

    Wow... that's the ending? Aside from the setup for next issue, that's how this story ends? Glad I jumped off.

  11. No, that is not the ending, Rob S., of this issue OR the storyline.

  12. Aside from the set-up, that IS pretty much it for this instalment. Superman and Lois go their separate ways, she to expose, he to hope she doesn't and that the plant behaves. He phones her to talk, but she doesn't take his call.

    Hopefully she's busy calling a good divorce lawyer.

  13. Having just read it I'm surprised anyone is defending this issue really, I don't at all hate the 'goes-on-a-walk' idea behind Grounded just the fact an editor and writer thought it would be a good idea for a 10-12 part story. I love the issues where Superman helps normal people for an issue (see Superman #64, the christmas issue) and I really like the idea of Superman walking through a neighbourhood like this and helping or tallking to people. But it's been seven issues of it! This story now has lost all of its momentum and reads very very strange. Particularly when elsewhere stuff like the Reign of Doomsday is getting underway.

    It's the same feeling you get when you read one of the Denny oNeil Green Lantern/Green Arrow early issues and roll your eyes at the naivity and self importance of it all, 30 odd years ago Superman 707 would have been okay as written but today the audience just won't swallow it. The delivery and execution was quite embarrasing.
    You CAN do this sort of social relevance story but it takes skill, writers like John Ostrander & even James Robinson to a degree have done it very succesfully but there is a limit to it.
    I'm really tired and cynical about this trend for year long arcs in comics where you are expected to just be patient and follow a dull overextended story for a year to see if the payoff is to your liking, that attitude is just not on and it's a part of what made e bail out on JMS' Wonder Woman.

  14. Dave, if you get a chance, read (I'm not saying you should buy!) WW #605, the first issue with Phil Hester working from JMS's notes. It's so much better than what's come previously. Well, I reckon so, I'd love to hear what you - and everyone else - thinks of it. I did a review back in December if you'd rather just have a quick precis!

  15. Hey. How's it going? This is my first time to the site, and I couldn't agree more with you on the current state of Superman. I also write comic book reviews. If you get a second, please check out my page as well. I'll be here next week to read more of your reviews.

  16. Hi Erik, thanks for the kind words. I can't wait until I can say I thoroughly enjoyed a Superman issue again. It'll happen, it will!

    Off to check out your blog!

  17. I wanted to love the JMS runs on Superman and Wonder Woman, but I've dropped both in the last month. Superman 707 was my last. Much as I want to give Roberson the benefit of the doubt, his use of thought-bubbles in the issue struck me as very pedestrian. We don't need to see Superman thinking about what the action in the next panel is going to show us! I think putting a relatively untested (comic book-)writer on what is arguably the most famous comic book character is a dodgy move for DC. I know I'll sound elitist, but flagship titles ought to be reserved for flagship authors. Perhaps I'm wrong, and Roberson will give us a shining, silver-age-esque story that will be worthy of the character. But I think that, in many cases (and I've tried to get into the super-books numerous times over the years), the writing and stories have a hard time living up to the icon. Maybe grounding Superman was necessary, maybe the whole DCU needs a reboot a la Crisis, but one with actual lasting effects this time. Maybe they just need to let Grant Morrison do to Superman what he's done with Batman. Or apologize to Alan Moore and have him bring his Supreme/Tom Strong sensibility to the man of steel. But in saying that, I'm probably dating myself. I might give Roberson one more issue, just to see, but I'm not hopeful.

  18. Thanks for the comments, Damabupuk. I enjoyed the last Wonder Woman, with Phil Hester scripting, far more than the previous issues, so that's staying on the list. Superman, I don't know.

    I disagree that only A-list creators should handle the top books - there are plenty of examples of top-selling folk coming on to books and just failing to gel (we just had one). And I have one or two un-favourites whom DC would likely love to assign to Superman (so I shan't even whisper their names).

    I'd be quite happy to see some up and coming folk try Superman, Sterling Gates, say. Or veterans with talent and the right sensibility, such as Karl Kesel.

    Like you, I'd like to see Roberson given free rein - JMS had his chance, and walked away, Let Roberson lay down his own path.


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