Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Superman #708 review

At the end of last issue a group of strange visitors calling themselves the Superman Squad interrupted Superman's walk across America and offered to explain why he's lost faith in his ideals. This issue, they do just that, in a story beginning in the Fortress of Solidarity, and ending in Nebraska. And Superman teams up with the new Wonder Woman in scenes that move both their current storylines, as laid out by departed scripter J Michael Straczynski, forward.

There's an enormous amount of detail I could go into, but I'd hate to spoil too much of the best issue of this title in ages. Let's just say that writer Chris Roberson opens wide the implications of Superman's existence as he asks the old question 'must there be a Superman?' in a deliciously entertaining way. There's a similarity to Alan Moore's Supreme storylines, but given that they were deliberately referencing the Man of Steel's history, it's fair enough that they're echoed here. And I don't see Roberson as homaging the homager so much as following a logically similar route arising from the same source material, and showing that it's not just Moore, and Grant Morrison, who can do the massively imaginative ideas.

Said notions include the introductions of Supercilia and Superego, characters who sound throwaway, but at least one of them has a bearing on this very issue.

While the grandeur of the Superman Squad's society is a delight, the best thing about Grounded Part Six is the beginning of a change of attitude for Superman. While I think the Squad's estimation that Superman, post-destruction of New Krypton, has had a 'complete emotional breakdown' is overegging the pudding rather, the basic point makes sense.

And as Superman considers this, he begins to move forward with the help of Wonder Woman (though she's not calling herself that yet). He ropes the 'familiar ... flying woman' in at the scene of a natural disaster, and they prove rather good for one another. The possessed super-teacher from previous issues is also on hand, moving ever closer to centre stage - let's hope she keeps going in the same direction and shuffles off into the wings, never to be seen again.

I loved this issue, start to finish. The whiny, confused Superman of recent issues recedes as the true hero asserts himself. Chris Roberson, thank you.

Equally inspired this month is penciller Eddy Barrows, whose work soars as he's allowed to leave the mundane backstreets of America and tackle the cosmic. Then, when he's back in the everyday world he gets to draw a terrifying storm, and two powerhouses discovering and rediscovering the heroes they can be. The fine layouts, nicely inked by JP Mayer and Julio Ferreira, become eye candy when coloured by Rod Reis. And John J Hill's lettering work is as good-looking and precise as ever.

Wonder Woman looks good on the cover, drawn by John Cassaday and coloured by David Baron. Superman is sad again, but look, the Man of Misery is leaving the book ...

I'm surprised that Superman's recent behaviour is being explained away as a nervous collapse, but it makes sense, given how oddly he's been acting. Better that than DC suggesting that Superman's morose, judgemental, chauvinistic ways are reasonable. I wouldn't say that Superman #707 is the issue in which the Grounded storyline suddenly gets good. It's the issue in which we begin to see the direction buried. And that's more than good, it's super.


5 comments:

  1. Oh man… I love the way you have written on the subject in detail I shall surely have the article saved and the print out of the article shall surely be circulated in the college premises and also within my group of friends. I am sure all of them are going to have a good time reading on the subject.

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  2. As usual Mart, we are on the same page. I thought this issue was the (hopefully) tipping point of the arc, having Superman head in the right direction.

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  3. Better. I could have done without the heavyhanded Alan Moore riffs but there is a sweet irony in Superman swiping the work he did on his silver-age homage Supreme run! I wouldn't mind seeing more fantastical stuff like this from Superman in the future as the character has been too neutred and watered down, his stories should be right out there!

    I find Eddy Barrows work addictive and if he could do a minimum of five issues in a row I might even embrace him as the new messiah for an exciting dynamic & powerful Superman, I hope he's onboard for the forseeable future.
    I think the best thing about this issue is that we finally get an explanation for Suprmans behaviour and it stems logically right out of where the character has been for the last three years. Col Smith hit the nail right on the head in his excellent Blog on the subject: http://toobusythinkingboutcomics.blogspot.com/2010/07/j-michael-straczynskis-superman-hero-as.html
    But the additional ingredient of the mystery woman with a vendetta against Superman is an increasingly interesting subplot, I would hope this is no anonymous telepath but I can't see how she has any ties to New Krypton either.
    Strange to see the new Wonder Woman interacting with Superman as well, given the altered timeline of her books currnt plot I don't think it wise to consider the ramifications of how that world possibly interacts with Supermans and what it would mean for basic continuity...

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  4. Thank you, DC, for writing Superman out of that pitiful, moping corner JMS put him in.
    I was tired of seeing a hero who should be treated as a 'wonder of the world' being handled as a social worker after a few years of lame direction changes.
    Somehow, DC doesn't know what to do with their headline character. That's just bad editorial control.
    Good writers seem to have abandoned Superman.
    Like a battered wife in denial, DC promoted a pathetic whiner as their hero. Sent a flying man for a walk.
    I hated it.
    Then, a friend from Mexico let me know how the direction had changed.
    I bought my first "Super" book since the beginning of the New Krypton stuff. I had lost hope.
    Superman is my favorite hero. Always has been.
    The books, however......
    My hope is that Roberson will be allowed to redirect Superman away from the 'Grounded' crybaby and back into the hero he is supposed to be. That might actually give the aforementioned story line some validity.
    I won't miss JMS at all.
    He did almost as much damage to Superman as John Byrne did.
    Superman should fly. Not pound sand.

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  5. Dave, I linked to Colin's post in my review of #703 back in November. Looks like he was right ... or DC saw his post and an 'out' for the way Superman's been acting. Clever lad!

    We do know who the mystery woman is, she's a teacher from Danville, Ohio, Ms Jennings, who was blasted by New Kryptonite in #703.

    Claude, I'm with you in wanting to see Chris Roberson given as free a hand as anyone ever gets with Superman. Let's move on from this new era of 'Relevance' and let Superman reach for his potential.

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