Superman #709 review

Superman and Flash races are like buses, you wait ages for one and then two come along at once. Last week's Superboy #5 featured Conner Kent and Bart Allen racing around the world, and here we have their elders; Superman and Barry Allen, matching their speed against one another.

It's not a case of bad planning on the part of DC Editorial; anything but - the earlier race is shown on TV, accompanied by an editor's note suggesting readers buy the comic. I concur. And the race here isn't an official one, it's a case of Superman having to catch up to Flash in order to solve a mystery - why is Boulder, Colorado, transforming into a cut-price Krypton? Immediate problem solved and our heroes can sit down for explanations (it turns out that Superman isn't the only hero dealing with fallout from New Krypton), a discussion of heroic legacies and some empathetic listening.

The issue actually begins Brave and Bold-style, with the end of a team-up with the new Super-Chief, and finds room for a reminder that Superman still has some 'splainin' to do to Lois, a sideways lesson in life from a young Lex Luthor and excerpts from the Krypton Chronicles.

It also has lots of smiling heroes, something I liked a lot. Acknowledging that he's been depressed due to the deaths of Jonathan Kent and the people of New Krypton, Superman is moving forward emotionally, as he continues his trek across the United States. And Barry seems happy for the first time since he was brought back from the dead.

Writer Chris Roberson doesn't bother ladling on any 'relevance' storyline, as J Michael Straczynski did when he was writing. Now he's gone, leaving only his outline behind, Roberson gets to have fun. And so does Superman.

This issue is all about Superman and Flash - their histories, their friendship, their attitudes. Super-villains are absent, but plenty of ways are found to demonstrate how fundamentally cool these guys' powers are. The script is full of terrific little bits of business, among them the recanting of a silly line from the first part of Grounded. Then there's Superman and Flash talking about whether morality is shaded, while enacting a homage to Showcase #4 (click to enlarge image):

That, as they say, is a Flash Fact.

Another fact is that Roberson really has Superman's voice down pat, he's sincere and good, without being sap - a Jimmy Stewart everyman who happens to be super.

It all looks great thanks to regular penciller Eddy Barrows and guest artist Allan Goldman, with inks from JP Meyer and Julio Ferreira, colours by Rod Reis and letters from John J Hill.

I don't know how long the current storyline is going on for, but with Roberson and colleagues at the wheel, Grounded is no longer a drag. In fact, the Superman book is flying again.


  1. I just read it -- I'm a sucker for the Flash, even though I swore this book off a little while ago -- and I have to say I was still pretty disappointed. The first half was fun -- a very Silver Agey type mystery, which Superman solves pretty well, and with Flash active in giving him clues. A good show for both heroes.

    But the second half, the conversation in the diner, seemed really lackluster to me. (Excepting the Iron Munroe shout-out and the tribute to Showcase 4, which was indeed a nice touch. "This happens to me all the time." Heh.) I guess, on some level, the conversation might have had more meaning for a regular reader of this storyline -- it might have charted some emotional movement on Clark's part -- but as a casual reader who just picked up this issue, it felt self-indulgent and lazy. Like the writer couldn't be bothered to give them something to so while they had their conversation, so he decided to just sit them down and let 'em talk. And it just wasn't interesting. Chris Roberson has his strengths, but Jim Jarmusch he ain't.

  2. One of my first comic book experiences ever was the first two issues of DC Comics Presents... back in 1978.

    These featured an exciting (and highly improbable) time-traveling race between Superman and the Flash who had to defeat a chronal invasion by racing each other to the end of time.

    At the age of 8, this was astounding! Kind of set my whole barometer around what superhero comics should be about. Looking forward to this issue as a kind of spiritual sequel in my collection. :-)

  3. Thanks Rob, it's good to hear your take on the issue. I wonder if I'm simply so delighted by the general, continued upswing in my reading enjoyment that I'm inclined to like things a little too much in this book. I don't think so, but I'll bear it in mind ...

    ... probably it's just a case of, worked for me more than you. What I especially like is that Roberson is wrapping up the story of Sad Superman, and preparing for better days. I hope the lettercol hint that he's staying with the book awhile pays off.

  4. If you have time, let us know what you think, Chris. I was a big fan of DCCP too, though I remember pulling a face at having the same guest star in the first two issues - and a JLA member at that!

  5. If you have time, let us know what you think, Chris. I was a big fan of DCCP too, though I remember pulling a face at having the same guest star in the first two issues - and a JLA member at that!

  6. Maybe I was a little hard on it, too, Mart. It was a nice conversation -- I just feel like it would have worked better as a layer over some other action. And at the very least, it felt like a extra-long denouement to an extra-short plot.

  7. Ok, there's at least one more good thing to the end of this story:

    That's awesome.

  8. Ha, thanks Rob. Do you know where that's from? Some educational book, I expect. Unless it's a bit I've forgotten from that amazing DC Super Heroes Super Healthy Cookbook. Vegetable people. Eek.

  9. It's from the Super Dictionary, published in 1978. Apparently it's been the source of internet memes for a while now. I've long suspected I wasn't one of the cool kids, and now I know for sure.

  10. I liked the issue but agree it plodded a bit by the end.
    More and more that describes this entire arc now, plodding. What is the point of this any more...

    I must say I love Eddy Barrows art here, I want to see him tackle some serious action, like Doomsday! He's an artist who's work gets better, this is a far cry from his stiff outlines in '52' for example. I liked the way they took the opportunity to address and re-establish the competitiveness between the Flash and Superman as to who's faster and the use of the newsfeed of the Superboy/Kid Flash race was a nice way to do it, as well as place superman into the wider DCU.

    I really really really want Superman back in the thick of things in the DCU though, it seems as if the character is being mothballed almost, marginalised.

    (So Mart - are you covering Brightest Day #22?
    I feel a personal rant coming is all... ;) )

  11. Thanks Rob, I think you're cool!

    Dave, Superman's guesting in Power Girl this week - it's like he's never been away!

    Brightest Day #22? Is it bad? I gave up after #3 or so because I wasn't enjoying it. Please, direct me to your rant once it's available!

  12. Brightest Day #22? Is it bad? I gave up after #3 or so because I wasn't enjoying it. Please, direct me to your rant once it's available!

    A lot of Brightest Day is actually very very good, especially if like me you're a big Firestorm/Aquaman/Mera fan for example, but over the last few issues a great deal of repetition and dawdling has been going on and the actions of the White Lantern are increasingly hard to accept.
    I put down some brief impressions here:

  13. Thanks Dave, really useful summation and thoughts. Sounds like I'd not enjoy this White Lantern business ... what little I saw in the early issues was bad enough and it sounds to have gotten a lot worse.

    It really does sound as if they're making it up as they're going along. Not quite Countdown to Final Crisis levels, but pretty random


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