Superman #713 review

So last issue's scheduled stop in Los Angeles, in which Superman teamed up with Muslim superhero Sharif, was pulled by DC, with one rumour saying it was because Superman rescued a cat from a tree.

This issue, Superman rescues a cat from a roof. Make of that what you will.

The Grounded storyline trudges towards the finish line, with Chris Roberson still scripting, trying to make sense of J Michael Straczynski's set-up. If you're late to the party, back in Superman #700 a bereaved woman berated Superman, saying he was a bit rubbish because her husband died while he was off saving the world, or something similarly inconsequential. That sent him off on a walking tour of the United States to reconnect with the people.

And it was bad, as Superman reconnected with the people by bullying and patronising them. For reasons not at all to do with rotten reviews, JMS left the book and DC brought in Chris Roberson to script from his outline. And he made the book shine, sidelining the Superest Hobo angle and letting Superman have actual adventures, involving flying, doing good and inspiring people.

That's how I expected this issue to be too. Instead we have Superman summoning Superboy and Supergirl to announce that from now on he's going to be doing good without being a public hero. He will be a super-speed blur, so that he doesn't frighten folk and attract their resentment. Gobsmacked, likely realising the stupidity and unworkability of the idea, Kara and Conner quietly disappear from the book. Superman leaves his costume on a tree trunk.

Off Clark goes to the Newberg, Oregon, branch of not-Starbucks coffee chain Sundoller (sic), where, instead of pointing out the egregious spelling error, he calls boss Perry White to remind him that he's not died. Knowing Perry would quite like some work out of him, he announces that he's writing a story but, in the way of Daily Planet reporters, doesn't bother to run it past the chief first.

The op-ed piece, entitled Must There Be a Superman?, is noticed by a barista, who suggests Clark talks to another customer, a regular clad in a Superman sweater. Said chap reckons Clark's off his head, and just doesn't 'get' what Superman's all about. He drags the protesting hack into the streets, where various passers-by are quizzed about their feelings towards the Man of Steel.

Is a little boy afraid of Superman? No. Does a woman trust Superman? Yes. Does a man believe Superman kills his foes? Of course not. Does a family resent Superman for having powers when they don't?
No, he rescued their cat from a roof! Click to enlarge -  emphasis on the aaaaah.

Clark and the customer debate the benefits of Superman, with the latter having to be reminded of the hero's symbolic importance. We're getting towards some kind of resolution when a TV report screams that Lois Lane has been captured by a super-powered woman in Seattle, and she's threatening to kill her. Let's see you stick to your guns now, Mr Kent ... go find that tree trunk, huh?

We never do learn the customer's name, ace reporter Clark not bothering to ask. I was fully expecting him to be one Joe Siegel or Jerry Shuster, but apparently he's just some guy who works in politics. Maybe he's the real-life mayor of Newberg, I dunno.

I do know that while I like the points it makes, this instalment is the worst for some time. Superman has taken several steps backwards, having realised months ago that he's been depressed, and managed to cheer up. Here he's Joe Misery once more, convinced he does more harm than good and trying to pass on his gloom to happy young super-teens. The tale has all the hallmarks of the early issues, lacking the wonder, the sheer joy Roberson has brought to the series, making me think JMS had a hands-on approach this time.

The art's a melange of styles, with various hands on the illustrative tiller - Diogenes Neves (Nueves, if you believe the cover), Eddy Barrows, Jamal Igle, Oclair Albert, JP Mayer and Jon Sibal - but it's all decent enough, given the, presumably, quick turnaround. Only two of these creators, Barrows and Mayer, are in the solicits but they contribute just two pages. I suspect that a couple of months back DC decided to pull last issue's story, featuring Sharif (the former Metropolis hero Sinbad), for whatever reasons, and then did some surgery to this once. It's speculation, obviously, but the pedestrian, documentary-style vignettes are miles from anything the talented Roberson has previously given us.

But he does give us a cat rescue, and for that I'm grateful. Superman should never be too busy to aid a pet.
UPDATE: The identity of the mystery caffeine head is revealed, by The League in comments over at Anj's Supergirl Comic Box Commentary blog - it's Elliot S! Maggin, who wrote the original 'Must There Be a Superman?' story before leaving comics for politics. Gah, I should have got that one. 
Mr Sundoller
The brilliant Elliot S Maggin


  1. I've read, and you're probably more in the know than most, that a lot of artists have been pulled from the tail end of the old books in order to make the "three issues in the can" deadline for the new DCU.

    It's really making a hash of the finish line for the old material and doesn't do justice to the memory of how DC ushered out the old silver age titles.

  2. This is all just truly dire. It's like they're busy creating a super villain and need some time to do it right, so they've sent superman off on this walking tour. What a disaster that's been. I salute your dedication for reading and reviewing stories that, frankly, have no plot and no interest for man nor beast. Even cats.
    Why rescue a cat from a roof, by the way?
    Like my dead said, how many cat skeletons do you see stuck up trees or on roofs? None - because they find their way down when they get hungry enough!

  3. Yes, well obviously it's not going to come through - or JMS is moderating these posts!
    My comment was that basically that this entire series has been a disaster for Superman - no real plots and no real interest. Are they trying to devise some great new uber-villain to take on the man of steel? Or are they just stuck with a story that, like Superman, is going nowhere fast. This walkabout has been tripe and bellybutton contemplation of the worst possible, most self-indulgent tosh.

  4. J, you're right about the creative teams being shuffled, creating a buffer zone between pre- and post-Flashpoint. But there are any number of artists out there in the wilderness who would jump at the chance to draw an issue of Superman. It's bad planning.

    Fudgeface, the blog was badly spammed at the weekend so I put moderation on. How soon comments appear depends on when I look - but it's quiet again, so I've gone back to the regular settings. If this happens again, nudge me up at facebook.

    As for my sticking with the book, I admit there was an early aspect of car-crash fascination, but it's been much better of late.

  5. I don't know what the broadcast schedule is like across the pond but we saw the series finale of "Smallville" in the States a couple months ago. I thought of that when you mentioned Superman's plans to continue his work as a "super-speed blur" and then has to relearn that he has equal value as an inspiration, essentially the jist of the last three or four seasons of "Smallville". The timing is a bit close and I think the borrowed theme lends weight to the suspicion that the story was thrown together on short notice.

  6. I'm not sure about the schedule either. I watch the big episodes if I know they're on - your JSA and LSH stuff - but if it's just mopey old Clark, I skip. So it may have ended here too. The blur thing certainly brought Smallville to mind.

    I can't believe Chris Roberson would have the teen Supers show up, and then not have them do anything, if it were his choice.

  7. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks DC deliberately screwed up Superman so badly so we'd all by glad and thankful when Flushpoint arrived...

  8. I was surprised about Conner and Kara being added to the issue just to listen to Superman complain about things I thought had already been resolved. At least Kara got an opportunity to face-palm over the whole thing, it felt like she was acting as a surrogate for me at that point.

  9. I thought by now a mind-influencing villain would have shown his ugly mug...

    Still, I liked this a little more than you did despite the JMSness of it all. It's possible that "working from JMS' notes", the ending kind of has to be what it has to be, and it was the in-between stuff that Roberson could do anything he wanted to with.

  10. Completely agreed this was a step backwards.

    Seems weird to include Kara and Conner only to have them basically let Superman quit.

    Too bad. Up to know, Roberson had done pretty good cleaning up the Grounded mess.

  11. Snell, you could be right - stranger things and all that.

    Anon, I really do believe Kara and Conner's part in the issue was thrown out in favour of what we finally got. I cannot believe they were brought in just to be witnesses to madness.

    Siskoid, that makes perfect - if depressing - sense.

    Anj, I do hope that the experience with the Superman editorial team hasn't put Chris Roberson off working in the DC Universe. He's so good!

  12. With the revelation of the september revamp It has become obvious DC has been very deliberatly winding Superman down for the last year (or three?), there is no other explanation for 'Grounded' to be had, other than sheer unparallelled incompetence from editorial..
    As a reader, and consumer, I deserve better than this shameless deception and exploitation by DC.

    As a further thought if the editorial on the new Superman books is the same as the last few years why then should this new dawn be some turning point in quality and direction?
    Is the editorial that gave us the atrociously mismanaged New Krypton and Grounded really going to be the bearer of a genuinly stonking new era for Superman?
    Doubt it.

    Ironically the single best Superman book out right now is the always solid Supergirl, a gem to read monthly despite DC trying the Let's-play-musical-chairs with the creative teams in an attempt(?) to quietly put it to grass like Superman... it hasn't worked as the 'fill-in' writers are just so good and have bucked that expectation.

  13. Talking of deception, Dave, did you see the editorial comment in the lettercol 'explaining' the missing story from #712? '...the deadlines got away from us on the editorial side of things'. Fine, so why isn't the Sharif story here this time?


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