Superman #706 was released last week, the second 'interlude' in the Grounded storyline that seems to be floundering a bit. With JMS off the story and critical response a mixed bag as best, the title and the story seems on shaky ground. Does anyone really care about this story anymore? Is anyone floored by it?
Given that background, I didn't envy G. Willow Wilson's job of writing this issue. If I can't get excited for the main arc, why would I be excited about a Perry White interlude.
Wilson shows Perry dealing with the changing world of news media, dealing with the shrinking paper market and the growing internet presence in the news world. But it also takes a look at the dirty back room dealings that sometimes accompany breaking news stories as well as the unreliability of some internet sources. The blogosphere doesn't necessarily need two sources to corroborate a story. They run with it.
Perry really feels like a man caught between two worlds here. I was hoping that he would be a truly inspiring figure, something of the way he was presented in Superman:Secret Origin. Instead, he comes off a bit as a blowhard and a smidge too old school. I think this Perry would fit in very well on Mad Men.
This was an okay story I suppose. But it seemed more suited for a Superman 80pg Giant than as a pause in this hyped Grounded arc.
The issue starts with Perry reeling a bit from both big and small issues. His new photographer Sandeep can't quite get a good picture and Perry berates him, even manhandling him a bit. I don't know if that sort of bullishness is tolerated anymore in the workplace.
But the bigger issue is the shrinking market for the Daily Planet. Revenues are shrinking. Unfortunately, this very real problem is swept under the rug a bit by another small catastrophe.
But before the bad news continues, Perry gets a sliver of good news.
Lois, still on Superman's trail and currently in St.Louis, not only has a good Superman article but also a breaking story on an environmental issue in Kansas. Whether in Metropolis or out, Lois has a nose for news.
Lois is such a huge part of the Superman books and I think she has been somewhat ignored by Straczynski. So I was glad we got this scene.
But the bad news keeps coming. Ron Troupe tells Perry that Urbanitis, a very popular news blog, is about to do a huge expose on the Planet. It is going to make some serious accusations about the Planet's relationship with Superman. There is some hint that the Planet might be paying Superman for his stories.
There is also a story brewing that Lois has a more personal relationship with Superman explaining her uncanny knack for Superman exclusives.
What is a bit unsavory is how easily Troupe seems to buy into the notion. Some friend.
Perry decides that he needs to get more information. So he faux fires Sandeep and sends him to Urbanitis as a spy.
Amazingly, Sandeep is able to walk in a to the plush Urbanitis offices and get a job within seconds. No need to show a resume or a portfolio. He's a former Planet employee, the target of Urbanitis ... he's in.
Jack Hoffman, the man who runs Urbanitis, has an axe to grind. He wants to show that the 'new media' of the internet is being ignored by the 'old media'. So why not take down the giant of the old media?
He has financial reports suggestive of a slush fund to pay Superman off. And more, he has a picture of Lis and Superman in a compromising position.
When Sandeep tells Perry of the photo, Perry calls Lois and asks what he might see in that photo.
In some verbal legerdemain, Lois doesn't necessarily answer the question. It is sort of a dodge. But it is clear she is worried. In this world of telephoto lenses and cell phone cameras, anything is possible.
Perry has an understated response, deciding not to press the issue.
Perry then gets a surprise visit from Superman, breaking off his walk across America to talk to White about this Urbanitis crisis. When Superman starts obfuscating and dancing around the issue, Perry stops him in his tracks. Perry doesn't want to know. Then he won't have to deny.
Wow ... even Perry suddenly thinks it might be true that the world's greatest hero is having an affair with a married woman. Some friend!
Perry has had enough. Rather than cower, waiting for the storm to hit, he feels it is time to meet the enemy. He asks for a meeting with Hoffman.
First off, he quickly refutes the 'slush fund' theory. The missing money is from Perry's personal account and supports an internship program. But the bigger question is why Hoffman would think this was money ear-marked for Superman. The number was $20,000 every quarter. Would $80,000 be enough to buy off Superman, a guy who can wring diamonds from coal? Or rob any bank he wanted to?
And the damning photo of Superman and Lois? A photo-shopped concert poster. Wouldn't Hoffman have someone on his staff to check that out? Or is this just another way of indicting the 'too fast for it's own good' new media.
In a 'keep your enemies closer' move, Perry asks Hoffman if he wants to be the Planet's next intern, someone who could help the Planet with the newer forms of communication. Hoffman accepts!
I don't know. It seemed to quick. Urbanitis is a big enough operation to have it's own staff and office building. Hoffman just pages earlier railed against the paper media. Would an internship at the Planet woo him away from his own little successful kingdom?
Maybe that is the response to the dwindling subscriptions. Maybe this is supposed to show that White realizes he needs new revenue streams and Hoffman understands those.
But it all resolves so quickly. So neatly.
Still, the quickness with which the Planet staff buys into the rumors is what stuck with me the most.
Amilcar Pinna does an adequate job here, drawing mostly regular people having conversations.