Thursday, May 12, 2011

Review: Superman #711

Superman #711 came out yesterday, another chapter in 'Grounded' written by Chris Roberson and drawn by Eddy Barrows. It also was another nice chapter in Roberson's reclamation of the story. As I have said before, much has changed in this arc since J. Michael Straczynski left the book and all for the better. Gone is the condescending, paternalistic, unlikeable Superman that was plodding across the country.

Instead Chris Roberson is grabbing on to the idea that this cross country journey is a way for Superman to reconnect with his roots and move forward from the tragedy of New Krypton. Taking a step back and looking at these issues, we have seen Superman moving closer and closer to his foundation. So we have moved from new friends like the Superman Squad to a good friend like the Flash to a better friend like Batman to his best friend Jimmy Olsen in this issue. We know that he meets up with the Superman Family in a couple of issues. That would leave only Ma and Lois for him to reconnect with.

But more than just reuniting with old friends, these Roberson issues have had Superman reliving and remembering all the lessons that made him the hero he is. And this issue is no difference as Superman not only rediscovers compassion but also says how proud he is of America and what it stands for. It is probably coincidence but this issue was almost the perfect rebuttal for the odious David Goyer story 'The Incident' in Action Comics #900.

And it was nice to have Eddy Barrows back on full art here. Nice stuff here.

As Superman is accepting a key to the city in Utah, he hears Jimmy's signal watch and follows that beacon to Las Vegas. There it is pretty obvious what's happening, Livewire is out of control and endangering people.

So there are some small things that I liked here. One, Jimmy is in Vegas investigating the Gorilla mob. Sounds like a Jimmy story. Second, I like how the DCU Vegas has a casino like the Daily Planet. I guess it is sort of a landmark because of its association with Superman. Again, a subtle way to show how beloved Superman is, how much he is a cultural icon.

But Jimmy and Superman are confused because Livewire has recently turned over a new leaf and was working at STAR Labs. So why is she acting so strange?

For example, she is holding hostages within a lightning cage and threatening to kill them if she isn't given 'all the money in Vegas'. Well, may as well aim big if you're a bad guy. But Livewire has never been that powerful before. And recently she hasn't been that malicious.

I suppose it has something to do with our possessed and evil school teacher who is there, front and center, in the lightning cage. Remember, she powered up the local town jerk in a previous issue ... so why not bump up Livewire's powers as well.

When Superman asks Livewire why she is doing all this, she says it is because she hates Superman. She wanted to be loved and people loved Superman more.I thought it was a nice touch that Superman calls Livewire by her name Leslie the whole issue. It humanizes her.

Hmmm .... that sounds like Livewire's inner demons roaring to the surface. More on this a little later.

One thing I have noticed is that Roberson has done on the last couple of issues is really flood the book with Superman references and Easter Eggs. It certainly helps support the idea that Superman has a strong foundation of experiences upon which his moral compass is built. I think it can be tricky not to overdo it.

Here, it just so happens that Iron Munro is actually in Vegas and trapped with the school teacher. This felt just a smidge forced. It is the third Iron Munro sighting since Roberson took over the book. He must have really loved Young All-Stars!

Now initially I thought that the teacher was definitely behind everything that was happening in Vegas. But when inside the lightning dome, she gets frustrated shouting she doesn't 'have time for this!' Could it be that she affected Livewire's behavior but didn't intend to be captured?

She runs into the cage and the shock makes her drop the 'jewel Kryptonite' that she has been carrying. When Iron Munro picks it up, his mind is flooded with the negative emotions that Superman has been suffering throughout Grounded: lost, useless, alone. It nearly floors him.

So I knew the jewel was the source of her power. But I wonder if this means that her ultimate plan is to get Superman to hold it, somehow saturating him with these feelings like a psychic grenade.

While that is happening, Jimmy learns that Livewire can absorb, discharge, and become energy. As a result, her personality can be labile, fluctuating with her her energy level. (I suppose it is like humans and blood sugar.) A containment suit could help stabilize her powers and therefore her attitude.

So if Livewire can absorb energy, could she be absorbing the 'negative' energy from the jewel? Could that be why she seems so psychologically vulnerable now? I have to think her anger and her amplified powers are all the result of our possessed teacher. Who is possessing her anyways?

But if a containment suit is needed, what better one to use than the 'Electric Superman' suit from the late 90's?


But just another way to incorporate more of Superman's history.

While Superman and STAR Labs reconfigures the suit, Jimmy takes matters into his own hands. He throws the key to the city into Livewire after connecting it to a flag pole, basically recreating Ben Franklin's famous experiment.

But it was totally worth it to hear Jimmy say 'Now that's what I call Grounded!' Fantastic!

Superman arrives and gets the suit on the Livewire and suddenly she is much calmer. And repentant. She can't believe the destruction she has caused. She gives herself up ... after some changes to the suit.

Who knew that their might be a legitimate use to the Electric Superman suit! Maybe she is part of the extended Superman Family now, like Super Chief.

Superman finds Munro and the two talk. I like how Superman seems a little nervous around Munro, like he is a fanboy.

Munro realizes that Livewire needs someone to stand up for her. After all, she really wasn't in control of herself. Jimmy is flabbergasted by that. Why would heroes stand up for her after she threatened to kill people?

And then we get the last page ... the antithesis of Goyer's The Incident.

Superman talks about how America means life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and second chances. How in America, no one is forced to be something they don't want to be. That freedom ... to become who you want to be ... is the American way.

That idea of personal freedom is for everyone. Look, Superman looking at the American flag proudly. Fantastic.

Over on Twitter, Roberson said that his script was submitted long ago, was not influenced by David Goyer's story. But isn't it amazing that these two books came out within weeks of each other? And do you think that this issue will get the press that Action Comics #900 did? Unlikely.

Still, that ending was like music to my ears. And it was just another step towards Superman becoming Superman again. And another step towards the end of 'Grounded'. I think it is supposed to end with Superman #714.

So Roberson does it again. Superman has a wacky adventure with Jimmy Olsen, reconnects with a piece of his past (even if it is the goofy electric suit), and discusses compassion and acceptance and forgiveness. That sounds like Superman. It amazes me the 180 that this arc has taken; it really is a tremendous reclamation job. I hope the trend continues ... and I can't wait to see the Lois reconciliation issue.

Overall grade: B+/A


Martin Gray said...

Lovely review, me old mucker! This was just a tremendous issue - it was interesting to see Livewire follow Strange Visitor in adopting a used containment suit. Supeman could likely make a fortune adapting them for the ladies of the DCU.

Why can't people in the DCU spell 'Lesley'?

Given Chris Roberson's love of Superman history, I'm amazed he never got a ref in to the time Superboy did that experiment with Ben Franklin!

Anonymous said...

"Superman talks about how America means life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and second chances. How in America, no one is forced to be something they don't want to be. That freedom ... to become who you want to be ... is the American way."

I don't like this overly rosy, naive view of what America is. Earlier, another Superman writer perpetuated the Horatio Alger myth by stating that Superman shows how the poor foreigner can come to America and be her successful, most beloved citizen. It's oversimplified, pathetic propaganda that ignores what life is really like for the poor in this country.

Many people in this country are jobless, in credit card debt, working multiple jobs, moving back home with parents, etc. Racism and xenophobia are high in this country. People in this country are not who they want to be, nor do they have that freedom. Other citizens of many European countries are paid more, retire earlier, have more vacation time, have better health care, have better education, etc.

As long as Fox "News" and simplistic Americana controls the minds of the masses and prop corporate, anti-union, anti-poor, anti-working class, right wing politicians continue to be elected, there will be more economic "crises," more tax breaks for the wealthy, and more benefits taken away from the rest of us to pay for those tax cuts.

The League said...

great review! I hadn't picked up on the angle of Superman coming closer to his roots with each passing issue, or at least I hadn't put it quite that way in my head. Great read on that.

Anonymous said...

....and as long as we put liberals like our our current President in the White House, who believe in big government, higher taxes, and income redistribution; working class people (like myself) will will always struggle with multiple jobs and overwhelming bills to keep up with. Still, in spite of our misguided leader, I will continue to strive to be who I want to be just as Superman says. I may be frustrated, but I refuse to devolve into the bitterness displayed by the far left.

Anj said...

it was interesting to see Livewire follow Strange Visitor in adopting a used containment suit. Supeman could likely make a fortune adapting them for the ladies of the DCU.

Thanks for the kind words. Whatever happened to Strange Visitor anyways?

Anj said...

People in this country are not who they want to be, nor do they have that freedom.

I am not Superman, but I should act like him.

That is not America as it is, but as it should be.

And I would rather think about it in this way and fight to make it that way rather than be negative about it and stew in my own juices.

I still think this is a better view of America than The Incident.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks Obama is a "liberal" really needs to take off the partisanship blinders and stop drinking the Fox News Kool-aid. Obama is merely continuing the policies of G.W. Bush. It's so sad that people still think that the "left vs right", "republican vs. democrat", "liberal vs. conservative" puppet show means anything...after all, both the Dems and Repubs are financed by the same people.

The League said...

I feel compelled to re-comment (and I won't even get political on you).

Great review. I can't believe what Roberson has pulled off in re-writing the Grounded story-arc and turning it from something I was trying to appreciate for trying something other than a slug-fest, but not really succeeding at enjoying.

I had missed the "with each issue we're getting closer to the core of Superman" angle that you picked up on, and that's an interesting point. After all, we are moving closer to re-uniting with Lois, I'd guess.

I'm surprised to hear Roberson wasn't given an 11th hour editorial mandate, but it does work (and can be read quite separately from the points made in Action 900).

Keep up the great reviews!