It also is the second arc in a row for this book (and third arc since the New 52 - Action also got in on the action) where Superman has to deal with the fact that people on Earth don't like him and are afraid of him. It isn't a theme that I hope gets picked over and over again. At least this time, Jurgens amd Giffen puts the idea on its head a bit, showing Superman isn't that worried about it, isn't affected by it. And there is a speech in this issue which solidified my faith in DC's handling of Superman, that the foundation of the character is still firm.
Something else I liked was that this Helspont story was only 2 issues rather than dragged out into a trade-friendly size. This was fast and furious and felt like it was something of a clearing of the decks. With this arc done, we know Superman is still Superman. And we also have some subplots with supporting characters started. Unlike the first arc, I feel like this title has settled in a bit for the future.
The art this issue seemed rougher than last issue which looked polished and slick.
As I said, Jurgens and Giffen have added to the supporting cast of the book and put some wrinkles into their storylines. Here we get to see a little bit more of Lucy Lane's character. Lois seems to have a strained relationship with her younger sister. And Lucy seems to be someone who is quick to make enemies or label people. Lois is worried that she has already placed a 'bulls-eye' on Clark.
So who is this 'new' Lucy Lane? Fun-loving stewardess? Fanatically loyal daughter of Sam Lane? Cat Grant variant ... someone who stirs the pot? Whoever she is, it seems like Lois has something of a strained relationship with her. Even the panels, with Lois' back to Lucy, a distance between them speaks of it.
After that opening, we are greeted with several pages of Superman being hunted down like a dog in Metropolis. The army is after him (or 'it' as they call him). The army hates him. The people are scared of him, the 'No Superman' symbol seen painted on walls. Even the other heroes are afraid of him as off screen we see Green Lantern and Batman join the attack.
It is a scene I have simply witnessed too much of late.
It is an 'inevitable' future according to Helspont. And, as I said before, it feels inevitable because it has been shown to us in Superman comics for the last handful of years, from New Krypton to Grounded to now. Is this really what we have come to? That Superman can't be accepted as a hero?
In some ways, he is a warning for Superman, something Superman could become if he lets distrust worm its way into his psyche, and isolates himself. Helspont is 'Superman gone wrong'. I have seen this 'dark reflection' plot device elsewhere recently and it is very effective.
Superman's response to this offer is absolutely perfect.
He talks about being adopted by Earth and its people. He learned everything he needed to know about people from his parents. He was 'raised on hope'. And he will always fight to defend it.
It is 'timeless' Superman. It is the way he has talked and it is the way he should talk.
I wonder if this is Jurgens and Giffen's commentary on all these recent story arcs. Was this simply their way off strengthening the underlying structure of Superman. I felt like they were saying to me 'hey Anj, I know Superman hasn't been written like Superman too much recently. But don't worry, we understand who he is and the important stuff won't change.' And best of all, it read well. Not overdone. Just right.
This scene gave me hope for Superman again and stood out as the most powerful part of this issue.
Superman and Helspont then brawl. It is a decent fight scene with big action.
During the fight, Helspont seems to be significantly injured and Superman worries that he may have overdone it. It turns out to be a 'rope-a-dope' trick by Helspont giving him a temporary upper hand in the fight. But it, again, showed that Jurgens and Giffen 'get' Superman. Superman doesn't want to kill or maim anyone, even someone like Helspont. Life is sacred.
The fact that Helspont thinks it is 'maudlin sentimentality' further shows the gulf between these two beiings.
And once Superman knows that Helspont is fine, he bludgeons him and drops a mountain on him. Yes, Helspont teleports away to fight another day. But Superman won the fight ... the physical fight and the moral fight.
Back in Metropolis, Clark is reminded that Jimmy is moving in with him for a bit. This should be fun.
But look, even in the 'real world' those 'no Superman' graffiti signs are present. Of course there will be some people who don't accept Superman and don't trust him. But what I want to see is just as many people accept him, view him as a hero and a role model. That is who Superman is. What this panel shows is that despite already feeling some of what Helspont warned him about, Superman's feelings are chiseled in stone, unyielding. He still feels hope despite this already present undercurrent of distrust.
After the confusing, dense, and somewhat muddled opening arc, this 2 issue story was the prefect palate cleanser. Superman defeated a villain, remained true to his convictions. The supporting cast was added to and plot threads were begun. That's all very good.
And ... Superman sounded like Superman. That's great!
Overall grade: B+