Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review: Action Comics #895 - Jimmy Olsen Second Feature

The Jimmy Olsen Second Feature in Action Comics has been one of the better back-up features that I have read in books from my pull list. And, since Nick Spencer is taking over Supergirl in a couple of months, I must admit I have been reading this story with more than usual scrutiny.

The first chapter was a home run, capturing some of the trippier aspects of Silver Age Olsen adventures while adding a 21st century edge and pretty crisp dialogue. The second chapter wasn't as fantastic but was still very good, suffering only in comparison to the opening volley. This entry in Action Comics #895 is closer to the excellence seen in the first chapter. It also gives us a quick peek into Spencer's ideas on Supergirl.

One thing about Jimmy is that he is pretty malleable as a character. In recent years we have seen James Robinson try to make him into a gritty 'Mr. Action' type, willing to do some dirty work to get the job done, willing to risk his life to uncover the truth. Sterling Gates also had him as a 'Mr. Action' but working more in the light of day, willing to risk his life for others. J. Michael Straczynski had him a crusader for the story, willing to risk his life for the ultimate news picture in Superman Earth One. Her in Action, this is a much breezier version of Jimmy, still in the middle of a lot of action, but using his brains and armed with a witty comeback. Surprisingly, all the versions work for me. I don't know who 'my' Jimmy Olsen is, having grown up with variations of these versions.

Last issue, Jimmy discovered that the party the visiting aliens are hoping to throw will raze the surface of the planet. He comes up with a brilliant idea ... make Metropolis seem completely boring and therefore make the aliens look elsewhere.

So after a night of partying, the aliens wake up in the 'quietest big city in the galaxy'.

Steel fishing? Superboy sacking out in a hammock? Brilliant.

My only complaint here is putting the glasses on Supergirl. Wouldn't that look a bit too much like Linda Lang? I don't know if Kara would want to endanger her secret identity on a billboard.

And, thanks to the power of social media, Jimmy convinces the entire city to go along on the gag. Even the bars agree to close. Metropolis appears to be dry except on weekends.

Implausible? Completely. But Jimmy always had hare-brained schemes like this work in the Silver Age.

The aliens are shown more of the 'usual' fun stuff that Metropolis has to offer. For example, they head to a poetry reading by Perry White. Perry recites some of his own dreadful verse about the loss of love. It is pretty amusing. I love the shocked look on the aliens' faces.

And to seal the deal, Jimmy invites Supergirl to show the alien princess a good time.

I really like RB Silva's take on Supergirl here. There is a hint of Renato Guedes' Kara here and that is high praise.

The princess thinks a young hip superhero taking her shopping will save her from the ennui. But Supergirl takes her to the Yarn Barn.

This short scene really gives us an idea of what Spencer thinks of Supergirl. His Kara actually likes the Yarn Barn; she likes to knit. And Jimmy could care less knowing how exciting and awesome Supergirl is.

We have seen that Supergirl paints, plays the guitar, collects souvenirs. It didn't shock or disappoint to hear she also knits. And that seems pretty consistent with the Supergirl that Gates and Igle wrote. She's crafty, artsy.

This little scene added to the optimism I was feeling going into Spencer's run with Supergirl.

Convinced that Earth is dull, the aliens pack up and leave.

Somehow Jimmy has pulled it off.

Of course, the aliens will now raze someone else's planet ... but we won't worry about that. That planet's Jimmy can figure out how to save them.

Feeling good about himself for the first time in a while, Jimmy is deflated when Chloe says the victory really belongs to her. She is the one who sent out the message to the populace. Besides, it doesn't change how she currently feels about him. They are still on the outs.

Every time Jimmy thinks he is out of the doldrums, someone pulls him back in.

But Lois has the answer! She'll set him up. Lois looks a bit too crazed here.

I have to say, I enjoyed this part of the Jimmy story a lot. The idea that all of Metropolis would play along is preposterous but it did have a certain throwback appeal. In a world where Jimmy is captured in a techno-genie bottle (as he was at the outset of this story), he could convince a whole city to act dull. Spencer's Jimmy is smart and sly and I like that. Perry's poetry was awful! And I like that too.

And I loved the little slice of Supergirl we saw here.

Again, I think this is supposed to be a fun story, light and fluffy and in some ways silly.

RB Silva's work is solid throughout this and works very well with the bright color palette. And I thought he did a great job with Supergirl. Only that Lois panel was off.

Overall grade: A

Monday, November 29, 2010

Review: Action Comics #895

As much as I have been clamoring for a Superman book that stars Superman acting like Superman, I have to admit that the Lex Luthor run in Action Comics has been enjoyable and getting better and better. Action Comics #895 continues that trend.

This is the first book I have read by Paul Cornell although I had heard great things about his Marvel stuff. One thing that I am very impressed with is his capturing of a clear and consistent voice for Luthor here. Sure, Lex is power-hungry and willing to do about anything to get it. But something that Cornell has added is a subtle snarkiness to some of Luthor's lines. He knows he is better than everybody and he is willing to let that be known with a sarcastic and some times humorous edge. In fact, this sort of understated humor has been one of the constants in this book that is working very well. Sometimes I think it goes over the top (working well with Grodd, not so well with Mr. Mind) but it adds another layer to the storyline. This could have been Luthor wallowing in his own evil, cackling and shaking his fists. This is a much more nuanced look at Lex and his desires. Luthor really feels like a well-rounded, three-dimensional character.

Moreover, at first I thought the 'guest star super-villain of the month' style of the book might grate on me. But by playing Lex off these other villains, it lets Cornell add to the depth of the Luthor character.

This month's guest is Vandal Savage. We saw at the end of last issue that 2 of the Black Lantern globes were in Europe hundreds of years ago and under the control of Savage.

Walled into a city in the Czech Republic area, the black 'pustules' (perfect word for them) provide energy for Savage. But they clearly have an effect on the emotional stability of those around them. It is implied that the near constant revolutions within that geographic area are inflamed by the leaking Black Lantern energy.

I did like this opening page as we see Savage literally walking through time, the background scene remaining constant despite the century while Savage's fashion sense changes with the time. It is a visual that really clicked.

Savage has seen a prophecy that Luthor (unknown to him back in the 14th century) will eventually come to the energy globes, 'make his presence felt', and leave Savage 'happy'. Knowing the power the 'pustules' give him, Savage wants to try to stop that prophecy from coming true.

These stops in time go as far as the late 20th century where we see Savage talking to a school-aged Scandal. It is creepy but consistent with his character that he would bring his tween daughter out on a military patrol.

One of things that irks me in comics is when some retcon occurs that makes me have to rethink the way I have looked at all the prior stories I have read. The worst one in recent memory was the rape of Sue Dibny in Identity Crisis. Since that happened in the early days of the JLA, it meant that every subsequent story she was in had that awful event in her past. So all those carefree JLE stories, all the times she interacted with the heroes of the JLA, that would have been part of the history. It tainted those stories a bit. Would she and they have reacted and talked as they did if this horrible thing had occurred.

Anyways, if Savage was watching for Luthor for hundreds of years, wouldn't that change how we looked at any prior interaction they had?

The thing that I loved most about this book was that Cornell actually addresses this concern of mine. So here, when Savage finally is able to put the name Luthor to the face of the man in the prophecy, he talks to Scandal. He says outright they need to hide their concern about Luthor.

Moreover, Cornell shows us two times Savage and Luthor interacted in recent history (in The Flash and Salvation Run) and shows some 'deleted scenes' where Savage tries to lure Luthor to his Czech stronghold. This understanding that Savage's foreknowledge would color any Lex/Vandal crossovers and showing us these scenes impressed me so much. For a continuity geek like me, I really appreciated this acknowledgment that this story was 'changing history'.

Anyways, Luthor wants nothing to do with Savage or his Czech city, at least not at this time. In the best line of the book, Luthor says that he doesn't associate with super-villains unless it is to lead them. Supervillains "have master plans and costumes and pretensions". That is pure Luthor.

We then move forward to the present where Lex dreams of the Black Lantern globes. In an epiphany, he sees that there are only 10 of these globes including the two globes that he has changed to white energy. I liked this dream picture of Lex in his armor with the globes floating around him. The two white globes in front of him gave his armor a sort of Kirby-esque feel and with him looming over the Earth there was a New Gods riff here.

As much as I liked that, I also liked seeing that Luthor sleeps with the Lois-bot. It actually adds to Luthor's humanity. He is not opposed to sharing his bed with someone, despite the fact she is mechanical.

The dream showed him that he will obtain the power he craves when he changes the spheres. And he transforms that energy by analyzing the globes. The globes seem to store Black Lantern energy or link to another dimension. He needs to change all ten.

I can't shake the feeling that Luthor is being manipulated here. From the beginning when he began to act more reckless to these 'epiphanies' in his dreams, someone must be pulling his strings. But who? And why? Will changing the globes open a portal to this other dimension allowing someone to come into this one? Initially I thought Krona but that seems like an overused plot. Maybe someone from the New Gods? Someone from Blackest Night?

Luthor isn't sure, but he knows he is destined for something great. After all, if Death herself visited him he must be approaching great power.

I love that Lois-bot sasses him, telling him he was in a coma and must have been in a delirium. After all, Death didn't have skis. Hmmm ... another Black Racer joke. Could Black Racer be the entity that is nudging Luthor along?

I can't imagine any live person giving Luthor some playful back talk like this and surviving. Does this mean Luthor loves 'Lois'? She is free to talk freely to him? It is such a weird but interesting relationship.

In what I thought might be the weakest part of the issue, Luthor is able to create a satellite that analyzes the globes from afar. It seems a little too easy, especially when Luthor then says that some globes, which are difficult to get to, will need to be analyzed in person. This just seemed like an easy way to change only Savage's globes without having Luthor need to go there. Wouldn't the satellite be able to change them all? And what is the satellite actually doing from afar?

Regardless, the satellites have changed Savage's 'pustules'. Suddenly that emotional wave of anger and hate is gone. Ironically, people are still warring even without the black energy's influence.

With Luthor having fulfilled the early portion of the prophecy by making his presence felt, Savage decides to go on the offensive. He invades the LexCorps headquarters, shuts down all electronics (including Lois-bot), and places explosives all over the building. If  Luthor doesn't share his information about the globes, Savage will literally bring down Luthor's empire.

Luthor is unimpressed and triggers a silent alarm. Don't ask me how that electronic device works when all others are down.

Cornell shows us a quick scene with Sebastian Mallory, the up-and-coming LexCorps exec from the Jimmy Olsen story so maybe he will become a standing character.

The alarm triggers a signal in the Secret Six lair. Did Luthor have this specific contingency plan if he faced Vandal Savage? Did he always want Scandal to defend him against her father? It is an interesting dilemma the Savage's will be in. Nice cliff-hanger.

Of course, for someone like me who doesn't collect Secret Six, I have no idea of the current stability of Savage family politics. But, my guess is that somehow bringing Scandal and Vandal together is going to make the elder Savage happy therefore fulfilling the prophecy.

Therefore, this was a very good issue. The moments filling in the back Savage/Luthor continuity as well as the Lex/Lois-scenes really crackled. The one downside was the satellite analyzer which felt a little too easy.

Pete Woods continues to just shine here. His work is near flawless. I love his Lois.

Overall grade: B+/B

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Essential Superman Encyclopedia

On the advice of a good friend, I bought The Essential Superman Encyclopedia, written by Robert Greenberger and Marty Pasko.

I highly highly recommend it for any Superman or Supergirl fan. The encyclopedia is really an in-depth look at the entirety of Superman’s history, in all of its continuity.

Unlike something akin to Who’s Who, where only current continuity can be discussed, the Encyclopedia recognizes the worth of the older stories and older versions of the characters and locations. Entries do a great job of discussing ‘pre-Crisis’ Earth- 1 and Earth-2 histories, post-Crisis history, and then post-Infinite Crisis events.

As an example, if you look up Reactron you get discussions about his time in Daring New Adventures of Supergirl, how post-Crisis he became a Power Girl villain and battled the Suicide Squad, and then the entry reviews his current incarnation all the way up to his death in War of the Supermen. Not only are these entries incredibly detailed, they also include issue references so you can go find and read the relevant issues. For a amateur comic historian, it is a gold mine of information.

Here is the opening page about Supergirl. The Supergirl entry is a whopping 8 pages long! It includes discussions on every incarnation of the character from the Jimmy Olsen ‘magic totem’ created Supergirl to the current Kara Zor-El. No version is overlooked so even the Earth Angel Linda Danvers Supergirl gets treated with respect. The entry ends with the events of War of the Supermen so it is very current.

The entry is a very nice primer on the character and treats her with the respect she deserves.

The end of the entry also discusses all the ElseWorld versions and possible future versions of the character so it is quite comprehensive.

To get a sense of the entries, I included this opening page of Zor-El as well.

But the truth is even the most obscure piece of Superman mythos is included here. The Phantom Zone entry has a list of every criminal ever named as being in the zone and includes their crime. And characters that appeared once in the Golden Age even get a small piece.

The book is only $30 and is 500 pages of Superman goodness. It would be a perfect holiday gift for anyone who is a fan of Superman or Supergirl.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Post From Sterling Gates

Yesterday, Sterling Gates left the following comment on the Supergirl #58 review post from earlier in the week. It was too fantastic to leave just tucked away in there. I wanted to make sure that everyone who comes to this blog read it. Here it is:

Thanks for the kind review, Anj, and thank you all for your comments.

I've been extremely flattered by your support the last two years, and I really appreciate all of you, the Supergirl fan base.

I'm very happy and proud of the note Jamal and I are going out on, and it's a note which really shows how Kara and Cat have grown the last couple years. I can't wait for all of you to read it next month.

On a day of giving thanks, I just wanted to express my thanks for your support.

Thank you.

As long as Supergirl has fans as passionate and as vocal as all of you, she'll continue to soar and thrive.

And that's all that we can ask for Kara, isn't it? :)

Thanks again,

Well, I think we owe you and Jamal some thanks as well for bringing us this Supergirl, one we could be proud of when we said we were fans. I think the Supergirl fanbase is a passionate group and we occasionally can bicker amongst ourselves. But our love of the character is always present.

And thank you for coming here and posting as often as you did. It was fantastic to know that you cared enough about the fanbase to reach out like you did. I am sure you made lifelong fans here.

I can't wait to read your last issue. I am sure it will be a fitting capstone for such a phenomenal run. And I look forward to seeing what you are working on next.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Superman #706 - Another 'Grounded' Interlude

This is really starting to border on the ridiculous. But according to the DC Source Blog, Superman #706 will be another 'Grounded' interlude issue by G. Willow Wilson. Here is the link and the post in it's entirety. I do recommend going to the site if just to read the comments:

Hey, Source readers — got some news to close the week with. Writer G. Willow Wilson will return to SUPERMAN with a new “Grounded” tale in issue #706, illustrated by artist Amilcar Pinna.
Superman’s walk across the country ends up having unexpected – and dangerous – repercussions for Perry White and the staff of The Daily Planet. Can Superman help The Planet overcome its latest hurdle?
SUPERMAN #706 hits stores in December. The previously-announced team will pick up again with #707 in January.

So most likely with the JMS leaving, there was something of an upheaval on the main story. An extra month probably will give Chris Roberson time to get up to speed. And Eddy Barrows has always had a hard time keeping a deadline.

Still, doesn't this further the feeling that 'Grounded' has been a disaster. Between poor characterization and delays, the story has not succeeded. Then JMS jumps ship. And now we get another 'interlude'.

It's like putting an intermission in the middle of a very long but bad movie. How many people would simply leave and wander into another theater? How many people will leave the book?

Wilson wrote the Lois issue which seemed like a misstep. Now we'll get a Perry White issue. Let me guess ...without Superman stories because of his 'walk', the Planet is losing readers and might shut down.

I don't know much about Amilcar Pinna but what I have seen on the web makes his stuff look very nice. The above is a very rough Supergirl sketch I found on his blog: http://amilcar-pinna.blogspot.com/

Still, I ache for the days when I'll read a true Superman book again ... either here or in Action. The last time we had that was back in the Brainiac arc in Action and the Atlas arc in Superman. Now that would be something to give thanks for.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Review: Supergirl #58

We are rounding the last turn and heading into the home stretch of the Sterling Gates/Jamal Igle run on Supergirl. Supergirl #58 is the penultimate issue of this great run but the team shows no signs of losing momentum here.

This was a very good issue, addressing the long-standing plot of Cat Grant's feud with Supergirl. It was the 'Why the world doesn't need Supergirl' editorial was really the catalyst of a lot of what Gates has accomplished here. So what better way to end this run than by proving to Cat that the world ... that Cat ... needs Supergirl.

But this issue also shows just how far Supergirl has come since Supergirl #34. The Supergirl in that issue bursts into tears when she read that editorial, questioning herself, wondering what she should do. In this issue, we see how decisive and confidant Kara is now ... even in the face of some withering criticism by Cat.

This issue had smart dialogue, great art, and a solid story. It looks like Gates and Igle will be ending their tenure on a high note.

I know I have shown it before when it was posted on the DC Source blog, but here is the DC75th variant cover of the issue by Amanda Conner. Based on Action Comics #252, this cover even includes the exact dialogue bubbles and issue banner that the original issue did, down to the font. This really was wonderful. I love Amanda Conner's work. I hope she gets a monthly title soon.

The opening scene of the issue has Supergirl and Cat entering Arkham, walking down the asylum's corridors, and sitting and talking to the Toyman.

That whole scene, from the worker pointing to the room Toyman is in to the room interview itself to the 'we came to talk' line echoes the opening scene of The Killing Joke. I am probably a bigger continuity nut and comic historian than many but I love when books acknowledge the past. I don't look at things like this as copying the past, more like recognizing it. Here it even set the tone of the scene. I know how dark The Killing Joke is so I felt some added dread to this scene here.

Now I am not saying that Supergirl #58 is like The Killing Joke. But I thought this was a very nice homage, adding to the impact of the scene.

Cat asks the Toyman why he is sending her dolls and what it has to do with the missing children around Metropolis. Toyman protests, saying he loves children and has done anything.

Supergirl has no patience for his talk, not when children are in peril. Even though just last issue she listed it as a problem she has, she 'thinks with her fists' here. She threatens Toyman, even wondering if she should check to see if he is a robot or not.

I had no problem with this response though. Kara is still working through her grief and the Toyman had a small part of the destruction of New Krypton (his Luthor-bot triggered Reactron's explosion) and might be harming children. Supergirl simply doesn't have the time to go back and forth with questions and answers. She acts decisively, trying to bring this problem to a close.

Toyman still says he hasn't done anything to the children and certainly hasn't sent Cat any dolls. With that, Cat actually shows him the dolls she received after each child disappeared.

Schott seems to recognize the handiwork of the doll, wondering where Cat got it from. But suddenly ... and shockingly ... the doll animates, attacking the Toyman, stabbing him in the chest and nearly killing him.

Since Supergirl #38 when the first doll was seen, I thought the Toyman was behind what was happening. So I loved this surprise. If it isn't the Toyman, who is it?

Supergirl is able to whisk the Toyman to the hospital where he undergoes emergency surgery.

As Cat and Kara await news, they lay out their problems with each other. I really wish we could have seen the scene where Cat asks Supergirl for help. That would have been great. Instead we only hear that Cat seemed to 'blackmail' Lana into getting Kara to help here. Luckily, there was no concern that Cat knew Linda Lang was Supergirl.

Despite the help Supergirl has given Cat, Cat still rips into her. She still thinks Supergirl is out of control, making bad situations worse. Supergirl realizes she doesn't need to sit there and take the abuse. When she hears that the Toyman is stable she leaves Cat alone. The Toyman lead was a dead end; Supergirl will try looking for the children on her own.

I am glad that the two characters aren't suddenly chummy, that their problems aren't simply water under the bridge. They shouldn't suddenly become friends because of this one time interaction. And again, the old Supergirl might have wondered if Cat was saying the truth here. Instead Supergirl knows that the best response is to simply leave.

As usual, Jamal Igle does a very nice job here, especially conveying the emotions the two are feeling in this heated discussion.

As she hunts down the children and whoever is kidnapping them, Supergirl takes out her frustrations on Riot. I love how she thrashes this C-list villain.

During this, Supergirl is talking to Lana about why Cat is the way she is. Lana talks about how one of the Toyman's robots killed Adam Grant. Again, here is a nice homage.

Lana remembers that death and how it effected everybody and her thoughts show Superman holding Adam's body just as it was represented by this great Dan Jurgens' cover on Superman #84. I think flourishes like this are great,

It turns out that Cat became angry in her heart after the death of Adam. And that anger became directed at teenagers who are out of control, who are ruining their lives.

How could those children waste their lives when her son lost his.

I always knew that Adam's death was part of her anger, her bitterness, her cold nature. But I thought this spelled it out nicely, especially when paired with her more traditional grief with this grave site scene.

Back at her apartment, Cat is attacked by a claw-wielding doll-like creature. Using a stun-gun, Cat is able to subdue her attacker only to have it turn out to be one of the missing children, albeit one who appears to have been surgically altered, turned into a cyborg assassin.

Things like this ... the creepy doll like exterior with the heavily seamed masks and outfits ... they are so eerie.

Cat isn't quite safe yet. The Dollmaker arrives at her apartment, with the other two missing children flanking him in their own weird doll outfits. He says he is Anton Schott. Who is that? Toyman's son? His brother? Another self-aware robot? And what is his problem with Cat? Why is he keying in on her. Could Anton be a robot Toyman was building to replace Adam for Cat?

At least we know that the 'Day of Dollmaker' adventure mentioned in Supergirl Annual #2 is an adventure we will see.

The book ends with the opening scene replayed except now it is Lois talking her way into STAR labs to talk to Superwoman. Again, the framework nature of the two scenes made the opening and closing of the book tight. And I am glad that Superwoman isn't being forgotten by Gates before he leaves the book.

So much happened in this issue and at an almost breakneck speed. I wonder if Sterling Gates felt rushed to get this story done in two issues. Could he have used another issue to flesh this story out?

For me, as usual, the best moments in this book are the character moments. Seeing Supergirl react to Toyman's responses was great. She doesn't waver in her actions; she is acting decisively and heroically. But even better than that was her getting up and walking out on Cat. Supergirl doesn't need to hear it, and she isn't going to shed any tears over nonsensical ravings. That shows confidence ... and pride. Supergirl has grown so much since she was hit in the face with a soda in Supergirl #34. She is a hero. And that really made this feel like a great ending to the Gates/Igle run.

When this creative team took over, they listed the things they were hoping to do while they were on the title.

First off, they wanted to add to Supergirl's rogue's gallery. We now have Superwoman, Satan Girl, Bizarro Girl, Insect Queen, Silver Banshee, and the Dollmaker. We had Reactron.

They wanted to add a supporting cast. We have Lana, Cat, Jimmy, Inspector Henderson, and even Dr. Light as a members of this book.

But foremost, they wanted to make Supergirl a respectable hero and a likeable character. And I think they succeeded. And this is what I appreciate the most from this run.

It makes these last two issues almost bittersweet.

Overall grade: B+

Monday, November 22, 2010

1976 Pepsi Supergirl Glass

I went to the Boston Super Megafest yesterday. The Megafest is a sort of 'pop culture' convention with a number of celebrities present for autographs and dealers peddling some wares. Going to this convention has become something of a tradition with my brothers, one of whom is a huge Star Wars fan. It was at last years Megafest that I got the 'Supergirl as an Indigo Lantern' commission from Ethan Van Sciver seen here.

The celebrities are usually of a sci-fi bent. The headliners yesterday included Christopher Lloyd, Marina (Conselor Troi) Sirtis, and Peter (Chewbacca) Mayhew. But there were musicians, wrestlers, etc. as well.

Comic books are a very small part of this thing. The dealers are usually selling toys, records, posters, and props. I don't usually drop a lot of money at this thing.

But yesterday I did make a small purchase which made me very happy. One of the things I have been looking to add to my Supergirl collecton was the Pepsi Tumbler, a promotional item from 1976. I have seen it many times on EBay but never in person.

So as I was looking over the wares available (including some tempting big items - a Raiders head piece of the staff of Ra, a near perfect replica of the Maltese Falcon), I noticed the Supergirl glass. And it was pretty cheap too! There are some manufacturing flubs on it (the blue paint is noted on the hands) but is otherwise in great condition, nice and glossy.

There isn't too much out there with Supergirl in the 'hot pants' uniform so I am pretty pumped to add this to the collection.

An updated overall post about my collection will probably happen after the holidays.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Review: Superman #705

I can remember when 'Grounded' was first announced, when the theme of Superman walking across America and getting in touch with the little people was introduced in Superman #700 that I thought it might be J. Michael Straczynski doing a modern day version of the earliest Superman stories. Those stories by Siegel and Shuster had Superman dealing with the problems of the everyday man ... unsafe mines, men framed for murder, men fighting in meaningless wars, and even someone who physically abused his wife. There weren't super-villains back in those days.

Unfortunately, 'Grounded' just hasn't worked so far. So far, Superman seems to be alienating himself from the people rather than getting closer.

For me, Superman represents everything we should be, someone selfless who is always working to help others, someone who should be inspiring the people around him to do the same. The best Superman stories show that while he faces threats that typical people can't handle. I guess the most recent example would be Superman: Secret Origin where the very nature of Metropolis was changed because of Superman.

Throughout 'Grounded' we haven't seen that. Instead we have had a condescending Superman preaching to an unappreciative and progressively distant humanity. But even if that growing chasm is because of the 'jewel' threat from last issue, it doesn't change one fact.

I want to read about the Superman who inspires.

And frankly Superman #705 is about as far away as it gets.

The issue starts with Superman's trek bringing him to Chicago.

As he strolls through the park, the people there begin to back away in fear. Some people tell him he should leave before something terrible happens.

And then a young mother compares Superman to a gun.


I barely was able to stomach reading after that panel. People are supposed to want to be like Superman, to appreciate him, respect him, emulate him. To have someone compare him to a weapon is wrong on so many levels.

And if that wasn't bad enough, Superman actually experiences some self-doubt. He tells Lois, who has caught up with him, that he wonders if the people should be scared of him.

Yes, the possessed teacher from 2 issues ago is lingering and so might be influencing people telepathically.

But do I really want to read about a Superman who has such feet of clay, such a lack of understanding who he is and what he represents?

Later that night, Lois wonders if it is time to pull the plug on this experiment. Maybe Superman should just 'declare victory' and say that he was a flawed America with a lot of potential.

I was screaming 'yes'! I mean, I would not shed any tears if this storyline simply ended and we went back to Metropolis. Unfortunately, no luck there.

While asleep that night, Superman has a dream where the possessed teacher taunts him for not being to save anyone all while her three-headed demon pet pounds him.

When Superman awakes from the dream, he has bruises over his face, physical manifestations of the beating he took in his dream.

The lone bright spot in this book is the Eddy Barrows art in this scene.

Meanwhile, we have seen scenes of a young boy obviously abused by his father. He hopes that the presence of Superman will stop the madness, that his father will love him and stop hurting him and his mom.

The boy actually shows some inner strength, asking his mother about why his father is angry, why he hates them, why he hits them. The mother struggles with the answers.

And when the father actually arrives and tries to hurt the mother, this brave kid actually steps in the middle, protecting her.

At the very least, this kid is a hero, brave and selfless.

The father thrashes him and locks him in the basement.

As has been the case in much of 'Grounded', Superman happens to walk by the boy's house, hearing his cries from the basement. Breaking into the house, Superman frees the boy and brings the father to the police department for justice.

In a decent moment, the boy sees Superman's bruises and asks Superman if he gets hurt by his father too.

At the station, one of the police officers tells Superman that the next steps will be arraignment and a restraining order but those sometimes don't work.

Superman gives the boy a business card and says if he doesn't hear from the boy daily he'll worry that something has happened and he will mete out his own justice on the father.

Remember when I said how much I hated the 'you are a gun' scene? I hate this scene more.

The police thank Superman for uncovering this crime and Superman again acts haughty saying anyone with ten cents worth of compassion could have solved the problem. He walks away.

He doesn't call the boy the real hero because he stepped in to protect his mother regardless of the consequences. He doesn't say how we all need to watch out for each other, that the warning signs were there. He doesn't even sympathize with the mother who most likely felt trapped and traumatized. My Superman would have done some or all of those.

No, instead he shows scorn and turns his back on everyone. That is not my Superman. That is not a Superman I want to read.

I am not saying I need formulaic stories. Every arc doesn't have to be 'Superman beats bad guy'. I don't mind shaking things up, pushing the envelope, or exploring tough themes. But it is as if J. Michael Straczynski doesn't have an inkling of how to write Superman.

This was the worst Superman book I have read in a long time, the antithesis of what a Superman adventure should be.

And after bringing us to this point, JMS has decided to move on.

Overall grade: D-