When J. Michael Straczynski was announced as the new writer for Superman (as well as Wonder Woman), our geek salivary glands began to work overtime. While JMS might have a reputation as a guy who doesn’t always finish well, he also comes with a pedigree a mile long. Foremost in our minds was his stellar run on Marvel Comics’ Thor with Olivier Coipel, which we’ll gladly put up on the top shelf along with the Lee/Kirby and Simonson efforts. His more recent work on DC’s Brave and the Bold title might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it has brought a sense of fun back to a lot of lesser known characters and shown us that the guy can handle single issue stories as well as sprawling epics.
But the news that JMS’s run on Supes would involve the Man of Steel walking the earth like that dude from Kung Fu has got us scratching our heads. The idea of the Last Son of Krypton rediscovering his roots after a year or so off-planet is one with merit, but we question the timing of the whole event… or as a friend remarked, “Can’t we just have Superman punching a giant robot for a change?”
So the Bottle City of Kandor was finally enlarged and a whole bunch of Kryptonians were flying around with powers far beyond those of mortal men and fancy suits to boot. They end up on their own planet, which is in synchronous orbit with the earth on the other side of the sun and Superman decides to live there for a while to keep an eye on things. Given a position in the Military Guild, Superman was no longer defined by his powers. We got to see that it isn’t the cape or the S or the red underwear or even the heat vision that make Kal-El so great; it’s his indomitable will, bravery and code of honor.
On paper, that’s a really neat idea. In practice? Eh, not so much. While a detective story featuring Superman and Adam Strange might make a neat one-shot or maybe 4 issue storyline, it certainly didn’t live up to expectations over the course of… however long that story lasted. I don’t think we made it all the way to the end before we dropped it out of sheer boredom. Same with the other titles in the Superman Family. Mon-El is cool and so is Steel, and that Nightwing and Flamebird story was interesting, but none of it was good enough to hold our interest and frankly, if we’re buying a book called Superman, it might be nice to see Superman in it. The whole debacle left a bad taste in our mouths, especially after being spoiled with the excellent Geoff Johns/Gary Frank run that preceded it.
So it all wraps up after what feels like eons and in what may have been the plan from the get-go or may have been an enormous cop out, New Krypton gets destroyed. Next thing you know, Superman is back on earth, reunited with Lois and slapped in the face by a weepy woman who’s upset because Superman can’t be there to solve every problem. Or most of them. Or some of them. Or… whatever. It was a stupid idea anyway.
The Big Blue Boyscout ends up all sad and weepy, like usual and he remembers some poignant words from Uncle Ben: “With Great Power Comes…” er… wrong book. He remembers his daddy (his earth daddy) giving him some speech about tilling the soil and keeping it fresh and all that down home farmer stuff that’s been the backbone of Superman since the Byrne reboot and he decides he needs to remember where he came from and who he is by inviting readers to write an essay about how great their hometown is and why it should be featured in an upcoming issue of Superman.
In and of itself, the idea for the “Grounded” storyline isn’t a bad one. The idea of Superman reconnecting with his roots after a year away isn’t particularly original, but in the hands of a talented writer like Straczynski, it could still prove to be a winner. However, the whole “Superman can’t be everywhere at once, saving everyone” shtick has been done to death. We seriously need to let another generation or so pass before relighting the torch of Superman IV: the Quest for Peace.
And the whole thing about writing an essay about why your town should be featured in Superman? It’ll grab a few headlines for sure. But how long will it last? Will anyone really care for more than 5 minutes? Sure, Wonder Woman’s new costume was all over the internet last week, on geek sites and non-geek sites alike. The Superman-comes-to-your-town gimmick will likely do the same, but we don’t really see it being some enormous headline grabbing story that captures America’s attention for more than a week or so or does much (if anything) to sell books.
Most importantly, after enduring an excruciatingly boring story in which Superman didn’t wear his costume, wasn’t on earth and didn’t interact with his regular supporting cast, the last thing we want is some heartwarming, schmaltzy crap that doesn’t even take place in Metropolis! Yes, it’s true that it isn’t the powers or the cape that make the man. World of New Krypton proved that. But Superman isn’t just a character, it’s a brand. It’s not just Clark Kent, it’s Lois Lane, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, the Daily Planet, Cat Grant, Lex Luthor and Metropolis!
As always, we’ll reserve judgment until we’ve actually read the story. And yes, we’ll pick it up – at least the first few issues. But after everything we’ve been through and seeing how Superman has been dragged through the mud since Johns left the title, we aren’t really in the mood to watch him walk around moping. Right now, we’re in the mood to look up to the sky…
In addition to contributing the weekly Comicscape column and comic book reviews, Chad Derdowski is also a part of The Zod Complex, a weekly podcast celebrating geek culture. You can find it at ZodComplex.com