Ah, that’s better. After a month’s delay, Superman #703 arrives and I finally enjoy an installment of the Grounded storyline.
Superman gives a stalker a taste of his own intimidating medicine in a page putting our hero in touch with his Golden Age self. Batman shows up and asks Superman what the heck he’s up to with ‘all this walking nonsense’. And remnants of New Krypton have a powerful effect on Earth folk.
So why the month’s delay? Without wishing to overstate the power of fan opinion, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if writer J Michael Straczynski didn’t see reactions to the first couple of Grounded tales, and ask DC to allow time for some retooling. For this issue, without getting too heavy handed about it, deftly addresses some of the questions readers have raised, such as, why has the year-long New Krypton storyline that preceded current events been ignored? Isn’t someone as powerful as Superman wasting his time trying to get in touch with the average Joe? Aren’t small towns endangered by Superman’s highly public presence? And, er, is he having a breakdown, or what?
The way this last question is raised reads like a direct reaction to (pair of links coming up, hover your cursor alert!) THIS POST at Colin’s always thoughtful Too Busy Thinking About My Comics blog. Mind Colin, ever generous, does speculate that revealing Superman as being deeply affected by the loss of New Krypton has been Straczynski’s plan all along. If Straczynski isn’t now channelling Colin’s blog, then Colin was bang on, and both guys are loads smarter than me.
(Actually, I knew that already…)
Whatever the case – and to be fair, it’s likely that what we get this issue is the script as Straczynski wrote it, months ago – this story finally seems to be going somewhere. The rocks are more than just a motivation for the issue’s requisite action sequence, they represent a problem to be solved, while Batman has Superman thinking about his behaviour in a conversation that looks set to be ongoing. Little by little, a concept is becoming a story. What’s more, while there are still moments when Superman comes across as a pedantic bugger to the regular folk he says he wants to get in touch with, such as his response to a cop’s briefing about New Krypton debris, Straczynski is getting more comfortable with Superman’s voice.
The art team of Eddy Barrows and JJ Mayer shines once more, with Superman and Batman looking suitably larger than life against City of the Month Cincinnati. There’s a rattling battle scene, and a good variety of ordinary chaps and chapesses. The only quibble I have is Batman’s cape, which gathers like a set of Granny’s net curtains. Colourist Rod Reis makes the pages glow with wonderfully lit scenes, while letterer John J Hill is quietly indispensable.
John Cassaday’s cover is simple, yet effective, as a summation of the notion of Superman’s walk, though I’d prefer something specific to this issue over a picture yelling ‘MEMEME!’ to whoever decides what goes on the front of the trade collection.
This was to be the make or break issue for me, but a decent issue guarantees I’ll be back for more. I’m still looking forward to next month’s fill-in spotlighting Lois Lane, mind!