As J Michael Straczynski walks away from the less-than-popular ‘Grounded’ storyline, Superman gets its second fill-in in three issues, which is rather pathetic. Still, as a fan of the Daily Planet staff, an issue checking in with them doesn’t sound like the worst thing ever.
And it isn’t. Not quite.
As with the Lois-centred #705, writer G Willow WIlson is tasked with entertaining disaffected Superman fans – a Green Kryptonite-tinged chalice, if ever there was one. That issue had some decent moments, but suffered from an apparent lack of familiarity with the series.
The same can be said for this go-round. First of all, the premise doesn’t fly. Perry White is alarmed when some local Wikileaks dares to suggest the Daily Planet has a special relationship with Superman. That’s the Daily Planet which has boasted of the fact a million times.
There is the wrinkle that some creative accounting suggests – if you use a lot of imagination – that the paper has a fund to pay Superman for exclusives. But even if you accept that the Planet might be a tad naughty, would the Metropolis public believe this of the hero for a second? Superman, who has a million ways to make money without resorting to dishonesty?
Then there’s the portrayal of Perry White. He’s presented as a bit of a dinosaur who wouldn’t know a blog if it bit him on the bottom and at best, an idiot who doesn’t know the name of his staff and at worst, a casual racist. He physically manhandles a new photographer. Oh, and he doesn’t say ‘Great Caesar’s ghost,’ he yells ‘Great Caesar’s goiter’ or ‘gallbladder’ as if he’s in an episode of Lois & Clark circa 1993, then refers to himself as ‘The Editorator’, which is simply painful.
And political wonk Ron Troupe, who has worked at the Planet for years, is awfully ready to believe ill of Perry, Lois and Superman.
Lending credence to the upstart blog’s juicy assertions that Superman has an especially close, and improper, relationship with Lois Lane is a photograph showing them embracing. Given that Lois and Clark have been meeting for on-the-road nookie, that seemed entirely possible. Sad, then, that the picture is explained away in a most unconvincing fashion.
Superman shows up briefly and tells Perry that the internet scares even him. Perry is ready to believe Superman and Lois might be having an affair. Eventually he offers an intern’s position to the blog’s editor, because ‘You’ve got the chops for this business, son. You just need a little help refining your craft.’ Obviously, checking your facts, having a reason to trust sources … that’s not something an old school journalist such as Perry would demand.
Really, this isn’t a good story. I know that she’s contributed to various publications, but it seems that G Willow Wilson has as little familiarity with newspaper people as she does with the Superman family. Perry and co act neither like themselves, nor their real-life counterparts. And the threat of Superman and Lois’s true relationship being exposed is dangled, then dismissed.
Fill-in artist Amilcar Pinna does a decent-enough job, though he’s hobbled by not having anything particularly dramatic to draw. There are only so many ways to show Perry and co looking surprised and appalled, and he finds them all. He deserves extra credit for not stinting on the backgrounds, filling the pages with people and things.
John Cassaday’s cover is a tad odd, evoking the image of Superman as a vampire flashing the United States. Still, it’s different, and well-coloured by David Baron.
If DC aimed to give us a story to rank up there with the rest of Grounded, they succeeded. Unfortunately.