Superman is called away from an event in Utah, at which he’s been given the key to the city, by the familiar zee-zee-zee of Jimmy Olsen’s signal watch. The Daily Planet’s Mr Action has happened upon a mass kidnapping in Las Vegas by the electrically powered Livewire. Superman is disappointed because last time they met, Livewire fought on the side of the angels. But here she is, more powerful – and nuttier – than ever.
It won’t surprise you to hear that Superman and Jimmy save the day, containing her with an item from the Fortress of Solitude’s Trivia Closet. Longtime readers may remember the same thing being used in a similar way by another woman of Superman’s acquaintance, but I won’t say any more for fear of totally spoiling the issue. I will say that writer Chris Roberson should have spelt out just when Superman used the souvenir – Easter eggs for us old-timers are great, but when something is an important plot point, let the newer guys in on the secret too.
Livewire is an interesting character, more mercurial than out and out evil, and I hope we see her fight with the good guys soon. Someone who definitely won’t be doing that is the Kryptonite-powered teacher who’s been following Superman around on his Grounded tour of America, messing with his karma. She shows up as one of Livewire’s kidnap victims, along with a hero from the 1940s (and Superman’s boyhood favourite), Arn ‘Iron’ Munro. Although supernaturally youthful, and still super-vigorous, Munro is whammied by the mood-altering gem Teach has – it transmits memories of Superman’s recent miseries to him, knocking him for six. Once the gem is out of his hands, though, the experience seems to fade, as he doesn’t mention it to Superman at issue’s end.
It’s a shame Teach doesn’t confront Superman, because the sooner they battle, the sooner she’s defeated, the sooner we can forget that J Michael Straczynski ever began this Grounded storyline. Honestly, even Jimmy is having a pop at it this issue, courtesy of Roberson’s witty script.
As well as the already-mentioned fun, Roberson offers us a former Project Cadmus scientist now working for STAR Labs; a reference to one of Batman’s strangest enemies; and an almost-cameo by Super-Hip – Vegas superstar, onetime nephew of Bob Hope and recent Doom Patrol supporting character.
More importantly, away from the influence of Teach’s jewel, and coming to terms with the losses of Pa Kent and New Krypton, Superman is himself again. He’s more concerned for Livewire’s welfare than the mess she’s making of Vegas (which includes a mini-Daily Planet – of course it does). There’s a speech from Superman about America being a place where people get second chances, delivered with lovely Jimmy Stewart sincerity. It’s also very good to see Superman teaming up with his best pal to dampen down trouble. OK, so he doesn’t give wife Lois a thought, but you can’t have everything …
Eddy Barrows pencils, JP Meyer inks and the story looks fantastic, with big, fun-filled panels. Whether it’s Livewire blasting Superman or Jimmy being asked to mind Superman’s latest giant key, the pages are a joy to look at. And aided by colourist Rod Reis, they really put across the power of LIvewire with smart lighting (click to enlarge). What’s more, they make Iron Munro the best-looking ninety-year-old in comics – lock up yer grannies!
The cover, drawn by John Cassady and coloured by David Baron, is the best of the Grounded sequence, a tremendous composition, brilliantly toned. The choice of red and white for the logo – a Silver Age classic – works marvellously here.
Straczynski’s notion of having Superman wander the US, finding himself, barely impinges on this issue, and it’s all the better for it. With his colleagues, Roberson has really turned this book around, and if DC don’t offer him the ongoing writing assignment, they’re nuttier than any electrically powered super-villain.