Review: Superman #692

Superman

When last we left Superman, Mon-El had been beaten up, a bomb had gone off, Lane’s plan was revealed to us, and Superman himself, back on Earth for a brief time, had tried to stop a Kryptonian agent from a devastating strike.  And while this issue is in many ways a direct follow up to that, it feels painfully schizophrenic in doing so.  The world now believes Mon-El to be dead, a water shortage has caused its value to skyrocket, everyone thinks Superman is a traitor, Lane is a national hero, John Henry Irons is in a coma and Zatara has been kidnapped, taken to an alternate dimension, and is being pumped for infor… wait, what?

Before “Codename: Patriot”, Robinson’s Superman was a stellar blend of action and drama that managed to turn Mon-El and the Guardian into compelling characters.  Now, we skip entire story-lines – such as the Zatara one – and get our exposition through psychopathic rants from Morgan Edge, who spend the entire issue enraged and half-shaven and just generally looking homeless.  Anti-Kryptonian sentiment runs rampant as Edge and Lane stir up an insultingly jingoistic humans-first agenda, but the plot is missing exactly what Robinson normally does best: the human touch.  Frankly, every single one of us knows how the bulk of this story will play out.  What we don’t know is, how are the people in Metropolis reacting?  Why?

Unfortunately, when a book’s scope magnifies and the crossovers begin, one of the first things we lose is almost always that human element.  New artist Fernando Dagnino is given little to do with this issue, so it’s hard to judge how well he’ll fit on the title.  His brief action scenes seem competent, but then, his Morgan Edge looks like a complete lunatic.  Though it is impossible for me to make any long-term statements about him on this title and nothing in the issue sets him apart as a particular talent, he does a fine job with illustrating most of what Robinson throws his way.

Pre-“Codename: Patriot”, Superman was only a crossover in name.  It was given space to explore its own world and tell its own stories, and it had a great deal of potential there.  With “Patriot” come and gone, however, the book is rushing headlong into the master-plot.  If that master-plot was fascinating, perhaps this wouldn’t be a problem, but  Superman is offering nothing you haven’t seen before.  It isn’t terrible, it’s just painfully average.

Grade: C-

– Cal Cleary

Superman #691

Superman #689

Review: Superman #691

Superman

Thus far, James Robinson’s work on Superman has been pretty stellar non-stop since Superman left the title to charmingly awkward Daxamite Mon-El.  With the recent “Codename: Patriot” arc spread across all Superman titles (and a one-shot), however, the recently-excellent Superman family books have devolved into a predictable mess, and worse yet, a predictable mess that requires you to be reading all the Superman family titles to enjoy.  

The book starts in the middle of a conflict about… something… between Kara and Mon-El and Nightwing and Flamebird, and things don’t get much clearer from there.  A lot happens in the issue, but it’s all so intricately tied into the “Codename: Patriot” story that regular readers of Robinson’s run shouldn’t even bother picking the book up unless they’ve invested in the entire arc.  This is not to say that you can’t follow what’s happening; after a few pages to orient yourself, you should have no trouble with that.  The problem comes with the realization that you just won’t care to – these problems, taken out of context, seem trite and dull.  Even Guedes, normally excellent, offers a clunky opening fight scene, though he comes back up to his usual high standards shortly thereafter.

Supposedly, Gail Simone’s much-rumored Big Event for next year has been either pushed back or shelved indefinitely in favor of a Johns-penned Earth/Krypton war.  If “Codename: Patriot” is any hint at all as to what we could expect from such an event, all it will do is drag a number of otherwise excellent titles through the mud in pursuit of the sort of racial-themed action books that X-Men has been doing pretty much nonstop for the last 40 years.  We get it: humans hate everyone and everything indiscriminately.  Can we move on yet?

Grade: D+

– Cal Cleary

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Superman: World of New Krypton #6

Superman #689

Review: Superman #689

Superman

I don’t envy James Robinson or Greg Rucka – placed on two of DC’s premier titles, Superman and Action Comics, the titles were stripped of Superman and left with C-listers like The Guardian, Mon-El, Nightwing and Flamebird.  That couldn’t be an easy sell to audiences, and not every change has worked across the board… but Superman #689 continues to maintain the relatively high standard of Robinson’s recent issues.

The bulk of the issue follows Mon-El as he travels around the world.  In it, he meets a wide range of heroes and villains, and we get a page on each of his world-spanning adventure as he teams up with the Rocket Reds to defend Moscow on one page before helping Dr. Light (Kimiyo Hoshi) fight Robo-Octo-Ape in Tokyo.  We meet a dozen or more characters briefly and Robinson leaves plenty of fascinating fodder for future issues while building a character and a history for the slowly-dying Mon-El.

It isn’t hard to imagine a 6 issue or more arc detailing these adventures, especially in today’s writing climate.  But there’s something charming about hearing simple snippets of Mon-El’s adventures.  That’s not to mention how successfully it keeps the story moving along at a brisk pace without reflecting too heavily on Mon-El’s slow death.  We finally find out more about the mysterious man with whom John Henry Irons is speaking, Jim Harper speaks out publicly in Mon-El’s favor, we learn a little more about the alien freed in the last issue, and even more.

All this is accompanied by stellar art from Renato Guedes, whose style is clear and recognizable and oh-so-lovely.  He isn’t a flashy artist, but this issue does a great job of highlighting his talents as he gets to illustrate a ton of new characters in a number of interesting locales.  Guedes is just a great overall fit for this book.

Robinson isn’t trying to rewrite all the rules with Superman.  What he is doing, however, is introducing a bevy of interesting supporting characters in loosely connected situations that seem to be hovering on the edge of explosion.  And I can’t wait for more.  Superman can take his time coming back to Earth.

Grade: A-

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Review: Superman #688

Superman

After the opener’s, Robinson’s Superman-free Superman has come out ahead of Rucka’s Action Comics, matching, in many ways, even the collaborative Superman: World of New Krypton in terms of quality and excitement delivered on a consistent basis, and exceeding it in some ways with art from the stunningly talented Renato Guedes.

It feels strange to say that.  In any given issue of World of New Krypton, it seems as though a million and a half things happen.  We learn about a new society and we see a hero we’ve known forever interact with those things in fun and interesting ways.  In Superman, however, Robinson has given us two relative newcomers with the retooled Guardian and Mon-El, remained firmly rooted on Earth, and has moved the plot along in in tiny, neat chunks.

Working off threads set up in the past year, however, this issue sees the plot move along quite tidily – Guardian rescues a mysterious alien being and comes into contact with a military meta, while Mon-El’s powers begin to fail him for unknown reasons.  Thankfully, guest star Kimiyo Hoshi – Dr. Light – is here to explain: Mon-El’s powers are fighting the cure that’s protecting him from lead poisoning, leaving him alternatively powerless and slowly dying.

Besides being yet another plot thread for Robinson to toss in the air, this also provides us with a wonderfully emotional, subtle ending to the issue as Mon-El becomes a little bit less of an emotional cipher to us and begins to open up.  All of this is wonderfully captured by Renato Guedes, who has long been one of DC’s strongest underutilized talents.  Between Superman and World of New Krypton, it seems that DC is intent on making this a powerful time for the Superman mythos.

Grade: B+

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Review: Superman #687

superman

Another Superman title without the titular Superman, eh?  The road has not been smooth in the Superman titles without the infamous alien in them – quality has varied greatly from issue to issue, despite powerhouse creative teams, and it seems as though the most consistent work has been going into Superman: World of New Krypton, the only title with Superman himself in them.  That said, the most recent issue of Superman kept to a relatively high standard throughout as Robinson goes to great lengths to set up future stories without sacrificing the excitement of this one.

Opening with a page spectacularly illustrated by Renato Guedes, Robinson brings the action.  Life without Superman is tough – Mon-El is good, but the Science Police have had to step up, and they’re in some pretty dangerous situations, as we see from the wounds suffered in a brief skirmish with C-list villain Shrapnel.  Black Lightning, Steel, and Zachary Zatara all make appearances as Metropolis-based characters with a stake in making the sure town stays safe.  Much like with Robinson’s famed masterpiece Starman, Robinson is throwing a lot of balls up in the air, and we’ll see how many of them he can hold onto as the series progresses – but while Starman made every event seem like it existed to further the plot of Robinson’s book, which largely existed in its own, private corner of the DC Universe, this book is far more at the whim of editorial mandate and crossover potential.

While I can make no predictions on the future quality of Robinson’s run on this book, I can say that this particular issue was quite enjoyable.  Guedes’ art was as superb as always, well inked and colored by Jose Wilson Magalhaes and David Curiel, and it offered both a little bit of action and a great deal of promise.  While it was far from perfect, the issue remained enjoyable throughout.

Grade: B+

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