Chain Reactions | Superman #701
For the second time in a month, a good deal of online discussion centered on “Grounded” the new Superman storyline J. Michael Straczynski and Eddy Barrows. That means the creators must be doing something right, yeah? That depends upon whom you ask.
While last month’s Superman #700 laid the groundwork, this week’s Issue 701 actually kicked off the Man of Steel’s cross-country tour in Philadelphia, the “City of Neighborhoods.” Unfortunately, one of those neighborhoods isn’t the “South Side.” (DC Comics will take its lumps from locals over the error. “We really love to hear that because it means people are reading it and there’s a sense of area pride,” Co-Publisher Dan DiDio told The Associated Press. “If we stand corrected, that’s OK.”)
But geographical gaffs aside, how does Superman #701 hold up? Here’s just a sampling of opinions:
The A.V. Club: “Straczynski is an interesting writer, and he’s clearly going for something here with this ground-level, back-to-basics storyline. But his characterization of Superman as a flinty, easily annoyed bully makes it seem like he’s trying to provide fodder for the folks at Superdickery.”
Brian Cronin, Comics Should Be Good: “‘Grounded’ is so patently EARNEST that it really does make up for a lot of the silliness that comes from Superman ‘zinging’ people with lines from Thoreau while he continues his walk across America getting in touch with the people. Perhaps the comic would be better, though, if Superman had a sidekick that followed him around and just shouted, ‘You just got SERVED!’ whenever Superman ‘zings’ people.”
Lee Rodriguez, Panels on Pages: “The first stop on his magical mystery tour is Philadelphia. Here he cleans up a diner’s storage room in exchange for a cheesesteak (he’s only got five bucks in his weird cape pocket, after all), gives some auto mechanic advice, gives an old guy a heads-up on his ticker, burns up some dope and saves a jumper among other acts of heroism. It’s a very strange concept, but it really works. ‘Superman amongst the people’ is a great elevator pitch and for the most part, I think the book succeeds in doing what it wants to do.”
Dr. Scott, Polite Dissent: “Yes, you read that right. Superman just told an elderly man that he has a serious heart condition, and then runs off, leaving the man to fend for himself. Wasn’t this journey across the country supposed to help him reconnect with the little guy? […] This is not the time for you to scrounge for the doctor’s phone number; this is when you need to be calling 911. Or better yet, Superman could spend 2-3 minutes flying you to the emergency room. If he has several hours to spend talking a suicidal girl off a ledge, he can spend a few minutes saving an old man’s life (remember, not saving a man’s life is what led Superman into this predicament in the first place.)”
Tom Foss, The Fortress of Soliloquy: “Aside from some throwaway references, there’s nothing to mark this as a story about Philadelphia. At the very least, I would think that maybe the various vignettes would revolve around a theme like ‘brotherly love,’ something that characterizes the place, even if it’s more cliché than authentic ambiance. Why bother setting these stories in real towns if the most you’re going to do with it is name drop some local food and streets? Then again, why bother setting these stories in real towns if you’re not going to bother to do thirty seconds of research on Google Maps to find out which side of town the 500 block of S 48th Street is on? There are times when you can chalk things like that up to poetic license, but when the mistake is that easy to correct, and when such a big deal has been made about Superman going to real places, that kind of thing is simply inexcusable.”
Blake M. Petit, Evertime Realms: “The point of this issue (which a lot of the critics are wildly missing) is twofold — this story is about showing Superman how people without powers deal with the day-to-day, and it’s about showing just what those ordinary people think about Superman. There are lots of little beats here, from Superman not having the money for lunch to an innovative way to deal with drug dealers. The scene with the jumper was absolutely spot-on perfect, a flawless demonstration of who Superman is and why that person matters so much more than the powers (which, again, those conclusion-jumping critics wrongly assume he’s not using in this story).”
J. Christopher Baggett, The HomeWorld: “It’s Superman as he should be written. Too often writers focus on the Super aspect of him. He’s too busy fighting giant monsters and maniacal scientists to be seen as more than a overly powered demi God with a superiority complex. At the end of the day, Superman is a small town boy raised by farmers to just be a damn nice guy.”
What did you think about Superman #701?