Robot 6

Chain Reactions | Superman #701

Superman #701

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?



Y’know, I can see Grant Morrison doing a story like this. Except it would be about Supes going to night clubs and talking to Ecstasy high people.

Except that he already did that, and it wasn’t.

I assume you haven’t read All-Star Superman, then.

I didn’t see JMS’s take on the suicidal girl, but Morrison seemed to do way better.

Thanks for the link!

Morrison did everything better. This characterization of Clark seems too petty and childish, especially with the way he puts down that reporter at the very beginning. On top of that, he and Lois’ relationship comes off as superficial and cold when you consider how she doesn’t understand why he’s doing it (Then again, the whole “guilt trip about not being omnipotent” angle comes up WAYYYY to often in Superman stories anyway, but at least other writers like Jeph Loeb do it with respect to the character (like in Superman for All Seasons). With everything they’ve been through, I would hope that by now they can easily empathize with each other like normal healthy couples. Oh, and was that a dig at Micheal Moore? Is it 2003 again?

JMS has managed to give me enough reason to cancel my Superman subscription with a single issue. I imagine a lot of long time Batman followers felt this way when Bill Willingham took over.

Oh well, I’m sure I’ll be back when the writer changes.


July 18, 2010 at 12:16 am

I think the little kid Superman told to tell the very angry drug dealers to stay away, probably got shot.

I liked the issue. I didn’t love it, but I thought it was mostly good.
I dsagree with Dr. Scott’s complaint about Superman not saving the old man. First the scene is pretty funny. Second, we don’t know how urgent it is. Superman said it was erratic, he didn’t say, “it will happen in the next 3 minutes”. It seems like we should assume that Superman knows that the man has enough time to save himself. Something that Superman doesn’t know about the girl about to jump off, she just needs to know someone is there for her. She shows it to her (although I agree that going from day to night was a bit over the top. No way she waits that long).

I also disagree with Tom Foss. It is true that JMS could do more with the town, however the town is not as important as his journey. It doesn’t really matter that it is Philly except for the fact that Philly is close to Metropolis and it is the natural place for Superman to walk on the way South.

I just read Tom Foss’s post in his website. He has many good points on why the issue isn’t very good. I don’t agree with the Philly complaint or the complaint about Superman needing to take the old man to the hospital, but he had some serious complaints about the issue. A really well written post in my opinion.

“JMS has managed to give me enough reason to cancel my Superman subscription with a single issue. I imagine a lot of long time Batman followers felt this way when Bill Willingham took over.”

I certainly felt that way when Morrison took over Batman! I loved with Morrison did with Superman, even though I probably didn’t full grasp everything he did with All-Star Supes, just not his work on Batman.

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