Darren Mueller on the issue!
It's no big secret that I like Superman. Ever since I was a kid, he's been one of my favorites. Often times I will get into arguments with folks about why that is. Typically this involves the other party making remarks about how he is "too powerful" and thus uninteresting. My counterpoints usually tend to run along the lines of watching Superman struggle. Struggle to live in a world made of glass, to keep those iron clad morals and ideals in the face of world shattering villains or cut throat killers.
And sometimes, I want to see Superman break down. Tear down the wall and see the real man inside. Understand that Superman is the ideal, and that somewhere deep inside Clark Kent (or Kal-el) is still just a man who can be pushed too far.
When someone told me they were doing a storyline where Superman simply walks across America, my first thought was "That's pretty stupid." It seemed like a very cheesy attempt to tear down everything about Superman and build him back up. Almost like starting over again. I was right, in that they have torn him down and are going to build him back up. I was very wrong about it being cheesy and stupid.
I have just about always been a fan of Straczynski, from the Ghost Busters cartoon, to Babylon 5, to comic books. I was a little hurt by the whole "One more day" thing, but I get that it wasn't his idea. That said, I am by no means a rabid fan boy, even people I like I will be very critical of. In fact, often more so.
I will be honest in admitting I don't really know the reason Superman decided to take this walk, if he has in fact said it before this issue (I'm a little behind, so this was a good jumping on point.) but I don't feel that I need to. Perhaps some insight into himself after the war of the Supermen. A need to restore his faith in humanity, or in himself and his ideals. It doesn't matter, at least not yet.
The book begins with several friends trying to help each other out with a mundane task, fixing a truck. Each offers advice and opinion until someone in the back finally says "It's the fuel line." When asked how he knows, we see that it is Superman, and he is using his x-ray vision. "Trust me, I know."
From there, we see him walk away being dogged by a group of reporters. Is it red Kryptonite, magic? Mxyzptlk? No. He just wants to take a walk. Perhaps a little Forrest Gump, but I'll be honest there's something about the Walkabout that has always been appealing to me. The reporters seem insistent that something is wrong, that he has lost his powers. This is quickly dispelled for both them, and the readers. Whatever is wrong with Superman, it is not his powers.
When we think of Superman, we typically think of titanic battles against Darkseid, pushing the moon back into a stable orbit, or saving a cruise ship by freezing the hull with his breath. It has always been evident how badly Superman (or Clark) wants to be a human, to live that normal life but the universe just does not have that in store for him. As he walks through this small town, he overhears things. A group of gangsters has moved in to the neighborhood and won't leave. Superman confronts them, but given that he cannot break the law and simply throw them out, burn the houses down or tell the police (inadmissible evidence) he only has one option available. He burns their stashes, from outside.
The story moves forward from there, as he continues to briefly touch the lives of other people. A sick man, a suicidal jumper, and so on. I don't want to give away too much of what happens in this book, I want you to enjoy it for yourselves. There were a lot of small moments that made me briefly question Superman (was he really going to let her jump?).
A random citizen finally catches up with him and asks, if you're a hero then why are you here, why aren't you out saving the world. Superman responds with a touching quote which effectively asks the question "Why aren't you?" both to the citizen, and the reader. On one level, I feel that Superman is taking this walk because he needs to feel in touch with humanity again, that he needs to see the struggles and problems of the small picture instead of the Doomsdays and Crisis' and so on. But, on the other hand I feel that (in Straczynski's mind, rather than Superman's) humanity needs to see Superman. They need to be on his level, interact with him and feel that connection. To quote Quantum leap. "The lives you touch go out and touch other lives." in the end, this journey of self discovery for Superman will mean as much to America, or the world, as it does to him.
Now, I may have gone on a little long there in regards to the story, but as a writer that tends to be my primary focus of enjoyment out of anything. I can forgive poor art far more easily than poor story. That said, the art in this book was spot on. For the beginning of a new story arc, the characters and art have a level of quality and polish that I feel really compliments it. The settings, while mundane are really brought to life by Eddy Barrows, J.P. Mayer and Rod Reis. Nothing feels too exaggerated, or "look at my 10,000 muscles and cape that must be 40 feet long." Despite the simplistic town, the angles and shots of these panels manage to remain very dynamic and engaging. Even simple sequences where Superman is simply hovering in one place for a few hours watching someone conveys the emotion of the scene beautifully.
In short, there was nothing about this book that I did not enjoy, other than the fact that I am going to have to wait for the next one. If you are not a Superman fan, then I am not sure that you will get as much enjoyment out of this as I would. Or, if you are only a fan of watching Superman punch through things rather than seeing the deeper side of him, you may want to go elsewhere. But if like me, you enjoy watching humanity through the eyes of an alien, this is definitely a good book to pick up.
Take A Look Inside
The Official Word From DC Comics
Written by J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI - Art by EDDY BARROWS & J.P. MAYER
Cover by JOHN CASSADAY - 1:25 "DC 75th Anniversary" variant cover by JOHN CASSADAY
J. Michael Straczynski begins his highly anticipated run on SUPERMAN! After the devastating events of WAR OF THE SUPERMEN, how can Superman possibly continue his battle for Truth, Justice and the American Way? Find out here in "Grounded" part 1 and get in on the starting line of a modern-classic SUPERMAN story!
Superman | 32pg. | Color | $2.99 US | On Sale July 14, 2010
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