Posted by: Graeme McMillan on March 25, 2010
My secret shame: I have been buying all of the Superman books since Superman left Earth for Krypton. No, wait, that’s not actually shameful in and of itself. The shame part is this: I’m not sure I’ve actually been enjoying them for awhile.
I did, for sure. I thought the first six or so months of the new status quo was really interesting, and clearly building towards something in a 52-esque manner, with hints being dropped in one book and picked up in another, and there was a sense of foreboding and, more importantly, momentum that seeded through the series at least through the terribly-named “Codename: Patriot” crossover storyline. But then… something happened.
I’m tempted to say that it’s not the comics, but me, but… I don’t think it is. In various ways, and for different reasons, each of the series (with the exception, surprisingly, of Supergirl) stalled somehow. SUPERMAN: WORLD OF NEW KRYPTON felt it the most, seemingly sidetracked by, and getting bogged down in, a murder mystery that seemed to come from nowhere despite the attempts to tie it into the larger Kryptonian political storyline. Suddenly, the Zod/Kal-El relationship seemed to disappear from the series in favor of a procedural with Adam Strange, bizarrely, as co-star, and the series ended with a cliffhanger for the new SUPERMAN: LAST DAYS OF NEW KRYPTON series instead of, you know, any sense of closure or real dramatic weight by itself (Pete Woods’ diminishing presence – due to illness, I think? – didn’t help matters, although Ron Randall did a spectacular job filling in; he seems to have become a DC fill-in MVP, and really doesn’t get the credit he deserves) – WONK fell from a promising start to an ending that was entirely Eh, and I can’t help but feel that Last Days should’ve been/may have started out as the original ending for the earlier series (At the very least, the “I give up trying to fit it, I’m Superman” moment from Last Days #1 could have happened at the end of WONK, giving the “Can Kal-El change Kryptonian society from within” theme a climax; happening as it does, it felt rushed and unearned).
ACTION COMICS, too, found itself losing its identity slightly, which is a shame; there’s an interesting backstory to the new Nightwing and Flamebird, but between artist changes and odd pacing choices, it started to drag. It’s frustrating, because there was a lot to like – Not least of all Greg Rucka’s take on Lois Lane, perhaps unsurprisingly – but ultimately, it’s also turned to only Okay for me.
The worst letdown may have been SUPERMAN, if only because I was really, really warming to the book. Both James Robinson’s take on Mon-El learning to enjoy life on his own terms and Renato Guedes’ wonderful artwork were becoming highpoints of the month, but again, odd writing choices (I’m still uncertain what the “Mon is captured, oh, no he’s not” plot actually contributed, beyond a new and not-as-interesting-as-the-original costume, and the Legion reveal felt surprisingly rushed; maybe things were moved up because of Levitz taking over Adventure and getting a new Legion book?) and losing Guedes (and without comment! He’s apparently still doing work for DC, going by the current solicits, which is surprising; I would’ve sworn he’d turn up on some low-selling X-Book over at Marvel any minute now) derailed things, and although Bernard Chang has brought some energy back, it’s still just a high Okay for me right now.
As I said before, SUPERGIRL is the one book that’s weathered the storm successfully. It’s also the book with a (relatively) stable creative team and the one that seems the least dependent on the New Krypton storyline, which may suggest a reason why… But to do so would be to ignore the fact that Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle have, more than a little surprisingly, turned the series around from bad joke to pretty Good YA superhero book, mostly by playing it straight and just telling good superhero stories without wondering how to make the character “cool” or whatever.
The worst part of the whole thing is the feeling that I already know how the whole thing is going to end; not just that the whole thing is leading to an Earth/New Krypton war (That much has been clear for a long time), but that, with new creative teams on both Superman and Action Comics immediately afterwards, how the war ends is going to pretty much be an immediate return to the status quo. It’s frustrating, I guess, that after such a long build-up, the aftermath will be pretty non-existent… but I can always hope I’m wrong about that, just in case JMS wants to write about a Man of Steel dealing with emotional fallout from losing two home planets in different ways. But am I alone in following the Superbooks, and if not, am I the only one who’s not too thrilled with the way it’s all turned out?