Overview

Superman #702

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Superman #702

Credits

  • Words: J. Michael Straczynski
  • Art: Eddy Barrows
  • Inks: J.P. Mayer
  • Colors: Rod Reis
  • Story Title: "Grounded Part Two"
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Aug 11, 2010

For audiences who were rightly disappointed by either the overly promoted short introduction in Superman #700 or the long-winded hyperbole of Superman #701, writer J. Michael Straczynski unfortunately continues this trend with Superman #702.

Full of stereotypes of the worst kind, syrupy saccharine platitudes passed off as sincerity, and a textbook and largely formulaic story, Superman #702 may in fact be one of the weakest Superman stories produced in recent memory.  Opening in Detroit, Superman #702 finds the Man of Steel wandering around the decimated industrial city.  Taking time away from defending the Earth against invasions from New Krypton, the latest plots of Darkseid, or an assault by ring bearing zombies, Superman now plays a game of basketball with a group of twenty-somethings, talks to a race of aliens who are simply looking for a new home on Earth, and converses with a downtrodden security guard who now watches over a defunct automotive plant where he used to work as an autoworker.  Within this framework, Straczynski employs what, for some readers, will be offensive stereotypical portrayals whether it's in the opening sequence as Superman enters Detroit or that of the guard.  Honestly, while disappointing, it is not that shocking within the comic medium. 

More troublesome, however, is how Superman is used in the story itself.  From the Steve Urkel basketball player who gains self-confidence because Superman lets him deflect a shot and thus achieve the respect of his fellow players to the reinvigoration of Detroit's devastated automotive center through Superman's intercession, Straczynski's choices here are puzzling.  Having Superman help a young child with a sense of inner value is one thing.  Sure, it's tried and true and mostly formula for the character, but it plays well with the heartstrings of the nostalgic readership and honestly it's what he should do as an inspirational character.  When taken to the level of attempted suicide in the previous issue, it requires a more adept authorial hand than Straczynski achieved.  Here, however, the ages of the players and within the larger context Straczynski is creating with his "Grounded" themes, it doesn't work, and appears awkward and forced.  Yet, requiring Superman to re-energize Detroit's economy, a task not outside the realm of human effort, borders on the offensive.  Readers want Superman to be "super" and achieve tasks and goals that are "far beyond those of mortal men."  Needing Superman to call in favors with the Food and Drug Administration and single-handedly rebuild Detroit's economic infrastructure appears as a disservice to the character and to readers.

The word "grounded" has multiple meanings.  Obviously, Straczynski is utilizing it in its "down to earth" or "connected" contexts.  Yet, "grounded" can also mean "stalled," "punishment," and "shut down."  While some readers may champion this new approach to Superman, the second set of definitions is what Superman #702 will feel like for other audiences.    With all of the attention paid to Straczynski's relaunch of Superman, his role on Wonder Woman occurred largely under the radar except for the now infamous costume change.  As Wonder Woman is proving to be a stronger story, the evidence is there that Straczynski's Superman can be and should be a better book itself. 

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