Monday, January 27, 2014

Book Review: Superman: Grounded vols 1 & 2 by J. Michael Straczynski (Author), Chris Roberson (Author), Eddy Barrows (Illustrator), J.P. Mayer (Illustrator)

When Volume 1 of Grounded begins, Superman has just suffered the loss of Krypton, all over again, and has, in the process, lost the trust of some of Earth's people because he appears to have cared more about the Kryptonians than about Humans. Saddened by the double loss, Superman decides to walk across America, reconnecting with the people of his adopted world (and country) as he does. He also promises to fly when needed and resume his walk later. As he travels, he mourns, meets old friends, and solves problems on a smaller scale than usual.

I am told this wasn't well received when it came out, and I wonder if that might be the difference between getting this fairly leisurely story one book at a time, spread out over months and getting to curl up with it and read it in one go. As a series of vignettes, it works very well. It also works very well as a crisis for someone who is, at base, a good man: He stops to reexamine his priorities before things hit super-crisis mode and he's done something stupid like destroy a city or get possessed by a demon (not to name any names here...). He and Lois have a good marriage, with her supporting him but also willing to call him out when needed (Now I'm mad at the New 52 and I haven't even read any of it yet!).

The two different Batman encounters, with Dick in volume 1 and Bruce in volume 2, were also highlights: He's friends with both men, but in a different way. Dick is more respectful of someone who has been a mentor, but still blunt. Bruce has a lifetime of friendship to draw on when he analyzes the situation. It is telling, though, that both versions of Batman approach the situation analytically and try to talk Superman out of his depression with the facts.

Insofar as they are separate stories at all, volume 1 of Grounded is the crisis issue and Volume 2 is the warm and fuzzy one, the one where Superman's friends all rally round to tell him that what he does as Superman is worth it. He spends a good half of it depressed himself, but there's never really much doubt what will happen in the end.

I do wish the whole "future Superpeople" storyline had been left out. If I have a complaint about the DC universe as a whole it's the sheer boiling number of alternates, future selves, and family members that are perpetually cropping up. Also, I think the major villain of the piece needed more character development. I can't say much without spoiling things, but unless she gets more backstory and care in a future issue somewhere else, she's a wasted opportunity, and she should still have gotten a bit more here.

The tale as a whole gets bonus points for the including the story of Bruce and Clark's first meeting back when they were both trying to hide their abilities and plans from the world and each other. I enjoyed the brief encounter with Straczynski's Wonder Woman as well.

The art? Gorgeous. The books would be worth picking up even if there were no story, just for some of the images.

Verdict: It's a solid entry into the Superman mythos and worth reading, even if it never happened in the current continuity.

I know, I know: I gripe because existing continuity is too complicated to keep track of and I also gripe because it has been un-happened. I'm also still reading the books.

Other Reviews
Superman: Grounded vol. 1 on Goodreads
Superman: Grounded vol. 2 on Goodreads

My Usual Suspects haven't written any reviews. Got any I should include? Contact me and let me know!

My review of Straczynki's Wonder Woman: Odyssey

Superman: Grounded vol. 1 on Amazon
Superman: Grounded vol 2 on Amazon.

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