Superman reaches an important milestone. So why is this book mainly about Robin?
Credits & Solicit Info:
Written by J. Michael Straczynski, James Robinson and Dan Jurgens
Illustrated by Eddy Barrows, Bernard Chang, Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund
DC Comics proudly presents the 700th issue of SUPERMAN, a 56-page extravaganza full of tales celebrating the Man of Steel's past, present and future! First up is a story by the man who actually killed Superman, Dan Jurgens! Then, James Robinson brings his epic run on the title to a close with a touching story featuring art by Benard Chang that brings Superman back to Earth after his time on New Krypton. Finally, we preview the exciting new SUPERMAN ongoing creative team as J. Michael Straczynski and Eddy Barrows provide a story that sets the stage for an explosive, all-new direction for The Man of Steel! (Seriously! Wait till you read this!)
Superman is perhaps the greatest comicbook character of all time. This may seem a weird statement for me to make, after all, I'm British. Superman is to many a very American character. Truth, justice, and the American way! As American as Baseball and Mom's apple-pie. Whereas I stand for lies, political corruption and the British way. I'm as British as cricket and grotty steak and kidney pie. But I still love Superman, he inspires hope and all that soppy stuff we all like to pretend we're too cool and cynical for. But Superman means something, man, it's like, totally deep.
Which is why I'm kind of disappointed with Superman #700, it's not really much of a celebration of the character and why he endures. It's not bad, but is it really worthy of being the 700th issue of Superman?
Ostensibly a look at where Superman is at now, his past, and where he's going in the future, this bumper-sized issue has 3 stories. The first comes from James Robinson and Bernard Chang, wrapping up their run on the book, even though most of Robinson's run wasn't about Superman at all, but Mon-El. The story focuses on the relationship between Superman and Lois Lane, and has them reconnect after a year apart. Robinson is at his best when dealing with characters at an emotional, personal level, rather than knock-down drag-out fights, and this was a nice way for him to end his run, nailing down a core part of Superman's character. It's nothing special, and seems more like a back-up feature or something from a Secret Files than the centre-piece of a big anniversary issue. But James Robinson has done sterling stuff on Superman for the last year, you can't begrudge him that. But when you read the third story, it kind of makes this one worse (more on that later).
The second story comes from Dan Jurgens, the man who killed Superman. It's a story set back in Superman's early days, and features Big Blue teaming up with Dick Grayson back when he was Robin. It's a fine story. Jurgens is a very solid, dependable writer/artist. He'll never let you down. But it's really more of a Robin story than a Superman one. The narration comes from Dick, and he's the main focus of the story, not Superman. There are some good moments for Superman, such as doing Robin's geometry homework, but this isn't Robin #700; this is Superman #700! How about a story about Superman? Once again, this isn't a bad story, but does it deserve to be in such a milestone issue?
The third story is a prologue to JMS' run, which begins in #701 properly. Basically, after the epic events of War Of The Superman and the destruction of New Krypton, Superman feels the need to reconnect with humanity, and begins to walk across America. This is an interesting idea, reminding me in some ways of the Green Lantern/Green Arrow 'Hard-Traveling Heroes' stories of the 1970s, but JMS sets it up in a kind of melodramatic way. The woman who slaps Superman is totally unreasonable in my eyes. He died of Cancer. Superman has no business interfering with that. It would have been more effective if he'd been killed in the sort of routine accident Superman always stops on page 2 of a comic before the main conflict begins. He fell off a girder or something. The fact that this hysteric woman causes Superman to take his walkabout moreso than the mammoth events of New Krypton or even Blackest Night... it's kind of silly. Brief chats with Batman and the Flash and a convenient flashback to the wise words of Pa Kent set Superman off, and I'm certainly intrigued to see where this is going, but has anyone else noticed how in the same issue, James Robinson spent several pages with Clark telling Lois he never wants to leave her again, and then JMS then has Superman leave her to go on a year-long walk across the country? Not exactly the same character there. At least Eddy Barrows' art is looking good, he seems to have taken a big step here, much closer to Ivan Reis.
Overall, this is far from a bad comic, each story is well-written and well-drawn, but there is certainly something missing. When a comic reaches a big milestone issue, you expect more than just well-drawn and well-written, you expect epic, you expect a joyous celebration. Compare this issue to Amazing Spider-Man #600 or Daredevil #500 from last year... it doesn't really stand up. I'm excited for JMS' run, but I wanted more. Let's see if they can get it right with Action Comics #900 eh?