By Andy Frisk
June 23, 2010 - 14:34
Writers James Robinson, Dan Jurgens, and J. Michael Straczynski unite bring us three tales about the Man of Steel in the Giant-Sized Anniversary 700th issue of Superman. One is set in Superman’s past, while the other two are post-New Krypton stories. Dan Jurgens, the “man who killed Superman” crafts a tale about an early adventure of Dick Grayson’s where Dick, as Robin, gets in over his head and needs the Man of Steel’s help when he steps out on his own to do some crime fighting in defiance of Bruce Wayne’s wishes. Dick needs to stay in and get his geometry homework done! It’s a lighter type of tale that brings back a bit of levity to the character of Superman. It’s not silly, just simply lighthearted.
James Robinson’s tale focuses on the reunion of Lois and Clark after his time away from Earth. It’s probably one of the most romantic themed Superman tales ever written, but it isn’t melodramatic or sappy. It does a good job of reinstating the status quo between the two. Lois and Clark’s love and marriage is one of the most compelling and realistic relationship stories among the superheroes of the mainstream. Thankfully, the powers that be at DC Comics decided to not mess with it in the aftermath of Lois and Clark’s “separation.”
New ongoing Superman writer J. Michael Straczynski’s tale lays the groundwork for the next several issues worth of stories with “Grounded Prologue: The Slap Heard ‘Round the World” which will ground (no pun intended) Superman in a morass of deep thoughts and soul-searching. Straczynski is a master of this type of storytelling (witness his recent masterful rejuvenation of Thor), but it looks as if we’re going to be going light on the super-heroics for a while. Deep thoughts and soul searching don’t lend themselves as themes as easily to superhero fisticuffs as a War of the Supermen does. Nearly anything Straczynski writes is worth reading though, so even non long term Superman fans will most likely want to check out Straczynski’s run on Superman.
Seeing Superman as penciled by Dan Jurgens is a wonderful nostalgic treat for all of the fans of the classic Death and Return of Superman. Bernard Chang’s artwork is also always a treat to behold, and it’s a shame that we won’t be seeing his rendition of Mon-El anymore…New ongoing Superman penciller Eddy Barrows’ artwork is solid, but there really isn’t much that is unique or groundbreaking about it. Personally, I’m not a fan of his facial expression as they to often seem to have an unfinished and sketched quality to them.
Superman #700, unlike several recent anniversary milestone books published by DC Comics and their Marvelous Competition, is a forward thinking book. All of the stories are either focused on laying the ground work for future plotlines (even the retro tale does this—the Bruce Wayne as Batman status quo will be returning shortly). There is even a section titled “Breaking Up Is (Not) Hard to Do” where previews of stories scheduled to take place in the Superman Family of Books (which in November grows to include a new ongoing Superboy title starring Connor Kent) are highlighted. This section’s title refers to the separation of storylines in each of the titles that were woven tightly together during New Krypton. The sequential “triangles” that were printed on the covers of the books and marked the reading order of the titles are gone again, sadly. While all of this forward thinking is commendable and demonstrates that DC Comics is committed to maintaining a high level of quality storytelling in the Superman books going forward, Superman is a character who is so well known and so nostalgic to so many readers that a look back over the history of the character and his various stories over the years would have really made Superman #700 a truly spectacular anniversary issue. We definitely didn’t need a microscopic reprinting of all 700 Superman covers, but a reprinting of some select older Superman tales would have been fun. Superman has such a long history though; DC Comics probably didn’t want to confuse readers.
Overall, Superman #700 does a good job laying the ground work for the next year or so of Superman stories. Whether or not it holds a candle to New Krypton remains to be seen. With Straczynski helming the flagship of the Superman Family of Books though, it will most likely remain a strong read.
Rating: 7 /10