Superman #702 (October, 2010)
“Grounded, Part Two”
Writer – J. Michael Straczynski
Penciller – Eddy Barrows
Inker – J.P. Mayer
Colorist – Rod Reis
Letterer – John J. Hill
Assistant Editor – Wil Moss
Editor – Matt Idelson
Cover Price: $2.99
Sometimes I’m not sure what books I ought to review. As luck would have it, I noticed an odd surge of traffic on my Superman #701 review yesterday… be those hits the result of spam-bots or humans, I dunno… and for this preamble, it doesn’t really matter.
I decided to take a look at the review, and boy… it turns out I really didn’t like that issue! I only checked it out to see if my opinion had changed since 2010… and, it kinda did… for the worse! I merely disliked it at first… this time, I actually hated it!
Anyhoo… all that to say, that odd bit of traffic inspired me to check out part two of Superman’s walk across America. Let’s hit it and git it.
Superman has arrived in Detroit… and after passing a neighborhood fella who doesn’t even the brim of his cap when he walks by, he decides to school some fools on the basketball court. The whole scene is written in such a way to make one wannabe baller “Markey G.” look good in front of his pals. Superman lets Markey swat the ball out of his hand… and his buddies do everything but hoist him up on their shoulders to celebrate. Cartoony, but fun. Probably the best scene of the arc so far!
He continues walking… and is attracted to a particular house by the sound of a strange humming. He finds an evasive middle-aged man standing on the lawn. Superman gets in his face and accuses him of perhaps having gills instead of lungs… then threatens to use his x-ray vision to look for himself. The man invites Superman inside so he can explain. Upon entry, he finds himself attacked by a big black warsuit!
Barrows continues with the heavy-lifting here… this scene looks really great. Superman handily takes the warsuit down.
The man is joined by a few others, and they reveal themselves to be alien scientists from the delicious Nutella galaxy. They fled to Earth to escape tyranny… which gives JMS the opportunity to make a pithy “illegal immigration” reference. The Hazelnut and Cocoa clan compare themselves to Superman who was sent here from Krypton… and we begin to split hairs. Superman says he came from a planet that was exploding… and the aliens say that death is preferable to tyranny. Ay yai yai.
Superman asks what they can contribute to Earth… and they offer that, no kidding, they are good at finding lost pets. Superman suggests they aim a bit higher… if they’re planning on sticking around, they’d best get to making some real contributions to society. Then he leaves… and tells the aliens that he hasn’t decided what he’s going “to do about” them. Wow.
Next stop, the industrial graveyard. Superman strolls the abandoned automotive plants. He is joined by an elderly fella named Charley who acts as security. He talks about the glory days of Detroit, and the smell of molten steel signifying the “future”. He knows the city is down… but, is thankful that he’s still employed. That’s not something many of his peers can say. He asks Superman to fly for him… as it’s something he’s never seen. Worth mentioning that his chatter is intermittently interrupted by coughing… and as Superman takes his leave, Charley begins to choke!
Superman rushes back and grabs him… flying him straight back to the Nutella house. He says that the man is beyond any Earth medicine… but, perhaps not beyond theirs. They bring him to their underground lab and place him into a crystalline pod.
While he’s healing, one of the aliens asks Superman if this makes them “square”. Will this be enough of a contribution from their kind to warrant their being left alone. Superman strokes his chin… and has a pretty wild idea. Like, really wild. The aliens wind up moving into the abandoned plants where they can further their research. One of the aliens names is Dokko… so, they start a corporation called DokkCo., and even better still, they’ll be hiring all of the laid-off auto workers to handle the equipment! Wow, talk about a win-win-win. For the grand-opening… like, the same (or maybe the next) day, Clark Kent is there to report for the (Metropolis) Daily Planet. Is there more than one Planet? Anyhoo, he is greeted by… Charley!
We wrap up with Superman on the phone with Lois, and he discusses how difficult it was for him to write about himself… hmm. She asks if he’s heard from any of his friends… from the hero community, that is. He replies that they probably think he’s crazy. And like clockwork, we close out with an appearance from… Batman!
Perhaps it’s faint praise, but this was quite the improvement over the first chapter. Still not anything I’d call “good”, but I didn’t want to run it through the paper-shredder post-reading… so, at least there’s that.
Let’s start at the beginning. The pickup basketball game was fun. Silly, sure… but fun. Superman lets the perceived “weak link” of the crew bat the ball from his hands… which is probably the most “Superman” as he’ll act for quite a while. Good scene.
Then… we get Superman busting the chops of some aliens. I really thought the whole purpose of this walk was to get more in touch with “regular people”. Oh well, maybe this is just a way of illustrating that alien flop-houses (at least this alien flop-house) might’ve gone under his radar before now. I get the feeling that JMS started with the illegal immigration “punchline” then wrote backwards from there. Anybody who has read his Amazing Spider-Man knows he sometimes bends over backwards to make politicized statements… even to the point of having characters who have never been depicted as being political making out-of-nowhere statements. Ever wonder how Aunt May votes? Me neither… but read JMS’s ASM, and you’ll know!
The issue only gets more unreal from here. Superman threatens Dokko and his kin… placing himself in a position of authority over them. Telling them he’ll be back when he figures out what to do with them… thaaaaaat, just doesn’t seem right. Could you imagine living in fear of freakin’ Superman 24-hours a day? First, what gives him the right? Superman doesn’t act like this… right? I mean, am I completely off-base? Second, Superman is suspicious of the Nutella aliens… but leaves them with their warsuit??? If he really thinks they might become “a problem” wouldn’tcha figure he’d confiscate their giant-killer-robot-suit?
The bits with Charley weren’t bad. He gives Superman the tour of the industrial graveyard… which begs the question, does Superman… who is also a mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper… really not know the horrendous state of Detroit’s industry? Is this really news to him?
Anyhoo… Charley starts to die… perhaps a result of breathing in melted steel fumes (too bad this didn’t happen in the Golden Age… it would’ve given him superpowers!)… and Superman brings him to the alien flop-house so he can be placed in a miracle pod… which gives Superman the idea that the aliens can become captains of research and industry… like the very next day! Aren’t there permits and stuff that need to be filled out for that?
And, let’s think about these plants… are they going to be full of these miracle pods and stuff of the like? Wouldn’t that make more than a few eyebrows raise? Also… did Charley have a form of cancer… and did the aliens cure it? Like, are we witnessing the cure for cancer being introduced in the DC Universe? That seems like something they’d ordinarily shy away from, right? Maybe I’m just thinking too hard.
Finally… Lois and Clark chat on the phone. He says he finds it difficult to write about himself… but, aren’t like at least 2/3 of his articles about Superman? That’s like Peter Parker saying he feels weird taking pictures of Spider-Man! Speaking of Spidey… it’s so crazy that JMS was so great at writing a fun and relatable Spider-Man, but writes Superman as a pompous ass. Oh well.
Worth reading? For the morbidly curious… sure. Otherwise, we should make like DC and maybe pretend it never happened.