Friday, June 25, 2010

#214: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

I stopped reading comic books in 2002 partly due to the cost but partly due to one certain character completely veering off in a new direction. I've kept tabs on Superman because he's the hero I enjoy the most, he's the hero I identify most with and he's the one that I have fond memories of from days long ago. I didn't like what was happening though. Too many crossovers, too many characters to keep track of and too much of redoing Superman into his Pre-Crisis form. Luthor began showing up in his purple and green flight suit, Superman even seemed to be become even more powerful. I understand why this is: no matter what, Superman is too powerful for his own good. How can you write a decent hero vs. villain story when the hero barely has to leave the couch to defeat the villain?

So of course writers have to resort to the human part of Superman and stories where he can't just zap criminals with his heat vision. Over the last several years, all DC comics have focused on yet another "Crisis"--in no particular order: Final Crisis, Countdown to Final Crisis, 52, among others up to and including Batman R.I.P., Blackest Night, New Krypton and War of the Supermen. I feel that having to read the actual crossover titles along with the dozens of other books that tie-in with the crossover is just overkill. Yes, I know you don't have to read the tie-in books but then you may miss what happens with Kyle Rayner or Booster Gold. Something else that turns me off on the whole crossover thing? The cost. Your average comic now costs $3.99 and that's if it's not a bigger issue where it could be $4.99 or more. I began reading comics when they were $1.25 and stopped when they were $2.99. I know comics are competing with the Internet and people posting everything that goes on in the comics world for free but I am all for supporting DC, Marvel and other comic book companies and Marvel, from what I hear, has a pretty decent selection of comics online that you can "subscribe" to and read on your computer. DC does not...yet.

But this is supposed to be about Superman and after a year of Superman abandoning his life to be on New Krypton, he's back in Metropolis and ready to reunite with his wife, Lois Lane. Superman #700 begins with Lois being chased by the Parasite, who has teamed up with the Prankster. Lois is saved from the Parasite by Superman who says "there's too much here in Metropolis for me to leave it forever" referring to his wife and friends and family who he abandoned last year to live on New Krypton. Lois and Clark are still in love--she understands what he has to do since he is Superman and while hovering above the city of Metropolis, Clark declares his love for Lois.

The next story (by my favorite Dan Jurgens) focuses on a team-up between Superman and Dick Grayson (who is Robin because this is from the early years of Superman). While a good story, it makes me wonder what it's doing here. But the next story by J. Michael Straczynski is why I bought the issue, will continue buying Superman comics for the foreseeable future. Superman is holding a press conference explaining that what happened over the last year will not again when a woman comes up and slaps Superman. Superman lets her speak and she explains that her husband died of a brain tumor that Superman could've easily destroyed with his heat vision but he wasn't here. Superman then begins thinking he's losing touch with the humans he has sworn time and time again to protect. So what does he do? He decides to walk across America getting back in touch.

I like that. For far too long I've been thinking that Superman is becoming way too alien and was losing his humanity. I'm hoping after "Grounded" is over in #712, Superman retains his humanity. However, when the woman mentions a brain tumor, I am reminded of Superman #64 from back in 1991 where a little boy writes to Superman to save his father's life. His father also has a brain tumor. Superman arrives at the hospital too late and has to explain that he's not a doctor and he's not Superman but Superman. Since when is Superman able to perform invasive surgery that even the best doctors in the world can't perform? And if you do something like that for one person, you'll need to do it for everyone. There's a thin line in Superman's world between hero and god and I'm hoping that Superman stays on this side of the line.

Here's hoping the Man of Steel is back. Action Comics is about to hit number 900 and I'll get a review of that up as well when it gets here in ten months but until then, I remain...