Superman Grounded: The Review

Superman Grounded

2011 DC Comics

168 Pages

$16 online-but buy it at your LCS if you can.

I was looking forward to this one.  There were a lot of mixed feelings in the industry as this was coming out monthly.  From the hit and miss nature of the story to the controversy surrounding J. Michael Straczynski’s departure from the series, this book had lots of light on it.  JMS pulled out after the huge success of Superman:  Earth One, and left the basic plotline in the hands of G. Willow Wilson, who also wrote some interlude issues.  Who wrote what does not really interest me at this point.  What matters is how good the book is, and I have to be honest, this is a decent book.  First, the weak point: the interludes.  These were put in as filler and to cover delays in the book.  They were likely going to be there in one form or another from the start, but as they are now, the really kill the flow of the book.  Which is not to say they are bad, as stand alone issues, they are fairly good reads.  But as a part of this book, they are literary speed bumps.  

The main story here is Superman’s trek across the nation he calls home.  Prompted by average human beings calling him out for the betrayal they feel from the events of earlier stories, and expressing their new level of distrust they feel for the alien, Supes decides to walk, like an ordinary man, across the country.  While not completely void of superheroics, this is a quiet book.  There is very little action here and it works like that.  From dealing with a suicidal girl on a high ledge, to pushing drug dealers out of a run down area, this books works as a character piece and a study of what people see as “hero” and what Joe Punchclock wants and expects from the world.  The issues brought up are as real as any I have ever seen in a comic, and they show Superman for the hero he is and the struggle he has in meeting the impossible standard he sets for himself.  The ordinary people that he encounters are not fair to him, in fact they are often mean and rude.  In that, they still manage to not be wrong.  The issues in the story are the kind of real world concerns that should be a part of any super hero story.  Like the fear that a mother in the park with her children would feel upon seeing Superman casually walk through.  Are her children in danger?  This man brings destruction in his wake.  His motivations are as positive as they can be, yet his presence is the very definition of danger.  These are not new to comics, but they are handled very strongly.  The people walk up to Superman with no fear or concern, talking to him like they would someone they have known all their lives.  In that honesty of storytelling is where this story has its heart.  This is the kind of Superman story that works in every way, succeeding at most everything it tries.

This and All-Star Superman make great bookends for the character.  They both do what they do better than almost any other attempt out there.  They try to define Superman.  One by setting that definition in his origins and deeper mythos, the other by showing Superman’s inner concerns, mirrored in the eyes of the people here has always tried to protect.

This is a great first volume (of 2) for someone trying to re discover Superman, but not wanting mindless comic drivel.  A fine read, and I will be picking up the second volume and will be sure to review it here.

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4 Comments

Filed under Comics, reviews, Uncategorized

4 responses to “Superman Grounded: The Review

  1. Pingback: Superman Grounded vol 2 | terminaldrift

  2. …oh my god. You’re serious. You’re SERIOUS.

    This was the most pretentious, stuck-up, disregarding-of-everything-Supes-is-about story I have EVER seen. The whole set-up for this story is complete bull, a woman blaming Superman when he has been TRYING TO STOP AN OMNICIDAL ROBOTIC MANIAC, LEX LUTHOR, AND JUGGLING DEALING WITH A PLANET FILLED WITH PEOPLE WHO HAVE SUPES’S POWERS for her husband’s death by brain tumor, something that Supes should have NO business messing around with. Oh, and then there’s the utter inanity he resorts to in “until over there becomes here”. Read that line. REALLY read it. It’s meant to come off as deep. It comes off as inane and insane. And when an average guy asks Supes why he isn’t, y’know, stopping supervillains from bombing cities or halting giant Earthquakes or something that Supes USUALLY does, Supes condescends and belittles him by quoting something the creator of “Walden” did, even though THAT guy was in jail over refusing to pay his taxes because he didn’t support the Mexican-American war that was going on. Superman comes off as a condescending, smug dick, ignoring very reasonable questions from reporters and even being a little condescending towards his own WIFE. Superman should NOT be this angsty or whiny. He should NOT be taking a walk across America to reconnect. He’s the most human Superhero out of all of us. This comes off as pretentious, wasted potential and I’m ASHAMED that you actually LIKE it. JMS is a good writer. But this is a black mark on his record.

    • Ashamed? Bit of an over reaction there. But I actually agree with most of your points. I was not really reviewing this as a JMS story. While it is not as bad as some of his work, it is far from the best. (I really liked Earth One and Supreme Power lately) My likes and dislikes for this come from the fact that I am not a Superman fan. Not even a little. Im not a hater, but I can count on one hand and have a finger or two left over, the number of Superman stories I really liked. But this one was better than much of what I have read precisely because it was something different. Is this the Supes I want to read about regularly? Nope. But Superman has managed to become almost completely neutered in the DCU in the last 2 decades. My opinion, and you are free to disagree, is ever since the original Dark Knight Returns in 86. Ever since then writers have moved him closer and closer to being nothing more than a tool. I liked it more because it is not the Superman character that has pushed me away from the books in the last few years. From what you wrote, it sounds like you actually prefer the more classic Superman from pre-crisis, and I would not fault you for that either. Superman is not a character with a lot of modern appeal. In fact the only modern interpretation I have really liked was the All-Star version by Morrison. I would actually be interested to hear what you think about the reboot. Particularly the Action Comics run so far. I think it shows real promise. Your thoughts?

      • All-Star. Yeah, I liked that version of him because it showed him as being intelligent as well as strong, and CREATIVE too. Sometimes he really did have great moments in the JLA stories though…Grant Morrison does a usually very good job of writing him. But the problem with “Grounded” was that whilst I DO like the idea of Superman looking at “common” problems, it really should have been balanced with what people really look to him to do: defeating the fantastic and doing what no other human can do. Like, if he’d bothered to go back to that planet those illegal alien immigrants came from with the JLA to defeat the tyrant that controlled it. If the series had sort of doubled between his efforts out in space whilst contrasting with his “down to Earth” actions, it would have been much better, it would have shown a Superman for all occasions that wouldn’t have come off as someone talking down to others for asking perfectly reasonable questions.

        And there ARE issues with Supes tackling common problems. Like when he just set all those drugs on fire and then asks some LONE WHITE CHILD to give a message to drug dealers. Yes. I see NO way this could POSSIBLY go wrong.

        As for the Dark Knight Returns universe, it sort of took liberties with Superman by showing him as just a tool of the government because, y’know, “truth, justice and the American way” is so…quaint. (God I wanna punch people who whine about how “out of touch” stuff like that is, it makes me sick the same way Sally Floyd made me scream in fury). But THEN Frank Miller went and wrote the sequel and “All Star Batman” which kept insulting Supes and insisting he should become a FASCIST. Even Miller, who wrote a whole new take on Superman, ended up losing sight of what he is. He’s the embodiment of what a hero should be: good, decent, intelligent (he IS a huge, award-winning reporter) and strong enough to take down his enemies WITHOUT crippling or killing them. His new run on Action Comics had me…iffy at first. I mean REALLY iffy. Because he was coming off as more like Batman than Superman, and the “Superman” run that’s going on pretty much unmarried him and Lois, which made me think back to One More Day, but I’m willing to give Grant Morrison the benefit of the doubt for Action Comics for a little while longer. Who knows? Maybe I could end up liking this new run a lot.

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