Well, I reviewed volume 1 back in September, and I recall liking it. Quite a bit. Gosh, I wish I could say the same for volume 2! This thing says “I changed my mind” at every turn. A lot was made of J. Michael Straczynski leaving the book and I had my doubts as well at the time. The first volume was a surprise. Solid and consistent through, except for the interludes, which felt like filler. Not that they were bad, they just didn’t work in that volume. This book takes everything that the first volume got right and destroys it. Sometimes by running it into the ground, others by ignoring or flatly contradicting it. It is hard to point to the exact spot that JMS left most of the heavy lifting to Chris Roberson, and I don’t think it matters. They are both good enough writers to know better. Roberson in particular is one I have watched with great interest. JMS on the other hand, really should have just stayed with this or let Roberson handle it on his own. It is the mix of the two, as the only reason I can come up with, why this thing is so miserable. It is not that any one thing is bad, the book just has the narrative flow of molasses in January. Nothing has anything like dramatic impact, and there is never a point where I cared even a little for the outcome.
The fluctuating art chores are another part of the problem. There are 5 pencillers and 7 inkers. Unlike Identity Crisis or even 52, which tried their best to be as visually seamless as possible, this book is a mess. All of the art is pretty good, but unless there is a narrative reason for such jarring changes, they can really kill a book. Everything about this book screams “corporate Product” too. I know DC is a company out to make money just like all the others, and that is no bad thing. But when I can see the wires SO clearly, it removes the escapist enjoyment we are supposed to get from this kind of entertainment. The appearance of the other major DC players is an even bigger issue. The Flash is kind of wasted, Batman’s appearance feels like filler and an excuse to use the character, and Wonder Woman’s very brief trip into the story only reminds us of another book the JMS failed to do justice to. If you were not familiar with what was going on over there in her regular book, her showing up here makes no sense at all. As it was all of the appearances felt like a cross between Sammy Davis jr or some other celebrity sticking his head out of the window while Batman and Robin unconvincingly climb up the side of a building and the intense need to fill up a second complete volume. Speaking of this volume, even the cover is jarring. Liking the cover or not is not the issue (I didn’t really, but that is just a personal taste issue), the issue really is that this does not even look like it is the second volume. While John Cassaday was not doing his best work on these covers, they tended to feel like inventory being used up, they pulled the individual issue together and would have done the same here. This one looks just plain wrong next to volume one. Everything about the second book feels like inventory. No one cared. I know the New 52 was well into the planning stages at this point, as it is likely that there was little attention paid to this book once the publicity for it died, but this whole thing is a slap in the face to the reader.
I don’t like writing all this negativity, so to sum up the gripe…
Superman Grounded volume one did what it was supposed to do as the first book in a two book set: It made me want more. Volume two just makes me want my money back. And to smack someone. And punch Superman in the gut.