I finally got around to reading the previews of the J. Michael Straczynski arcs that appeared in the 700 and 600 issues and were released on the iPod for free. And now that I have actually read part of the story I feel that I can have an opinion!
We’ll start with Wonder Woman. I still don’t like the very idea of this story happening, but the prologue didn’t make me any more upset about it. I still think her branding bracelets are stupid, but the Oracle was a pretty cool character (not to be confused with the Barbara Gordon Oracle). I still don’t understand how this story fits in with the rest of the DCU and I’m to the point of assuming that it doesn’t. It wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t make me want to run to the comic book shop and pick up the rest of the arc (and this has nothing to do with how far away the nearest comic shop is). It didn’t even really make me want to read the trade when it comes out. It was just kind of a forgettable story. I’ll admit that I’ve never been a huge Wonder Woman fan to begin with, but this story didn’t change that for me. All in all it was rather meh. And that’s actually an improvement for my opinion about the book.
Then there was Superman. Oh, god, that was painful. The whole set up of this story doesn’t make any sense and it proceeds to make less sense the more I think about it.
So the whole story is set in motion when a woman slaps Superman, insults him, and then bitches because he wasn’t around to CURE HER HUSBAND’S BRAIN CANCER. I really wish I was making that up or exaggerating somehow. She cries about how she tried so hard to contact him but he was off in space doing “something important.” And now she’ll never see her husband again because he wasn’t there.
First of all, I think it’s a terrible idea to even suggest that your superheroes can cure real life medical issues. If superheroes can make it all go away it cheapens the problem somewhat. This is why a lot of superheroes didn’t go to World War II, because they didn’t want to cheapen the sacrifice of the soldiers who were fighting and dying over there. This is also why Reed Richards must spend all of his time thwarting Dr. Doom and not, say, curing AIDS.
Secondly, the way she wanted Superman to cure this guy seems kinda strange to me. She wanted him to use his x-ray vision to find the tumor and then use his heat vision to basically laser scalpel it out. She claimed that the doctors said that it was “inoperable” but that it wouldn’t have been for him. You know, because Superman is so well known for his vast medical knowledge… Wait, what? That’s pretty precise use of the heat vision. And speaking of, his vision is HEAT not magic atomizing rays. Sure he can melt metal together and can cause a world of hurt to super villains, but I’m not sure that it’s a practical tool medically speaking. Even if he could somehow laser out the tumor, he would still have to get to the tumor, and “inoperable brain tumor” usually means that you simply can’t do that. Sure he could see the tumor, but his heat vision can’t destroy a tumor INSIDE the guy’s brain without cutting through the guy’s brain (which is something I think we generally like to avoid). So it would seem to me that this lady had insane expectations of Superman and that he wouldn’t have been able to help her even if he had been around. In which case it doesn’t really make sense for him to feel guilty about it.
But let’s assume I’m wrong about that (for shiggles). Let’s assume she’s a genius and has discovered a great medical use for Superman’s powers that no one has ever thought of before. And she can’t get a hold of Superman. How tragic! It’s not like there are any other heroes on Earth who have the exact same power set as Superman. It’s not like there is a family of Super characters who should be well known to anyone who lives in the DCU. Like a Supergirl. To be fair, she was on and off of New Krypton for a while, so maybe she wasn’t in Metropolis when the lady was looking for Superman (although I would have to assume that she only looked for like one day and then sat and cried about it), and Supergirl has gotten a bit of bad publicity lately, so maybe she didn’t want her. (WAIT A SECOND! One of the things Supergirl got slammed for in the media was assuring a boy that she would save him when he was dying of cancer. Clearly she couldn’t so this just adds further support to the idea that this could NOT be done.) There’s Superboy. To be fair with him, his heat vision is the last power he got to work and I’m not sure he has complete control over it yet, so maybe he’s not the best choice. Plus he’s hiding out in Smallville and might not have been easy to contact. But then there is Mon-El. And I don’t have to be fair here, because there is no reason why she couldn’t have contacted him. He was in Metropolis. He has all the powers of Superman. He probably wouldn’t have even been that difficult to get a hold of. And let’s not forget about Powergirl. She’s alternate universe Supergirl so she’s got all the powers. She also managed to be completely untouched by the New Krypton drama, so she would have been a great choice to approach about this problem.
And while we’re looking at other DCU heroes let’s not forget that the Justice League has at least two doctors that this lady could have gone to as well. Either Doc Midnight or Dr. Light probably would have been better choices than Superman since, you know, they have all that medical training and experience. And if Superman’s powers were the ONLY solution I’m sure they would have an easier time getting a hold of him (or any of those other characters I mentioned with the same powers) than anyone else on the planet.
I’m left with only one conclusion to make here. This woman didn’t really try all that hard to save her husband’s life. I didn’t even have to think very hard to come up with the list above, and giving it some more thought I could probably come up with a few more heroes who would have been just as good if not better than Superman in this situation (perhaps the Atom or Soranik Natu). So clearly she didn’t give it any amount of thought whatsoever. And now she is blaming Superman for something he probably couldn’t even have helped her with. Superman shouldn’t be sulking about this. He should be pissed that people are now expecting him to be Dr. Superman on top of all the other crap he’s going through (like dealing with the genocide of his people by the government).
I get that the writer wanted something to make Superman take a step back and say, “Golly, have I lost touch with the people and the needs of my adoptive home?” But this was one of the worst ways he could have gone about it. I would have been more on board with this idea if the lady had hated him because a Kryptonian had killed her husband or if he had been hit by falling debris from New Krypton. Either of those things can at least loosely be blamed on Superman. It’s still a stretch, but a more believable one for a grieving person to make. But maybe he wanted to go for the whole “You weren’t here” angle more than the “It’s your fault” angle. Okay. Well, how about if her husband was killed in Metropolis by a super villain while Supes was away. Or even in something more “normal” like a car wreck or a fire. Since Metropolis is Superman’s city it is not too farfetched to see how a person could wonder if their loved one might have been saved if Superman had been planet side doing the things he normally does. Sure he can’t be everywhere, but those are places you would expect Superman to be on a normal day in the DCU. THAT would be something I think Superman could realistically be expected to feel guilty for. I admit that it still wouldn’t make a lot of sense in the story since it wouldn’t really explain why he is walking AWAY from Metropolis, and if he’s being blamed for something that didn’t happen in Metropolis the question arises about all of the other heroes in the DCU and why we’re not blaming them.
The last couple panels of the preview have a couple of kids who see Superman land in a park and start walking. They marvel at how he is walking at not flying (because I guess that’s never, ever happened before) and wonder where he is going and why. One boy comments, “Whatever it is, it must be important.” Bullshit! If it was important or dire in any way I assume he would be using super speed to get there. There is no reason to think that Superman moving at normal person speed is due to anything important at all. In fact, if I saw Superman strolling down the street I would have to assume that it was the slowest day ever and that there was absolutely nothing to command his attention at that moment.
There’s another thing that really bothers me. While Supes is strolling across the country his Super Hearing is going to be picking up all kinds of things, most notably people in danger or dying. But since Supes is set on staying grounded to “reconnect” he’s going to ignore all of those people in peril. Thanks Superman, but given the choice between you connecting with me and saving my life, I’ll take the later thank you. That’s kind of your job description. If you really want to “connect” try checking in on the people you save after the fact. Make sure they are okay and that their families are okay. Talk to them for a few minutes before you have to run off to the next disaster.
I’ve heard that Superman is going to be facing the “real problems” that Americans are dealing with right now. Why would I want to read a comic book that reminds me that the economy sucks and all of the other problems we are all dealing with? And worse, why would I want to read about Superman not being able to make it all better. I assume Superman isn’t going to sweep in and solve unemployment or some other crisis. So that means, as a reader I am left thinking, “Wow, even a superhero can’t fix our problems. We’re all doomed!” Maybe if he was working to help fix the problems (or even just raise awareness of them) as Clark Kent and making very small dents in the problem as a man and not as Superman I would feel better about things. I could say, “Wow, look at that. Superman can’t do it, but Clark Kent can. We can all be like Clark Kent and work hard to solve our own problems. I feel all hopeful now.” However this wanders dangerously close to PSA territory so there is that to consider as well. I understand that the desire was probably to tell a story that was “relevant” to readers. But the problem is that you are assuming that all of your readers have the same problems (and that you know what they are,) and you are likely seriously dating your story in the process. Not to mention alienating everyone who isn’t in America.
Also, why aren’t the super villains tearing Metropolis up right now? I know that a few are just hell bent on destroying Superman, so they would have no need to attack Metropolis when Supes is very publically not there. But there are a lot of criminals who have targeted Metropolis for other reasons in the past, and I just don’t get why the city would be perfectly safe without Superman for an extended period of time. This time he doesn’t even have Mon-El there as backup and even Supergirl is currently off world. If I lived in Metropolis I would be really pissed at Superman right about now.
This preview cemented my dislike for this premise and this story. I have no desire to pick it up in any form. I hope that it gets better than this and can provide a somewhat satisfying story for those who do chose to follow it, but I hope that it ends as soon as possible and that things can move on.
UPDATE: I just found out that JMS is off both titles and other writers will be finishing the stories with his outlines. I am now even happier that I didn’t get sucked in by the hype. I read an interview with JMS about the whole thing and it really pisses me off. He talks about how he thinks long form story telling is his weak point and how he had been considering leaving monthly comics for a while now. So why on earth did he sign up for two year long runs at all? You’d think if he was worried about the format he would have turned down the assignments or at least only accepted one of them so that he could really devote his time to overcoming his weaknesses and producing something great. I understand that things come up and plans change, but this whole thing rubs me the wrong way.
Apparently the reason he’s off the books is because DC wants to fast track the next Superman: Earth One graphic novel. So in my mind DC shares some of the blame in this situation for ignoring the fans who have committed to a story and focusing on the bottom line. I understand this is business, but I think we all like to think that the companies care just a little about the fans and its sort of a slap in the face when you are reminded that they don’t.