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Superman #686

Posted: Friday, March 27, 2009
By: Erik Norris

James Robinson
Renato Guedes
DC Comics
With the release of Superman #686 we've now seen the final puzzle piece of what the Super-books will be like during this "World Without Superman." And it is much more enjoyable and entertaining than I thought it would be when it was announced months ago.

Most of the enjoyment comes from the fact that with Superman #686, much like with the latest Action Comics and World of New Krypton issues, all of our protagonists have been thrown into very strange, alien even, situations, none of which they are accustomed. This leads me to believe that Greg Rucka and James Robinson are making the most of the "World without Superman" concept. These "relaunches" are not merely cash-ins where one hero, who's basically a clone of another, takes over with the same types of adventures with the only difference being the costume they wear. What happens to Mon-El in issue #686 could not be done with Superman, and I'm happy for it. It's a new direction with some real creativity and imagination put into it. We are about to see a whole new angle to Metropolis through the lens of Mon-El that wouldn't be possible from the viewpoint of Metropolis' long standing champion, Superman.

This latest direction for Mon-El, fresh out of the Phantom Zone, has also gone a long way in humanizing the character and giving readers a reason to want to read a comic called "Superman" without its title character. Ed Brubaker proved it possible with Captain America and James Robinson is doing much of the same through a completely different avenue. It also helps that Superman isn't solely about Mon-El, but now features a much larger, and more diversified, supporting cast to help carry the weight of the narrative. If Mon-El isn't your flavor, try John Henry Irons 9Steel0, or the Guardian even. This book now has a number of character choices for readers to attach themselves to, making the series almost a team book instead of a solo title. It also goes a long way in building up what it means to live in Metropolis. James Robinson has already proven himself the champion of such writing with his work on Opal City in Starman, and if he can bring but an ounce of that kind of creativity to Metropolis then we are all in for a treat. The scene shared between supporting cast member Bibbo (in appearance) and Atlas at the coffee shop also leads me to believe Superman is now about his city--how it thrives and lives--as much as it is about the superheroes that protect it.

Then there is Renato Guedes who shines in issue #686. Just turn to that first splash page of Mon-El soaring through the Metropolis skyline and you know he's poured some of his best work into that page. The only weak link in the entire issue is Mon-El after he picks up his new day job and what looks like an updated hair cut. Unless James Robinson intends to insert Mon-El into the heart of the New Jersey shore for undercover work, I don't think the new doo really suites him. I just don't see Mon-El as a Jager-bombs and Heineken type of guy.

I did love how the issue juxtaposed the past and present to fill in readers with the scenario of why Mon-El is taking over for Superman as Metropolis' protector, as well as how the rest of the supporting cast factor into the narrative without just seeming like out of place cameos. So to wrap up, I think this first issue of Superman's new direction was spot on in delivering the quality I've come to expect from James Robinson and Renato Guedes. Both are working without the series' title character and succeeding in making me care for everyone else. That's not easy to do. I'll definitely be picking up Superman #687 next month for the continuing adventures of Mon-El, the Guardian, and Steel, and I'd advise you do the same.



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