Joey Davidson: 4.5 bullets
Erik Norris: 4 Bullets
From the desk of Erik Norris – Yesterday saw the release of Superman #677, the first issue penned by scribe James Robinson, known for his superior Starman saga. What seems like an innocent Superman story fueled fires of hate on certain aspects of the book as soon as Joey and I began to discuss. We basically took that argument and have transcribed it here for your reading pleasure. You are in for a hell of a read, but if you stick with it, you will find that interesting points are brought up that we hope fuel some discussions on our boards and beyond. Strap in, it's up, up, and away...
Joey: Before we find ourselves knee deep in argument, I'm going to kick this thing off by saying that I liked Robinson's first in, hopefully, a long run of Superman.
Erik: I agree; at no point over the course of this issue were my hopes crushed about Robinson not being able to deliver an exciting Superman comic.
Joey: With that said, and we will address some other stuff before we get to the debating, there are still plenty of things Robinson does throughout the course of the issue that should spark a reasonable amount of discussion and even some hurt feelings. Instead of closing in on this book’s faults, let's take a look at what it does right. What did you like about Superman #677?
Erik: First and foremost; the opening. I love Krypto, so to see him playing Frisbee in space with Superman along with Hal Jordan was a great visual. The dialogue is something we will discuss a little later, but the framing and art for the segment was fantastic.
Joey: I'm with you here. Krypto has always been a great tool for driving and building Superman's character. When present, a certain level of innocence is always portrayed where Supes is concerned. Robinson knows this and makes use of Krypto as a device. As Superman and Hal are talking, their subject of focus on Hal's mind is the innocence and naivety of Superman. What better way to support that innocence than through a game of fetch with man's best super-friend?
Erik: Exactly! We are also given Krypto's inner thoughts during the sequence which help drive the innocence angle home. It was a nice touch by Robinson. I really liked how fragmented and backwards Krypto's thoughts where because it never once pulled me out of the story and made me question if this is how a Dog actually talks/thinks. I guess it also helps that this is a dog that wears a cape and has laser vision eyeballs, so my suspension of disbelief was already in full force (laughs).
Joey: It may seem like such a small thing to consider, but this is one of the personality traits of Superman we are dealing with here. One of the reasons, in my opinion, that Geoff Johns has been so successful with his run on Action Comics is his portrayal of Supes. It's ultimately iconic, and the purity of Superman is what makes him who he is. Robinson seems entirely on track with that feeling during the Krypto interactions of this issue.
Erik: Couldn't have said it better. I also want to touch on Renato Guedes' depiction of Hal Jordan. I always love when artists depict Jordan with flowing locks instead of his taking-a-page-from-Superman's-book with the slicked back hair. Hal has always been kind of arrogant, a man who is self aware of how cool he is. It's part of the reason I love the character, he just doesn't care what others think of him. Therefore, it's always nice when that personality trait is drawn into the character. He is a man with one of the most powerful weapons in the universe, why should he care how he looks when he is ring slingin'?
Joey: Let's bring it back to earth, and as the book progressed, readers got a chance to look at the world of fighting evil supers through the eyes of a member of the recently formed Science Police. We get treated to the inner monologuing of one Travis DuBarry. How'd that flow for you, Erik?
Erik: Actually pretty well. It isn't done very often, when the world of people around superheroes is given their point of view on all the capes and tights flying around them. It really opens up a new perspective on the whole genre in a way. The other thing I noticed was the way Travis monologues. It seems Robinson is writing monologue boxes where his characters’ minds spill onto the page instead of making it seem like they have taken time to say exactly what they want with pinpoint precision word choices. So it seems more authentic to the situation at hand.
Joey: Agreed. At first it seemed almost distracting, the way that DuBarry speaks in momentous interruptions. But the jumbled franticness of the monologue works for this scene. Robinson handled the monologuing quite well, which is great news for fans. Inner-monologues are incredibly hit or miss for me, so to be on point in this department is wonderful. Things on the art front look absolutely fantastic for me here in this battle between the huge, anonymous monster and the flying Science Police of Metropolis. Cars and buildings are tossed aside as this huge beast easily swats the flies off of his back. It's a great scene, and Guedes does a great job making that sense of worthlessness come through. These are the measly Science Police, the janitors of Superman, and they don't stand a chance against a threat like this.
Erik: You pretty much hit the nail on the head. The whole sequence looks fantastic, with great framing of the action and easy to follow panel transitions. Guedes also draws some great facial expressions when we are treated to close-ups of the Science Police Officers. The moment the Daily Planet globe begins to topple has a panel of Travis' face; his expression is priceless.
Joey: What I did like most about this section was when DuBarry comes clean about his dislike for Superman. I don't often consider the possibility that Superman does harm with good, and it was unique to see that in action.
Erik: It's also strange that Superman doesn't even save the day here. Instead Atlas swoops in and shows him up, though the Daily Planet globe is still in orbit...
Joey: (Laughs) Definitely a weird moment. I'm not exactly sure what I should be thinking with this Atlas guy, and I guess that's the point. I am looking forward to learning more about his motives and embracing the possibility that he is more than a hunk of angry meat with arms and legs. Who knows? Maybe he'll kill Superman and became the new savior of the DC universe.
Erik: I'm sure this story's central goal is to juxtapose what the difference between Altas and Earth’s current champion, Superman, is. And what distinguishes one as "good" and the other as "evil."
Joey: We'll see how the book moves into that realm of categorization with the further issues, perhaps. I'd like to bring the "goods" to a close by looking at the final page of the issue. When Supes shows up to say, "There's no need to shout," man, what a moment of belittlement for Atlas! Superman comes down and slams the hammer of punkitude on this fool.
Erik: (laughs) Only Superman is able to belittle someone while keeping that Boy Scout charm.
So with that, let's get our actual "Slugfest" on. I know as soon as we started discussing the issue we came to wildly different conclusions about the character of Superman. It quickly turned into fisticuffs so after a number of hours crying in our separate rooms, I speak for myself when I say I had some Dunkaroos to ease my tears, we regrouped, and like professionals, are here now to break it down in a digestible format for readers.
Joey: I'll start it off... the way Superman is portrayed throughout this issue... he's a jerk! Let me support that a little for you. In the beginning we get a man with his dog, that's all fine. But then Supes starts talking to Hal about all the alien chicks Hal has been with in the past. Almost as if he's counting all of the tapped ladies, which is crazy. Way out of the Boy Scout character normally found in Supes. Then Robinson jerkifies Superman further by including the disgust held for him by the Science Police. They are there to simply clean up his mess. And while Superman is saving the world, he's also wrecking it and leaving the slop for someone else to mop up. And while the little people are worried about cleaning Earth, Superman is in space with his Dog playing fetch.
Erik: I agree that it was out of character for Superman to be talking about all the ladies Hal's bedded in the past. But after a little thought I guess I chalk that up to it being the best example Superman can use that will hit home for Hal Jordan. Like I said, Hal is the player of the DCU. He lives everyday life the same way that Batman acts when wearing his Bruce Wayne mask. Superman would obviously know this after being his teammate for so long, so it was the best angle to reach Hal when he questions how wild a situation it is to be playing cosmic Frisbee. However, saying Kyle was lucky for sexin' up Jade was a little out of line. Especially when he goes right into how lucky he is to have Lois.
Joey: I don't see it as a way of relating to Hal at all. It just comes off as uncalled for. Out of all the possible topics that could be used to relate Hal to, he chooses sex...it just doesn't make sense.
Erik: Even with my justification to identify with Hal, it still seemed rather odd and out of character. It definitely pulled me out of the story. As for the whole thing with the Science Police and Superman coming off as a jerk with no concept of collateral damage, I have to disagree. I think the big thing here is that at no point does Superman himself come off as a jerk. I mean he literally only plays fetch this issue so there isn't any room for him to be a jerk besides his comments on sex.
However, what Robinson has done with this issue is to give us the perspective of the common human, which a lot of superhero books don't do. And of course they are going to call these superhumans, with powers far outweighing themselves, jerks because they are basically ants among gods. I feel every superhero book would have the same tone if they all did this storytelling technique. Even Batman, who is of much smaller scale than Superman, brings the novelty criminals to his city without ever stepping out of himself and wondering if he should give up the gig for true betterment of his city. Collateral damage comes with the tights, it's not until now really have we seen this addressed against Superman.
Joey: I guess what really bothers me about this perspective, and what makes Superman seem like such an ass, is that Robinson makes him so oblivious to the harm he's causing. Is it really possible for the all seeing and all hearing man of steel to be oblivious when he is the one who, in DuBarry's own words, is "Always here, always there, always..."? How can he be oblivious if he's always around his own destruction? He's causing the destruction, of course, so why not clean it up afterwards? And why did Robinson go out of his way to write in that the Science Police hate him for not cleaning up? If Supes is hated by the cops then, in my opinion, there's something wrong with his character. He should never be hated by the little people, only loved...he's f@#*-ing Superman.
Erik: For every second Superman helps construction workers and buys them Arby's he is losing precious seconds where he could be stopping a burglar, saving a falling plane (which happens in Metropolis A LOT...sadly), or saving a person ready to commit suicide and telling them that there is always another way. I guess that's the best rebuttal I have for your strong argument.
In regards to his obliviousness, I don't think that's true at all. When you say that are you referencing Hal's speech in the book's opening, about Superman's naivety?
Joey: I could be. Hal basically comes out and talks about Superman's cluelessness. The way he's managed to avoid all of the normal problems of superheroes, and that even in the world of superheroes he's above them. It fits in completely with the concept of fetch in space. While terrible things are happening below, Superman is in space playing with his dog...completely unaware of all the things going on beneath his feet, things going on under him.
Erik: Fair point, but I viewed Hal simply calling Superman optimistic as being in line with him being lucky enough to snag Lois and keep her alive in their line of work. Superman always has his head held high with an optimistic POV which makes him the universe's greatest hero, having a mindset that everything will work out for the better.
Maybe it was simply a poor word choice on Robinson's part? Naivety doesn't insinuate optimism, but that's just the way I read the scene.
Joey: I'll buy that Robinson maybe didn't consider the implications of his word choice. But for me, when I look back at the entire issue, Superman just comes of like someone who doesn't really care. I know you don't know who I'm talking about, but in the Image Universe, there was a hero named Captain Dynamo. The man was essentially a Superman of that world, and he cared for no one but himself. He flew from fight to fight, won, and had sex with women. That's the feel Robinson's Superman gives me. I hope I'm way off, and I hope #678 fixes this mood. But I just don't know yet. His Superman already seems a bit different from the one in Action Comics. I thought there was supposed to be a level of cohesion.
Erik: Yea, and that's something I wanted to touch on to wrap this review up. It has been made clear that Robinson's Superman and Johns' Action Comics will become a cohesive Superman Universe in the coming months. I was really hoping to get a glimpse of that with this issue having a Daily Planet office scene, which wasn't delivered. I am extremely curious how Clark is depicted in Robinson's Superman. It would be nice if he resembles the Christopher Reeve portrayal of the character much like Johns' is doing in Action. That always bothered me while reading Kurt Busiek on Superman where he acted like Dean Cain in the office while Johns' continued with his Christopher Reeve personality in Action. With Robinson and Johns' being close friends, and writing buddies, I hope in the coming months we see some office scenes to rest my worries of Clark's personality not lining up between series. How do you feel about having not only a cohesive universe of Superman stories, but also characterizations that line up from one book to the other?
Joey: I'm looking forward to it. I really hope that these two books start to turn into a great, bi-weekly Superman fix for me. One where everything feels whole and complete. It could really elevate the character and the two series to new levels. Like I said, I'm excited.
Overall, I'm giving this book 4.5 out of 5 Bullets. My complaints had nothing to do with the quality of the work, it's all great stuff and an awesome point for some who are a little new to the man in blue to jump in and enjoy. I can't wait for next month. You?
Erik: In the same boat. With our qualms about the characterization of Superman here, I still liked the comic and the story that was set up. Would have loved a Daily Planet sequence, which it doesn't look like we will see from Robinson for some time, but I'm willing to accept that fact as long as he does something creative with the Superman/Atlas dynamic. I'm going to slap 4 Bullets on this guy.
Man, I'm tired of all this arguing. Shall we cuddle up on the couch for some Venture Bros. action to settle ourselves down?
Joey: I'll get the popcorn!!!
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