By J. Michael Straczynski (writer), Eddy Barrows (pencils), J.P. Mayer (inks), Rod Reis (colors) and John J. Hill (letters)

The Story: Superman continues his walkabout, getting a human’s-eye view of the country and its people and helping out when and where opportunities present themselves.

What’s Good: Full disclosure: Superman has never been my favorite character. I have nothing against the Man of Steel, you understand, it’s just that he’s always been too powerful, too omnipotent, too…perfect, I guess, for me to really identify with and enjoy. When I heard about the “Grounded” storyline, though, I knew I was going to have to check it out. It sounded exactly like the kind of story that would get me on board with a character like Supes, and so far it has not disappointed.

Issue #701 was a great introduction to the concept of the storyline, and #702 builds on that foundation very well with more quiet encounters with everyday folks from around the country. And if the everymen seem just a little overly saccharine and folksy at times…I’m willing to forgive that. It does get a little grating after a while—to my ear at least—but it does fit in to the quite Mayberryesque world that Superman inhabits. (Mayberryesque minus the occasional supervillian attack, of course.) This certainly isn’t the slam-bang-gee-whizz action I would usually associate with Superman, but both the character and the story itself end up better for that fact.

What’s Not So Good: (Some spoilers—though nothing major—lie ahead. Proceed as you see fit.)

The only part of the book that truly lagged for me was, ironically, the big battle scene and Superman’s subsequent encounter with the house full of ‘illegal aliens.’ Although there is some payoff at the end of the book that makes the whole situation a bit more tolerable, it still smacks of shoehorning. Someone apparently felt the need to inject some (very unneeded) action and otherworldly elements into the story, and the ‘alien encounters’ digression was the result. The book would have been much better served by keeping its focus on more individual and personal stories; the sudden mood swings do readers no favors at all. (Neither, for that matter, does bludgeoning the readers over the head with heavy-handed political allegory. “Illegal aliens,” Straczynski? Really?)

Conclusion: As long as the contemplative, personal tone can be maintained for the duration of the storyline (or at least if breeches in this overall mood are less jarring), I think this has the potential to be a fantastic new chapter for Superman, and a great opportunity for passing fans like me to jump fully onto the Man of Steel’s bandwagon.

Grade: B