By J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Robertson (writers), Eddy Barrows and Allan Goldman (pencils), J.P. Mayer and Julio Ferreira (inks), Rod Reis (colors), John J. Hill (letters)

The Story: Superman is still down in the doldrums (yes, still. Only a few more issues to go, folks!), and Lois isn’t returning his calls. Fortunately, Flash shows up and injects a little excitement–and Kryptonian history–into the mix.

What’s Good: I really liked the art in this issue. Barrows and Goldman make a great team that results in a vibrant setting and beautiful characters (especially Flash…Superman himself sometimes suffers from a lack of facial detail in longer distance shots). Besides, I’ve always been a fan of the Superman/Flash races, and this book has a couple wonderful homages. (Although, I’m firmly in the corner that Flash should ALWAYS win such contests; after all, Superman has powers to spare, and Flash deserves to be the best he is at what he does.)

Also: Wonder Woman undergoes no character destruction in this issue. That’s a plus.

What’s Not So Good: I said it last month, and it’ll probably be said next month, but…this storyline is still going nowhere. “Superman goes through a midlife crisis” is NOT a good story arc idea. Especially not a year-long arc. I do realize that the character has been through a lot (as Flash addresses in this issue), and that it should be addressed. But, although the conversation between Supes and Flash is well written and interesting enough, all I can think about is how long it is til this story finally ends, and he can go back to being HIMSELF. Introspective, brooding, Byronic heroes are great…but if I want that, I’ll go read about Morpheus, or Batman, or Moon Knight. When I pick up a Superman comic, I want to read about Superman– the bright, strong, self-confident hero that is their antithesis.

It’s sad, really. JMS’s departure was the best thing to happen to the Wonder Woman title; Phil Hester was able to pull the book out of a death spiral, and is currently doing an excellent job of righting the wrongs inflicted. I’m not sure what’s holding Robertson back from the same success–if he just has a more difficult storyline to deal with, he’s less inclined to break away from JMS’s storyline, or if he’s just not comfortable writing someone else’s material, but it’s just not going well for him. I truly hope he’s able to turn things around, or at least get a shot at writing his own storyline for the book. It must be rough to work within a story framework like this one.

Conclusion: Grounded continues to keep Superman’s feet on the floor, but it’s still not clear exactly what it’s supposed to accomplish with this. The story is just meandering from one situation to the next. In theory that is the point of the story, and it has the potential to be effective, but only if the character involved changes, and demonstrates what he’s learning by the experience. That’s what makes The Odyssey a classic, and this ineffective: Odysseus grows as a character in the course of his story, while Superman seems to be in the same place, psychologically speaking, at the beginning of each new issue as an excuse to introduce another guest to try and work out his problems. I’m relieved the end is now in sight, and we will soon be able to start a fresh storyline.

Grade: C


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