By: Grant Morrison (writer), Rags Morales (penciller), Rick Bryant (inker), Brad Anderson (colorist)
The Story: If he falls, a Superman has to get up, dust his jeans off, and hit even harder.
The Review: For those of you desperately attempting to push back the memories of Grounded into the far-flung recesses of your brain, don’t fear—I bring it up to make a brief point. A lot of that storyline was about getting Superman back among the little people again, both figuratively and literally “grounding” him. Yet despite rubbing shoulders with some of the homeliest homebodies in America, he wound up seeming more distant and out of touch than before.
On that note, we may call this series, “Grounded: Take Two.” Morrison spoke a great deal of wanting to evoke the original, semi-socialist Superman, the figurehead of the masses, a man seemingly embodied with their collective strength. An interesting premise, if nothing else, and Morrison certainly executes it well here. Much as Superman’s powers unnerve both The Man and The Establishment, the everyday folk have an awed sense of pride over their bejeaned hero.
This public trust not only gives confidence to Superman’s actions, it actually affords him some physical protection. His immature abilities give him some much welcomed vulnerability, and allows him to experience what we haven’t seen from him in a long time: peril. Limitations may be hindrances, but they let a character display ingenuity and fortitude in overcoming them. For Superman, we get to see him channel the tough, farmer boy inside to grit through his obstacles.
Anyway, you’d hardly expect a significant (and likely temporary) downgrade in power levels would stop Superman from doing what he does best: saving innocents. But more than just standing on the sidelines, waiting for an opportunity to do his work, this Superman is more proactive—activist, in fact. He has a strict agenda and a bone to pick, both very good for a character who’s mostly shied away from taking sides and being personally motivated.
The usual suspects are here: Jimmy, Lois, Luthor, General Lane. None of them have been drastically altered from their traditional portrayals, but Morrison adds a few subtle touches that give them a little freshness: Lois’ spirited competitiveness in trying to, with no superpowers to speak of, beat Clark to a story; Luthor’s nonplussed reactions to Superman’s uncanny abilities and his nonchalant defeat of them; Gen. Lane’s raised hackles over risks to his daughter’s safety.
True to Morrison’s style, we get the sense of a bigger plot lurking on the outskirts of our awareness (Luthor: “Has anyone else even bothered to look at the sky? There’s something past the orbit of Neptune, getting closer…”), but Morrison forces us to fix our gaze on the here-now, to appreciate the new rules of this world he’s laid down before we really get to playing. All you need to know is with this particular writer, the endgame never fails to be epic, at least in scope.
For a title determined to bring out the man in Superman, there can be no better fit than Morales, who produces some of the most human characters in comics art. You can cast these people, even the extras, into a Jimmy Stewart movie, with their plain, unassuming, yet highly distinctive features. With Bryant’s sensitive inks and Anderson’s earthy colors, the issue looks organic, but still possesses a cinematic style, at once bold and classy.
Conclusion: This is easily one of the least flashy versions of the Man of Steel yet, but also the most approachable. A strong start to what may or may not be a new golden era for comics’ greatest icon.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: - To Clark, he’s saving their lives. To Lois, he’s sabotaging her story. Lord, I love these two kids. And they really are kids now, what with their late twenties, early thirties features. Lois is wearing a sweat-jacket on the job, for crying out loud.