By: Grant Morrison (writer), Rags Morales, Brad Walker, Rick Bryant, Bob McLeod (artists), Brad Anderson & David Curiel (colorists)
The Story: Watch out, Brainiac—Superman’s gonna blow your mind.
The Review: Back in 2006, NBC premiered two new shows, both premised on the backstage activities of a sketch-comedy show. One was Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, a powerhouse production created and written by the great Aaron Sorkin, with veterans of both big and small screen, Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford, starring. The other was 30 Rock, a frugal sitcom led by Alec Baldwin and SNL’s former Weekend Update co-anchor, Tina Fey.
I bring this up to illustrate the fact that you can never predict what creative projects will work out in the end. Suffice to say, no one would’ve expected Studio 60 to get canned within a year, while 30 Rock years later (and still running—I won’t say “strong”) would bring on Sorkin as a guest to mock him for his costly failure. It just goes to show that A-list producers and ideas don’t always translate to quality material.
Back in the comics world, we’ve seen this semi-paradoxical situation in Justice League, which, despite its tremendous sales numbers, will likely go down in history as a largely mediocre affair. Lately, I’ve come to find a similar problem with this series. You would think pairing Grant Morrision and Superman, with Rags Morales on art, would be a shoo-in for a sure win. Yet somehow, for whatever reason, the talent hasn’t gelled with the story as much as anyone imagined, and the disappointment is all the greater since your expectations were so high.
Not to imply the story has been terrible, exactly—more like we’re getting just your garden-variety Superman origin story with some snazzy dialogue and a T-shirt thrown in. Speaking of which, Morrison’s rapidfire style of speech has gotten a bit out of control. Between Glenmorgan’s pill-laden breakdown (“It’s like one of those films where—those horrible films—they’re trapped in hell and the bartender is the devil…”) and Corben’s rage-induced malfunctions (“I read what she wrote about you. About your eyes! Search: ‘Faster than a speeding bullet!’ That’s Metropolis’ latest wonder of tomorrow…”), it gets a bit wearisome to read at times.
If I were to sum up my vague feelings of dissatisfaction with this story, it’d be: a lot of words, time, and energy has been put in just so we can a decent, but not extraordinary, showdown between Brainiac and Superman. Ultimately, all that nonsense about nature and nurture that seemed so important last issue gives way to Brainiac’s increasing distress about preserving its “collection” against “[t]he Multitude”. That’s what all this has been building up to? Yet another massive alien invasion? Like we haven’t had that before.
You can also argue this whole arc has been about getting Superman from his brash, bejeaned days to the fully-suited hero of the people he’s destined to be, and that’s fine, too. It’s just not all that big a deal since we’ve seen this moment so many times before, and you just can’t say this time is any more groundbreaking than any others. Much as I appreciate the endearing honesty he demonstrates in his first speech to the public, it’s hardly the first time we’ve heard him try to explain his dual loyalties to his heritage and his adopted people.
Perhaps if the art on this series had been stronger, as epic-looking as the script so obviously wishes to be, we would come away feeling like we’ve read something special. But with four artists on board, two of them attempting with mixed success to mimic Morales’ loose style, one of them delivering an entirely different, photorealistic aesthetic at the end, the issue looks as disjointed and uneven as the story.
Conclusion: Yet another disappointment from one of DC’s “flagship titles. It simply doesn’t bring the great and grand Superman tale we’ve all been hoping for, which means thus far, the new DC has done little to revitalize its trademark hero for a modern audience.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – This may sound a bit racist, but I’m pretty sick of hearing Kryptonian. All those “Ha-la’s” make me think their language is based primarily on Motown pop choruses from the fifties.