By: Grant Morrison (story), Rags Morales, Rick Bryant, Brad Walker (art), Brad Anderson (colors)

The Story: Superman, at some point, you have to realize that a cat is just a cat.

The Review: Say what you like about Morrison, but he is a man with a plan.  Now, whether his plan results in something worthwhile is a completely different question, but you can always reliably depend on him to deliver a big revelation or moment which had its seeds sown issues earlier.  Not a lot of people can pull that off; indeed, not a lot of people have Morrison’s creative license to pull that off.

He’s certainly earned it.  This is a guy who has such awareness of everything he writes (his “inventory,” as writer Ron Carlson so likes to put it) that he can use a throwaway detail as the basis of an entire storyline, like the hamsters from last issue and their newest owner, Lois’ niece Suzie.  No one could possibly have predicted this cute-as-a-button girl would turn out not only to be precocious, but a member of an entirely new species, “A nutant.  Neo-sapiens—born one hundred thousand years ahead of our time…”

As it turns out, the man who calls himself Adam also claims to belong to this species, and while he sees Earth’s doom in his vision, his part in it has less to do with malevolence and more with indifference.  Since a massive invasion from outer space is on its way to Earth and, as Brainiac notes, the invaders generally leave worlds in waste in their wake, Adam sees no reason why he should waste his “four-lobed post-human brain augmented with super-E.S.P. technology” on a futile attempt to save his home planet.

Adam is clearly meant to be Superman’s shadow.  His superior mental powers make him condescending towards Superman’s mere physical strength (“Your brawling skills formidable.”), and despite being born of Earth, he has no attachment to the place or its people.  He’s fine leaving the world to its fate and setting up house again once the danger has passed.  Meanwhile, Superman frets over how to protect his home (“If it’s coming this way, what chance would Earth have?  What can I do?”), and just grins when told it would take achieving the impossible.  And you wonder why Superman is considered the hero of all heroes.

Who else can make such a connection to the common folks?  While his T-shirt, jeans with rolled-up cuffs, and work shoes seemed ridiculously literal at first, now you see why that get-up is so important for Superman when he’s protecting the locals.  Residents treat him like a neighborhood hero, affectionate even as they riff on him (“You can fly away from this, but we been left homeless.”) while he shoots right back (“The housing was substandard, anyway.”).

But the public admiration doesn’t quite fill the void of a private life, and Clark’s beginning to miss his former one a lot, in spite of the new one he’s cooked up as firefighting star “Johnny Clark.”  He feels loneliness in that genuine, innocent way only Superman can, and who should he turn to of all people for sympathy but Batman.  Actually, they share a pretty sweet, intimate moment as Superman candidly explains why he turned to the Dark Knight for personal advice: “You always seem like the smartest guy in the room.”

Morales offers the same pleasant art he always does, but next to Walker, his work looks loose and unsophisticated.  Walker has definitely restrained his sense of scale since #8, and his attention to detail sets him apart from the gamut of photo-realistic artists.  He fills backgrounds with props, and adds a certain deftness and naturalism to his figures so their movements look light and natural instead of posed.  Check out Superman slouching in a floating chair on board his newly-acquired spaceship, or hunched over a chair turned backwards as “Johnny Clark.”

What can really be said about Sholly Fisch’s charming vignettes anymore other than they’re charming vignettes?  Only this time, his feature has even less relevance than before, sporting a spunky short tale which gives us no new insight or information on the series or character.  At least Cafu’s art can’t be beat, especially with such warm, vibrant colors from Jay David Ramos.

Conclusion: The story begins to tighten at last, and the star finally acts like himself, only with some youthful zip in his voice and manner.  Let’s hope the Morrison magic can work again.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – We all know Lois survives getting plowed by a fire truck, but it’ll be interesting to see how Morrison explains why she’s not a deformed paraplegic now.