“Superman” #685 is supposed to be a pivotal comic for the entire Super-books line of comics. It moves Superman over to “Superman: World of New Krypton” for the next year, and brings a new character to the forefront of “Superman” itself. But for such a seemingly important book, it feels surprisingly lackluster.
After really enjoying the post-Atlas “Superman” comics from James Robinson, his script here seems flat and lacking in energy; it’s almost as if you’re reading a summary of events instead of actually watching them happen. The cliffhanger of “Action Comics” #874 and Mon-El dying of lead poisoning on Earth has a conclusion that manages to smack of both deus ex machina and dull, which is a rare feat. There’s no excitement, no tension, with instead things just sort of happening out of nowhere. And that is ultimately the rest of the main story. When we hear what Superman has to do in order to live on New Krypton, it sounds like an exciting, dramatic event. But it feels like the actual moment happens off-panel, never actually appearing. It could theoretically happen in “Superman: World of New Krypton” #1, but there’s no indication of that here, so it’s a random fact thrown out and then discarded. It’s one sluggish moment after another, with some of the more interesting ideas (What does Superman tell Mon-El, Steel, Jimmy Olsen, or the Guardian before leaving? How does he explain Clark Kent vanishing for a while?) either shown as glimpses or not even getting a mention. Robinson’s done a lot better on “Superman” than this, and for a story that’s supposed to change all of the Super-books, it’s not up to his usual form.
Also not up to his usual standards is Javier Pina’s art. I really liked Pina’s long run on “Manhunter” but it’s hard to reconcile his work there with “Superman” #685. Superman has a round, doughy face that doesn’t look like the character at all, instead coming across like someone who hasn’t quite hit puberty. Size and perspective seems off in places, too. There’s one scene where Superman carrying Pa Kent through the air actually looks like a flying teenager holding a midget. It’s not what I’ve come to expect from Pina, and it’s a little disappointing.
Ironically, it’s the back-up “Origins & Omens” feature where things click into place. Robinson and former “X-Factor” artist Pablo Raimondi set up what’s to come as they focus more on Mon-El’s new situation and status quo. It’s a fun little story, and I couldn’t help but feel like more happened here than in the entire main feature. I’m glad it came at the end of “Superman” #685, because it not only closes the issue out on a good note, but it makes me excited and interested again about next month’s Super-books. It’s just too bad the entire comic hadn’t managed that.