“Superman” #688 starts with a freefall. No, literally, the start of this story is Mon-El freefalling (and seemingly) powerless. His powers are failing him, threatening to cut out at the most inopportune moments with absolutely no predictability. This makes for some great tension, but it also makes for a disturbing development as readers are just beginning to find a comfort level with both this book and the characters therein.
This is the direct result of James Robinson’s deliberate story seeding over the course of more than year on the Superman family of titles. He has meticulously (and I believe subliminally) added layers to the characters and rings of supporting characters to the story. James Robinson casually hits the readers with some cooking tips, art history references, and dramatic action all in the course of twenty-two pages. If Robinson ever needs a new career, he could certainly excel as a professor at university somewhere. I’ve found my curiosity piqued and inadvertently engaged in research more often than not after reading Robinson’s work.
Guedes steps up to match the effort put forth by his writer. While many of the two-page spreads are more ambitiously gridded up than the standard comic, it allows Guedes to make some seemingly impractical page layouts and increases the panel count without crowded the page. In many instances the spreads feature a 2/3 page splash panel and the rest of the action tracks across the remaining 4/3 of the spread (that 4/3 for you calculus majors is the full second page and the 1/3 from the previous. Guedes has truly grown into a strength for this title and for the DC stable of artists.
This story offers up a death sentence for Mon-El, which at first might seem like a surprise, but special guest star Dr. Light (the good one) explains it quite clearly for the reader and Mon-El. This sentence gives Mon-El a goose to take in a bit more of the world around him, which will surely be the impetus for the next few issues.
Additional seeds from as far back as the “Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen Special” are harvested here, as Guardian and Mon-El rescue Tellus and set up confrontations and adventures to come. During their daring rescue, some additional seeds are thrown onto the ground as images appear on the monitors of the facility Tellus is rescued from — images of the Red Circle characters, Magog, the Shadow Cabinet, and Static as well as some less distinct images. It has been inferred that big things are afoot for the Superman titles this fall, perhaps these images of DC’s other newsmakers are tied in with the autumn excitement to come.