Part of the problem with this Vito Delsante fill-in story is that it feels like a fill-in from an earlier generation. It was originally scheduled to appear in “Superman Confidential” #9, but it feels like one of those inventory stories that was sitting in a drawer somewhere, and when a deadline wasn’t met, or an artist came down with the flu, this was slapped between some covers and sent to the printer. It has that inconsequential feeling, and the story fails to offer much in the way of a new perspective on Superman. If anything, it not only reads like an old fill-in. It reads like old writing, full of cliches and characters who declare everything out loud. It’s too on-the-nose for a contemporary comic book story, and maybe that was Delsante’s goal — to make it read like an old-fashioned superhero tale — but why bother? We can just go back and read old comics (for a lot less that $2.99 each).
The conceit of “Superman” #676 is that it tells the story of Superman’s first Memorial Day in Metropolis. As a Memorial Day Story, it has the obligatory references to soldiering and sacrifice, what it means to be a hero, and all that nice sentimental stuff. It’s not a bad idea for a comic book story, certainly. And the notion of Superman learning what it takes to be a hero — the idea that he didn’t show up in Metropolis knowing exactly what to do — is perfectly fine. It’s not the concept that’s flawed, it’s the execution.
I’ll get back to the problems with the writing in a second, but I do want to point out that Julian Lopez’s artwork is almost completely destroyed by the coloring here. Lopez is excellent with body language and heroic poses, but the coloring of Marta Martinez washes it out and relies on white highlights to a ridiculous degree. So what would have been reasonably attractive art is made ugly with color. Perhaps it’s a printing error, but that wouldn’t explain the liberal use of highlights. It’s just poor work.
The writing, as I mentioned, seems out-dated. Superman punches a robot (it’s supposed to be an early adventure, so the robot is particularly simple and silly, which is a nice touch) and says stuff like “this ought to keep you from going any further.” Later, as he gets punched by Solomon Grundy, Superman says, “he’s stronger than I thought.” It’s that kind of on-the-nose dialogue that makes old superhero comics so unbearable for a lot of new readers, and Delsante is guilty of it again and again. (He even has Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern, repeat the same line about Grundy. It’s not funny, which is the only possible purpose of such obvious repetition.)
And not only is the dialogue old-fashioned and over-expository, but the captions, which are narrated by present-day Superman, are completely overwritten and syrupy. He writes, “Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. They can wear badges or uniforms or even capes. But their sacrifice remains the same.” And it goes on and on like that, telling us how important it is to defend “truth, justice, and the American way.” It’s the kind of writing that would not be out of place in a Johnny DC title for kids, except even those stories tend to be more subtle than what Delsante gives us.
This issue has a few interesting moments, particularly between Alan Scott and Clark Kent, but, overall, “Superman” #676 is not worth the three bucks.