When DC Comics announced that James Robinson was Kurt Busiek's replacement on "Superman," I was excited. The news that Kurt Busiek was set to depart was disappointing (especially since "Trinity" wasn't yet announced), so having Robinson return to a monthly series seemed like a dream come true. "Starman" was one of my favorite ongoing series for many years, and surely Robinson could work his magic again on Superman himself.
What we've ended up with, though, is a heavily padded comic book. This is the second part of "The Coming of Atlas," and I can't help but feel like almost nothing's happened. Superman has now punched Atlas a few times, and Atlas punched back. We get two brief flashbacks that show how Atlas left his fantasy universe for ours. But beyond that? Nothing.
I think I'd be willing to overlook this glacial pace if Robinson had brought some of his hallmark style and panache to the comic. Having just re-read the first 16 issues of "Starman" (thanks to the handsome hardcover omnibus released earlier this summer), I know what Robinson is capable of. He can get into the heads of his characters, he can make a setting feel alive, he makes sure each character has their own distinct voice. But here? We're getting Superman muttering, "I'm coming, big guy. One lucky punch doesn't mark the end of this," as he prepares to hit Atlas. This is Superman? Really?
What we're getting here, I think, is Robinson on auto-pilot. His first issue (focusing on a member of the Science Police) was so similar to his opening story when he wrote "WildC.A.T.S" (focusing on a member of the Black Razors) that I was a little startled. Here, we're not even getting that much. Is Robinson more interested in what's to follow? Or is he still warming up? Either way, it's a big disappointment.
The one bright side so far is Renato Guedes and Wilson Magalháes's art. I love the thin lines that Guedes uses to create his characters, letting them look fully textured and realized while somehow coming across very differently than any other art in comics right now. His switch to a faux-Kirby art style for the scenes on Atlas's world (complete with Hi-Fi switching to older, more primitive coloring) is sharp. And I love that Guedes is still imagining Metropolis as a slightly futuristic city, complete with suspended highways up next to and above the skyscrapers. I'd thought that Robinson would bring Metropolis to life, but so far that job seems to fall on Guedes' shoulders.
So far, I'm not impressed with Robinson on "Superman." Things can easily change, and hopefully the book will kick into high gear shortly. Right now, though, I'm cringing, and wishing that Busiek was still on board. Better luck next month?