Next issue, James Robinson’s work on “Superman” comes to an end, as he closes out his version of the character in “Superman” #700, but he doesn’t do it alone — Dan Jurgens and J. Michael Straczynski write some of that comic as well. So this is basically it for the Robinson era on the man of steel, and his contribution to next issue will be more like an epilogue.
So what does James Robinson get to do in his final, full-length, last chance at being the solo writer of “Superman” story? He does what he’s been doing for almost his entire run: he does his job as a utility player. He keeps the Superman Family machine whirring along, and he gives the issue very little of his own voice.
“Superman” #699 is really “Last Stand of New Krypton” #2.5. It’s an intermediate chapter, one that gets characters from point B to point C. Here’s Zod moving from blasting Brainiac minions to punching Brainiac himself. Here’s Superman flying after them. Here’s the Legion Espionage Squad getting ready to head back to the future. Here’s Mon-El, wearing his traditional garb once again. Here’s Luthor, playing the role of sci-fi Loki, mucking about and causing trouble.
If plot points equal story, than that’s the story. There’s little else here. There’s certainly nothing in this issue — or practically anything else in this run — that gives the reader a sense that this comic was written by James Robinson or any other writer with a distinctive voice. It’s a series of events, well-crafted, mostly, with dramatic moments of characters rushing into action. Worlds at stake. But the personality of a list.
Bernard Chang gives this issue some passion, at least, and when he inks himself, as he does here, his work has a crisp angularity that accentuates the mechanized nature of the plot. It also gives Superman a rigid strength that fits the type of character who slices through the robotic servants of Brainiac as if they were tin foil sculptures. Chang makes this story look more interesting, and read with more swift agility, than its plot might otherwise indicate. He gives the story some visual personality, even if the characters have none in their dialogue.
In the larger scheme of the Zod/Superman/Brainiac/Krypton/Earth story, this is a fine issue. It serves its purpose, mechanically so. The narrative equivalent of a dishwasher.