It’s got to be tough, being the fill-in creative team in the middle of a high-profile storyline. Rather than just running a generic, other story about Superman, DC’s gone the route of telling a story that takes place in the middle of J. Michael Straczynski and Eddy Barrows’ “Grounded,” and overall? It’s not a bad attempt.
G. Willow Wilson is the star of the show here, shifting the focus onto Lois and letting her wonder what it would have been like had she led a slightly more “normal” life without Superman, thanks to a visit to her college town of Rushmark, Indiana. It’s a logical step in the story, with Superman walking across the country and Lois having this extra time to reflect on her own life and choices, especially when an old friend shows up.
Some of it’s a little predictable, with the “perfect” couple turning out to just be human like the rest of us, although I appreciate that Wilson didn’t make them downright bad, or even nasty. But it’s a reminder that even the people we look at and envy can still have an argument, or moment of anger, and while it’s an obvious lesson it’s still well-told. More interesting to me was just watching Lois interact with an old college friend and his family, and giving them careers and personalities of their own. It would have been an easy route to have Brian’s wife Huong to just be a housewife, but I appreciated that Huong is successful in her own right; if this story had shown up in the ’60s or ’70s, I can’t help but think we wouldn’t have had that particular detail.
On the other hand, Leandro Oliveira’s pencils start out well, but in a matter of pages turn remarkably stiff and forced. Characters are no longer looking at the people they’re talking to, and their poses grow limited and nonsensical. Why is Lois forever touching her hair? Why do they all have glazed expressions on their faces? (Was the food poisoned and they’re all dead?) It’s hard to believe the first few pages were drawn by the same artist as the rest of the comic; I understand that this book was put together on short notice and that may actually contribute to the problems on display here, but at the end of the day it’s still an extremely awkward looking comic.
The sad thing is, I think I enjoyed this fill-in issue of “Superman” more than the ones by the regular creative team. Wilson’s story felt a little less stereotypical and more interesting, and I like her take on superheroes in general. Hopefully this break will do “Superman” some good. Even with its problems, “Superman” #704 has inadvertently shown up its neighbors.