It’s amazing how much a different scripter can bring to a project.
I don’t mean to undercut J. Michael Straczynski, whose basic plot is still in place for the 12-part “Grounded” story currently running in “Superman” right now. But Chris Roberson is bringing a certain level of liveliness and fun to the book that was missing when Straczynski was writing the book solo.
Skipping the first third of the book for a moment, the lack of melodrama as Superman goes up against both a flood and a tornado in Lincoln, Nebraska is refreshing. Roberson’s dialogue is free of the clumsiness that earlier issues were drowning in, instead giving some pep and stronger pacing to the story. There’s no focusing on stereotypical victims here, instead showing Superman’s attempts to help as merely part of the greater whole. I can’t say that I miss having those character focuses here; Roberson shows that we don’t need to personally meet a young boy or an old grandfather to still care that people are being saved.
Roberson and Straczynski also tie “Superman” into the current direction on “Wonder Woman” right now, further showing how the changes to her timeline are affecting the rest of the DC Universe. It’s a brief encounter between the pair, but it works out well, and seeing the villain of “Grounded” get taken down a peg is an added bonus. So far the unnamed villain has been nothing short of irritating, so other people who have hated the character just as much will no doubt be equally delighted.
Best of all, though, is the opening pages of “Superman” #708 and the introduction of the Fortress of Solidarity. It’s a theme that we’ve seen before (both in other “Superman” comics as well as other titles like “Fantastic Four”) but Roberson and Straczynski bring a fun element to this moment. It allows them to stretch their imagination for some crazy ideas on other members of the group, and Superego, Supercilia, and Superstar are three of my personal favorites.
Art-wise, this is one of Eddy Barrows’s better issues to date. He’s getting strong with Superman’s expressions, from the depressed face we get on the first page, to the excitement upon seeing the Fortress, and determination after dealing with the tornado. In some ways Barrows’s work is reminding me more each day of Norm Breyfogle, with the soft spit-curls in Superman’s hair and a certain rounded quality to the characters in general. It’s nice to see Barrows settling into the title a bit more, and with hopefully less script delays in the future it’ll be good to see what happens once he can start spreading his wings.
Once “Grounded” is over, at this point I’d be happy to see a Roberson and Barrows creative team be announced as permanent once Straczynski’s plotting has ended. Roberson is showing good instincts on how to use the pre-determined plots to his advantage, and his work on books like “iZombie” has also been entertaining. Until then, though, I’ve got much more confidence in the book getting a chance to build toward a strong conclusion. And that’s good enough for now.