Bad Superman Premise

So, I haven’t read it yet.  So I shouldn’t comment.  But I will anyway.

The Superman issue this week was Superman #700.  It is a three part anniversary issue, but most importantly it is the first part (a prologue) the the upcoming Superman run by JMS.  Unfortunately I think the run has already gone off the rails.

JMS (Joe Michael Straczynski) is a writer perhaps best known for creating Babylon 5 and for writing the recent Eastwood directed movie Changeling (two completely different things).  He is also a fairly prolific comic book writer and has had one or two series on the go for about the last ten years.

JMS is a writer whose work is always worth checking out in my opinion.  It is always interesting and professional and often very very good.  Some good work includes Rising Stars, his Thor run and his current run on the Brve and the Bold.  But he has also had stories that have really been head scratchers.  Most notably his Amazing Spider-Man run.  Now that run had some awesome artists and the stories were always entertaining, but as Spidey stories?  As part of a run of a serialized title with a long history?  Not my favorite.  (Note One More Day was corporately driven so I don’t blame him for that arc.)

His Superman run promises to contain similar weaknesses.  The main one being the premise is not a good in-continuity Superman premise.  In that context it is just awful.

What is the premise?  Basically it is twofold. One, that due to his recent absences in space he has lost touch with the people of earth.  Two, that he should be doing more to save the people of earth from common hardships such as cancer.  As a result he will spend the next year (13 issues) of the superman title WALKING America to better bond with and protect it citizens.

Lousy, lousy, lousy.


Problem #1 – You can’t actually have superheroes solve problems like cancer in serialized fiction.  The resulting story will either undercut the tragedy and nature of the disease (if they do solve it)  or it will render the character impotent (if they don’t).  The end of the story can almost have only those two endings.  The next writer will need to reverse either one in order to tell additional stories.  (For reference note the travesty of Superman 4: Quest for Peace – different issue, but a similar problem.)

Problem #2 – This is a Superboy story not a Superman story.  Superman has already accepted his limitations.   He has other responsibilities – his wife, his job, his role in the JLA, etc.  It can be done still with Superman, but it has to be more nuanced and less sledgehammer’ish.  And look, oddly enough a year ago this story was done in Supergirl!  There it was a coming of age tale about finding your limits and Superman was the voice of knowledge and reason.

Problem #3 – It just ignores some mammoth continuity that just wrapped up in which Superman’s son and friend were trapped in the Phantom Zone, a planet full of Kryptonians was completely wiped out by Luthor and Braniac and elements of the American government actively plotted to aid in that extermination.  Essentially a story that has been building for three years and which climaxed in the last three months.  The plot threads were all neatly tied up, but the emotional elements were not.

Problem #3 – Walking America is just a dumb way of playing this out.  If the problem is that he isn’t doing more then he shouldn’t be restricting himself to do less.  Walking America (or traveling it) is a good story for a character who epitomizes ‘the American Way’.  There is a lot of good story potential there.  But this is not a good setup for it.

Now my problems may be over reactions – I haven’t read the issue yet.  And JMS might have a plan that avoids all the pitfalls.  But when the premise alone raises so many red flags? Gah!

Gah I say.



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