Sunday, August 15, 2010
Superman #702 - Balanced Awesome
For the past few months, my love for Superman comics has grown stronger with each issue since #700. The Man of Steel has forced his way back into my heart and my wallet with a new string of stories that not only are compelling and engaging, but they demonstrate why comics kick the ass of every other medium in media (reality TV destroyed TV as I knew it so comics have to pick up the slack). The theme in the comics since the War of the Supermen arc is to get Superman back down to Earth literally and figuratively. The guy has been so busy taking down aliens and saving the universe it's easy to forget that there are ordinary people on the ground who eat, sleep, shit, and screw like everybody else and that by flying around so that they're just a bunch of dots to him. For a guy that's got the morality bar in the fucking ionosphere, that's a tough blow so he's trying to make up for it. As usual, Superman always goes with what's best rather than with what's easiest. Say what you will about his goody two-shoes persona, but nobody could ever call the man lazy.
The latest issue of Superman continues with what the last book started. In Superman #701 his plan to reconnect with the people with Earth led him to actually walk the streets of Philadelphia in full costume, cape and all, just getting to know people along the way. Now normally when a guy in a cape with the underwear on the outside is casually walking down the streets of a major city, that freaks people out enough that they reconsider the prescription meds they're taking. But this is Superman. It freaks people out in another way and the last issue had the media basically scratching their heads and looking like fools (not a hard feet even without superpowers). But it was getting the job done. Superman was finding that everybody had their story to tell and he could help in little ways.
Superman #702 continues with where the last issue left off. Superman is still walking, only now he finds himself in Detroit. This is a city that in this economy could be mistaken for a decimated colony taken over by Darkseid. The woeful performance of their football team alone warrants intervention from a guy like Superman. But unfortunately, even he's not powerful enough to fix the economy. The best impact he can leave is just being there to lift people's spirits, even though a down economy makes even a sighting of the Man of Steel seem like watching live golf for some people.
But not everyone in Detroit is that apathetic. Superman keeps walking until he finds himself in the rougher parts of town that pussies of the world would cower and avoid on their way home. Ignoring for a moment how potentially racist that shit may be, Superman comes across a group of kids shooting hoops in the courtyard. Him being a baller and all, he offers to play a quick round with them. Even though the idea of playing basketball against Superman is like a 2-year-old playing against the 1992 olympic dream team, the kids are still thrilled. And Superman being the nice guy that he is, he lets them win the second go-around after he essentially brushes past them. It's probably the most thrilling thing that has ever happened or will ever happen in their lives. It's the kind of feel-good urban ghetto story that would bring Spike Lee to tears.
It's another one of those little things that makes Superman such a unique and iconic hero. For a comic and a half, that's all he's been doing. He's just helping out people who have ordinary, boring-ass lives and giving them reason to smile without slipping ecstasy into their drinks. It's a long time to go without busting up aliens or destroying something big, nasty, and evil. Some Superman fans might start whining at this point or if they're really picky, they've been whining since the annual.
Well ignoring how much that makes you a douche-bag, the next little thing Superman does isn't all that little. It starts innocent enough. He meets an odd guy looking that he may have skipped his AA meeting. He asks Superman if he hears anything strange. Now that would seem like a fucked up question to ask anyone other than Superman, but having better manners than anyone else in the DC universe he does humor the guy. Even though it may just be that the guy thinks his radiator is talking to him (taking enough shrooms will do that).
So he follows the guy inside, probably trying not to draw parallels to the creepy guy in the windowless truck offering ice cream to kids. The guy barely sets a foot in his house when (and get ready for a medium sized surprise) a fucking robot attacks him. To all the whiners out there who thought these past few issues had too little action, you should be feeling like quite a douche-bag right about now. I know Superman has tangoed with enough giant robots to put himself on the erector set's shit list, but given the circumstances of this attack it's still pretty damn awesome.
The fight that follows is pretty basic. Superman struggles just for a bit before the shock wears off and he kicks ass like the Man of Steel we all know and love. He doesn't do it while giving a lecture on the value of staying in school either. He throws some pretty badass comments in the process describing how the challenge isn't hurting him, it's surviving him. Boy scout or not, that's pretty hardcore. Guys like Batman and Wolverine shouldn't hog all the balls. Superman has stones of his own.
So now that the robot is gone, the guy who invited him in has some serious explaining to do. What was he after? Is he another mad scientist looking to flex his nutsack by attacking the Man of Steel? Is he some lackey for Lex Luthor? If that were the case then readers would be about as surprised as they would be if they heard the New York Yankees won the World Series. But in an issue like this with circumstances like this, that's not the case. That piece of scrap metal wasn't part of some sinister plot. It was an accident by a bunch of transplanted aliens who were trying to live in peace and out of sight (in fucking Detroit of all places?!).
Now these aliens are about as harmless as a box of kittens and they have a good reason for coming to Earth. Apparently their home planet is a shit stain that's even worse than Detroit. It's full of tyranny and oppression, the kind that would make Joseph Stalin shit himself. So the aliens sneak their way into Earth at a time when illegal immigration is making guys like Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck shit bricks through their feet. Superman knows this and gives them a quick lecture about the merits of immigration. Because for all the technology these beings have, they really haven't done jack shit for the planet they've been mooching off of. If Superman is keep them from Homeland Security, they've gotta get their shit together and make Detroit more bearable to live in for the rest of the non-alien folk. Plus, they get to stick it to Lou Dobbs and that's always a plus no matter what species you are.
He leaves the aliens looking about as annoyed as I do when I leave a party that had no booze, no girls, and only Dickie Chicks for music. Superman is in need of more little things and that leads him to this old guy working as a security guard for a rusted out car manufacturing plant. He's basically the opposite of those douche-bag aliens. He's got none of their advanced technology and shitty ass health, but he's doing more than they've ever done. Take that lazy aliens!
Now this guy has it rough. He's old, his health is failing, and the place he's working at is falling apart. Normally, a more asshole kind of guy would ask Superman to fix his problems. He could ask him to fork over some of that Kryptonian tech so the plant could stop making shitty cars nobody wants to drive. He could ask him to get the banks to agree to some decent loans or something. He could even ask to destroy the damn place and make it look like he got hurt so he could collect workers comp and get a government check for the rest of his life while he drinks booze and watches Road Runner cartoons
But this guy isn't that kind of guy. All he asks is to see Superman fly. That's it. This old guy who probably has one of the shittiest jobs in Detroit just wants to see Superman fly. It may not seem like much, but it makes the man's day more than it could have if he won the fucking lottery. But just when it seems like the high point of his life, that shitty health of his catches up to him. Apparently, karma likes to fuck with people even if they're nice. Fucking karma.
Not one to leave an old man to die in the middle of his shitty job, Superman tries to help him. Being the kind of guy who works smarter instead of harder, he takes the man to the aliens he just gave a pep talk. Apparently they didn't take it to heart that much because when he comes barging in, they're sitting in front of the TV talking about how shitty the series finale of Lost was. Granted, that's an understandable statement for even and advanced alien species to make, but they seriously need to earn some bonus points with the Man of Steel so they don't come off as such enormous douche-bags.
They agree to help the old man heal with their advanced technology. It's not much a choice because if they know the Lost finale sucked, they know how shitty the health care is in Detroit. They're able to help the man and send him back to work on his crappy security guard job that's probably going to end up killing him anyways. Again, Superman works smarter instead of harder. Since these aliens clearly have no idea how to do anything besides free-load, he makes them a deal to not only help the man but the city as well.
Using that advanced tech of theirs and the gold they said was as common as dirt on their home planet, they essentially bought up the factories this guy had been working at and turned them into some crisp new medical research buildings. This not only gives the old man a much nicer job that doesn't involve him coughing his lungs out. It gives the whole fucking city a fresh wave of jobs. All it took was a little alien tech and a few recommendations from the Man of Steel. It's a pretty feel-good kind of story that solves the problems of both the aliens and the old man, but at the same time it kind of shows just how fucked the economy in Detroit is. It needs aliens and fucking Superman to get it going again.
It turns into a perfect balance of doing little things and big things and medium things to get everything going again. If that isn't super enough then nothing is. It helps that Clark Kent shows up to prove the guy still has a human life and a hot human wife in Lois Lane. He's on a hot streak. The last issue had him doing so many of the little things in an awesome way that made a huge difference. In this issue he did some big things to make even more of a difference. It's Superman being super in a way that goes beyond busting up killer robots and it makes for a fitting end to a very solid issue.
However, the end does not just have him walking off into the sunset looking for more little things to take care of. The end actually gives a hint that this little stunt of his is about to take a major turn because just as he's done having some cute phone sex with his wife, Batman shows up in the distance. Now what the hell could Batman want with him while he's on such a roll? Well that's to be revealed in the next issue so again the assholes complaining that these stories are too simplistic should be prepared to shut up.
So in the span of one issue Superman got to shoot some hoops, bust up some aliens, offer some commentary on illegal immigration, save an old man, and revitalize the economy of the Detroit area. If that doesn't qualify as Superman caliber awesome then there is a serious glitch in the Matrix. This is another comic that should give readers a warm and fuzzy feeling in their hearts that for once isn't caused by parasites. It still isn't the same over-the-top action as War of the Supermen. It is what it is and it works pretty damn well yet again.
There isn't much to bitch about in a comic like this. The story is enjoyable, coherent, and deep on a number of levels because it offers insight into more realistic issues. It does all this while still having time to throw in a killer robot and purple skinned aliens. There's nothing bad you can say about something like that. If you do then you're being the kind of asshole that even telemarkters would hang up on. For this and a bunch of other little reasons, Superman #702 gets a 5 out of 5. This series continues to be super and I continue to be hooked. If the final page is any indication, Superman may finally have some super company as he goes on these long walks. The potential for awesome is huge. If the guy can help save a city like Detroit, then he's super on a whole new level. Nuff said!