Monday, October 29, 2012

Superman #13 Reviewed (With Accompanying Rant)

DC's PR department certainly earned its pay last week, as they managed to generate a fair amount of unwarranted hype over Clark Kent's leaving the employ of the Daily Planet in Superman #13.
Tuesday must have been what we in the journalism biz call a "slow news day".  (Not to be confused with Andi Watson's charming graphic novel Slow News Day, which I highly recommend, by the way.)  How else would you explain ostensibly serious news outlets such as NPR and the BBC devoting any airtime at all to a relatively minor plot point in a comic book?
It's hardly that big a deal, after all.  This isn't the first time Clark's left the Planet.  He spent most of the 70's and the first half of the 80's working in TV as the anchor of the WGBS Evening News, and in the mid-90's he briefly left his newspaper job to become an editor at newsmagazine Newstime.  Besides, this dramatic  development will probably be undone by the next writer anyway, and, judging from the turnover on this book so far in its New 52 incarnation, that next writer will be along in about three or four months. 
However, all cynicism aside, the publicity was sufficient to induce me to purchase a copy of the issue just to see if the actual story, if there was one, was actually worth reading.  
Truthfully, there really isn't much of a story here.  The meat of the issue is your basic Superman versus giant alien monster story.  I've never been a huge fan of Scott Lobdell, the Superman writer of the moment.  His stories aren't bad, but neither are they all that especially good, either.  This issue is squarely in that area.  It's an entertaining, but not that impressive or especially memorable, few minutes read.  That's  pretty much what I've come to expect from Superman stories, and this issue delivers.
To me, the most interesting aspect of this issue is the confirmation that the  ridiculously powerful Superman of the late Silver and Bronze Ages who could push planets around with his pinky is officially back.  The issue opens with the Man of Steel in some sort of secret underground research facility attempting to discover the upper limit of his super-strength and being told, essentially, that there isn't one.  Further, Lobdell goes so far in this issue as to introduce a new super-power, or rather, perhaps more accurately, a heretofore unseen application of one his long time powers.  Apparently, his super-hearing is able to act like sonar to form an image in his head of distant objects.  
Also back in the New 52 is the proliferation of survivors of Krypton.  This issue features a guest appearance by Supergirl and (obligatory but half-hearted SPOILER WARNING) the aforementioned giant alien monster turns out to be of Kryptonian origin.  This issue also serves as a prelude to an upcoming crossover in all the Superman related titles, except for Action Comics, which takes place five years in the past, called "H'El on Earth," which seems like it will introduce yet another Kryptonian refugee who, from all indications I've seen, looks like he'll turn out to be related to Kal-El in some way.   I'm not sufficiently impressed with this issue, however, to follow the story any further to get the full details.  
Meanwhile, over in Action, Grant Morrison reintroduced the Bottle City of Kandor some months ago and in the latest issue he brings back both the Phantom Zone and Krypto.   Honestly, as my all time favorite Superman stories are from the Bronze Age, especially, as I've stated one or two times  before, Martin Pasko's run on Superman in the mid-70's, these are not, to me, totally unwelcome developments.
Going back to Clark's decision to quit his day job, it seems to me that Kent's actually got a valid point in his condemnation of the state of modern mainstream news coverage in which he laments that news has been totally supplanted by entertainment.   The last time I watched one of the three original broadcast network's evening newscast, I found it as devoid of anything resembling actual news as Monty Python's cheese shop was uncontaminated by cheese.  I tuned into the NBC Nightly News the night before the Olympics began to find that the broadcast was less a newscast than an extended promo for the network's upcoming coverage of the Games.   Later that evening, starved for some real information, I checked out BBC World News America on one of the digital sub-channels of the local PBS station.  There was, as you might expect since the Olympics were held in London this year and the first B in BBC does stand for "British", a fair amount of Olympic boosterism, but it didn't dominate the half hour.  They actually found some time to report on events of actual significance.  
Thankfully, there are still a few outlets, such as the BBC, NPR and PBS, that still believe in actually delivering real news, even if they do ocassionally give into the impulse to report on a fictional character leaving his fictional job at a fictional newspaper as if it actually mattered to anyone besides me and my fellow middle-aged fanboys.

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