Superman: Grounded, written by J. Michael Straczynski, Chris Roberson and G. Willow Wilson; illustrated by Eddy Barrows, John Cassaday, J.P. Mayer, Amilcar Pinna, Jimal Igle, Leandro Oliviera, and others (2010-2011): Much fanfare accompanied J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, Spider-man) coming to DC to take over the writing chores on Superman in 2010. That fanfare didn’t last, and neither did Straczynski, who soon left the scripting chores to Chris Roberson so as to concentrate on creating original graphic novels for DC.
Feeling that he’s lost touch with humanity, Superman decides to walk across America. I guess he didn’t feel like riding a motorcycle alongside Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda. What precipitates this decision is a woman complaining to Superman that he wasn’t there to help when her husband was dying of brain cancer.
Now, this is indeed a shocking development because neither I nor pretty much any other Superman reader was aware that Superman could be held responsible for not operating on a brain tumour with his heat vision. Seriously, WTF? Did Superman cancel his regular shift at the Metropolis cancer clinic or something? He doesn’t even have a medical license !!!
So off sad, Epic Cancer Treatment Fail Superman goes to have a series of infuriating adventures in cities other than Metropolis. The low point comes when Superman dares a woman attempting suicide to jump off the building she’s attempting suicide from. Seriously, WTF? This is such an awful, stupid, insensitive, ham-handedly written scene that I’m going to pretend that it was a dream sequence.
The narrative stabilizes somewhat when Chris Roberson takes over as scripter, though he’s still stuck with this whole asinine ‘Superman walking across America’ thing. He shakes it up a bit with some flashback stories and some more typical Superman team-ups with Wonder Woman, Flash and The Batman. The Big Bad of the story, who looks weirdly like a mid-1980’s Whoopi Goldberg, fizzles out at the end, as does Superman’s depression, as the creators rush to finish the story before DC reboots its entire line at the beginning of September 2011.
Roberson comes up with some interesting ideas, and the art by Eddy Barrows and company is generally solid, but writers and artists are still stuck with the inherent crappiness of the story arc’s underpinnings. Not recommended.