Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review of Superman #702


Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Art: Eddy Barrows (pencils) & J.P. Mayer (inks)
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Professor Challenger

One of the accusations I hate seeing thrown around at people is the claim of "racism." So, since I am loathe to do it here, I am going to instead hurl a charge of "stupidity" at JMS for writing this comic book and to DC for publishing it. Were I not intent on reviewing this comic I would have tossed it after about 5 or 6 pages. For review purposes, I forced myself to finish it. This comic is so awful that I don't even think a review here can be long enough to truly get across all the problems with it.

The basic gist of the plot, so as it is, is that in this second part of the "Grounded" story arc, Superman continues walking across America to reconnect with the little people and today he strolls on into Detroit. Oddly enough, he is not being followed by our paparazzi. That right there puzzles me. Everyone seems to know that Superman is doing this but, yet, the media has enough self-control to just send Clark Kent along to write about Superman's journey. Really? Really? Also, oddly enough, the Detroit that Superman walks into has little to no street traffic, so he can walk down the middle of roads without having to avoid cars. It's almost like a bizarre dream. While in Detroit, the main plot involves Superman dealing with illegal immigration through the most subtly metaphorical episode since...oh....STAR TREK and the planet torn apart from racial strife over which side of the face was white and which was black. Or maybe I should mention the Sneetches? Either way...its a "club-the-reader-over-the-head" style story that irritates the hell out of me.

In this case, however, Superman encounters a SPACE-alien family living in Detroit disguised as humans. After they unsuccessfully attack him without justification with a huge giant robot (that somehow fits inside their modest little wood-frame 2-story in urban Detroit), Superman decides to preach to them about illegal immigration and then they argue back that he's just as much an alien as they are. What? Hem. Haw. Superman says it's not the same, but he's going to let them stay there at least until he figures out what to do with them. Because, you know, Superman is the American immigration czar and controls the lives of any alien immigrants he comes across.

He's not?

Well, then he must be a superior-minded pompous ass who's using his position and powers as a threat to this family. But surely Pa Kent taught Superman not to be like that. I must be reading this story wrong. But wait...

Superman later encounters an old, bald, toothless African-American man who lost his union job when the factories shut down. Argh. Then he kinda has a heart-attack and brilliant Superman avoids the hospital and flies the man to the alien immigrants from earlier in the story. See? Superman has figured out how to extort technology out of them. They have advanced technology there that can heal the old man. Of course, there's no reason for him to have assumed that their technology would work like that on a human, but let's not dwell on that. And let's not dwell on the implications of Superman arbitrarily deciding to save the life of one old man through extraordinary means while ignoring the many others. I guess that's one of the moral conundrums of "playing" God versus "being" God. But I mentioned that Superman extorted the technology out of the aliens. Basically, what Superman does here is demand that they use their technology to heal the old man and then require the aliens to use the billions of dollars worth of gold that they brought with them to Earth to reopen the factories and develop their advanced technology for use by us humans. So, everything is so syrupy sweetly wrapped in a bow. The aliens are after-the-fact "paying" for the right to immigrate here. The old man is healthy again and working at the new are his former co-workers. New technology is being developed and built to help further our society. And Superman can stand back and smile at another story of the great white savior who knows what is best for the lesser folk and he can start walking off into the sunset....while a menacing Batman looks on. Aren't we all happy now?

Oh...did I forget to mention what happened at the beginning of the issue that made me want to throw the comic away? Yeah, I did. That's the sequence whereby urban black youth (looking to be age-ranged from about 17 to 22) are shown playing basketball. Because, y'know, black kids like to play basketball. And there's one nerdy kid there with his nerd haircut, glasses, and a baggy basketball jersey hanging on his skinny body. Because, y'know, nerds are skinny and wear glasses. The other players, all teh kewl type buff, bald, tatted, etc., mock the nerd and won't let him play because obviously...well...obviously he sucks. Superman steps up in his increasingly un-heroic way and offers to play ball against all of them...including the nerd (who looks suspiciously just like Steve Urkel...because...y'know....all nerdy black kids look like Urkel). The ball players, though, surely aren't stupid. Right? That would be racist to portray them as STUPID street-talkin' basketball players in urban Detroit. So, they make sure and get a promise from Superman that he “ain't gonna fly”. Ah! Now they done gone and beat Superman in the game of street-smarts. Now it's all fair! Five or six street basketball players against Superman and his...super-strength, super-speed, invulnerability, heat vision, etc. Shoot yeah. That's fair. They look so smug because they know that since Superman “ain't gonna fly” then he'll be “E Z pickins”! So....Superman proceeds to use his powers (except for flyin') against these guys and easily defeats them and then, in that demeaning way that a parent might act with a child, he lets Urkel knock the ball out of his hand. And these adult men are so stupid that not a one of them challenges that. They just start treating Urkel like a basketball star because he knocked the ball out of Superman's hand. And Superman looks on in smug self-satisfaction.

The great white savior strikes again.

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