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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman #706 Superman #706

Superman #706

Scheduled to arrive in stores: December 15, 2010

Cover date: February 2011

"Breaking News - A Grounded Interlude"

Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Penciller: Amilcar Pinna
Inker: Amilcar Pinna

Reviewed by: Ralph Silver

Click to enlarge

Perry White is upset. He sent a rookie photojournalist out to Illinois to get a good photo of Superman during his walk across America. The young man, Sandeep, returns with a shot of Superman flying, but taken from the rear; what Perry calls a "butt shot". Perry is livid.

These are hard times for the Daily Planet. Like most newspapers today, the Planet is struggling financially. Ad revenues and subscriptions are down. Perry is feeling the pressure. It doesn't help that his two best reporters are on the road covering Superman, leaving Perry to suffer without his stars around for support.

Lois calls in, which brings a smile to Perry's face and seems to lift his spirits. She promises a hefty story on Superman's impact in the heartland. Clark Kent has also been submitting stories about Superman's walk, which Perry calls "gold".

Ron Troupe enters Perry's office with bad news. Jack Hoffman, a young blogger whose "Urbanitis" web site is devoted to finding and revealing political or corporate scandal in Metropolis, has put the Daily Planet in his cross hairs. Hoffman is heating up his blog with allegations that the Planet is bribing Superman for exclusives, and that Superman and Lois Lane have an "unprofessional relationship". Perry resents the innuendo directed at his ace reporter. Ron leaves Perry alone so that the Editor can find a solution to the problem.

When Perry summons Sandeep to his office, Jimmy Olsen thinks the young man is about to get fired. But instead, Perry White wants his photojournalist to go undercover at Urbanitis, to check out their methods, goals, and sources. Perry is very upset that this blog site can accuse the Planet of unprofessional behavior without producing any evidence.

Sandeep heads to the office of Urbanitis to ask for a job. He makes a good first impression on Jack Hoffman, who reveals that the evidence about Lois Lane is a candid photo submitted from a fan via a social networking site. In his conversation with Sandeep, Jack reveals himself to have a strong rebellious streak and a lot of anger towards the establishment.

Perry calls Lois on her cell phone. She is rushing to catch a flight, but is caught off guard and stops in her tracks when Perry tells her about the web site that is planning on posting compromising photos of her and Superman. Perry sounds very concerned. He pledges to support Lois, but wants to know up front what the photos will show. Lois is a bit flabbergasted, but swears to Perry that she has never compromised her journalistic integrity.

Sandeep checks in with Perry, saying that Jack is planning on posting the photo the next morning, with lots of fanfare. Perry, getting desperate, tells Sandeep to set up a meeting with Jack before the story goes live.

Suddenly, Superman is in Perry's office to discuss the situation. Superman starts to defend his professional relationship with Lois, but Perry cuts him off, not wanting to hear a confession about anything inappropriate. The two of them acknowledge that the reputations of Lois, Superman, and Perry are all on the line.

The next morning, Perry and Jack have their face-to-face meeting. When questioned about a minor financial irregularity, Perry admits that he has been siphoning his own money into the Planet's expense account to keep the summer internship program afloat. Jack, who may have thought that the opposite was happening, that Perry was embezzling funds, cannot hide his surprise. Perry denies that the Planet ever bribed Superman for a story.

Jack produces his photographic evidence against Lois and Superman; a photo supposedly showing Superman and Lois in a very passionate embrace. But Sandeep steps in to reveal that the photo is a forgery; an image of two other people that has been Photoshopped to look like Lois and Superman. Jack is surprised that Sandeep was a mole, and is shocked that his "evidence" was faked.

Perry suddenly has the upper hand. Jack is suddenly afraid of a lawsuit, for preparing such a libelous story without any hard proof. Perry demands, and Jack promises, a public apology and retraction on the Urbanitis web site before the day is through. Then, in a masterstroke, Perry offers Jack an internship position at the Daily Planet next summer, saying his knowledge of new media will be helpful. This maneuver completely disarms jack, and therefore solves Perry's problem.

Pleased with himself, and momentarily imagining that all of Metropolis is giving him a standing ovation for his smooth handling of this crisis, Perry steps to the window for his "curtain call".

5Story - 5: I really like this story. After 15 months of stories about Superman off of planet Earth, followed by stories of Superman traveling across America, it is refreshing to have a story centered at the Metropolis Daily Planet once again.

Writer G. Willow Wilson, who two issues ago gave us a terrific Lois-centric story, offers up a gem here about Perry White. Perry, of course, represents old-school journalism. He has thrived for years in a journalistic world that followed a set of rules that he had mastered. But the rules are changing. The Internet has changed the game completely. Whereas, for example, Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein back in the 1970s needed ironclad evidence and corroborating sources before their editors would let them go public with their Watergate allegations; today, anybody with a web page can get on their soapbox and begin pontificating or muckraking. There are of course, many reputable bloggers who have integrity. Then there are folks like Jack Hoffman, who merely have an axe to grind. The Internet can give people like Jack Hoffman a lot of power and influence to be destructive with lies, innuendo, or just poor judgment. Even Superman says "There are plenty of things in this world that scare even me... and the Internet is one of them". Recent news reports about the WikiLeaks situation have shown that Superman is not exaggerating about the power of the Internet to further an individual's agenda.

So it is up to Perry to defend against these allegations that the Daily Planet gets its Superman exclusives through improper means, and that Lois and Superman have an inappropriate relationship. What makes these charges so ironic, and the threat so ominous, is that the phony story has a ring of truth to it. The world does not know that secretly, Superman and his spouse are on the Planet payroll. Lois does of course have an intimate relationship with the hero, but there is no infidelity involved. When Lois gets the phone call from Perry at the airport, her jaw drops, because she does not know if somebody snapped a photo of her and Superman in a private moment; and if so, she does not know how she will explain it without a lot of embarrassment and damage to her reputation; and a possible risk to her husband's secret identity.

I love human interest stories that feature one or more members of the Superman family facing and handling some personal crisis or issue. It has been a long time since we have been treated to a Perry White story. Although he is old school, Perry shows that he is able to adapt to the realities of new media, and play the game skillfully. Although he is outwardly gruff, Perry is inwardly loveable. Reading this story, you cannot help really sympathizing with Perry as he deals with these very unfair and undeserved allegations. I loved the final panel, and felt like applauding Perry right along with his imaginary audience.

I am quickly becoming a fan of writer G. Willow Wilson. In this story and "The Road Least Travelled" two issues back, she shows her penchant for natural dialog, and for creating suspense from everyday issues and concerns. I hope we are treated to another one of her "Grounded Interlude" stories before long.

4Art - 4: Although no particular panel stands out, I thought the artwork was solid throughout.

I was intrigued that Pinna chose to draw Cat Grant so that she resembles her character on Smallville.

4Cover Art - 4: On this symbolic cover, Superman kneels in front of a map of the USA, stretching his cape out as if to protect his adopted homeland. I love maps, and like this image.

3Cover Art (Alternate Cover) - 3: Superman stands in front of the opening to what appears to be a bank vault. Bullets bounce off his torso. This is a pretty nice image that has absolutely nothing to do with the story inside or the "Grounded" storyline in general.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2011

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