What happened to the Superman titles? I'll be the first to admit that when the "World Without Superman" storyline was announced, I was excited. Geoff Johns and Gary Frank were knocking "Action Comics" out of the park, James Robinson and Renato Guedes were coming into their own on "Superman," and Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle were a dream time on "Supergirl." But now? If "Codename: Patriot" was supposed to excite me about the Superman titles, it didn't work.
With each new issue of "Superman" feeling more padded than the one before, I had thought that "Superman" #691 would at least have a little more heft since it was the conclusion of "Codename: Patriot." Instead, though, it's more padding, with two of the more lackluster cliffhangers I've seen in a while. Mon-El's ultimate fate appears to be so badly telegraphed it's not even funny. When a comic book villain actually says out loud, "I think we can turn off the cameras now," minutes before the hero is going to be blown to pieces, well, it's slightly cringe worthy. I appreciate that Robinson isn't going to flat-out cheat and have General Lane supposedly see the death of Mon-El that is later undone, but this moment is a little too blatant for any experienced reader. As for General Lane's huge plan, it's a strange combination of a, "Huh?" and "That's it?" reaction when it's all said and done. Part of it comes utterly out of the blue (and in a bad way), and the other part feels like an old cliché trotted out, but without even a convincing way of getting there.
Guedes' pencils at least look nice in "Superman." They're full of Guedes' normal high standard of crisp, clean lines, and I like that even when he draws a two-page spread he manages to push 12 panels into the big picture. Guedes is a real boon to the "Superman" books, and I'm hoping his upcoming absence is only temporary. Guedes himself doesn't draw the full issue, unfortunately, but Eduardo Pansica does a good job. It's a shame they couldn't find someone who draws more like Guedes, mind you; Pansica has a much thicker line weight, with a more solid, stocky look for his characters. He's definitely good enough to draw more, although I'm hoping the lack of backgrounds on a lot of his panels had more to do with pinch-hitting to fill in the missing pages than anything else.
"Codename: Patriot" was supposed to pump up the Superman titles again and get things rolling, but it feels the other way around. It's made me feel less-than-charitable towards "Superman" and "Action Comics" and wish that "Supergirl" and "Superman: World of New Krypton" could somehow pull entirely free of their department-mates. This was a massive disappointment. Supposedly things are going to pick up with some more big stories, soon, and I sincerely hope that's the case. At the moment, though, "Superman" seems to be determined to make its readers really miss the titular character.