It's taken a few issues for James Robinson to get warmed up on this series. He started slowly, with some awkward characterizations and the belabored battle with the shirtless Atlas. But with issue #681, he's fallen into step with the Geoff Johns-led direction of the Superman universe.
You can tell without even opening the cover. Just look at the "2" inside the shield beneath the issue number. The "New Krypton" one-shot was the beginning of a new era for Superman comics, in which all the main titles -- "Superman," "Action Comics," and "Supergirl" -- will link together to form a near-weekly saga of the time the Kryptonians kind of took over the Earth.
At least, that's what I assume is going to happen now that one hundred thousand full-size Kandorians have been transplanted to Antarctica. In this issue, we're just at the "Meet the Parents" stage, when the Kandorian delegates wind up shaking hands with George W. Bush. But even the JLA and JSA are nervous about so many super-powered Kryptonians hanging out on planet Earth, and they tell Superman as much in an airborne intervention (riding atop Wonder Woman's invisible jet, no less). Robinson establishes their concern efficiently, and gives Superman a chance to justify his actions, but part of the problem with the scene -- and the whole issue in general -- is that it feels a bit stiff and formal.
Geoff Johns may be guiding the Superman ship, but his infectious pulp dynamism hasn't translated through to James Robinson's script here.
It's still the best issue of Robinson's run, though, bringing in a wide-array of characters and setting things up for the possibility of future excitement. And I won't give away the details of the final few pages, but when a gaggle of Kryptonians turn to look at a threat that makes Superman shake in his boots, it makes for an intriguing cliffhanger.
Renato Guedes's art still doesn't look quite right -- although the inks by Wilson Magalhaes seem a bit tighter this month -- and I think that's largely because of colorist David Curiel's over-reliance on a shade of sickly yellow and a compulsive need to overly render color details when flat tones would look so much better. But the art team makes a flock of flying Kandorians look colorfully imposing, and that's an important part of making this story work. At least everyone's wearing a shirt this time.
The Superman comics, at least in the post-"Crisis" era, have tended to lock together to form one continuous superhero saga, and it's nice to see that tradition renewed. I hope it works out better for this group of writers and artists than it did throughout the 1990s, when the Superman titles fell into a dull, repetitive trap, and the numbered shields on the cover signaled that each issue was more of the same.
With Robinson joining team Johns, I don't think that will happen this time, but we'll have to wait and see. This issue, however, offers some hope that things might be different this time.