Yay! We're off and running! (Ok, you be Joe Casey, I'll be Matt Fraction. Deal?)
There's two things to say about this. First- "realism" in comics is a tricky one to pitch. I think that Credulity is the thing that people are referring to here. Naturally Superman flying around is almost ignored in his titles (I think it'd look kinda unnatural to see him just walking for an entire issue), but people get bent out of shape about what it means for the continuity when Batman has a yellow oval on his chest or not. Realism isn't one of the traditions of the genre.
That said, I agree that people shouting "Rape? Pfft, lazy writing" are not really looking at things properly. The fact is that sex and death are pretty much all the mainstream fiction is selling, and it's not lazy to try and make human brutality relevant and affecting to people who can play pool with planets. That's a tough gig.
I think the problem so many people had with Meltzer was that, without question, he wasn't writing within the genre. And possibly that could be considered, if not lazy, then perhaps ill-advised. To reverse the situation; movie thriller, a sexual predator stalks the streets. The female lead is pursued, threatened, taunted and intimidated. The police can't catch him - he seems to know their every move. Is there a mole in the department? Is the girl's cruel elder brother involved somehow? Did we ever see the body of her father. Finally she confronts her foe, and it turns out, the reason he always got away, the reason the victims never saw him coming, the reason there were no foot-prints at the crime-scene;
He can fly.
No matter whether it retains the essential Serial Killer vibe or feel, no matter how well-written the film is or how well executed the direction (and yeah, I know, that'd be a tough one to write well and maintain the tension, go with me, it's an analogy fer cryin' out loud...) it's not really a reasonable way to resolve the story. No comic-book reader would, having read a few hundred Superman stories go "Oh yeah, now that's writing outside the box!"
The credibility of the story rests, to a certain extent, not on meeting the expectations of the audience (and a lot of the audience had their expectations challenged by IDCrisis, and if they didn't like that, tough booties), but meeting the expectations of the genre. And the DCU has been around long enough to have established fairly clearly its own rules of conduct.
And, y'know, I'm not saying that the DCU shouldn't be shaken up - it totally should. If Sandman proves anything, its that a reinvention can work beyond the dreams of all men. But there's something about it that seems to be less about showing us a new facet of these superheroes, and more about generating a great big shock-and-awe assault on them instead.
"SHE GOT RAPED!"
"Ok, that's got the column-inches, back to the conflicted superhumans."
I'm not saying it's unrealistic, I'm saying that maybe there's better ways of starting and ending stories. It IS big, but not clever? :)
(Having said that, the ending *did* seem lazy. "She tricked and murdered and ruined lives... because she wuvs her widdle ex-husbwand. Awwwww... isn't that just typical of those crazy mixed up emotional women? Tsk-tsk." Colour me unconvinced...)
On the flip-side, the great value of that book was the elaboration of Superman's character. Yeah, we know he has super-hearing; he MUST filter stuff out, conciously or unconciously.
What else might he not have wanted to deal with?