Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Review: Superman #704

From the beginning, one of my problems with 'Grounded' has been the lack of Clark Kent and Lois Lane in the story. I mean the reasons why I think Superman is grounded is because he lives half his life as one of us, he loves one of us, and so he understands what it means to be us. In many ways, Superman is a just a guy trying to help people, albeit with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.

Maybe this storyline isn't about his need to be grounded but about his need to atone for all the New Krypton mess, his disconnect from his adopted planet while he embraced his native one. But that walk seems to be at the expense of his loved ones who he has connected with.

Superman #704 was an interlude from the main 'Grounded' storyline and focused on Lois and how she is reacting to her husband's walk across America. Written by G. Willow Wilson and drawn by Leandro Oliveira, the book is basically Lois wondering what would have happened if she took a different path in life.

I have some problems with the issue mainly around the characterization of Lois who seems incredibly unsure of herself, a stark difference from the extremely confidant and happy Lois I have been reading since ... oh ... forever.

The issue starts with news that Superman's walk across the nation is taking him through Indiana and Lois' home town. Lois is on the scene to cover the 'action' and the tour through her old haunts seems to stir some nostalgia. She remembers her ambitions to leave those little town blues and see if she could make it in Metropolis.

At least here, in this early moment, she recognizes the immensity of her achievements. She has made her mark on the world. She has a proud half smile on her face and she should.

But things change a bit when she runs into her old beau Brian, complete with cute baby and successful career as well as some current members of her old sorority.

These interactions claw at what are apparently a couple of insecurities inside Lois. The first is whether or not she would be happier with a more traditional family, a home ... kids ... a loving husband who totes their cherubs around Main Street, Small Town USA.

The other is that despite all she does and reports, she is pigeon-holed as Superman's 'Girl Friday', a woman who is simply known as being an extension of a man.

I suppose we all have some questions inside of us ... the classic Talking Heads 'How did I get here?' question, wondering how life evolved to put us where we are. And of course, the follow-up thoughts of 'what if I had ...?'. It just seemed off coming from Lois.

Brian continues to be a charming and wonderful, inviting Lois to his home for dinner. There Lois meets what appears to be the absolute perfect family. Brian is the dashing, loving husband and father. His wife Huong is a successful architect, loving mother who can cook a mean lasagna and serve it up too.

They seem to have it all ... and are able to do it soooo effortlessly. It is enough to make Lois wonder how they ... and in particular Huong ... are able to swing it.

Of course, Brian can't help but ask if Lois is planning on a family. It is a cringe-worthy moment as Lois stammers about how she and Clark can't have children. Embarrassed, Brian drops the conversation.

I suppose the question caught Lois off guard but I don't recall her talking about this openly before.

And then, Lois continues to question everything about her life.

Maybe bringing news to the masses, winning Pulitzers, helping the world ... maybe that doesn't add up to much. Not when she sees this version of the 'idealized' American family. This just doesn't sound like Lois.

Worse, she buys into the 'Girl Friday' remark realizing she is 'standing behind a man' to achieve her goals. This is made worse when she realizes that people don't know her for anything other than her Superman stories, even if she has covered other important stories.

And yet she has shattered the glass ceiling, becoming a newspaper reporter who is known world-wide and easily recognized. Is this a fair self-assessment?

Left alone with her thoughts, Lois really bemoans her life. Her house is empty ... no kids ... husband off saving the world. Is she trapped in walls of her own making?

Umm ... isn't she living the life she dreamed of? Should these questions be bubbling under the surface?

It really seems to be a pity party.

Of course, the grass is always greener. In what seems as unlikely a turn of events as Lois' questioning her achievements, Brian and Huong have an argument while Lois is in the kitchen. I mean ... wouldn't they just wait until after cake, when Lois has left, to have this discussion.

It shows Lois that no life is perfect. This idyllic small town existence ... this 'perfect' marriage is a mirage. These people have questions and problems of their own.

Lois leaves the house and takes the patented and somewhat hackneyed dramatic long slow walk alone, looking out at still water, and contemplating her thoughts. Maybe she doesn't have the white picket fence and the 2.5 kids and the mini-van ... but she has love!

Even she realizes that is a pretty cheesy line.

And then, swooping in, is her loving husband. The two talk a bit about missing each other. Lois, maybe unsure of Clark's love, asks if he needs her.

Of course, he needs her. In fact, he tells her that she is what keeps him grounded! Okay ... then why walk? Anyways, with love reaffirmed, they fly off to enjoy an evening together. And just like that, Lois' worries disappear.

As a forty-year old man, I am probably the worst person to review this issue ... maybe the least well-equipped. I don't personally know the pressures that women feel as they try to juggle all the aspects of their lives. Maybe what Lois is feeling is natural.

But as a comic reader, who has read Lois stories for three decades, I can say these questions and concerns didn't sound right coming from her. Maybe it was a perfect storm to whip up these feelings ... the return to her home town, the perfect ex-boyfriend and his perfect wife with their perfect 2 kids, the perfect family house with the perfect lasagna ... maybe all together it would make Lois wonder 'what if ...?' And then those questions are all swept away by the warm confines of Superman's brawny arms and a quick 'I love you'. Even that resolution seemed wrong ... too easy and too sweet to simply sweep away her worries.

I hope I am not sounding like a boor. I hope I am not missing something elegant here. But this didn't seem like Lois. I am willing to say that she was having a bad day like we all do. But I hope this line of thinking in Lois doesn't continue.

Leandro Oliveira seems to be a product of the Ed Benes' school of art. The facial expressions in particular look like Benes' work.

Overall grade: C+


valerie21601 said...

It sounds like Wilson doesn't know a thing what it is like at all for a woman, who can't have a child or the children she really wants to have when they couple is sterile together.

I read somewhere that Superman and Lois Lane won't be allowed to have their own child for whatever reasons DC Comics gives for it.

One story I would like to see about it that DC will most likely NEVER will touch on. Is that Lois Lane can have a child of her just not with Clark.

Saranga said...

I really disliked this. The feeling I got off it was that Lois now thinks that a successful career is worth nothing compared to love, children and an "idyllic" homelife.

I am not denigrating choosing to have children, I am not saying a loving relationship is not important. I don't think a career trumps either of those, but I also don't think having children trumps a career, (for someone who doens't have kids).

Different people have differennt desires and wants, and up till now I'd seen Lois as proud and confident of her career and her achievements. This issue seemed to erase all that and seemed to be saying that her career and work was inconsequential. That irked me.

valerie21601 said...

Personally, I have seen what a family member went through when she and her husband learned they couldn't have kids as a couple, together, over the years.

They faced the options of adoption (domestic and overseas), picking a donor, test tube baby or go childless.

Many women who appear to have it "all" do get shaken to their core and question what they really want and need where it concerns having their own baby and many do think about the path not taken but it does get to a point where one has to move on with it and make a decision of how they will handle their future as a family or not.

They did take the path of overseas adoption and now they have 3 lovely children, who now call them "mom and dad".

It simply wasn't handled well in this story.