Friday, May 25, 2012

Review: Superman #9

Superman #9 came out this week and was a dense issue which started a couple of new plot threads and moved a couple more forward. One thing that I will say about this issue, it made me feel like there was a long term direction for this book. With several storylines brewing, all of which have their interesting points, it felt like I could settle into this title a bit. And then I remembered the rumors that a new writer, Scott Lobdell, is going to be on coming on board in a couple of months.

Writers Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen are at their best here. We have a couple of plots for Superman as well as the supporting cast. And we have solid characterization for everyone as well, getting a sense of how tough and ethical Lois is, how young and impetuous Jimmy is, and how put upon Clark feels.

Dan Jurgens and Jesus Merino provide the art here and, much like last month, it has a bit of a rough and rushed feel in some places. And unfortunately that distracts a bit. The layouts and character positioning all work. If only the finished piece matched.

One thing that I did notice is that this cover is different than the original one solicited back in February. I wonder if DC realized that having Superman fighting with a woman with a 'Hurt Me' t-shirt isn't a very good image. It's too bad that the context of the image is wrong because the composition of the fight on a street while people click away on their phone cameras is solid and much more visually interesting than the new cover of Superman carrying a submarine.

The book opens with Superman rescuing a Russian submarine. The sub is stuck against an underwater rock outcropping, its hull breached, its soldiers in danger.

But there is more to this than meets the eye. Given the size of the hole, Superman surmises the sub must have been traveling at extremely high speeds. And the crew are worried that Superman will discover what it is they retrieved. So ... any guesses?

It is a decent scene as we see Superman use his powers in variety of ways - low level heat vision to soften the hull metal, high intensity vision to arc-weld the hull closed, and good old fashioned punching to free the sub from the reef.

What didn't sit well is the Russian Captain reference the Lone Ranger. In this day and age, who references the Lone Ranger any more?

Meanwhile, back in Metropolis a publicity-hungry blogger (aren't we all) named Victor Barnes is pitching a story to Lois. He is convinced that Superman has a secret identity and he has proof of who it is. Lois doesn't buy it, wondering why Superman would have time to be anything else but Superman. When he is unable to produce the proof, Lois shows him the door.

It reminds me of the earliest Byrne stories where no one thinks that Superman has a secret identity. Even when a computer told Luthor that Clark Kent was Superman, Luthor refused to believe it saying someone like Superman would be using his powers all the time. In this new DCnU, Jimmy thinks that Superman lives on a tropical island surrounded by models.

But it is good to see Lois stick to her journalistic convictions, refusing to go with a titillating and unproven story which, while good for ratings, didn't pass the sniff test.

When he tries to help the Russian sailors more, the sub captain asks Superman to move along, making Superman even more suspicious. A lead lined sub traveling at high speeds and shooing away the hero who saved them. Something doesn't sit right.

One thing that made me pause was Superman thinking 'not too paranoid' as he mulled over the curious matter of this sub. Do I want a paranoid Superman? I don't think he is paranoid; he knows the sub is hiding something. But I don't want a public that doesn't trust Superman and a Superman that doesn't trust anyone.  That doesn't sound like a Superman book.

Back in Metropolis, a new super-villain raids a bank vault. It is clear this young woman has issues with her father. And she has a curious set of powers. She apparently has super-strength, smashing open safes. So she can touch things. But nothing seems to be able to touch her. When she is fired on, the bullet passes through her.

She is right to call this Metropolis policeman trigger happy. I mean, she might have grabbed some jewels from a safety deposit box (a pendant she claims is hers) but she is unarmed and not threatening anyone. To fire on her seems premature.

Back at the planet, Clark has some explaining to do. Not about his whereabouts while fishing the Russian sub free. Nope, he has to explain to Lois why he forgot to pick up Lucy. Look at that second panel. Brrr .. talk about the cold shoulder.

One thing that struck me here was that there seemed to be a feeling of repressed romance from Lois here. She is upset that he forgot about Lucy (which to be honest sounds like something you would ask a significant other to do, not a friend). She worries that Lucy will maintain this first impression of Clark being a screw-up (why is Lois so concerned about what her sister thinks of Clark). And to make things up she invites Clark to buy her and Lucy an expensive dinner. It sounds like she is trying to show off Clark to her sister. It felt like she had stronger feelings than just friendship here. And that, of course, flies in the face of the recent Idelson interview where he said a Clark/Lois romance would NEVER happen while he was editor.

I did chuckle that the restaurant is Carlini's, a nice homage to long time Superman editor Mike Carlin (whose nickname was The Great Carlini).

When news spreads of the young thief Anguish reaches Clark, he decides to engage.

Again, her powers are interesting. Superman can't touch her, either with fists or heat vision. But she can touch him and lays him out with a series of punches which floor him. How can she pack such a punch?

I have no idea about how this power can be explained but I am sure her father has something to do with it. 

In the meantime, Barnes has dropped down a journalistic rung and heads to Morgan Edge to pitch his story. And Edge decides to run it. Barnes believes a video game designer named Spence Becker is Superman. Barnes has pics of Barnes getting dressed or undressed in a Metropolis alley where Superman has been seen. Why the heck is Barnes in that alley in some degree of undress. That better be explained.

More importantly, it is revealed Becker has a family. I am sure that his wife and daughter will be put in peril next week as vengeance-craving criminal decide to go hunting. And I bet that somehow Anguish's father issues somehow play off Becker's daughter's story.

So, certainly a lot is happening in this issue. But as I said, these all add some depth to this book. I especially appreciated the time devoted to the Daily Planet staff, especially Lois. Am I the only one who felt there was some romantic sentiment bubbling under the surface?

After the two-part Helspont story and now this world-building issue, I am confident that a Giffen/Jurgens led book would be fantastic. We'll have to see if the Lobdell rumor comes to pass.

Overall grade: B+


Gear said...

I wonder why we're seeing more characters in the DCnU having "Daddy Issues"? That was a story point in many of the early issues of the last run of Supergirl, then it became "Mommy Issues", now it seems to be spreading like a virus. It's as if the only way you're allowed to love and respect your parents is if they're dead, like the Kents or the Waynes. It just seems to be an odd choice for a recurring character theme, unless the idea is to give the reader a conflict point he/she can "relate to". The problem with that is some of us actually liked our parents, so it's a hard one for that part of the audience to relate to and in fact makes the characters seem petty and overly self-involved rather than heroic.

I think the thing with Lois was that she cares for Clark, and that could develop into something more. But it could also mean that right now she just wants to see him happy, and was thinking of setting him up with Lucy. I'm finding that interesting, I hope it doesn't get lost if there's another writer shake-up. One thing the Superman book really needs is a regular writer to give it some long term consistency. I was looking forward to seeing the Giffen/Jurgens pair on Superman for awhile and seeing at what they might bring to the table long term. I'd like to have some plot points like this bit with Lois that don't resolve for awhile, storylines that are regularly referred to but not finished in a couple of issues, and the chance to see character relationships change over time due to actual events rather than a writer declaring it to be "just so." I hope the Lobdell rumor isn't true mostly because I want to see the current team be given a chance to do that rather than being quickly rushed out the door to make way for someone else.

Martin Gray said...

Nice one Anj, this is indeed a rock solid issue. It's fun to see an old favourite Silver Age plot - the nobody mistaken for Superman - reworked for today. Maybe Spence is a hero or villain (or robot) in disguise - or it was simply hot at lunchtime and Spence had taken his tie off for a bit!

Dante said...

Nice one indeed.It's nice to see how good this Superman title is progressing with this well composed team.Superman or rather Clark feels timeless but new at the same time in each issue.

Seems to me though as if Lois cares more for her own good and image,rather than Clark's,kinda like : "Because you made a mess,I have to hear my annoying sister preach me to death,so I'm venting my anger to you!"I know it;s not the best thing for anyone to do,but if Lucy's treatment before Flashpoint is any indcation,I can understand...not like we've seen much of her so her character is based on assumption.

As for the Lodbell rumor...I really don't want it either.I'd rather he stayed as he is now,with Superboy,Teen Titans and Red Hood.He is more fit for rogue heroes and young teams rather than someone so solid and timeless like Superman.

Marc Burkhardt said...

I just can’t take that stupid new costume. I’m sticking to the Golden and Silver Age guy …

(Surprise, surprise…)