Superman #18 came out this week and with H'El on Earth behind us, I was hopeful that things might be moving forward and in a better direction.
I was wrong.
Now maybe I have been sensitized by Scott Lobdell to be hyper-critical with his books. I think his take on Superman is simply so far removed from what I think Superman should be that his books are always going to fail for me. There are parts of this book that just feel wrong. Superman shouldn't be feared by the world. He shouldn't sneer at Congress. Clark shouldn't be confused by 'Earth feelings'. Nor do I think that he should be approached at a club by two women looking for a threesome.
And maybe all of those things make me 'old-fashioned'. Maybe I am out of touch. I don't think so. I certainly like my anti-heroes in other titles. But Superman shouldn't be a grim avenger who frightens the world. Because that isn't Superman.
The good news is that there are some things in this issue that feel right. Supporting characters Orion and Cat Grant are written well. And there is a Lois sighting ... and she is doing some reporting! Plus Lobdell also introduces us to a perfect deus ex machina to eliminate almost all the things that bug me the most about the book.
The art of the book is split between Tyler Kirkham, who has a soft pencilish feel to his work, an almost Francis Manapul type vibe from his Senate scenes. And the New Genesis scenes of the book are beautifully rendered by upcoming artist Aaron Kuder who brings a more Frank Quitely/Geof Darrow detailed work on his pages. I think Kuder is coming on the book as regular artist. The nightclub scenes are slickly done by Robson Rocha whose work shines with inker Jaime Mendoza, looking sharper here than he did on Supergirl #18.
The book starts with Orion back on New Genesis, fighting a giant dinosaur-like crature which is threatening Undertown. Unlike his time in Wonder Woman, this Orion read like the troubled son of Darkseid, doing the right thing by defending the town but then yelling at those he saved for not fighting harder.
He has been called back to New Genesis by Highfather but he misses the complexities of Earth and its people. Interesting that a god would find us fascinating.
My worries here is that Lobdell's Orion will sound nothing like Azzarello's version. One of my bigger problems with H'El on Earth was the complete inconsistent characterization of the players. I can only hope Lobdell has at least flipped through WW.
Meanwhile, Superman has been called in front of the Senate. Our government has decided that the 'Fortress of Solitude' is probably just that ... a Kryptonian Fortress, a weapons cache from which Superman can start his plans of world domination. They throw his granted American citizenship in his face and demand that international inspectors get to see and catalogue the contents.
I mean, it makes sense that after 5+ years on Earth as a hero and having not done any imperial maneuvers, that Superman would want to conquer. Yeah, I am being sarcastic.
Then, to make matters worse, Superman not only refuses the inspectors (saying it is safer for inspectors not to know), he sneers at the panel and says all they will get is his word. Because that is what I want my Superman to do ... sneer at the US government and refuse to be open. Sarcasm again.
And this isn't new behavior as Perry White says Superman isn't a good diplomat. Because that's what I want my Superman to be ... a poor communicator who rubs people the wrong way. Sarcasm trifecta.
Everything about this felt wrong. And don't tell me because it is 'realistic'. You know what isn't realistic? A guy who can bench press islands with laser vision. I don't need pure realism here.
Lastly, how about ... given how much we see people who are afraid of Superman ... we see the other side. How about we see some Senators, citizens, international figures who come to the defense of Superman.
At the very least, we get to see that Lois has left her television producer's desk to return to her investigative reporting roots. While she still is working for Morgan Edge, she can still work for the Planet.
It is all too brief. But at least we see a Lois searching for Truth and not snarking about ratings and texting her boyfriend.
The bottom line is this Senate scene is nothing I want to see in my Superman. My Superman is 'here to help' and is considered the pinnacle of selfless heroism.
Back in Metropolis, Clark decides to meet Cat Grant at a trendy club to discuss their future together.
Read those captions and you will understand why I think Lobdell simply doesn't get Superman. "The longer he's lived on Earth, the more he's come to understand their desperate need to connect to one another."
Ummm ... he has lived on Earth all his life. This is his world, his country. He has nothing to compare it to.
And the fact the he says 'their need' speaks volumes. Not his need, or our needs, but their needs. Because he is different and considers humans different.
Now I know he is different. But part of the joy of Superman is that he was raised here, has the upbringing of the Kents to form who he has become, considers himself one of us, and embraces Earth as his home. Not looking at himself as different and above the petty clutching of those of us who aren't invulnerable. It is wrong.
And now Clark is being propositioned for a menage a trois. Because I want that in my Superman books too! Sarcasm quadrophenia.
Cat shows up in a little black dress and tries to talk to Clark about what they should do since leaving the Planet.
I suppose I don't know enough about their relationship but it struck me as odd that Clark immediately thought she was hoping to get romantic with him. Makes him seem a bit smug.
I don't want a snivelling, meek, 'running to the bathroom from stomach pains' Clark. But sure don't want a cocky one either. Where is the small town humility?
And after his passionate speech about truth in the Daily Planet, after the only person who stood with him was Cat, he belittles her plan to actualize it. When she shows Clark her idea of a news/entertainment blog call ClarkCatRopolis.com (and I thought Comic Box Commentary was a tongue twister) he says she shouldn't have wasted her time on a joke.
That just isn't being a good friend. And it is thinking the worst of people's intentions. All this after she supported him so much.
This is another one of those moments that shows how Lobdell just doesn't get Superman.
While on the rooftop restaurant, customers begin to jump off en masse forcing Superman to fly down and save them one by one. When he puts them back on the roof they simply jump off again.
Using his powers, he realizes that the music the DJ is playing is somehow tapping into the minds of these people. Stop the music, stop the roof diving.
So instead of hitting the off switch or unplugging it, Superman decides to immolate the music system. That is what our smart hero decided was the right move ... to light a fire on a skyscraper roof and destroy equipment. Now I know that unplugging something isn't dramatic ... but this seemed foolish. And the poor DJ. Hope he can afford a new rig.
And it seems like Lobdell has just decided to pile on.
The people that Superman saved from splattering themselves on the pavement think he pushed them They talk about how no one can stop him and about his 'ice dungeon'. Yeesh.
And, as if it wasn't bad enough that Clark snubbed Cat, Superman does as well.
Ahhh ... but then a ray of light parts the dark clouds.
Hector Hammond seems to have active brain waves when all this is happening. Maybe he is responsible for all this negativity. Maybe he didn't just make those people jump. Maybe he made them fear Superman too. Maybe he is making the Senate so wary. Maybe he is nudging Superman into be a jerk.
Hammond could be a reset switch, a deus ex machina to set things right.
Okay, I can hope.
And in another epilogue just as intriguing, a new Highfather shows Orion an image of Earth exploding, the result of a threat on Earth. The threat? Superman.
One thing I will say about Lobdell ... he aims big. Another planetary threat and now a New God gunning for Superman. There is potential there for a big story.
Still, the problem with this issue is that Superman, again, comes off as aloof and kind of angry. Clark comes off as a bit of a narcissist and kind of a jerk. And for me that will never read right.
On the other hand, Orion, Cat, Highfather, and Lois all read on the money. I am afraid this simply might be that Lobdell and I have very different views on Superman. As a result, I fear that his stories might never jibe with me.