Friday, January 3, 2014

Review: Superman #26

Superman #26 came out this week and was the first issue post-Krypton Returns for the character. I had lots of issues with the story-telling in that arc and was glad to see it put behind me.

Writer Scott Lobdell may have felt the same way. There is nary a mention of the crossover or the story in this issue. You would think that meeting a version of his father, battling a warped megalomaniac like H'El, and bringing about the destruction of Krypton again might have effected Superman. Instead, we simply move forward.

That said, this issue has the most Lois in it since the inception of the title. Moreover, Lobdell informs us more about the Clark/Lois relationship. You really get the sense that both them realize that something could have happened between them but nothing ever materialized. For the most part, this all felt quite natural with only one moment sticking out as feeling a tad off.

Kenneth Rocafort has the issue off. Ken Lashley provides the art in this book. His style is a bit rougher and less stylized than Rocafort's but it works here. There are some nice small art flourishes in the book that complement the words nicely. And Lashley uses Rocafort's unique panel layouts to give the book a sense of artistic continuity.

The issue opens with Clark having a quiet night at home with Wonder Woman. I suppose Lobdell is trying to show us that there really is a romance here, that these two are a true couple. But it still feels a little bit forced. Clark made her rhubarb soup, something that Diana begrudgingly tries, the implication being that if it weren't by Clark she would never try it.

And she can't stay because she has to battle a demon horde, unless Superman can tempt her otherwise.

It still doesn't feel right. They seem too different to click romantically. I mean even their wardrobe says it. He is wearing his glasses and dressed for a comfortable night at home. She is in her battle gear ... for a romantic dinner. Other than the clear physical attraction here, I just haven't found a hook as a reader that makes me think this would work.

But it is here that I wish Lobdell inserted some reference to Krypton Returns, even if it was a phrase saying they had talked about it. ("After seeing Krypton destroyed again, I needed some comfort food ... rhubarb soup.") Instead, it feels as if that didn't happen at all.

But Clark's temptations are rebuffed by the arrival of Lois' astral self. While Lois' body might be in a coma, her Brainiac-enhanced brain is still tremendously active. She still has psionic powers and therefore sends her spirit/astral form to Clark.

Clark pauses to talk to Lois and Diana excuses herself so they can have some private time. This was one of the moments that felt a little bit off, a little below Diana. There is no doubt that her expression is one of a spurned lover, jealous. And the clenched left fist does little to take away that impression. This felt icy to me.

And maybe jealousy in this scenario is a normal reaction. But I don't need Diana and Lois to be vying for Clark's attention while being catty to each other. It diminishes Diana.

But the Lois and Clark side of things seems right. These two obviously care about each other. Even if this is a Lois-ghost, they hug. She needs him to be a rock for her, to tell her that everything will be okay.

Funny how comfortable this relationship feels in comparison to the 'hot and bothered' but unseemly Clark/Diana one.

I guess even bumbling Clark could feel the tension as Diana walked out of the room. Lobdell has her in the bathroom adjusting her tiara when Clark arrives. Maybe she should have said she was going to powder her nose?

He asks if this Lois interruption is okay and she says all the right things, sealing things with a kiss.

This still feels off to me. I suppose this also is what would happen in real life in the early parts of a relationship. It would feel more normal to me if I thought they were on a solid foundation.

Superman picks up the Lois astral form (out of habit) and carries her to the hospital where she is staying. She laments being able to read everyone's minds all at once. She can see the horrific things happening but can't do anything.

She asks Clark how he can deal with it and he gives some good old fashioned Pa Kent wisdom. 'Do what you can' is different from 'Do everything'. I agree. Superman can't be everywhere or do everything. But I'd actually like to see this explored a bit more some time. How does he prioritize? Is he constantly scanning?

I thought it was a nice moment.

And then the odd moment. Outside the hospital window, Superman and Lois overhear General Lane (visiting his daughter) that he is going to take up the empty Senate seat left when Senator Hume died (of Brainiac poisoning). That is a nice future plot. Clark wonders if he can run with the story on his blog since it was obtained via super-hearing.

He then asks Lois if she will run with her story ... that Superman is Clark ... when she awakens.

Look at that middle panel. An angry face and an 'absolutely Smallville'.

Not 'I need to think about it.' Not 'my journalistic ethics say I have to' with a troubled expression.

Nope ... anger and a derisive 'absolutely Smallville.'

Even if her integrity says she should run with it, I don't think she should be angry or insulted.

As off as Diana's clenched fist was above, this was even more off.

But then Lobdell seems to right the ship.

We had an issue where Lois and Clark seem to be friends, maybe wishing there was more.

Then the odd angry moment.

Then this moment where Clark tells Jonathan that Lois loves him, not Superman. You can see the 'what might have been' look on Clark. Helping Jon was the right thing to do to help the Lois/Jonathan relationship. But it might not be easy. Maybe Clark wishes he was at that bedside.

It makes me think the Lois/Clark romance isn't quite dead yet.

In a bit of exposition, Dr. Veritas reveals that Lois isn't healing, but transforming.

I don't know why this should necessarily be a surprise to Superman. In Action Comics Annual #2, Lois told him that all the 'Twenty', the Brainiac infected citizens, were transforming into giant headed freaks. He has seen the 'true form' of the Queen Bee. I suppose hearing that it is happening to Lois at least makes it official.

One part of this issue I have been neglecting is the new Parasite being drawn to Lois' hospital.

It turns out that her power is like a beacon to the Parasite. Here he is draining her.

I suppose it will be an simple answer on how to cure her. She can be drained of all the Brainiac energy. She will probably lose her memory from that time. Everything nice and easy.

It will leave a bloated psionic Parasite for Superman to deal with.

It reminds me of this arc from the mid 1990's where Superman was overcharged and needed to be drained by the Parasite.

So after a rough 'Krypton Returns', this was actually a mostly decent issue. I thought that the Lois/Clark interaction was actually handled fairly well ... outside of that irked 'absolutely'.

But it also once again showed me just how awkward the Diana/Clark romance reads. It just never sounds natural or right. And it seems to make the characters seem lesser than what they should be. Wonder Woman is just not right here.

And even the slightest mention of Krypton Returns would have been appreciated, some reminder that this story happened, mattered, and effected Superman in some way.

Overall grade: B-


Martin Gray said...

Great review. I try to forget Lois and Superman's Nineties encounter with the Paradite - yipes.

Stephen Mitchell said...

I was frustrated by the sad puppy face look on Clark. It seems that, much like Azzarello, Lobdell has his own directive. I do not want a love triangle.

Overall, I like the story he's telling outside of the emotionally unavailable Clark Kent. I think that Lois being determined to tell the secret with no remorse is an expression of "I can't believe you lied to me". She feels betrayed and plans to expose him. As you predict though, I imagine that Parasite will cause her to lose her memory.

Anj said...

Mart - I think you mean the Loeb/McGuinness story where the Parasite 'became' Lois and slept with Clark as his wife. Brrrr ...

This was before that.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comment Stephen.

I suppose that betrayal might be a good reason for Lois to be irked. Her response/expression seemed out of left field given the hugging/fawning she was doing the rest of the book.

It seemed harsh.

But as you say, it is probably temporary!

Anonymous said...

Ugh, to me it seems that Wonder Woman's only role in the Superman comics, and maybe even in Superman/Wonder Woman, is to remind people that they are in a relationship. Does Superman show up in Wonder Woman's comic and remind people that he's her boyfriend? Hmm? Is DC going to rename her comic "Superman's Girl Friend: Wonder Woman"? What's next? "Superman's Pal: Lois Lane"?

And Lois Lane! She does realize that if she runs the story, she would be killing Clark Kent, right? Clark was totally going to tell her, and Lois knows it. "Best Friends Ever" indeed. (I swear, if this Parasite storyline ends with Clark and Lois's relationship being just like Kal and Kara's relationship, I am going to SO miffed!)

Speaking of which, so does Kal or Kara even care about all?

Lastly, congratulations to Parasite (J.M. Allen) for being even more power-hungry and stepping his game up. He'll definitely have a promising career as a professional super-villain. Hopefully.

Jay said...

Wonder Woman's role in SM/WM is not to remind people they are in a relationship. That's silly. She's very much part of the plot. Here? No, not so much. But she's not supposed to be. This is a cameo appearance at best, don't see what's wrong with that.

Anyway, like most Lois's seeming intent to reveal Superman's secret was indeed a strong oddity. That's very out of character for her. I mean, its not like she found out her best friend's alter ego was someone distasteful or dangerous. She's close with both identities. She has no reason to want to hurt his secret for a story.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Clark on the Superman beat before he quit the DP? Lois is probably questioning his journalistic integrity. For her, all of the reports he did on Superman are in question now (or for as long as she remembers Clark and Superman are on in the same.) That scene did read a bit off. She would have more likely said "I don't know." Clark's her friend but she should be questioning if she should be unbiased. She'd probably just let the story go once she woke up from the coma (and still remembered)

Pre52 was Lois still on the Superman beat, once she found out about the secret identity? She shouldn't have been.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

Jay, I think part of the problem about WW is that she is a cameo here but comes off as a jealous woman instead of a noble one. I know the next page is her saying that everything is okay and she loves Clark more for helping Lois. If true, why put in that fist-clenching panel?

I agree that the Lois 'reveal' is strange just in how harsh it was. Even a pause or a 'maybe' or a 'as a reporter I need to' would have been better.

And yes, journalistic integrity is important to her. But it seemed to quick and too severe.

Martin Gray said...

I wonder if the weird Lois moment is the first sign of Brainiac corruption...

Jay said...

The thing about the jealousy...I think its entirely natural. Especially in the way it was portrayed here; below the surface, illustrated in only a brief frown. I mean, jealousy is something no one is immune to, be it rational or irrational. And the fact is Superman and Lois Lane have a public history. Not a romantic one, but close nonetheless. So to me it makes sense that Diana would be on some level a little jealous, but the greater maturity winning over and her taking her leave. It makes her more human, at least to me.

Some sort of Brainiac influence, or infection if you will, being the cause of Lois's show of harshness in regards to Superman's secret, I think is a really good idea, Martin.

Count Drunkula said...

One of many problems I have with the Superman / Wonder Woman "relationship" in the New 52 is that we know they're not going to get married. DC doesn't want its heroes to get married because then they would be lame in the eyes of the 13-20 year-old demographic. So if wedding bells aren't in Clark and Diana's future, they're just f***-buddies. That's what these characters have been reduced to; Wonder Woman is Superman's booty call. Is that really what we want from either of them?

Jay said...

I don't agree with that at all. Its actually kinda demeaning to relationships in general, because the fact of the matter is that plenty don't end in marriage. So by this logic it would mean that any relationship that didn't result in marriage would be deined as "f-buddies". And I think tons of people would take issue with that idea. Fact is there are plenty of genuine, loving relationships where for a variety of reasons marriage never comes to fruition. Its an unrealistic ideal to think that any relationship worth anything has to and always does end in a marriage.

That's putting aside the fact that the "no marriage" edict only applies to present day situations anyway. The thing with comics is that the future, tomorrow, only comes when they want it to come. The future is always at bay. So its not that these heroes can never marry in their lifetime, no one's ever said that. Heck there's been rumors for sometime now that in the five years later storyline the two will have a child.

Count Drunkula said...

Okay, that's a fair point. I shouldn't have suggested that any relationship that doesn't end in marriage is somehow inferior. I don't believe that and I apologize for that insinuation.

But a Superman and Wonder Woman relationship WILL NOT last. In as much as the characters are static properties, nothing changes for very long in comics, so Superman will end up with Lois Lane again. Until then, I personally prefer a chaste Superman. That's not to say Clark Kent can't date around for a little while, but Superman is bigger than that. That Superman--the hero, the symbol, the icon--would have an in-costume girlfriend lessens the character.

Superman's battle is never ending. That's why he puts on the glasses and goes to work at the Planet; it's an escape, a reprieve however brief. Clark's personal life is his respite because Superman doesn't get to take time off to date.

Jay said...

Oh hey its cool. No offense taken here, just a rebuttal. :)

In regards to this current relationship lasting, I guess that depends on what one counts as lasting. If we're talking as long as the post-Crisis Clark/Lois relationship, I highly doubt THAT kinda length. A couple more years worth of current continuity stories? I could see that. But yeah, even without this all-around marriage edict, Superman is the last character I'd see DC wanting to marry off to anyone anytime soon considering how long they played with that prior to the relaunch. He'll be a bachelor for a very long time. Again just counting current continuity, not possible future stories, as they're so fond of playing with these days.

Green said...

Well Superman and Wonder Woman won't last for a long time, it's very hard imagine that this relationship will go past 2015. Their book isn't selling well like batman/superman.
Wonder Woman is so out of place here. she is out of place dating superman lol

Thomas Hayes said...

Veritas 'swam in the mote of God's eye'?

I wonder what on Earth that means. Hope we find out something about her in the next two issues of Supergirl.