Friday, March 7, 2014

Review: Superman:Lois Lane #1

And so I finally reach the end of the delayed reviews of last week's comics. And I thought I would save the book I was most interested in reading for the end.

After being semi-snubbed in the main Superman comics, I was glad when DC announced this Superman:Lois Lane #1 one-shot special. Lots of characters have suffered under the weight of the dour New 52. Lois, in particular, has been pushed to the side. Like many, I was happy to see this book and hope it is the beginning of many one-shots or even a solo title/mini-series.

I also liked the creative team attached to the book. Writer Marguerite Bennett's work over on the Batman books has been lauded so I was interested to see what she would do with Lois. And the bulk of the book is done by Emanuela Luppacchino, an artist whose work I have enjoyed on covers. On the plus side, it also means the book had an all-woman creative team, fitting for the first lady of comics.

Now the art ended up being a hodge-podge of Lupacchino as well as Ig Guara, Meghan Hetrick-Murante, and Diogenes Neves but the DC style is pervasive throughout the book. No one style stood out as being radically different from the other. As a result the book's look is smooth on the interior. It also sports a sharp cover by Kenneth Rocafort.

The story itself is a dizzying and in-depth look at Lois' life. We see flashbacks of early life, back when mother Ella was alive. We get a better sense of her relationship with younger sister Lucy. We see her attack a story, investigating a new drug on all levels. And we see what it is like to live in a universe like the DCU ... where a story about drugs on the street becomes a sci-fi thriller.

My biggest peeve with the story is the 're-introduction' of Lucy Lane. She was something of big part of the brief Dan Jurgens run on the Superman book and there seemed much more together and more mature than the Lucy we see here. Now maybe I can mentally squint and make them the same person. But I would also hope that DC would remember that the Jurgens' Lucy was out there. That was only a year and a half ago.

On to the story.

We start out with a flashback of the Lane girls, living on a military base, and playing. This opening scene with Lucy being risky, reaching higher and higher, depending on Lois to save her if she falls, permeates the book and helps set the tone. Lois is the grounded one. Lucy is the dreamer.

But this look into Lois' past feels new to me. I don't recall often seeing glimpses of her as a child. I liked seeing her so close to Lucy, to see how they have a code comprised of bits of the languages they have learned on their travels. These two are close.

And beautiful are here, colored nicely in pastels.

We see a similar scene play out in the present. In cut pages we see Lucy running from her apartment to Lois. Men have broken into Lucy's place and kidnapped her roommate. Scared and looking for a safe place, she heads to Lois'.

And so we see her 'fall' again, being caught by Lois once more. (I can't get into Lucy calling Lois 'Lola'.)

I don't understand why Lucy would break Lois' kitchen window to get into the house. I especially don't get it when she says she smashed the window because she didn't want to ring the bell and wake Lois. Huh? I suppose it goes to show how immature or addled Lucy is at this point.

The flashbacks are a nice part of this book sprinkled throughout the issue.

For me I especially love the peeks into life with Ella, who seems to be a supportive mother trying to keep this family together and happy despite their many travels. We learn that Ella is fighting cancer and eventually succumbs. As a result, Lois feels obliged to try and be Lucy's mother and sister ... and feeling inadequate. It brings in a layer of humility and humanity to Lois.

We learn that Lucy's roommate Amanda was in pain, ill, and took some drugs by a physician named Osterman. The drugs helped with Amanda's pain but had the unwanted effect of having her mutate into monstrous creatures. Tonight, a group called the Cartel (including a new character 'The Agent' who has the feel of Codename:Assassin) broke in and kidnapped her.

They also tried to grab Lucy ... although we don't know why right now.

So we move from kidnapping and street drugs to the fantastic.

This is why I love comics.

This is personal ... but it is also a story. A drug cartel is making people into monsters (metaphor?) and then kidnapping them ... in Metropolis? It is time for Lois to investigate. And the first person she calls is her friend and colleague Jimmy Olsen. She needs some tech to record what she is investigating.

There is very comfortable and sweet and believable between these two. My favorite line is Jimmy asking why aren't they meeting in a diner to discuss the details. I really loved this scene.

And I also loved that the first call wasn't to Superman! Lois can do this field work on her own.

Dressing like someone looking for the 'pretty pills', Lois heads into the seedier areas of the city. And just as she is about to score, that Cartel group and The Agent arrive. They grab both Lois and the dealer (who mutates himself in front of her) taking her to their stronghold, in a the derelict remains of tanker ships in Metropolis harbor.

Well, it turns out that The Agent knows that Lois is Lois. And he isn't necessarily the bad guy here. He wants to help those exposed to the mutagen. And the best way to do that is to scoop them up and bring them to therapy.

Hmmm ....

Couldn't he approach the people before he grabs them? "I know you probably don't like turning into Scyther from Pokemon; I can help." That might be more helpful.

And if you are some government sanctioned task force, maybe a cleaner detox facility might be less ominous. How about a hospital rather than the wreck of a ship.

I suppose I am overthinking this. Maybe this group just wants a swift solution and kidnapping is the most efficient way to eliminate the problem. And a 'secret' place would be more anonymous.

It turns out that Dr. Osterman did create the drug and went through all the proper channels of testing. I hope he didn't lie about this 'side effect'.

The drug hit the streets when some thugs broke into his lab and put it on the streets. There is no cure except detox. Interestingly enough, The Agent says that some people die during detox, or die trying to hold onto their new monstrous form. More metaphor for a drug problem.

Lois decides that this solution of imprisonment isn't right either. She breaks out of her cell and frees all the prisoners. A fire fight breaks out with agents shooting guns at crazy mutated creatures.

In the melee, Lois finds Lucy's roommate Amanda and leaves on a giant bug creature which is presumably Lucy's cat who got into the drug.

Again, we go from a very street level plot with a slightly monstrous bend to this shot of a tiny Lois flying on a giant alien bug. This is such a wild story.

And I love that Lois seems to take this all in stride. Riding a giant bug to my apartment ... no worries.

Finally Lois calls in Superman who arrives to find the ships deserted.

This might be my favorite panel of the book. The Agent calls Lois and tells her he is detoxing the victims and will release them when they are normal. He then tells her to keep the story under wraps.

Look at that killer smile on Lois as she says that they don't know her at all. She isn't going to kill a story. She is an investigative journalist. That one panel is pure Lois.

But in the end this is a personal story. The giant bug turns out to be Lucy who dabbled in the drug as well.

Even if Lucy fell, even if she is hurting, Lois is there for her.

I thought this was a very solid issue, showcasing just about everything I love about Lois while giving me a nice peek into her past. The whole 'drug cartel - are they good guys - who is the villain' part of the book was a bit blurry to me. But that is picking nits at an otherwise solid book for Lois fans. I can only hope we see more.

Kudos to Bennett, Lupacchino, et al.

Overall grade: B/B+

1 comment:

Jay said...

Good issue. The drug turning people into monsters reminded me of a story way back when when Lord Satanus was peddling something similar on the streets as Colin Thornton.

Appreciate the subtlety in revealing Lucy's sexuality. Its clear what's going on, but its not the point of the story that her and Amanda are lovers so it isn't bashed over your head.

Also, I have a funny feeling the Agent is going to turn out to be Jonathan.