Monday, June 2, 2014

Review: Superman #31

Superman #31 came out last week, another chapter in the Superman:Doomed storyline, even if it isn't labeled as such on the cover. It is strange that the Doomed cover dress isn't here because the book is clearly lodged in that story and follows the format of those chapters (including the opening Daily Planet recap page). All that said, this issue really pushes the Lois/Brainiac story more than the Doomsday one so maybe it was a conscious decision.

This is also Scott Lobdell's last issue on Superman! Ironically, it is also probable his best. While this issue doesn't progress the Doomsday storyline that much, it progresses the Brainiac story a bit. But most importantly for me, it includes some solid characterization showing once again how Superman's affliction is effecting those around him. And, the Superman characterization regarding Lois is intriguing. Maybe there is an undercurrent of some Clark/Lois romance?

The art here is split by Ed Benes and Jack Herbert. I have to say Herbert has a solid and smooth style. It is clean and seems to mimic the DC house style with some nice flair. I hope to see more of him soon.

The book opens with Superman in chains, being held and studied in the prison that was built for Lex Luthor. In fact, this page is a clear homage to the cover of Superman #15 which showed Lex similarly bound by chains.

It is a clear sign that the roles of Luthor and Superman have been reversed. Now Luthor is the hero and Superman is imprisoned in a so-called 'inescapable' cell. This holding cell has been put together for the greatest scientific minds to study and hopefully cure Superman of the Doomsday virus. Luthor, Cyborg, Batman, Ray Palmer, and Shay Veritas are all trying to their best ... but to no avail.

In fact, things are getting worse. Intermittently the withering death wave emanates from Superman forcing the group of scientists to be careful and ready to run.

 We see how upset how this inevitable worsening and death of Superman is shaking up his friends. Wonder Woman is putting on a strong face but is saddened. Lex is cautious and concerned. And Veritas is outright upset that she can't figure it out and save Superman. This is the first time I felt that Veritas was a true good guy. Many of her other appearances have been oddly vague as if she might be a villain in waiting. Here she is so upset that she can't help Superman (as he has helped her) that she flings her cane.

I love this panel with her throwing the cane towards the reader, outside of the panel. It adds some dynamism, showing her exasperation. Nice work by Herbert. Love it.

 Superman has asked for Lois to come to the facility to talk to her.

Lois has been somewhat lost under Lobdell. Pushed aside, possessed, comatose, still possessed, she just hasn't been classic Lois here. It has been a shame.

Weirdly, Lobdell decides to up the ante and add a wrinkle to the Superman/Lois relationship - maybe showing that there are some unrequited feelings still there.

Here Superman calls Lois his best friend. And when she arrives, he looks up and smiles. There isn't much Doomsday in this face. This felt classic.

Even Batman knows that there is something is special with Lois. When Lex worries that the withering Doomsday wave might happen at any time, Batman knows it simply won't happen. Superman won't let that happen around Lois.

That hasn't been said about Bruce, or Kara, or even Diana. But Superman won't let it happen around Lois.

Hmmmm. Interesting.

Could this be some foreshadowing of what will happen once Johns takes over? Or simply stating the obvious?

Why did Superman call Lois to his side? With the incurable Doomsday virus progressing, Superman tells Lois to let everyone know that people should never trust him. People will believe it if Lois tells them. Again it shows that somehow Lois is special.

But ...

This is the New 52.

Do people really trust Superman in this universe such that this needs to be said? The military hates him. STAR scientists disrespect him. His JLA teammates don't trust him. And Lobdell hasn't done him any favors. So I don't know if he needed to state this.

Of course, Lois is possessed by Brainiac. While in person she is all nice, on the telepathic realm, in Superman mind, she is green with Brainiac forehead nodes. And on that mind-level, we see her 'astral form' belittling Superman for even caring what people think. She also thinks this is meaningless given Brainiac is coming.

Now why a calculating, cold 12th level intellect's internal astral image would be in a shredded, midriff baring, bad girl outfit, I can't answer. I would think a Brainiac-Lois telepathic form would be in a cold science tunic thing or something more machine-like.

This is Benes being Benes ... and sort of odd.

I don't quite know why Lois does what she does next. She uses her mind powers to plant the idea that the Teen Titans need help fighting Detritus. And with that nudge, Superman flies off, bashing his way out of the prison.

I suppose this might be Lobdell trying to write the Titans one last time? But it seems forced.

Of course, Superman being Doomsday, he crushes Detritus underfoot, smashing a city intersection in the process. Not surgical, but overwhelmingly destructive. And he does it with glee. It shows that the Doomsday virus is progressing.

And then, Superman regains his senses and realizes that everything is wrong with him right now. It is harder to control. And I suppose this scene shows that heroes will now distrust Superman. So maybe there is slight progression here.

Still, this issue shows more of the Brainiac arc than Doomed. I enjoyed that opening scene where the heroes try to help Superman, especially the Veritas interaction. And the Lois moments (when she isn't Brainiac) are very interesting. It seems to imply that there is something special between Superman and Lois. And despite the fact that seems right, it is new in the New 52. It isn't this evident or out front.

The Lois/Brainiac outfit seems odd. The 'tell them not to trust me' seems unnecessary since no one seems to trust heroes in the New 52. And the Titans scene seems forced. Why would Lois know about this ... unless she is psionically scanning the world. And why send Superman there? Especially since she doesn't think anything matters.

Jack Herbert is a name to watch though. Nice art!

Overall grade: B-


Jay said...

I don't get the feeling there is any "when she isn't Brainiac" moments, to be honest. I think she's possessed full-time right now, and her moments of acting normal are just that, an act. Anything else doesn't really make sense otherwise. She just hasn't been written to me as someone who is having periodic moments of genuine clarity, be it from an inner-monologue POV or otherwise.

Anj said...

Sorry ... evidence of my poor writing.

I mean when we see her as Lois (not the Brainiac amalgam), the sentiment by Superman, the evidence of their fondness for each other, is what I liked.

Not Brainiac was not meant to mean when she isn't fully possessed, clearly she is.

Martin Gray said...

Great review, and excellent spot on the cover homage, passed me by completely.

Interestingly, we see the 'Superman looks up' panel differently - sure, there are no Doomsday spikes, but to me looks creepy as well, utterly possessed. Either way, it's great artwork.