Superman Doomed is over! Or is it ...
Action Comics #35 came out this week, labeled as a Superman Doomed Aftermath and is such and up and down issue that I feel completely torn about the story it tells. Settle in. This is a long review.
Greg Pak has been a welcome change to the Superman creative teams and his earliest issues with artist Aaron Kuder simply crackled. Back then it felt like Pak walked on to Action, removed all the gunk and tarnish that had been heaped on Superman since the inception of the New 52, and put this glowing polished character back on a pedestal. He got Superman. Here was a Superman, remembering lessons from Pa, battling to save all life, and enjoying his pursuit of truth, justice, and the American Way.
And Pak also got points from me for bringing back Lana Lang as a strong, independent, highly intelligent character. Lana was inspired by Clark to go out, explore the world, and do good as best she could ... an everyday hero electrical engineer.
Then Doomed happened and suddenly the Super-books entered the maelstrom of Doomed. Suddenly the unique feeling of the title sort of slipped away. With the crossover finished, I thought we would get back to Action. And in some ways we did.
We get a great Supergirl. We get a fantastic Lois. We even get some good Superman. On top of that, Pak begins excising some of the metastases of Lobdell's run. Hurrah.
We also get a bitter, disillusioned Lana. And a snarky Batman. And some bad Superman too. All of these feel like steps backwards.
The art is split by Scot Kolins and Vicente Cifuentes. Kolins art here looks much more fine and sleek than I am used to seeing from him recently. And Cifuentes has an Eddy Barrows feel to him. So the book looks beautiful.
The book starts with a bearded Clark, sitting in his apartment in the dark, typing away at a piece called 'Who needs Superman, anyway?'
You can tell the tone of the issue just from this. Clark, bearded as if in mourning, wallowing in the darkness, steeped in self-pity and hatred.
So Pak throws us a curveball. After months of Superman fighting endlessly, tirelessly we see him suddenly beaten down. And this after saving the universe!
We skip back in the recent past. Superman, battered, bearded, returns from deep space where he (as Super-Brainiac-Doom) threw Brainiac into a black hole. It has taken some time to fly back to an Earth that he is unsure even survived.
As he enters the atmosphere, a WayneTech satellite blasts him with Kryptonite energy.
Finally, falling to the planet, he is met by our first bright spot of the book. Supergirl!
She streaks up to him, carries him to the ground and comforts him. And she sounds downright heroic. Yes, 13 thousand died. But billions ... heck the universe ... was saved. She flies him around the planet, showing that everything is basically intact.
But there is bad news, some of which was welcomed by me as it cleans things up a bit.
The phantom zone projector, an overused device in recent storylines, imploded during the action. It took a chunk of the Fortress with it including the intergalactic zoo, Non, Mongul, and Xa-Du. It also got Kandor. And it got Shay Veritas.
So let's go down the list.
Kandor going missing seems premature as we hadn't really seen much of it outside of Morrison's run. That said, Lobdell had the Kandorians awaken from their suspended animation. (Remember that plot point ... never addressed in Doomed??) Maybe Pak just wanted to remove that remnant of Lobdell completely.
Xa-Du had escaped in Doomed (remember that dropped plot point?). So don't know why he went back to the Zone (although Supergirl says he is 'missing'). Mongul and Non getting trapped isn't a big deal.
But ... wasn't Wonder Woman IN the zone? Weren't Batman, Steel, and Lana IN the Fortress? How did they escape.
And ... this is my big gripe ... isn't Shay Veritas stuck in The Block, in the center of the Earth? Her presence in the Fortress was just a hologram ... right? So how did she get grabbed.
I liked Veritas and thought she was growing a bit as a character. Sad to see her go and hope it isn't for too long.
Less than 100% in power given how much it took to get home, Clark decides to investigate the aftermath of the Doomsday/Brainiac attack. He reboots the Fortress AI, knowing that will 'heal' the place and decides to see if any danger still lingers. He tells Kara to meet him back at the Fortress in 40 days (a very biblical number).
And he decides Smallville, the first city to go comatose, is a good place to start his investigation.
One thing I have enjoyed about Pak's run is his revisiting a key moment in Clark's childhood. When Clark's heat vision first fired, Pa actually ran to him, hug him, love him. He didn't run in fear. We have seen Pak revisit this moment a few times, again here.
The bottom line is Pa thought Clark's presence was a gift. Not a curse.
It is a lesson I thought Clark had learned.
Just when sweet nostalgia is about to overwhelm Clark, he runs into Lana. Initially it seems like a nice reunion. But then Lana drops this bomb.
She is upset at Clark for not being able to save her parents, one of the 13 thousand who perished. He shouldn't have missed them in his efforts.
Lana seems downright bitter about the whole thing. How could Superman not save her family?
It seems so odd given everything we have learned about this Lana. She is the one who has traveled the world, into the stars, trying to save people. She has used Clark as a role model to reach out herself. It just seems beneath her to blame him. Maybe it is transference since she herself wasn't home to save them?
And it comes on the heels of her telling Clark to kill Brainiac last issue.
Where did the Lana from the early Pak issues go?
Picking up on the vibes from the Doomed issues, we learn that Lana and John Henry Irons are now romantically involved. And they are in Smallville helping the community pick up the pieces.
Suddenly, Clark doesn't feel needed in Smallville. Other heroes are here. So he leaves.
Then he goes visit Batman.
And Bruce is completely a jerk. He K-scanned Superman before entering the world to make sure there was no Doomsday spores. And Bruce feels that the world (and it is implied by the stern look in the second panel that he also) blames Superman for the badness that happened in the world.
Why does Bruce and the world feel that way?
Superman was almost a non-factor in Doomed, controlling the infection, leaving the planet, attacking Brainiac's ship when out of control. And ... let's not forget ... SUPERMAN SAVED THE DAY!
Bruce was right there! In Doomed he talked about being inspired by Superman! He was the one who knew Superman was the only one who could save the day! Why the reversal?
At last ... AT LAST ... there is a voice of reason.
Clark actually posts his 'Who needs Superman' article on his blog and Lois comes to confront him.
And this is pure Lois. I love that she is the only one who has the nerve to tell Clark that his beard is ridiculous (everyone else compliments it).
And she tells Clark flat out he is wrong about Superman. That Clark doesn't understand Superman. And that if Clark is going to 'click-bait' then Lois is going to battle him. She calls it a war.
"I feel like I've lost and found my best friend in the same instant." Great line.
Of course, the memory of Clark's secret identity is gone, another erasure from Doomed.
And then we read Lois' response. Yes, she could easily point out that other super-heroes ... inspired by Superman ... have picked up the slack while he was gone. (She includes Supergirl! With a nice shot of Kara saving a child!)
But really she wants Superman to come back and see how humanity has pulled together.
This reminds me ... and should remind Clark ... that his feelings, his ethics, his need to help people were lessons learned from his Earth father, from his human roots. Superman inspires humanity. But it is humanity (like Pa) that inspired him to be a hero.
I am thrilled to see Lois back in a Superman comics acting like Lois, without psionics, kicking butt. And it is a great response. Hey Superman, how about shaking off the ennui, self-pity, and emotional doldrums and be a hero?
We don't see Clark's response to Lois' words because instead we see Lana's response.
And frankly, her response sounds completely out of character from everything we have seen from Lana since her return to the book.
"And if you keep saving us, we're going to get weak."
Does that sound like the woman in the sinking oil tanker who ran into the flooded engine room? Does it sound like the woman who cobbled together an electricity gun to fight subterranean monsters? Does it sound like someone who took off into the stars? Has she acted like someone who passively waits to be saved? Who would tell Clark to stop being heroic?
I can only hope that this is a play off of her first lines here. Maybe this is self-loathing transferred to Superman. We'll see. Because this doesn't sound at all like the Lana I have loved this last year.
We end with a zombie-like cliffhanger.
This was really an up and down issue.
We have a number of Doomed elements cleared from the decks, some in odd ways.
I love Kara, Lois, and Superman.
And I don't love Lana and Superman.
Overall grade: B-