Thursday, July 30, 2015

Review: Superman #42

Superman #42.
Lots of info. Felt rushed.
Some good Lois.
Sick of flare.

It's not bad beat poetry. That was my 12 word review of the issue on a Twitter DM last night. And if that is good enough for you, you should stop reading.

I have never really been on board with many of the concepts of The Truth. But I haven't been a big fan of much of Superman stories since the New 52 to begin with. So I have been hopeful that maybe writer Gene Luen Yang would be able to prove me wrong and make this new take of a depowered Superman with no secret identity compelling. And while Greg Pak's Action came close in the first issue, so far this hasn't worked.

Now Superman, as a title, is the foundation for this whole new direction so it crucial that it fires on cylinders. And so far, I hasn't. And Superman #42 is something of an oddly paced mess. There is a lot of information. There is a fair amount of action. There are character moments between Clark and Lois, something I have been craving. But the whole thing felt rushed and has an unsatisfying ending.

I am not a John Romita Jr. fan so his art doesn't elevate things either. I will say that his page layouts here are excellent with a myriad of small paneled pages which accomodates the info dump this issue is.

Interestingly, the best moments of the book are the Lois moments. There is one hiccup in the proceedings but for the most part she reacts appropriately. She isn't happy that Clark has left her in the dark this long. And while the word 'betrayal' has been tossed around a lot for this storyline, I think it is Lois who feels betrayed.

 Last issue, Clark was shot by phony federal agents as he saved Condesa from being kidnapped. It was a good cliffhanger, Clark bleeding profusely in Jimmy's car. The cliffhanger ending is quickly erased though. Clark's powers (diminished from a prior solar flare) return and he heals.

It's a good thing too because 'solidified shadow' warriors attack the group and are quickly dispacthed by Clark. And so we see the origin of the shadow beast Clark fought in Action. But where Aaron Kuder has the shadows look like tar, merging and oozing around, Romita has them stiff and almost glass-like. It is no where near as cool.

Condesa fills Clark and Lois in that she used to work for a group called Hordr. The organization spies on people, has everyone's information, and therefore has control of people ... either through blackmail or deception.

If you gave a big enough secret, like Clark, Hordr will know and take advantage.

But this fight scene troubled me. Without thinking, Clark wades in. Clark! No super-breath to blow them away. No running away so Superman can show up. Clark just attacks. No attempt to keep his identity safe at all. (I understand that if the threat is big enough he has to do this. But we don't even get a caption that he has no time.)

Lois then confronts Clark. She has noticed that Superman is slower, less careful. She has been able to track his movements. She has been able to triangulate. She knows Clark sported similar injuries. She knows the truth.

Now this is the one hiccup for Lois in my mind. This image of her tearing off the ludicrously tattered shirt Clark is sporting over his Superman costume comes off a bit weird. After this opening monologue, she could demand that he show her. She could ask, as a friend, for him to confide in her. But this physical rending of his garments is off.

And why is Clark getting lazier or slower? Because he keeps using the solar flare power which depowers him. And he is using it haphazardly.

Clark does end up taking off the glasses and filling her in.

There is a Byrne-sian sort of moment when she asks him why, as Superman, he would want to be 'normal'. It reminds me of the earliest issues of the Byrne when no one thought Superman had a secret identity. They assumed he was just Superman.

But I do like that Lois also confronts Clark about divulging the secret to Jimmy and not her. Many fans questioned that direction when it happened months ago. Many felt Lois should be the one he confides in.

Now many people know ... especially the leader of this nefarious organization Hordr_Root (from now on called Root for ease of typing).

I think Lois has every right to be angry at this.

Unfortunately, I am building that on the history of Clark and Lois. Because we haven't got a decent understanding of their relationship in the New 52 era because we haven't seen it. Is she great friends with Clark? Is she friends with Superman? We only have the vaguest sense of how they feel for each other.

It turns out that Hordr has a cloaked campus nearby. Condesa can take them there but only if they have special masks that act as entry cards. A side trip is made to the Toyman. He makes the masks which are then programmed by Condesa.

I do like that Condesa has a super-power where she can simply speak code into a device. It reminds me a little of the Danielle Foccart Computo from the Legion. 

Lois, Clark, Jimmy, and Condesa jump on a Hordr company bus and head to the campus. This is a bus driving in downtown Metropolis. By a masked bus driver. I am surprised that these buses haven't been noticed before. Or that someone hasn't tried to get on by accident before. But good for the evil organization to be all about mass transit!

En route, Lois reflexively puts her hand on Clark's. She is nervous heading there. But when Clark thanks her for coming and says he is happy she knows, she calls him on it. How can she consider him a friend or partner if he hid this from her, didn't trust her.

This reveal is fresh. I can understand why Lois' feelings are raw right now.

I wonder about the sanity of Lois heading into a super-villain's headquarters. It doesn't seem safe. But I suppose that's Lois.

Hordr looks like a fun place to work with flying coffee carts and clean grounds. At it's core is an alien hard drive with every scrap of information that can be absorbed. Everything.

And everyone there is being coerced into working there, blackmailed. And Condesa turns out to be something of a turncoat.

She lured Clark there so Root can talk to Clark face to face.

Root tells Clark that he has little choice. He can join Hordr. Or his secret will be revealed and his loved ones killed.

Clark won't join. Because, despite the trappings, Root is just an extortionist.

So what is Clark's idea to bring down Hordr? To literally bring down Hordr, to solar flare and level the campus.


Not super-speed grab Root? Not heat vision the computer banks? Not use his superstrength to destroy to computer system? Nope.

Nuke a campus filled with innocent people being blackmailed.

Why go to that power first? Especially knowing it is in a crowded industrial park? Especially knowing it will depower him in the middle of this place when done?

This is simply being overused.

 So while Superman decides to go to the ultimate weapon, Lois decides to go a bit smaller in scale. Grabbing a hunk of pipe, she smashes Root in the head.

He's just a kid. Or a hard light construction which fades away.

Still, this is a more valid approach then leveling a city block filled with people.

Jimmy gets on the campus communication system and tells everyone to escape. And amazingly everyone does! No one is hurt when Superman brings down the complex. But this is still risky. A worker in the bathroom. Someone with earbuds in listening to loud music. Someone who misses the bus out. Superman could have killed a ton of people with this move.

But mid-flare, a being arrives, seems to drain Superman, altering him, and then walks away. So this is probably the explanation of why Superman can't repower all the way. But what is this thing? Is it part of Hordr? Is it something lured to Earth by the energy of the flare? We don't even get a good look at this thing to know if it is solid or energy.

So how can I sum this up? Well, let's revisit the 12 word review.

Meh. Yeah, there wasn't much of this issue that made me say wow!

Lots of info. Felt rushed. Yeah, we learn a lot about Hordr. We learn about Lois' feelings. We level a campus. But some of these moments and plot threads deserved a bit more room to breathe. I wonder if they are in a rush to try to catch this series up with the rest.

Some good Lois. I thought for the most part Lois' reaction to finally learning that Clark was Superman was real. And her taking out Root was a nice character moment.

Sick of flare. The Superman I know liked to punch up. Liked to use his powers judiciously. He didn't want to willing destroy things or hurt people. He wanted people to be safe. Superman using the flare primarily and over and over ... destroying robots and leveling buildings ... doesn't read right. It feels overused or lazy. I am sick of it.

Overall grade: C-


Martin Gray said...

An entirely fair review, and I do like the different structure. I do wish we could get Kurt Busiek back - he embraced all the powers and used them in fun ways. The current Superman book is depressing and a drag. I want a fully powered here and lots of DP action - heck, we've not even fully met Jacked yet!

Nobile said...

I see I'm not the only one who was puzzled by the whole "revelation" scene. OK, I'm not reading the storyline, I'm just spoilering my way to a possible trade paperback, but I assumed Lois was already aware of Clark's identity!
Seriously, the man beating down a horde of robot-killers with a blue alien armor peeking out of his torn shirt, and the pulitzer-winner journalist going "Mmm... something's fishy, here..." What's this, The Naked Gun?? This is going far beyond the "I don't wanna see things" issue!
This whole thing is really "silveragish" and not always in a good way...

Anonymous said...

Great review which pretty sums up my feelings.

Martin, funny you should mention Kurt Busiek because that is the last time I wholeheartedly anticipated and enjoyed reading Superman. In my opinion he melded the Bronze age with a modern sensibility. I was *not* happy when he was taken of the title.

As you can see, I still have a little rage left around all this. Okay. Focus. Superman 42.

I agree there were some good Lois and Clark character moments that have been missing since Flashpoint, which in a sense is its own problem because since we haven't had these character moments it felt shoehorned in to the story.

We haven't seen them consistently interact on page in any meaningful way to give depth to relationship we're told they have.

The reveal itself was odd for all the reasons you mention, Lois ripping off his shirt was just plain strange.

I did though really enjoy the Jimmy/Lois banter that went on especially now that they both know. This is another relationship which has been sidelined post Flashpoint and seeing it however briefly made me realize how much I've missed them working together.

As single moments go, I really enjoyed the final scene with a worried Lois. Of course the glaring "Betrayal" panel after it was obnoxious.

After reading this book I'm thinking this might be a wikileaks scenario where Lois just dumps all the information Hordr has horded (idiotic name for an evil entity) and oops, Clark is caught up in that.

Martin had mentioned that Condesa could be the real Hordr_Root (stupid stupid stupid name) and I agree. It seems really obvious and heavy handed if she was but frankly this whole issue read like one big sledgehammer.

I really look forward to next month when this book catches up (it is next month right?) because this whole thing is getting on my last nerve.

Finally I agree, this story felt rushed and I thought, anti climactic.

Caoimhe said...


Zoraida said...

Good review!

Is not news that I really dislike this Truth arc since the moment it was announced. hate the premise, hate the way Lois was sold as the "traitorous friend" who outed Clark to the world for fame and eventually the poor execution Superman's creative team put into this story. This issue is not the exception, the only moments I truly enjoyed were the Lois & Clark panels, I could truly understand why she could feel upset, hurt and disappointed in Clark's "betrayal" to their friendship. A friendship that we were just told was there, but never shown before, and suddenly they were talking and having this chemistry that even Condesa noticed? Okay. I am not complaining about it, in fact these Clois moments were missing in Superman's stories. Sorry, not sorry Wonder Woman. The interaction between our fave gang: Clark, Lois and Jimmy was very enjoyable.

But outside these moments, it's very hard to find the issue and writing positive enough. We never got an explanation why the 4 of them ended in that hill, what happened to Clark who was bleeding on last issue, there were a lot of holes that as usual we won't get the answers to. Clark has being very sloppy protecting his secret identity, so issue 41 ended with him injured and bleeding and on this issue he was just there totally recovered in front of Lois and Condesa who by the way watched him bleed. It doesn't make a lot of sense Clark trying to protect his secret identity when he is reckless when and where he uses his powers. I always knew that new power was going to be the end of Superman. DC and writers are using it like the new toy, until it gets forgotten by overused. Maybe Romita Jr loves it so much because it has been his only contribution to Superman.... who knows.

This is the second issue for team Yang & Romita Jr., and so far they haven't given anyone a good reason to believe they could do justice to Superman. It's all editorial's mandate. My only hope is that next issue finally shows Lois' reasons to outed Clark, and they better be a very good ones. DC can't afford to keep in this path of alienating female readers with the constant sidelining and poor choices in narratives for their First Lady.

Anonymous said...

@Zoraida: I am speculating Lois puts out all the information Hordr has collected to cut the organization at its proverbial knees. Once the information is out there they no longer have the power to blackmail.

Of course the downside of this strategy is now everyone knows what you were trying to hide. ;^)

If this is what happens? Embedded in there is,I think, a really fascinating story about privacy and data in a world where control of our own information and privacy is an illusion. Even when somebody is using an alias on-line (a disguise, secret identity, etc), people who know what they are doing can figure out a lot about each other.

Instead of framing this as LOIS THE JEZEBEL BETRAYER which is how the publicity around this has felt to me at least (my perception only, others may see it differently) I wish it was put forth as a story with multiple viewpoints on how we as a global society are evolving in our perceptions around privacy and information control as technology advances.

The proverbial barn door was open so long ago but we (global we) are really only just now coming to grips with the changes.

Anonymous said...

Hordr seems like a jab at Google (right down to the company bus), now that would be funny, considering that the Google motto is "Don't Be Evil," while Hordr does nothing but evil.

Jay said...

I think the pacing needs some work. There's a great outline at work here but its developing a little slow. Maybe this would be less of a problem though if fans didn't already intentionally know the big happening. But since we do maybe it'd have been prudent to just get to it rather having to wait three more months for it. And there's also a few logistical oddities, namely how ho-hum Clark was at the beginning of the issue about 3/4 of the top half of the Superman suit showing. I mean no, you don't see the S, but still, he doesn't even try to cover up, and Jimmy doesn't mention it. I can see why Lois wouldn't as she already knows at this point and is just waiting to call him on it, but odd that Clark or Jimmy didn't really care.

The flare...I agree its overused. I could theorize that maybe he's using it so much because he's getting his body used to it, but that has some holes of its own. Overall though, this is the last we're gonna see of it for a long time, so I can't muster much care about it anymore, other than kinda hoping its gone for good once his power set comes back.

Aside from that though, I'm intrigued with the concept of Hordr, and look forward to it being fleshed out more, and even more intrigued that it appears to be a specific person who's responsible for Superman's power loss.

In the end, this isn't up to snuff with Action yet, but it has some good concepts, and hope it matures further and makes good on those concepts.