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.