The Truth, the major new landscape of a depowered Superman whose secret identity has been revealed to the world, is now officially 3 months old. But it is only now, three months in, that we finally see how the world learned that Clark was Superman.
Superman #43 came out this week, written by Gene Luen Yang with art by John Romita Jr. and inker Klaus Janson. And this is a tough issue to review. We have known since the end of Convergence that it was Lois who was responsible for the reveal. We have seen Clark snub her. We have seen this action labeled a betrayal. And we have been dealing with a New 52 universe where Lois has been pushed to the background so far that fans are waiting for her character to be sullied even more. This issue is basically a Clark and Lois issue, a full story of these two characters interacting.
Amazingly, Yang writes a great Lois in this issue. We see how much she cares for Clark. We see how strong she is. We see how great an investigator she is. We see how smart she is. This read and felt like Lois. And that made me happy.
Unfortunately, this is contrasted by Yang presenting Clark as being stubborn and, frankly, stupid. And I mean ... I don't understand almost anything Clark does in this issue. He simply gives into the villain, doing everything Hordr asks him to. He doesn't listen to Lois. I'm not asking for the super-intelligent Silver Age Superman. I'm asking for a seasoned hero using some common sense. And there was none of that here.
Yes, Yang does a great job inserting some super-Easter Eggs. From Quarms to Boeuf Bourgignon, there are some cute touches. But this Clark ...
And the John Romita Jr. art here looks completely rushed and rough. I have never been a fan of Romita's work. But this looks almost like rough layouts in some places.
Last issue, Superman brought down Hordr's base with yet another super-flare. And we saw him drained by some sort of odd energy creature. This issue opens in Lois' apartment where Superman has been unconscious for days recuperating from that flare. Lois, Jimmy and Condesa are there as well.
The passing of these days seems to have softened Lois a bit. Last issue she was angry that Clark would keep this secret. Now, after seeing images of Superman being tortured (a flashback to early Morrison Action), she realizes that she can't be part of 'brutalizing' Superman.
She promises to keep Clark's secret.
The tears might be a little much. But it shows how much she cares.
It is pretty simple. She likes Superman. She likes Clark. She almost fell in love with Clark. And if she can like them separately, she can like them together.
Of course, Yang has this Clark immediately think that Lois is making a play for him. I love how Lois shuts that down, maybe in a little bit of a snarky way. Again though, this really is a nice moment for Lois.
One thing we learn here is that despite the time off, Superman still hasn't completely regained all his powers. He can be stabbed with a fork. He can't fly.
Hordr isn't going to go away easily. Jimmy vomits up a tiny little Hordr-bot he had inadvertently ingested. And this bot co-opts Lois' phone.
Using it as a communication device, Hordr shows Clark that he still has copies of all the images that would reveal his secret identity. Superman has to show up at another secret base or else.
Clark immediately agrees.
It is up to Lois to remind him that he doesn't need to give in completely to Hordr's demands. Why not investigate Hordr a bit? Why not find a weakness? Why not go a bit slow? It all sounds reasonable. Because why would you give into Hordr without pause?
Lois convinces Clark to bring her with him when he goes so she can help.
So hooray again for Lois.
Inside Hordr's lair, Clark is led off to meet with Hordr.
Lois also sneaks in and snoops. She comes across a body, burned out, drained, tied to a chair.
My initial thought was that this was Ulysses, captured somehow by Hordr and sucked dry of all his hyper-energy.
But it is clear, what ever this chair does, whatever this process is, it is lethal.
Clark is led into a room that looks eerily similar to that last one. Clark allows himself to be strapped to a similar looking chair. He is surrounded by Hordr's Quarmers, energy storage experts. And Hordr asks Clark to demonstrate his solar flare power again.
And here is the thing ... Clark agrees.
Despite knowing that one of these things drained him and changed him (remember, stabbed by a fork moments ago), despite knowing that giving Hordr this energy will give the villain incredible power. Despite basically aiding Hordr, Clark agrees.
Yes it is great that Yang names them Quarmers, a throwback to the Sand Superman story I love so much. But why would Superman do this?
After seeing the drained dead guy and now this set up with Quarmers surrounding Superman, I was reminded of the scene in Howl's Moving Castle where the Witch of the Waste is drained of all her power.
And so Superman flares and the Quarmers (who now look like the Destroyer in the first Thor movie) drink in all that energy.
Lois runs in and knows that this could end up with Superman dead like the body she tumbled upon. If his identity being a secret is the only thing keeping Superman in that chair then she will take that stumbling block away. She send the pictures of Clark changing into Superman to the web.
She posts the story to save him
Not a betrayal. Not because it is a huge story.
To save him.
But the art here is so sparse. That Lois panel is pretty rough.
Knowing his identity is revealed, Clark breaks out of the chair and bashes the Quarmers. Hordr teleports out.
So all that is left is Superman being angry at Lois. Even as she tries to explain why she did it, he just keeps yelling. His friends will now be in danger. But Lois knows, that his friends would put themselves in danger to save him. And that he means so much to her she is willing to do that.
On cue, General Lane and the military shows up. How the heck did they know that is where Superman was? Were the helicopter engines idling on a nearby base so they could streak there? It seemed fast.
And before Lois can talk about the burned out husk of a man tied to a similar chair, before she can explain it all, Superman leaps away saying having Lois in his life is a mistake.
So I started out saying that this was a tough issue to review. It is a tough issue to grade. Because finally ... FINALLY ... we got an issue truly starring Lois. And Lois is presented wonderfully. So hooray for that. Truly.
But this is undone by the inane presentation of Clark who is willing to stick his head into the lion's maw, to do whatever the villain wants him to, to not listen to his friends, to not think through the problem.