Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Review: Superwoman #3

Superwoman #3 came out last week and this book remains one of the more interesting reads of the #Rebirth new titles. Writer Phil Jimenez started the book with a bit of a 'bait and switch', hinting this was a Lois book and turning it into a Lana book. And from looking at social media, it looks like that was something of a hit or a miss. Lots of folks seemed upset.

As for me, I like Lana so I didn't mind the switch. Plus, having two Loises running around the DCU might have been complicated.

But more importantly, I like good stories. And Jimenez is really shining here. Lana is Superwoman. But she also is emotionally fragile. She is suffering.. She is on medication. And yet, we see that she still thinks there is a stigma to mental health issues, hiding her condition from those closest to her. She seems to have swings in her mood, flaming angrily and then shrinking with insecurity. I don't think Jimenez has labeled Lana's condition but it mostly seems to be PTSD and/or depression. And this foundation of the character makes Lana feel very fresh.

Jimenez also has included a tremendous super-villain for the book. This isn't a side book in the DCU. This is immersed in Superman mythos. This book will have repercussions in all the Superman issues.

The art this issue is done by Supergirl/Starfire alum Emanuela Lupacchino. The art is lush and beautiful. The energy-based action is really done well. But it almost feels too beautiful. This is a gritty sort of look at super-heroics. This feels almost too polished.

On to the book!

The book starts with a flashback of Lana being hired by George Taylor to be a roving science reporter. I like how he puts her in the Neil Degrasse Tyson ranks as someone who can bring hard science to the masses.

There is a 'real life' feel to this interaction. Initially Lana is unsure if she wants the job and responsibility but she is swayed by the salary. Plus, she thinks it is a way to help change some lives. She wants to be a 'regular person' hero even before she gets her powers. I like that core of Lana.

We then catch up to the present where Superwoman and Steel are battling the Atomic Skull. The Skull has been claiming that he has been abused at the Luthor-run Stryker's island.

Regardless of his claims, Lana isn't going to let innocents be threatened. She isn't going to monologue or dilly-dally. Her style is 'sweep in, sweep out'. And she keeps falling back on the expectations set by Lois when alive. This is what they were meant to do.

This leaning on Lois and her example is such a nice touch. This isn't 'I will be like Clark.' It is 'I will be like Lois.' That is a subtle but key part of this book, being very woman-centric.

And check out the art. All of this is just eye candy. Love it.

As for the villain, it was revealed last issue that Lena has been working behind the scenes, creating the E3 Superwoman clones and attacking Lex.

And she has changed. She isn't crippled. She isn't comatose. She has linked to the Mother Box Lex has been using for his armor. And she isn't happy.

So much of this is fantastic. I love that the Mother Box isn't 'ping ping ping'ing away. It is saying 'Lena' over and over. And I love that Lena can control Lex's armor and uses it to cripple him. Turnabout is fair play.

And I love the art. her body language is fantastic. Confident and defiant all in one.

Lana continues to batter the Skull.

But we start to see how she is hiding things from those around her. She talks about how her medication is helping her think clearly. But she hasn't told Steel. They are in a relationship and she is hiding that from him.


She should be looking to those who love her for support. Is she embarrassed? And why is that?

Eventually the Skull stands down. He relays all the horrific things done in the Luthor prison. He was made to be the power source. Others were beaten.

As I keep saying. Lana is pretty complex. She isn't a pure hero. She is still learning. She actually says that maybe the villains deserve it.

It is Steel who reminds her that this isn't right. They deserve better.

This is just another layer of complexity with Superwoman. She is trying to be the best she can be. She isn't there yet.

And then we head back to Lena.

She was aware of her surroundings in her nutrient tank. She knew that Lex had tried to use the Superman energy (the same energy that powered Lana and Lois) to help her. But he failed.

Somehow she is awakened and finds herself out of the tube on the ground. The Bizarro-Superwomen come to attend to her.

And then we see just how mad she has become. She blames Lex for all the problems in her life (which might be true). She thinks he didn't try hard enough. And her intelligence has been expanding.

She is outright frightening.

Back in Metropolis, Lana and the Skull team up to restart the Metropolis power plant (which had been stalled by Lena's EMP).

Again, Lana's thoughts show how fascinating she is. She lets herself loose to jump start the plant. (It is a spectacular splash by Lupacchino.)

But despite that success, we see that Lana  is preoccupied. Will she die? Will she die like Lois? Will she get sicker??

This overwhelming thought of 'what if' plagues her.

Flawed is the wrong word. But Lana is complicated. She is layered and nuanced. And all of that makes her story very meaty.

Finally, Lena reveals her new identity of Ultrawoman. Her hair is wig. She summons a very similar appearing armor. She locks Lex away in the basement of his own building. She has attacked him on all levels - the ship attack, the prison discovery, his own helplessness - and has been devastating in her precision.

So overall, this, like the others before, was a very dense read. There is a nice back-and-forth look at Lana and Lena. We get to contrast Lana's power/helpless feelings with Lena's power/megalomania. And we get to drink in all this luscious art.

This isn't a title you can flip through. You need to dive in and take your time. It is a deep story well worth reading. What does everybody think?

Overall grade: B+

1 comment:

Martin Gray said...

Lovely look at a great issue, Anj, Phil J and co are really giving us our money's worth - this book is just packed. I wish the people who decry the book for its opening twist would see that this is still a Lois book, she informs every issue.

I especially like how this feels like a World of Metropolis series, with its use of favourite locales and characters.