Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Review: Superwoman #5

Superwoman #5 came out last week and was another issue jam-packed with story and character moments. I have said it before. No one gets better mileage out of 20 pages than Phil Jimenez. Between scene changes and inset panels and dialogue/text, each issue of Superwoman has read more like two issues than one, especially in this era of decompressed storytelling.

We take a bit of a jump from last issue's end. Lena Luthor, as Ultrawoman, has completely taken over Metropolis. Areas of the city are placed in force field boxes with wonky time rules. The Bizarro Women are roaming the streets to shut down resistance. And Superwoman and her group of heroes are trying to strategize what the next steps are. In some ways, that was exhilarating. We were thrown into the chaos and had to scramble a bit to make sense of it. That felt sort of real. In other ways it was confusing. I went back to the end of the prior issue to make sure I hadn't skipped a page.

But there is mystery here as Lena's plans aren't completely laid out before us. I don't exactly know what she is trying to do here and that makes her a little scarier. And she has truly become something horrific physically. I used to feel sympathy for her. But there is a twinge of revulsion now.

As for Lana, she continues to be a very complex character dealing with visual hallucinations, PTSD, heroism thrust upon her, and hiding all this from her friends. I really feel for her as a character and hope she gets a handle on things. And when I care as a reader, that is the mark of a good writer.

Jimenez writes and pencils this issue and the art is fabulous. But I truly love this cover by Ben Oliver. Wonderful image. On to the book.

As said above, Ultrawoman is in complete control of the city now. She is boxing up some of the buildings. She is taking people and objects into the mother ship, presumably to experiment on them. And those Bizarro troops are suppressing any rebels.

I like how Jimenez gives each Bizarro an individual costume. I wonder if these are people who have been Bizarro-fied by Lena. Some of the troops don't seem to be supportive of what Lena is trying to accomplish here.

Within the city, there are pockets of people trying to fight back.

I like how the Daily Star is a completely LexCorp free enterprise. As a result, their tech has not been compromised or controlled by Ultrawoman. They can try to get messages out and attack Lena from within. But they aren't very successful. Instead they have to bide their time.

Cute interaction here between the workers.

And Lana is in Ironworks with Jon, Natasha, and Traci.

Remember, Lana is dying and every time she uses her powers she gets that much closer to death. She has been holding back, trying to decide where and when to attack.

And she continues to be visited by Lois. Is this a vision? A ghostly visit? A hallucination? We don't know. Everyone thinks that Lana is talking out loud to herself, but that is a weird one-way conversation. She can't hide this too much more.

I do love how the undercurrent of Lena's attack is her desire for revenge against Lex. The news story of her horrible treatment at the hands of her brother is being shown on a loop in Metropolis. And Lana deduces that much of Lena's earliest attacks were purely out of spite against Lex. In some ways it is petty. She could do so much more with her powers but instead she uses them to grind her brother.

Within the city, Natasha and Traci end up having to reveal themselves when the Bizarros threaten to kill some protesters (including Bibbo). The two young heroes are overmatched and luckily are able to beat a hasty escape. Natasha is injured however; a subway train was thrown at her! (Great sequence!)

Lana decides she can't hide anymore. She has to go out and fight. But Jon stops her. Lana is there best chance against Lena. They have to wait and figure out how best to attack. He won't let her needlessly sacrifice herself.

It is a moral conundrum. Jon realizes his niece might die. But that is Natasha's choice. And the needs of the many ...

As I said, Lena is scooping up people and objects for experimentation.

She even gets 'Clark' who she describes as 'something else'. Whatever he is, he isn't human.

I do like that this book is at least tangentially linked to the main books. But now I am struggling with the 'when' this is happening. Maybe when Superman and son are on the Losers' island?

But then we get a really new twist on Lena.

Her body appears to be gone! She is a head on wires, kept alive by the Mother Box and technology. But the power she needs to remain alive is tremendous. We see the suit run out of energy and Lena almost die. Perhaps that is why she is grabbing things? She needs to repurpose them into fuel?

And it also shows perhaps why Lana is so key. Her energy powers could be used to power Lena. Maybe that is why Lena needs Superwoman so desperately.

But this is a rough twist on Lena. There is no coming back from this. She can never be human again. It is sad. And a bit terrifying.

As I said earlier, Lana keeps talking to Lois as if everyone can see her.

I love that second silent panel. Steel knows something is up. Lana is going to have to come clean.

But things go from bad to worse.

Feeling impotent, Lana decides she has to do something. She flies off to attack Lena directly. But she is intercepted by the Bizarros, including the first one we met who can shape change.

The last panel is Lana carried by a sympathetic Bizarro back to Steel. But I think it is a feint. That 'Superwoman' has to be the shape changed Bizarro. And the real Lana is probably in Lena's clutches. The tricky thing is we have seen some of the Bizarros rebel. So it could be the real Lana! A true cliffhanger!

So a very crazy chapter in this book. I don't know why the 'time runs different in the cubes' thing was mentioned once because we never saw any upshot from it. Perhaps next issue? Lana's character issues and the complete deconstruction of Lena are great threads. Things are progressing in a weird, wonderful way and I am on board.

And I stand by my guess that in the end, Lana dies and Lois returns.

Overall grade: A


CraigMacD said...

I read the first issue of this series but haven't gotten back in to it since. I think part of the reason is that I was looking forward to reading a comic about Lois Lane as Superwoman and Lana was never a compelling character for me. So while I appreciated the twist in #1, it didn't interest me enough to read the rest of the series at the time. However, I've been comics digitally the last few months (no comic shops where I live) but I'm staying at a friend's place for Christmas and he lives in a city with two comic shops, so I might try and pick up the first five issues to see if I dig it.

Martin Gray said...

Great review. There was so much happening here I was too lazy to review it - and I can manage 96pp giants on a good day.

My guess is that it is a good Bizarro at the end. Hope so anyway!

Even more, I hope Lana doesn't die, we need Lois AND Lana in Superman's life. I want her back as an engineer or TV reporter - but not as an all-purpose tech genius who's possibly brainier than Steel. Where did THAT come from? Or was it meant to be hubris?

Jude Deluca said...

There are some speculating that one of the Bizarros may turn out to be the Rebirth version of Cir-El considering Phil brought Traci AND Natasha together again, and with the Bizarro carrying Lana at the end I wouldn't be surprised.

Anonymous said...

Rebirth Cir-El? I seriously doubt that, given how unpopular was Cir-El, how long has been since her existence was retconned and how redundant she feels now there's a real Supergirl around.

Kara Zor-El had a lot of fans even twenty years after her death, and the Superman cartoon and "Many Happy Returns" proved it. Linda Danvers have a number of fans. But who wants Cir-El back?

Moreover, I'm already ticked off because Kara and Pre-Flashpoint Clark haven't yet talked after half year. I would be very annoyed if Superman has a relationship with out-of-nowhere Cir-El while ignoring his cousin.

Jude Deluca said...

Well you'd be surprised at how many fans Cir-El has on tumblr. She doesn't have to come back as Supergirl just to come back.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how many fans Cir-El has on tumblr, but I know tumblr is not a good tool to judge anything and alleged "tumblr popularity" is indicative of nothing.

We'll see, I guess.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

I really hope we don't see Cir-El. But I wouldn't be surprised.

As for Lana hubris, I think she somehow absorbed Lois' investigative smarts. Her claiming to be the smartest person in the room was deducing it wasn't Alex behind it all.

I do hope we eventually see her at the Daily Star.

And yes, I want Supergirl to be part of the whole family.