Friday, March 3, 2017

Review: Superman #18

Superman #18 came out this week, the first part of the highly anticipated Superman Reborn storyline. This arc supposedly will answer all the questions about the nature of the current Superman ... or maybe I should say Supermen. Between the now dead New 52 Superman, the pre-Final Crisis current Superman, and the Clark doppelganger, it is hard to keep track of who is who and what is what. Added to all this mystery is the idea that has been floated around that maybe they are all the same person somehow split. Remember, the New 52 Lois actually said she understood everything that was going on, albeit right before she died.
To be honest, the mystery of 'Who is Clark Kent?' has been one of the more enjoyable aspects of the Rebirth run, mostly because I haven't been able to decipher the clues. Just when it all seemed to come into focus, that he is a depowered Superboy Prime, DC threw a curveball. Prime wasn't even listed as a candidate on an official house ad. Putting all this together with the growing and now lengthy Mr. Oz enigma and you have a gripping and very entertaining Superman Family of books. While I have been enjoying all this, I am eager to get to the end and have the curtain pulled away. I want to learn who Oz is!
It all starts in this great opening chapter by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason. The creators have been focusing on the family life of Clark/Lois/Jon throughout their run and this issue is no different. We see just how their blissful their cozy life in Hamilton is, that is until disaster strikes. Those quiet opening moments make the rest of the issue feel that much more frightful. The Clark mystery remains just as baffling. All this blue energy crackling about - is it Dr. Manhatten? A Crisis riff? Magic?  And the issue starts with another look at Oz's realm. There is some information given here, images that should be stirring the pot a bit. But I remain just as perplexed.
Gleason is on art here. His work has that Rankin/Bass gloss that works in some scenes but seems a bit too cute in others. Still, nothing is so offbeat to pull me out of the story.
On to the book.

Like I said, the opening scene starts out in Oz's realm. Is this simply a planet in the DC universe? A different dimension? A (dare I say it) Pocket Universe? 
The opening page has some vague questions about space and time, matter and energy. We see blue energy crackling until it forms a 4 point star. My instinct tells me that symbol wasn't picked by chance. But I can't figure out what it should be leading me too.
We then hear Tim Drake cackling that someone has escaped Oz's cells. We know about Tim, Doomsday, and Prophecy. But in looking at the landscape, it looks like there are many cells dotting this place. Does Oz have this many people imprisoned? And who are they all?
I am assuming that this cell is where the Clark being escaped from. It appears to dwarf the others, making me think whoever this Clark is, he is someone incredibly powerful. It reminds me of the tower Validus used to be housed in on Takron Galtos. But why would a human Clark, with no powers, need this sort of prison? And does all that space/time/matter/energy blue power suggest Manhatten?
One of my earliest guesses about Oz what that he is the depowered Jon Osterman and that the power of Manhatten was locked away in that massive vault. Maybe that was right?

And then we see the inside of the cell. Visually, I thought these were the most striking pages of the issue.
Whoever it was, they are clearly a Superman fan. The images look fitting for the surprint of Supes' Who's Who page. We see him rocketing to earth, being found by the Kents, flying with Lois. And oh so many sets of glasses!
What power did they have to carve into stone like this? And how tall is he. Look at those pictures in the context of Mr. Oz's height. How did they know so much about Superman? Why did they think he would save them? Does Superman know who he is? Doe Superman have a relationship with the prisonser?
And I don't think a human Clark from another world could do all this or need that tower. So this is someone or something else.

After this otherworldly scene, we switch gears to an anniversary party for Lois and Clark in Hamilton. Hmmm ... how many years? Do they count the years they spent in the timeless Convergence dome??
Everything is pure Normal Rockwell there. Clark has made an pineapple upside down cake for the occasion. Everyone is hugging and loving. Jon gives the perfect anniversary gifts to his folks. They dote on him for the miracle he is.
One thing Tomasi and Gleason have done is bring back this sense of warmth to the super-family. Like the State Fair issue and the Clark/Jon heart-to-hearts, this is all wonderful. Almost too perfect.

But we knew that the 'other Clark' was lurking in the backyard. And he is still there. This time he left his own anniversary gift on the back step.
I did find it interesting that Krypto responded the way he did.
You would think if this was a true analogue of Clark that Krypto would be happy. Or at least confused.
But this is an aggressive response. This isn't Clark in any way. A dog would know.
So ... what/who is he??

The gift he left Jon was a scrapbook of the Kent's. Inside you see all sorts of photos. A descendant from Jon Ostrander's Kents Elseworlds series is there. Lana and Clark on a lazy summer day. Superman holding the car from Action Comics #1.

But are these pictures of the New 52 Superman? The current older Superman? Of the world where Clark came from?

And if it isn't this 'other Clark''s book, how did he get it.

It is a mystery. A delicious one.

I love the photos, especially the Clark/Lana one. And Clark in that Daily Planet staff picture looks almost ominous with his glasses.

Before Superman can find this Clark another disaster happens.

The Clark house and ultimately Jon get bathed in a blue flame which is erasing them from existence. 

Whatever it is, it isn't just attacking Jon, it teleports him around the house.

What energy could do that? Magic? An antimatter wave like in the Crisis? Dr. Manhatten's mastery over energy and matter?

Seeing Superman chasing Jon around, trying to rescue his son, ramps up the intensity of the proceedings.

And then, while in Superman's arms, Jon is just unwritten. The last thing we see are his glowing eyes before he winks out of existence.

With Jon and the other Clark gone, Superman and Lois swear to track things down.

This sequence was very well done and pretty much devastating. Jon has quickly become a favorite of mine and you can see the terror in his parents eyes.

But I wonder if this is another nod towards Manhatten. Remember how in Watchmen he slowly rebuilt himself, at one point only being eyes and nervous system? Could this be his reverse making of Jon?

While overall this felt a little decompressed, it did what an opening chapter should do. It stoked the fires of mystery and made me want to read more right away.

And I still don't know who this Clark is!

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Yes indeed, this is another winner. I'm not finding it too decompressed, the fortnightly schedule ensures we don't have to wait long for the next nugget of story. I love that there's room for all the family stuff.

I still don't know where Dr Manhattan fits it, but talking of Jon Osterman, Clark's nickname for his son has just blown my tiny mind...

Anonymous said...

Comparing the art with the Rankin/Bass work sounds right. That panel in where an humongous, lonely tower is set against a black and orange sky reminds of fantasy cartoons I watched when I was a kid, like Dungeons and Dragons.

Mm... I notice the scribblings on the walls go from "SUPERMAN WILL SAVE ME" to "Superman, where are you?" Is it possible that prisoner trusted Superman to rescue him but why Superman never turned up he got steadily more desperate and more unhinged? Maybe he hates Superman for not saving him? That's why "Clark" accuses Superman from "ruining his life", assuming he is the escapee?

Maybe the prisoner wasn't exceptionally tall but he could fly.

Talking about Superboy-Prime... After reading several old threads in the "Superman Through Ages" site I realized how lucky Supergirl's fans are compared with Superboy-Prime fans. Before Infinite Crisis he had some fans, but all of them wrote him off afterwards. At least Kara was ultimately rehabilitated.

Krypto clearly doesn't like "Clark", but "Clark" clearly recognizes him. So, who is he?

Let's think of it, Post-Crisis Krypto didn't like Supergirl at the beginning. However, this Kypto from the Post-Flashpoint universe quickly accepted Post-Crisis Superman. Hmm...

I know I sound like a broken record, but why didn't the scrapbook include any Supergirl's picture? You can see pictures of the Kents, Lana, Lois, Perry , Jimmy... but not Kara? I'm tired of seeing her being written off during this run, and I know the "Supergirl is unimportant and expendable" side will use this kind of thing as "evidence".

Anyway, those scenes where Superman looks for his son everywhere before Jon vanishes are chilling.

I really want to know what will happen!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for the off-topic comment, but I didn't know where else putting this piece of news:

New DC figurines. And Supergirl is one of them! Intriguingly, her origin is Post Crisis Kara's (found by the Trinity, trained by Wonder Woman, kidnapped by Darkseid...) but she wears her New 52 costume. I wonder why.

Martin Gray said...

Anon wrote: 'Krypto clearly doesn't like "Clark", but "Clark" clearly recognizes him. So, who is he?'

Remember Infinite Crisis? Superboy Prime and Krypto had quite the run-in. But then again, there's that house ad not listing him as a suspect.

Anonymous said...

"Remember Infinite Crisis? Superboy Prime and Krypto had quite the run-in."

Oh, yes. True.

Sigh. Poor Superboy-Prime. He was a decent character until DC decided to turn him into a nasty parody of fans who didn't like the darkening of the Post-Crisis universe.

And now maybe DC is using him during an event in where they admit that the concerns of the fanbase weren't baseless. Talking about ironical...

I think that add is very misleading. I mean, Mxyzptlk? J'onn J'onnz? New 52 Superman? He and Lois were barely friends, so why he would be so determined to marry her?

(Off-topic: I've just read "Superman's Girlfriend: Lois Lane #55". Supergirl has a very important role, but I don't know whether I find that story hilariously crack-y or deeply disturbing. Or both)

Martin Gray said...

You know, I don't know think Anj has ever covered that particular Lois issue...

Anonymous said...

Search function found no results.

A better Supergirl-focused Lois Lane issue is "Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #20: Lois Lane's Super Daughter", but it's a tear-jerker instead of hilarious. In an alternate universe, Superman and Lois get married, he tells her about his cousin that he just dumped in an orphanage and they adopt her. Happy ending, right?

In order to go ahead with the adoption, Miss Hart requires that Lois quits her job. Lois doesn't want to quit, Clark and Linda don't want her to quit, but she does anyway for Kara's sake. It gets worse for Lois from that point. She is put through the wringer in that issue. And at the end, Miss Hart takes Linda away from Lois and Clark anyway.

A pity. Lois loved her husband and foster daughter, even if she often felt left out. Kara was delighted with her family, trying to be the best daughter ever while she enjoyed cosmic adventures with Superman. And Clark... well, he was less of a jerkass than usual.

He was still a jerkass, but not so big as his main universe counterpart.

However Miss Hart was a witch in this story. If her main universe counterpart behaved like this, I seriously wonder how Linda managed to put up with her.

Martin Gray said...

I remember that too - super-creepy cover! Not so much Linda as Lolita. And that look on Clark's face. Brrrr.

Anonymous said...

"I remember that too - super-creepy cover! Not so much Linda as Lolita. And that look on Clark's face. Brrrr."

Agreed. I guess Swan intended that scene was heartwarming: both cousins hugging happily. However that hug comes across as creepy because of their expressions and body language, fields Swan usually excelled at.

Tangentially related, in Lois Lane 55 (an issue that gave us Dark Supergirl forty years before Dark Supergirl was one thing) Superman tells Lois was one of the best friends of his cousin. Odd. I don't remember both women had a close relationship back then.

Anj said...

I have #20 in reprint. I don't think I have ever read #55!

Anonymous said...

"I have #20 in reprint. I don't think I have ever read #55!"

Well, the story is called "Superman's Secret Wife!"

I know, I know. Why the "Mighty Maid" name comes to mind?

Short story? It involves Red-K-induced madness and super-dickery, paranoid stalker Lois and implied incest.

Long story? Supergirl gets exposed to Red Kryptonite, which makes her hate the last person she saw (in this instance, Lois). So she makes Lois believe Superman has a secret wife. Needless to say, Lois moves heaven and earth to find out who is "Mrs. Superman" (why it was always Mrs. Superman rather than Mrs. Kent or Mrs. Kal-El is something I have yet to figure out) Then Supergirl reveals she's Superman's wife (mysteryously the "blood relatives" matter is never brought up). And since she doesn't trust Lois not to try win Superman away from her (¡Ewwwwww!), she decides to freeze her into suspended animation.

Fortunately, the Red-K effect wears off before she can go ahead with her plan.

Superman and Supergirl manage to piece together what happened and why Kara went nuts. Then Kara apologizes to Lois, and Lois forgives her.

It's a typically so-bonkers-it's-hilarious story from that period, although I find intriguing Superman told Lois was one of the best friends of Supergirl. Both women had such a close relationship back in the Sixties?

I know you don't read comics online (not that there's anything wrong with prefering physical issues over digital comics, of course!), but it can be found here:

Scans-daily provides a good summary, too:

Anonymous said...

I think Solar Superman and Flashpoint Superman are another two underrated predictions for who the mystery Clark Kent will turn out to be. DC keep throwing wrenches in the works of fan prediction though. We'd better get an answer by next week. Even though I knew Jon being abducted was coming and he is safe since he's in a comic of his own, the scene where he was taken away was still an emotional gut punch. Superman trying to do everything in his power to save his son only for him to vanish in his arms was a creepy moment.