Friday, March 17, 2017

Review: Superman #19

Superman #19 came out this week, the third chapter in the 4 part Superman Reborn, and it moved the story forward somewhat nicely. There are several storylines running through this issue and these titles right now and everything seems to be interconnected. Dr. Manhatten pulling the universe's strings. Mr. Oz and his machinations. Mr. Mxyzptlk and his revenge. The current split in the Superman identity. Who has done what ... if anything?

So now it is a matter of sifting through all the clues, teases, and feints to try to figure out what is causation and what is association. I am more informed, no doubt. But I don't think I actually know more. But it sure is fun trying to figure it all out.

And there is definitely the sense that we are going back to Superman Red/Superman Blue. From the next chapter's cover to the 'red energy' of Superwoman, to the coloring we have seen from the pre-Flashpoint Supes, maybe the 'split Superman' concept is back.

My review therefore will be trying to point out some of the images and interesting tidbits, both story based and metatextual, that were dropped in this issue. Creators Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason bring us an insanely fast moving and surreal book. The art is wonderfully bizarre. And I ate the whole thing up like an eclair.

But how is all of this going to be wrapped up in one more issue??

Last issue we learned that Clark was Mr. Mxyzptlk and he wasn't happy with how long he was imprisoned by Mr. Oz. How could Superman forget about his old pal?? Suddenly the playful imp is after revenge. And his first blow is taking away Jon and ripping memories him from Lois' mind.

This issue starts with Jon floating in some sort of interdimensional void. The only thing present are photos of Lois and Clark together, perhaps from the photo album Mxy brought to the house last issue.

But there is definitely something very Watchmen about this, isn't there? Blue tinted photos slowly floating/falling? But Mxy isn't Manhatten. But is he being manipulated by Manhatten?

Or is the blue energy just a marker that Jon is associated with the 'blue energy' Superman.

Our current Superman pleads with Mxyzptlk to restore Jon. Superman even says he'll play a game with Mxy like they used to do.

But that happy imp is gone.

Gleason gives us a wonderful view into the anger and malevolence in Mxy now. The red tint of the panel adds a devilish flare.

But doesn't that second panel look absolutely Grinch-like? I wonder if Gleason was influenced by Seuss.

This says it all. Gone is the playful prankster.

Mxy decides to give us his backstory again.

First off, he echoes Lana's frustrations from Superwoman #8, noting that Lois and Clark always end up together. In a brilliant little sideswipe at the creative powers behind the New 52, Mxy says 'those tinkering busybodies couldn't keep you apart.' Yep, despite all the stories in the New 52, fans want Lois with Clark and we finally got it. Boy, the Super-books in #Rebirth don't mind taking shots at their predecessors.

Then he again laments being imprisoned and abandoned. Neither Superman came to save him.

In what has to be more metatextual jabs, Mxy mentions how the hope and optimism of Superman was split. And the death of the New 52 Superman resulted in red energy exploding. As for the emotional oomph of Superman's death, Mxy can only say 'meh.'

Whoa. Serious shade.

That said, the Superman Blue/Superman Red storyline from the late 90s broke the Supermen out into emotional beings. The Superman Red was angry and action-oriented. That *could* apply to the New 52 Superman, aloof and judgmental.

Meanwhile Jon hopes his parents will find him. When he voices that desire, two balls of red energy appear before him. In his mind, they speak in the voices of his parents. They bring a photo to Jon of the New 52 Superman and Lois.

Folks who read Superwoman #8 could see this coming.

The idea that the color of the energy associated with the New 52 is red seems apt. Think of all the emotions red evokes ...

 As for Mxy, he actually agrees to play a game with Superman. He creates the Infinite Planet, a bizarre version of the Daily Planet. If this Superman can reach the top, Mxy will bring back Jon and restore Lois' memories. If Superman doesn't, Mxy will rip the memories of Jon out of Clark and never free Jon.

There is a lot to like about this interaction. Mxy makes Superman sign a contract. It is a devilish flare. Second, even though this Lois doesn't think she is in a relationship with Superman (even those memories were pulled), Superman insists she join him. He needs her.

But it is all showed in a brilliant 2 page splash (sadly cropped by my scanner). I love  Mxyzptlk looming over a hellish version of Chutes and Ladders, including shots of supporting cast members and pictures of key moments in Superman's history ... especially with Lois. (You've got me? Who's got you??)

 Somehow, despite all that Mxy puts in his way, our Superman is victorious. He makes it to the top.

But this isn't the happy-go-lucky Mxyzptlk. He assumes Superman has cheated. And he isn't going to give up Jon. And he is going to remove Superman's memories.

But viewing from the ether, apparently inside the Infinite Planet's globe, Jon isn't going to simply bear witness. He asks the red energy to help him. And imbued with the red energy, he smashes the globe, surprising even Mxy.

I love how determined Jon is. He is going to rescue his family. Wonderful.

And then, the red energy manifests itself as the New 52 Superman and Lois. Neither are dead. They are crackling with red energy.

Shattering the crumbling the fourth wall, Mxy even says 'New 52'.

Okay. Whew.

But what does it all mean.

Who split Superman? I don't think it is Mxy. I'm not sure it is Mr. Oz. I do think it is this whole Dr. Manhattan stuff simmering on the back burner.

So maybe we will get some understanding about Superman. My guess is the Superman will somehow merge. We will come back to one Superman. The DCU timeline will retroactively rewrite itself, making this a universe that has only had one Superman. The world now has a Clark/Lois married couple. And they have a kid. Somehow the 5 years of the New 52 will need to be massaged to fit in this new history. It will sort of be like the days immediately after the Crisis. What is in and what is out ... we'll need to wait or decide on our own.

So the 'Super-MEN and Lois-ES' conundrum will happily fade away.

But I don't think we are going to get the 'why this all happened' next issue. Or 'who made this all happen'. My guess is we need to wait.

Still, this was a hallucinogenic flight of fancy with plot progression and metatextual body blows. I was entertained!

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

I was a tad confused after reading this issue. I think some things happened too fast and weren't properly explained.

So in a way Clark and Lois' spirits were attached to Lana's body? That's what the red energy was? Is that what was killing her?

So she was three persons in a body? Luornu is going to sue, Lana.

This story reminds why Mxy is one of the worst enemies of Superman. He looks silly and ridiculous because he wants. If he truly wanted to kill Superman, Clark would be dead. In a strange and ironic way, Mxy is what Superman must be to villains: an alien being whom they have to outthink because they cannot possibly overpower him.

"In a brilliant little sideswipe at the creative powers behind the New 52, Mxy says 'those tinkering busybodies couldn't keep you apart.'"

Yes, erasing the franchise's classic romance was stupid. Like it or hate it, it's a main "ingredient" of the "recipe". Take it away, and the whole falls apart.

"The idea that the color of the energy associated with the New 52 is red seems apt."

It also brings a certain ex-Red Lantern to mind.


What did ever the Fourth Wall do to you, Mr. Mxyzptlk?

"Who split Superman?"

And now my head really hurts.

Who split Superman? And when? During Convergence when Lois and Clark were pulled from their timeline? Dr. Manhattan -or whoever- split them right before Gotham was transported to Tellos and then placed their red versions in the new reality? The splitting couldn't happen after Convergence because then we would have ''three'' Supermen and Lois around: Pre-Flashpoint, Post-Flashpoint ''and'' Convergence.

God, my head really, REALLY hurts. This story combines parallel worlds, time travel, time paradoxes, alternate selves and spliced souls. The more I try to understand it...

Sigh. Comics.

Talking about Superman Red and Blue, I think it's funny how some "fans" love putting the Silver Age down, insisting that doing away with SA Superman was the right thing, but DC is constantly reusing and recycling Silver Age plots and concepts. It shows that period's stories were weird and childlike, but INCREDIBLY creative.

"It will sort of be like the days immediately after the Crisis."

Bad analogy. Bad, baaaaad analogy.

Every time some "creative genius" comes along and sets out to retcon Superman's history to "streamline" him and "fix" him, he claims that he will "cut the fat" and "bring Superman back to the basics"... and then he throws the baby out with the bathwater and makes his universe even more convoluted. And said "creative genius" never truly brings Superman "back to his Golden Age roots" despite of claiming otherwise. Said creative genius merely erases anything he detests, making a mess that takes years or decades to fix.

Some people hated Supergirl and wanted her gone. Some people -including John Byrne- hated Lois and wanted her gone. Look where that mindset got us.

For God's sake, people, it isn't so hard: Superman is Clark Kent, born Kal-El. Born to Jor-El and Lara, Superman came from Krypton and was raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent in Smallville. He feels human but honors his Kryptonian heritage. His childhood friends are Lana Lang and Pete Ross. When he was a teenager, he was Superboy and joined the Legion of Super-heroes. Now an adult, he lives in Metropolis and works as a reporter for the Daily Planet. His love is Lois Lane, his friend is Jimmy Olsen, his boss is Perry White, his biological cousin is Kara Zor-El, and his dog is Krypto. He is a member of the Justice League and keeps a secret base in the Arctic. His worst enemy is Lex Luthor.

There. Those are the basics. Keep them and respect them because all troubles stem from messing with one of those items or removing it entirely.

"My guess is we need to wait."

Well, we know Mr. Oz's identity will not be revealed yet.

Nobile said...

I suddenly noticed that whe they re-introduced pre-FP Superman in the DCNU they gave him blue boots, which I did not really like.
When DC previewed a slightly upgraded Super-suit to debut after this saga, you guessed right, the boots were... :-D

Yes, very much Blue-Red story again!

Iopy said...

This story continues forward, and while I like a lot of it I'm really not liking this particular version of Myx. Angry, edgy, evilly grinning villains are a dime a dozen. As are mysterious, all-knowing and all-powerful villains who are dressed in hooded cloaks and carrying scythes. Though I'll admit that wrapping your legs like a mummy while wearing spit-shined penny loafers is new.

But yeah, turning Myx into a standard issue bad-guy-with-a-grudge is not a welcome direction for me. It feels too much Alan Moore "Whatever Happened To The Man of Steel" when I'd seen a version of Myx I actually liked by Grant Morrison in Action at the beginning of the New 52.

But the story itself, other than that, has been a lot of fun so far.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, very much Blue-Red story again!"

So we'll see Supergirl brainwashing the Phamton Zone inmates into being good guys? :D

"But yeah, turning Myx into a standard issue bad-guy-with-a-grudge is not a welcome direction for me."

Agreed. Being a mischievous, loony trickster makes Mxy stand out.

aa3on said...

Hi, Anj. Please forgive my ignorance here and what I'm sure is bound to be a stupid question...

I haven't read Superman for years. But I know roughly that the New 52 Superman was dying? and was surely dead from what I gathered in the Supergirl Rebirth issue. But now he's back; but I keep hearing of different versions... the New 52 Superman, the pre-Flashpoint Superman, this current Superman Reborn series... And you mentioned here the current split in the Superman identity...
And at the end of the latest Supergirl, Superman appeared.

So if I may ask... How many Supermans are there? I'm just curious which one is going to be talking to Supergirl.

Once again, please forgive what may seem a dumb question.

Martin Gray said...

Whilst Anj is away in a mission in a distant galaxy, I'll jump in, Aa3on ... Anj will forgive me, probably! There have been two Supermen around: the New 52 version who debuted in 2011 died, or at least seemed to, but he looks to be back. His role in the current DC Universe was taken by an older version, who survived from the precious continuity. The one in Supergirl looks to be whoever emerges after this storyline concludes next week in Action Comics, most likely a melding of the two into the One True Superman. The third guy who's been going around looking like Clark turned out out be Mr Mxyzptlk.

And it's not a dumb question.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments!
I do think the evil Mxy is different than I am used to. But my guess is that this is just a phase. Remember, the whole point of Rebirth is getting to classic takes on characters.

Aaron, there are two Supermen. One is the New 52 Superman. Yes he died. But the energy which shit into Lois/Lana must have been his essence, keeping him and Lois 'alive'. That's who appears at the end here (notice the costume). The current living Superman was first seen in Convergence, on a world which captured part of the pre-Flashpoint continuity. That's why he is with Lois romantically.

My guess is that these two will merge into one, the one who will ultimately talk to Supergirl. But that's just conjecture on my part.

aa3on said...

Martin Gray and Anj, Thank you; I really appreciate your replies. It's my own fault for not keeping up with my reading. :) Thanks again.

Martin Gray said...

I would have thought that having once been split into an electric pair, red and blue, Superman would feel something was missing. Then again, this is manipulation on a planetary, perhaps universal, scale, so Superman may be cut off from his memories. Boy, this is intriguing!

Peter LoCasto said...

I've been meaning to say this for a while, but Gleason's take on Jon with the big eyes reminds me a LOT of Eric Jones' artwork from Cosmic Adventures, particularly his take on Supergirl. Is it just me though?