Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Review: Superwoman #8

It's hard to believe that it has been 8 months since Superwoman #1 came out. I didn't know what to expect with the title when it was announced. But I knew I liked Phil Jimenez and the concept of Lois (and then Lana) acting as a superhero seemed fascinating. And the first issues were fantastic, a rich read of inset panels and interesting characterization.

Where did the book lose its way?

The last couple of issues have been scattershot. Just as chock full of panels and stories, but no where near coherent. I still don't know exactly what Lena was plotting, what was going on with the Bizarros, and how she was thwarted. And the book seemed to be veering away from solid characterization to more 2-dimensional situations for Jimenez to get on his soapbox a bit. It didn't help that the book is solidly set in the Superman book universe but seemed to exist separately. When exactly did this storyline take place? Why is this Lex portrayed so differently from the one in the main books? When did Metropolis get taken over without any Superman around?

It all comes to a boil in Superwoman #8, the finale of this first arc and Jimenez's last issue. This is a long psychological look at Lana and her issues. It involves Lois and Clark. It looks like all of this book might end up being swept away with the rewriting of Superman history in his own Reborn series. And like last month's book it comes across as a little preachy.

All this story and confusion and politicking might end up never having happened. Weird for a new book.

The art is done by the interesting mix of Jack Herbert and Stephen Segovia. They bring a sort of Perez/Jimenez flare that fits the tone of the book. But most of the book is people talking so there isn't much action for them to convey. Still the emotion is there.

On to the book.

Remember last issue, Lana was dying. In an effort to save her, Superman placed her in the medical womb of the Kryptonian battle armor.

While her body heals though, Lana's spirit seems to wander the Fortress.

First she gets visited by her family. First it seems that they are disappointed with how she has turned out. But then they turn it on its head saying they are disappointed she didn't recognize her own strength.

We meet Lana's brother Ron, a military man who apparently killed himself. I didn't know that Lana had a brother. Am I getting a little senile? His saying that Lana's support helped keep him alive fell a bit short because I don't think I have met him before.

But Lana's anxiety and lack of self-confidence has been a theme in the book. So getting this support fom her family should have been a powerful moment.

And not only is her family there, the New 52 Superman and Lois are also there. Lois has been a part of this book, haunting Lana and providing advice. But this is the first time we have seen Clark interacting this much.

Throughout this issue, Lana really is angry about everything. First she screams at Superman, saying she can smell how disappointed he is in her. It seems oddly abrasive.

And then, in a bit of meta, Lana yells at Lois for being the only thing that counts. When the universe reboots, it sets Clark and Lois right and everyone else follows.

I wonder if this is Jimenez complaining that a redone Superman history is going to make this storyline part of an impossible past.

But then Lois decides she is going to fire back. She really belittles Lana's concerns. Why should Lana complain about life being unfair when was well-paid, educated, well-traveled, and super-powered. She actually says to Lana 'boo-effin-hoo'. That seems overly harsh from Lois.

But then she doubles down. She tells Lana to 'get out of the drama pool'!

It might be tough love, most of the speech (on this page which is one of the wordiest pages in a very wordy title) is propping Lana up as being very capable. But mental health isn't that easy. You can't just tell someone 'you're life is great' and expect them to overcome their issues.

I did like the art here. You feel Lois emoting this rah rah speech.

But Lana's story isn't the only one which might be disappearing. So Jimenez let's us peek at the others.

Jon Henry Irons is pining over Lana, hoping she will survive.

We hear again how wonderful Natasha is.

Atomic Skull might be romantically interested in BizarroWoman.

And Lex once again shuts Lena in a LexCorp vault. Once again we hear how awful Lex was, how he used her intelligence to build his empire. At least we hear Lex tell her she needs to take responsibility for the monster she has become.

Subplots all accounted for.

In what I think is also metatextual, Lois and Lana talk about how this all has defied comprehension. Yep.

Lana doesn't know what is past and present. Neither do I. When did this happen in the #Rebirth timeline? Or is this some sign that this is going into the true literary past, not part of the next iteration.

Finally, we hear what needs to happen. Lana has to help Lois and Clark to save their son.

Now remember, the New 52 Lois and Clark never married and hardly interacted. I suppose what this is means is that all the Loises and Clarks are the same being. These adaptations might not have had Jon but they will be rolled into the others, creating the one Lois and one Clark, the parents.

And with that Lana knows this story is going away. She asks if she will remember this life. She wonders if the Smallville past will happen.

Maybe Jimenez was told to end things fast because Reborn was happening. Maybe this wasn't his fault. But this whole thing is literally unraveling in front of my eyes.

Superman tells Lana he needs his energy back to save himself. He thanks Lana for holding on to it.

It's over.

Lana won't remember this.

So let's see ... how confusing is all this going to be when it happens.

I hope DC spells out the Superman timeline in a way that we can figure out what counts and what doesn't.

And yet, despite all this seemingly going away, the last shot is Lana in a Superwoman suit in the Kryptonian battle armor.

So maybe when she says she won't remember this she doesn't mean this life, she means this vision in her head. Maybe in the end all of this will have happened but the Superman life sort of reset everyone slightly.

I don't know anymore.

What I do know is that this issue was a fitting capstone to this arc. I was kind of lost. I thought it was kind of preachy. I still don't know when all this is happening in the current world. In some ways, I am happy this book is moving on. I can't help but be disappointed, especially considering the way it started.

All that said, K. Perkins comes on as writer next issue. So I am excited for this book moving forward!

Overall grade: C


Anonymous said...

You convey most of my issues with this issue (Oh! A pun! How witty!).

I didn't get most of what was happening, or why, or the ending.

And that cover in where Lana wrestles with an armored Lena is a blatant example of a lying cover.

I think Lana went really meta during her argument with Lois: "None of our lives or histories count if yours are threatened. We suffer the consequences while the universe shuffles its deck chairs to accommodate you... and we get stuck cleaning up whatever's left of us." Most definitely. Every time the Powers To Be screw Clark and Lois up, the whole universe changes, and Kara, Karen, Jor-El and Lara, Pa and Ma, Jimmy, Perry, Lana, even Lex and Brainiac... go through several identity crisis because the cosmos is trying to figure out how they fit.

Anyway, Clark and Lois' words settle the matter: they and their Pre-Flashpoint counterparts are the same people. And somehow they'll merge during Superman: Reborn.

Clark is about to have a very awkward talk with Diana. And what will he tell his cousin about his... changes? Incidentally this pretty much proves that Linda Lang never went away. She "merely" got her memory erased, her past altered and her hard-earned maturity stolen from her. So... Yay? How ironic: the same girl who was possessed by the spirits of the McDougal clan befriended Siobhan Smythe. The same girl who fought a Black Lantern became a Red.

The ending is confusing... Lana transfers her energy to Clark and Lois? How is she doing this while dreaming? How will it help them to return? Will she lose her powers? Anyways, when Lois said Lana forget all of it I think she was talking about her dream.

Anonymous said...

What an odd story. On so many levels.

There is a panel where Lana is lamenting "How could I have a man who loves me so much and not want to love him back?" in reference to John Henry. Then in the next breath in the same panel she says to Clark "Why didn't you ever love me the way John Henry loves me?"

Uh....the same reason you don't love John Henry the way he loves you?

I haven't liked the way Lana was written whenever she was with Lois since the beginning. It evened out when she wasn't with her. However, there has always been what, I felt, was meta criticism in her relationship with Lois Lane. I felt Lana was the voice for the perceived Lois flaws but with no counterbalance because it was told from Lana's point of view.

The "she's always been the one" dig at Lois reminded me of the end of the Bronze age right before the crisis in "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" where we have Superman telling Perry it has always been Lois and Lana hearing it (with her superpowers).

I also think there was meta commentary in the universe shuffles to accommodate line. Clark and Lois are what started this whole genre in Action 1.

And as DC learned? Messing with them messes with the foundation of the universe. I wasn't upset when they rebooted the marriage, I was upset when DC tried to sideline Lois from the story. Her narrative function was very different from what it devolved in to in the Silver Age. She has a role beyond Superman's Girlfriend (not being his girlfriend is a problem, it's not). But? She was created to be that narrative bridge between Clark and Superman. The current DC caretakers didn't seem to understand this.

Sideline her and you remove the readers access to Clark Kent and parts of Superman. It knocks the foundation of the story off kilter. Which DC learned the hard way.

Lana's frustration was fascinating because I think it mirrors frustration of the failed attempt to rewrite the story where Lois wasn't "the one" and Lois' place in the mythology was threatened.

All in all for me? This was such a confusing mess and seemed really rushed. I would love to know if Jimenez was asked to wrap it up quicker than he planned. It reads that way to me.

Anonymous said...

sorry.. should read (not *that* being his girlfriend is a problem, it's not)

Anonymous said...

It was worth reading just to hear Lana call out Lois and Clark for being the metatextual center of the universe...I think this was all someone's idea of "All Star SuperWOMAN" but the writing really shook itself to pieces a few months ago falling far short of the inherent potential of the characters and setting.
I mean somehow they managed to make Lex-Flipping' Luthor look like a chump and that is no small embarrassment believe me.


Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.
I am glad I didn't miss the boat on this one.
Seems like the book lost its way around issue 3.

The agenda done, time for the title to move on.

I am giving the over/under for cancellation at 15.

Anonymous said...

"I am giving the over/under for cancellation at 15."

I unfortunately agree. A Super-book getting cancelled is a very sad thing. Once upon a time DC published books featuring Superman, Superman's younger self, Superman's supporting cast... and all of them were purchased by hundreds of thousands of readers every month.

In his blog Jim Shooter told the next story:
"Some time around the summer of 1969, I was taken off of Adventure Comics, my one regular title, because the Legion of Super Heroes, my regular feature, was reduced to a second feature in Action Comics. That move made no sense to me. While other National titles had fallen precipitously, Adventure had remained fairly constant during my tenure, according to the statements of ownership printed in one of my first issues and in my last (the way I figured it, the ol’ “Marvel writer” had come through) — but Mort explained that falling sales on Superboy had prompted the shuffling. Supergirl would be put into Adventure, and presumably would hold the half million readers buying the title, while as a back-up, the Legion (which starred Superboy) would no longer “dilute” the sales of Superboy."


So that there was a time when DC trusted Supergirl to sell half million of issues every month.

Times have definitely changed.

More alarmingly, if Superwoman is cancelled during Kate Perkins' run, she can acquire a reputation as a writer of books doomed to cancellation.

Martin Gray said...

Great review. I just gave up blogging about this book because it was just too much hassle, and too disheartening. As you say, it began well, and then something awful happened. Lana Lang went from a great character in Greg Pak's Action Comics to a horrible person you'd walk into traffic to avoid. And the all-singing, all-dancing, all-confusing plot... EDITOR!

And no, you didn't imagine Lana not having a brother, well, not in our lifetime ... there was a Ronald back in ancient times ('Occupation: Brat' according to one witty website) and Alvin, but a writer in 2017 can't just drop Ronald in as if we would have heard of him. And I bet you a pound to a penny new Ronald couldn't reconcile being gay with being in the military because, well, messages.

Or perhaps he's just sad because he never met the truly awesome Natasha.

I commend Phil Jimenez for trying to give us something meaty, for playing with ideas, but there was simply too too much going on and the characters were forced to serve the story rather than the ideas being channeled organically through them.