Superman #20 came out this week, the first issue since the Superman Reborn storyline which fused the pre-Flashpoint Superman with the New 52 Superman. How delightful for me as a comic reviewer to say Clark or Lois or Superman and not have to explain exactly which one I am talking about! How exciting for a continuity that everything is now linear and we aren't talking about Convergence worlds, the 21st century equivalent of a Pocket Universe.
But while we are now dealing with one Lois and one Clark, we were dealing with two very different lives. Things aren't going to be entirely smooth. We as readers have to reconcile the differences and in our minds settle this whole thing into one history. And thankfully, writers Patrick Gleason and Peter Tomasi realize that the characters have to do that as well. This shouldn't be easy. They have to figure out who they are just as much as we have to. I think it would have been wrong to just move forward without some acknowledgment from Lois and Clark that their life is comprised of two lives shuffled together.
This also is the beginning of a storyline called Black Dawn which finally explores the nefarious Farmer Cobb and his haunting milk business. Add in Batman and Robin, and you have a very satisfying first issue of this new reality.
The Superman books are really clicking right now. I am very happy. On to the book!
The book starts with an almost idyllic look at the new reality.
Jon and Kathy are racing in a corn field, reminiscent of Clark and Lana in their youth.
Superman is flying over the city. We see people looking up in the sky, almost ready to say 'it's a bird, it's a plane!' There isn't a hint of cynicism or distrust on these people's faces. They are smiling at their hero. It's kids and adults and they like Superman. No more aloof, floating, New 52 bruiser.
In a last bit of symbolism, we see a red bird and a blue bird flying with Superman, reminding us of the two energies, the two Supermen, who melded to be this new one.
All that said, it is clear that the dominant timeline is the pre-Flashpoint one. No one every seemed to smile when Superman flew overhead in the New 52.
And we see that the Hamilton address is where the Kent family lives. They aren't in Lois' posh Metropolis apartment. They are outside the city.
Clark is still working the land. And it is clear that he loves Lois. He watches her from afar and is just giddy. He looks like he is about to sigh. None of this is New 52 either. Remember, they were barely colleagues there. This makes me very happy!
But there are questions. Is Clark really going to be a farmer and a new reporter for the Planet? What is their commute like? Does Lois like being away from the action, so to speak?
And then the mailbox.
Remember this is the mix of two lives. The pre-Flashpoint Lois and Clark lived as Mr. and Mrs. Smith in Hamilton. Now that overlap makes them now Mr. and Mrs. C. Kent. While old school, this is some of the fallout of that new timeline.
And when we look at the mail, we see that even the universe isn't sure what is what.
Lois Lane Kent?
Mr. and Mrs. Kent?
Will the 'real' Lois please stand up. And you can see this confusion and consternation on Lois' face. Almost a hint of sadness. Which life is hers? who decided this would be her name? What life does she want? What name does she want?
I can't believe that this would be brought up without there being some ultimate decision. It may be that Lois decides to be Ms. Lane. Or maybe Mrs Lane-Kent.
Of course, Clark is all wide-eyed and happy. For him, things have changed for the better. He seems less impacted by this continuity re-write. He knows they will figure it out.
But I like that Lois is more concerned. She wants to talk about what happened to the 'other' Lois. Even she knows that most of this life seems to be the one she led, not the New 52 Lois. She has sort of absorbed that Lois into her. And there are still anomalies that need to be dealt with.
I said it above. I'll say it again. Thank you Mr. Gleason and Mr. Tomasi for having there be some repercussions for something so tumultuous as a personal history being re-written.
The family heads to bed but Superman can sense that something isn't right. Jon sees his father leave the house and head to the barn. It is the same set up as when the Trinity went to Hamilton to confront the new Superman. And Jon won't stay on the sideline.
The two sets of father and son heroes square off a bit. That is until Lois walks out and sets things straight. No more cowering and posturing in the cold barn. Time to head inside for some coffee and pie.
Whether you like Lois hosting and serving coffee or not, there is no denying this scene. She isn't intimidated by anybody here. She takes control of the interaction. That is my Lois.
And I am pretty sure that Gleason is homaging the cover to Batman #9 here.
Batman is wondering why Jon hasn't developed more power. As a hybrid, he should be more powerful than even Clark. I don't know if I buy that logic, but I'll roll with it. For every genetic example of 'hybrid vigor', you have examples of waning characteristics.
Throughout this, you get all that friction/friendship between the two boys. I love the sons.
And then ... the page!
Batman says the world is getting darker and you can't hide from it.
Superman stands up straight and says 'we need to shine brighter'!
YES! YES YES YES!!
This is what Superman should be, shining bright in a cynical world and inspiring.
The whole dialogue, that last panel with a ramrod straight Superman, his suit a bright blue, a look of determination while he confronts the Dark Knight - this is an incredible page that sums up all I think about Superman.
Batman figures out that something must be holding back Jon's progression. And the only thing out of the ordinary is Farmer Cobb's milk straight from Bessie.
And he's right. Investigating the dairy barn, a bottle of Bessie's milk explodes into a jagged, tarry substance which coats and incapacitates Batman. And off screen Cobb says he'll put Batman with 'the rest of them'.
We have all suspected Cobb was more than a kind-hearted neighbor. At least we know our suspicions were right.
What can I say? This was a great opening chapter to this new reality. We get some response to the new history as well as the beginning of a new arc. It is clear that the continuity rewrite wasn't seamless. And I loved it.