Friday, April 7, 2017

Review: Superman #20

 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 Kent?
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'!


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.

Just fantastic!

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

"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."

Oh, yes. This kind of craziness is because comics get a hard time finding new readers.

Several years ago I read a Post-Crisis fan "countering" Didio's argument to bring Kara back by telling "So Linda Danvers was sidelined because Dan Didio didn't want to get people who like roller-coasters confused?". I'm wondering if he was serious or intentionally obtuse. In order to be marketable, characters need to be easy to explain and understand. "Supergirl is Kara Zor-El, Superman's cousin who also survived Krypton's destruction" is easy to explain and understand. "Supergirl is Linda Danvers, a human girl who became an Earth Angel when a protoplasmic being from a pocket dimension merged with her" is not.

Incidentally, it also shows why the "Sole Survivor of Krypton" mandate was so dumb and ill-considered. Byrne, Wolfman, Giordano... threw the baby out with the bathwater, and since Superman's stories NEEDED the elements expunged from the mythos because his stories are very limited otherwise, subsequent writers had to reintroduce them, changing backstories and backgrounds and making the universe ridiculously and innecessarily complex...

... and I'm going really off topic here. So, there're now one Superman and one Lois. Not more Pre and Post FP Superman. Got it.

I wonder what the new reality is like. We know the Kents are moving to Metropolis. As far as their friends and co-workers knew they have always lived in Hamilton? We'll see.

The "Mr. and Mrs. C. Kent" bit is certainly weird. It reminds me of the old "Mrs. Superman"

I liked Jon muttering "Oh, no, not again" when his father left. And Batman and Damien cannnot help themselves, right? Maybe they should move with the Kents.

"Whether you like Lois hosting and serving coffee or not, there is no denying this scene. She isn't intimidated by anybody here."


"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."

I remember a friend of mine arguing Gohan should NOT be stronger than Goku because is an hybrid.

I also remember a Superman fanfic ("Superman of 2499: The Great Confrontation" by Dark Mark) featuring the descendants of Superman and the offspring of Supergirl. Some of them had the full Kryptonian package, but a lot of them were weaker or had less powers.

I guess we'll soon find out what is with the farmer, the cow and the damned Lovecraftian county.

Overall, a good issue. I only wish Superman at the very least mentioned Kara when he talks about his family. If you only read Superman's books, you wouldn't ever know he has a cousin. It's as if Supergirl didn't exist. Again.

Martin Gray said...

Insightful as ever, sir, Frustratingly, I noticed that Batman cover homage only when you posted the panel, then you denied me the pleasure of pointing it out. I SWEAR VENGEANCE,

You know how I'd like this two-parter to end? The phone rings:

'Hi son'


Anj said...

Thanks for comments!

Imagine if the Kents are back! Now that would be insanity!

And if we are reeling from this, I can't help but see the ripples extend to Supergirl and Superwoman.

Anonymous said...

I really did not like this. I admit. My perspective is very different. I come to the table as 53 (in July) woman (mom, electrical engineer, etc etc).

It is hard to explain if you don't walk that proverbial mile.

Some historical context to my lens?

My dad had to come in to my Jr. High and insist I be able to take advance math and science classes because my guidance counselor wouldn't assign me. Why? I was taking the place for a boy and my purpose was husband hunting.

What is lost in this conversation is historical perspective.

Lois Lane standing there serving the men folk wouldn't be a problem if we see the flip side. Except? That is rarely shown.

Instead of this one dimensional "Leave it to Beaver" tableau? I'd suggest to have them all work together.
Maybe show a burnt pie in homage to Lois' less than stellar baking skills. Batman saying no.Clark muttering he should have baked.Something more dynamic which acknowledges the complexity of modern families.

Meanwhile?The mailbox with Mr & Mrs C Kent (not the mail) is a problem. Mrs C Kent is a generic term. Any woman fits that. Her identity is nowhere to be found.

I don't know how to explain to those who never had to deal with this how difficult it really is. And how exhausting it is.

I don't want my daughter to have to deal with this. I don't want my daughter to have to listen to what I had to listen to in the 80s and 90s as an engineer the dismissive comments I had to hear.

I don't see Lois pulling her son's ear and saying let's go in to the warmth. I see Lois sitting there trying to get to the bottom of things while Clark pulls his son's ear and rolls his eyes at Lois while saying 'let's go inside'. He is Martha's son. She's the General's daughter.

As with everything? This is my opinion and your mileage may vary.

Anonymous said...

Off-topic, but "Supergirl: Being Super #3" preview pages are up. Joelle Jones goes on impressing:

Anonymous said...

Great review, I agree with your assessment that this issue was a nice breather of positivity and optimism for the Superman comic. That gorgeous two page spread of Superman flying over Hamilton with the red and blue birds, the hilarious meeting broken up by Lois, the mystery of Cobb's farm all spell a really superb story in the feature. I agree with you that that moment where Superman tells Batman they need to shine more brightly is the highlight of the issue, loads of people I follow on Twitter loved that moment. It's pure Superman.

There is some controversy regarding Batman's statement that Jon should be more powerful than Superman though. Personally I am not a big fan of Jon surpassing his father's power level at 10 years old. It has too much Jon Lane Kent/Gohan vibes and it makes little sense how a child with only a year of developing his powers can suddenly become more powerful than an adult. Hybrid or not, Jon being more powerful than Clark does create some issues with Superman being the toughest guy on the block if Jon is supposedly even more powerful. The same thing happened with Supergirl when Loeb reintroduced Kara Zor-El for a time but the same guy also had Superman state he had more control and he could beat Kara any time he wanted. I doubt Jon will be able to last as more powerful than Clark.


Anonymous said...

Also I don't see any problems with Lois serving refreshments and being willing to take Jon out of the way for Bruce and Clark to talk. Perhaps she thought they were going to talk about something serious that Jon shouldn't listen to or that it was Justice League business. Moreover, at the start of Superman Reborn, Lois mentions Clark baking a pie or cake for her so it's not as if Clark demands she do all the cooking. And Clark has been shown cooking for and with Jon several times so it's hardly a patriarchal relationship in the least.

As for the letters where Lois is called Lois Kent, that's traditional marriage for you. Some people prefer to use the husband's second name when talking with the wife, traditional values are a deepset thing in America I hear from the UK. If I ever got married, I'd let my partner keep her last name if that's what she wanted to do but you can't deny that people aren't willing to accept last names even in this day and age of marriage. Lois has hardly been downsized during Rebirth, she's played important parts and had important developments in both Action Comics and Superman. Looking at this isolated instance as if it's a problem is rather narrow minded in my opinion.


Anonymous said...

Well Louis, I think calling people names like "narrow minded" is a problem. This isn't about the UK or America. This is about Lois Lane. Is she traditional? No she isn't.

This is about what is in character for her. And I thought this was out of character.

I would like to think people can disagree without insults.

Godzylla said...

Louis, I hope if you ever get married that your wife appreciates your allowing her to keep her name. It's very magnanimous.

Joking aside, this is part of the problem that Maya is pointing out. I know you didn't mean your turn of phrase in that manner, but that, my friend, is part of the ingrained casual sexism, etc., in society. That doesn't make you or anyone else sexist, but it's part of a subconscious acceptance.

Further, we aren't talking about women in general or relationships in general, we're discussing specific individuals. Lois just isn't a person to stand aside and let others work out problems that affect her life.

Anonymous said...

Right on Keith! I'll be honest. I struggle at times to keep my comments civil without resorting to insults. This is one of those times.

It really really ticks me off to read comments like this from people who have absolutely no experience in what they are talking about.

Never mind I said NOTHING about Lois Kent. I pointed out the mailbox which didn't have Lois's name on it at all. Meanwhile. I've been married for 25 years (about as long or longer than some people commenting about all this have been alive). I didn't change my last name. My husband wasn't part of the decision making because society has evolved past women being needing a man's approval for their choices. There is no "let" involved.

I really resent labels like "narrow minded" especially from people who aren't even old enough to see historical perspective of women's liberation. And will never have to deal with the casual sexism women to this day face.

Anonymous said...

Godzylla - I'm sure she'll be very grateful for my generosity. Moving on, all I meant to say with my phrase is that people, including women, do choose to give up their surnames and accept their husband's last name when marrying and becoming a family. It might have had sexist roots but nowadays people are allowed to keep their surnames in the legal civil records. As far as Lois goes, since I agree that should be the focus, I remember that her name after she married Clark was Lois Lane-Kent. But since they live in Hamilton County which is American heartland, I guess they would tend to refer to

Maya - You've taken my criticism the wrong way, I was just disagreeing with you, not insulting you. I'll apologise for the narrow minded point though and simply say that I disagree with you that Lois being referred to as Mrs Kent, serving pie for the boys and taking Jonathan away were as bad as you think they were. Also, Lois didn't know that Batman had come to talk about Jon, she was about to take Jon away before Batman told her that his visit concerned them both. I'm sure there will be some point in the story where Lois says she's more than Mrs Kent or something and in Metropolis she's known as Lois Lane over Mrs Kent. I'm also sure that you know there were far worse moments of character assassination for Lois in the New 52 than what has happened here.


Anonymous said...

Louis: Do not tell me how I took your criticism.

I am taking it in the way you phrased it. You do not understand anything you are talking about. You are not married. You are young. And you are not a woman.

Meanwhile? I'm a woman.I'm married. I've given birth twice.

Have you been to America? Or is it in your mind what you think it is like?

Do you understand Lois Lane? You speak of traditional except she's always not been traditional. (Silver age not withstanding)

Talk about narrow minded? Look in the mirror kid.

I've been reading these books before you were born. So. Yes. I know. Hence my comments. I don't need your dismissive nonsense.

You will "let" your mythical wife keep her name? As if this has anything to do with you.

Anj said...

A New review will be up on Monday.

WJ said...

mayak46, excuse me, but for someone who said people can disagree without resorting to insults you're certainly not following your own statement.

Watch the tone of your last comment, you know nothing about Louis or what he had to go through his life. How do you even know his age?

I don't agree with most of what he said either, but it was nothing offensive. He already apologized for the narrow-minded point, so no need to take matters personal nor being arrogant and talking down to others. Maybe we can keep a healthy and civilized conversation in here.

Scrimmage said...

Loved the story, and the direction of the series in general, but I didn't care for the art at all! Superman and Jon looked rather cartoony, but the depiction of Lois was AWFUL! With those HUGE almond shaped eyes, she looked more like an alien than CLARK! I always thought that Lois had dark hair, the same color as Clark and Jon's, but she's been one of the most inconsistently rendered characters since the "New 52," especially with her varying incarnations in different realities. Now she's a bug-eyed, "dirty blonde" all of a sudden. Maybe it's just the artists' Manga-influenced style, which I have never cared for, but I was hoping we'd get back to the basics with the art as well as with the characters and stories.

Godzylla said...

Hi Scrimmage,

I'm with you on the art (although I think this is his best work to date, but the sharp colors may be influencing me a bit); I'm not thrilled with "bigfoot" (as we used to call it) or manga-tinged styles on super-hero books, either. But, as with anything else, it's all subjective. Not a series I plan to keep getting. :/