Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Review: Superwoman #10

Superwoman #10 came out last week and was another step towards the new reality of this book since Superman Reborn rewrote continuity and made Superwoman's history impossible. How can Lana have powers given to her by a dying New 52 Superman when that Superman never existed?

Writer K. Perkins has been given the monumental task of trying to sort this out. And I am rooting for her. I like Perkins as a writer. I loved what she did on Supergirl. And I like Lana and I find the concept of Superwoman fresh. But I wonder if this might be too much even for her. Because everything which led up to Lana being Superwoman is gone. So how do you continue?

That isn't to say that this issue is a failure. One of the things about Superwoman which has felt innovative is that Lana struggles with anxiety and PTSD. She is trying to be a hero while dealing with her own issues. And we see how these continue to be a big part of her character. Lana strives to move past these problems, or compartmentalize them, so she can continue to be better and help people. But the scenes of her flashing back to painful memories still show scenes that I don't think have happened now.

I am also rooting for this book because I think the art team of Stephen Segovia and Art Thibert is a dynamite pairing. The art here really sparkles. Plus, I love this Renato Guedes cover riffing on the classic Superman #1 cover, right down to 'wear and tear' and a price tag.

I just don't know if my rooting will be enough ...

The book starts with a classic opening hook, dropping us into an action scene where the hero is in peril. Lana's throat is in the grasp of some monstrous villain.

But she has her powers. So that is new from last issue. We have to get there.

And we get an opening monologue where Lana talks about how her humanity, her fallibility is what makes her powerful. She states her humanity *is* her superpower.

One thing that wore down my love for the prior run was Lana's constant over-emoting and basically being irritated at the world. It was hard to like Lana in the latter portions of the Ultrawoman arc. So this is something of a tightrope to walk. Give Lana these issues to work through while not having them overwhelm her or detract from her.

We switch to a flashback. Natasha's father has forgotten to pick her up from school. She needs to walk home and get Zeke her baby brother from the babysitter. Even then, Natasha knew her uncle John was more reliable.

I'm not sure why Natasha is reviewing these sad memories at the dinner table but Lana tries to comfort her. Lana says that pain can be helpful. Pain can form how you deal with problems. This isn't minimizing Natasha's pain, just giving some context.

At least we know that Lana is going to try and use her problems in a more constructive way, utilizing it in a sense.

Somehow, there is some energy activity in the 'Insect Queen' super-suit despite Lana being powerless. In a little bit of 'comic book science', John and Natasha decide that sending Lana into a deprivation chamber where she will be emotionally provoked will somehow give them the information they will need to figure out why the suit is still functional.

In other words, Lana has to literally face her fears and sorrows in the name of science. I am surprised that everyone signs on board so quickly. And I suppose it makes some sense since this suit was designed only for Lana to see if they can figure out how to activate it. But maybe some simpler physical tests might be a better way to start as opposed to going right to a psychological battering.

The chamber shows Lana images of her in the Superwoman suit beaten to a pulp. And then we see her looking at a picture of John's nephew Zeke (who has been kidnapped).

This memory triggers emotions in Lana which then seems to activate the suit in some way.

So what is it? Sadness? Fear? Anxiety? Or just adrenaline?

This 'deprivation chamber' turns out to be a bit more physical than I expected. The next layer of danger is a row of robots wielding laser guns who open fire on Lana. But once again, with a text box to tell us that her heart rate is elevated, the suit powers up and protects Lana. She then lashes out destroying them.

With that physical attack over, the room once again uses painful memories to try and subdue Lana. She gets weighed down literally by her past. A wall of screens show her the painful recent memories of Superman dying and Lois becoming sand. Earlier in the issue we saw that Lana is plagued by dreams of this.

Here is where I really became lost. Did that actually happen post-Reborn? I thought that whole scene -  the two Supermen/Loises, the Superman energy powering Lana  - was expunged from continuity. Maybe I am wrong?

I was wondering if Perkins would need to come up with an entirely new origin but I guess we are still using the original. But I am pretty confused here.

But the pain of those images reignite the Superwoman powers. She reconfigures her costume to be Superwoman again, perhaps cementing that this is the identity she wants.

John wonders if Lana will want these powers if the only way to access them is through reliving her pain.

Now a hero that uses their psychological pain as fuel for super powers? That is very interesting. But I also think incredibly difficult to write. I hope Perkins is up for the challenge.

Now there is a new dream. Instead of reliving Lois' death, Lana has a dream with Clark. She tells him that she is afraid to fail. He says that he feels that uncertainty too but there is power there.

I think that Lana voicing her fears makes perfect sense for her. She needs to accept who she is before she can move on. Her asking Clark about it makes sense given their history. And how encouraging for him to share that he has the same fears.

So we know Lana's fears, we know the events that have impacted her, we know that she wants to be a hero, and we know that she thinks pain and history can be used positively. We also know that her suit can be activated by her biochemical responses to her past. And we know that her fears of failing as a superhero are shared by the inspirational figure in her life.

There is still a lot to unpack with all this, even aside from the confusing continuity bits. But this catharsis of a sorts sets Lana up to move on.

Which brings us to the end of the issue, when we have finally looped back to the opening image. Lana has heard that Skyhook, the villain responsible for Zeke's kidnapping, is active. Lana heads out to intercept and a battle ensues.

Except now a much more determined looking Lana is ready to engage. And she says it outright - her emotions are what power the suit. But those emotions are hope and love not fear and anxiety. She has leaned on the positives to accomplish her goals.

I haven't really mentioned the art throughout this review/recap but it crackled. In particular, I really love this last splash which has such a defiant vibe in comparison to the first. It conveyed that this isn't the worried, scared Lana anymore. She is ready to throw down.

I am still on board. There was a lot of character progression in this one issue. I think I have a better understanding of Lana's mindset now. And she seems much more in control of her own destiny, acting with purpose. I am still hopeful the backstory speed bumps will be smoothed over.

Overall grade: B


Anonymous said...

"Here is where I really became lost. Did that actually happen post-Reborn? I thought that whole scene - the two Supermen/Loises, the Superman energy powering Lana - was expunged from continuity. Maybe I am wrong?"

I... I thought so. I thought it was retconned out. That scene did or didn't happen?

Or maybe Lana still remembers something after all?

Excuse me for a minute. My head needs to come into contact with the nearest wall.

If I remember correctly, Geoff Johns said at the beginning of the Rebirth reboot the New 52 reboot failed because of a lack of clear guidelines and coordination between writers. I'm afraid DC hasn't learned their lesson after all.

I hope Perkins is able to save this book. Lana seemes to be getting better, but it may be a bit too late.

Martin Gray said...

Top review. I'm going to fall back on the post-Crisis 'soft-state' excuse... the universe is settling down, so Lana can still access these memories, but soon they'll be gone and for however long the book lasts. the details won't be mentioned - she's in a tech-suit linked to her emotions.

If only Natasha and John would just invent a bio-ring... we never did learn why this 21st-century suit is called the Insect Queen.

Stephen M said...

Not about this but have you seen this:
It's the opening cinematic for Injustice 2.
I might buy the game just for this.