Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review: Superwoman #13

Superwoman #13 came out this week, and like Supergirl, I think it might be the best issue of the title so far.

Writer K. Perkins weaves story for us. We have a framing story set in the present day where a mind controlled Lana is fighting Lex Luthor. But we also get a flashback tale of Clark and Lana's adolescence back in Smallville. It all ties into Lana's origin and how she has maintained her Superwoman powers. (Of course I would pick the sepia-soaked nostalgia of the Renato Guedes variant).

Now there is no doubt that I am an absolute sucker for Smallville Lana stories and most of this issue is a flashback to those early years. That always works for me. But Perkins updates some of this story slightly. Gone is the vapid cheerleader Lana conniving to reveal Clark as Superboy (who I know doesn't exist in the current DCU). Instead we get a smart, independent, young woman who is bored with the idyllic small town life. This Lana better jibes with the Lana that we have now. And it isn't such a dramatic change to make me think 'this isn't Lana'.

And the art by Steven Segovia and Art Thibert is powerful. There were times that I was reading this issue that I paused on a page to just take in the art and make my eyes smile. I hope these two stay on the book.

Put it all together and you have a Superwoman book that seems to have put the first vexing arc behind us and sifted through the stabilization issues. Now we have stories moving forward instead of fixing the problems present when looking back.

Seriously, kudos to Perkins for wringing a story out here, complemented perfectly by the art (and colors by  Hi-FI!). I hope DC and readers notice what is unfolding here!

We start out in a Smallville field ablaze. Superwoman is there, working with someone named Red Son, and she is fighting Lex Luthor.

We are dropped into this scene with little knowledge of how we got here. Who is Red Son? Why is Lex there? And why is Lana so chummy with someone so obviously a villain? It's a simple tactic to grab my attention and it worked.

While Red Son is new to me, he clearly has a history with Lex who notes that this 'old friend' has been experimenting with Red Kryptonite in Smallville for years. It explains the S(orts)-shield on Red Son's chest, the cheeky name, and the red flames.

Lex pleads with Superwoman to join him in fighting Red Son but the color of her word balloons and her easy posture around him shows she is working with Red Son not against him.

We knew Lana was heading to Smallville last issue. Now we know she was looking for Amos Aimes as a possible explanation for her powers. It wasn't too big a leap to think already that Red Son and Aimes are the same person.

But this splash was one of those pages that I stopped and lingered on. So much works here. That downward angle onto Lana cuing us into realizing she isn't the good guy here. This isn't a heroic upshot. This position of power from her, energy crackling everywhere is spectacular. And then the colors, just a whole palette of oranges and reds giving the appearance of a dancing fire. Just jaw-dropping gorgeous.

And then we are back in Smallville years ago, when Clark and Lana were in high school. We see Lex there. And we meet Amos Aimes, a sort of bad boy, riding his motorcycle.

You can feel Clark's jealousy when Lana hints at liking Amos. But we also see that first glimpse of engineer Lana, willing to tinker with Amos' engine and tune it up.

So it is clear Clark and Lana aren't together yet romantically. But Clark's flirty actions picking her up and his prickliness when Amos is mentioned shows he might want more.

And then we get another look at this new Lana. Lex is the teacher's assistant in Chemistry but Lana says she is the best Chemistry student in the school. Their bickering only ends up getting them detention.

So Lana as someone willing to fix bike engines and being savvy at Chemistry just synchs up with the action engineer we met first in the Pak/Kuder Action book. This is her new history.

But what I truly love about this is that she is put on par with Lex. This contrasts so mightily with Phil Jimenez's early arc in this book where to elevate Lena he complete downgraded Lex. It isn't a zero sum game. Lana and Lex can both be super-intelligent.

What I love is Clark's awkward attempt to get detention so he can be with Lana. He calls himself a delinquent. What is this? West Side Story?

In the end, he has to insult Shakespeare to get the kindly English teacher to punish him.

As someone who tried such tactics in hopes the girl would notice me, I can tell you it never really worked.

You can tell that even in Smallville, Lana was something of a spitfire, pushing boundaries, and craving some excitement. So instead of heading to detention, she skips out with Amos.

They ride out on his motorcycle but she demands to be the driver.

In all these scenes you see the seeds of how Lana became the woman she is now. It is just brilliant.

And when Clark sees that Lana isn't there, he decides to skip out too and find her.

But she isn't the best driver. She wipes out.

Luckily the super-speedy Clark zips in to catch her (while letting Amos take a tumble).

There is a little tense scene where Lana calls Clark possessive. She calls him out for turning her away when she said she had feelings for him. Finally, all this cracks Clark's facade and he admits that he does like her leading to a first kiss.

I am such a sucker for Clark/Lana Smallville stories.

But the kiss is cut short. Lana's red necklace burns Clark. And then we get that eerie, supernatural looking final panel as Lana gets infused with some energy. She sort of looks possessed! That was another one of the panels I lingered on. Just beautiful.

Since Silver Age Lana was always getting powers and abilities from artifacts, her getting abilities from a necklace her dad made had a nice ring of truth.

So prolonged exposure to Red K is what gave Lana her powers? Hmmmm ...

Finally Lex gets the upper hand on Red Son. But Lana isn't done. Despite Lex telling her that the prolonged Red K exposure has made her mad, she can't see through it all. She is still going to attack.

Good thing he called in a ringer for backup.

Kara arrives to help Lex.


Now that is one gorgeous picture of Supergirl. Segovia and Thibert and Hi-Fi just crushed it on this closing cliffhanger. The cape, the pose, the wind, the licks of flame ... it all works.

Whew! This one had it all! Plot progression! Action! A new super-villain! And a great flashback story bolstering this Lana. I loved it.

And does anyone else get just a whiff of Conduit from Red Son? Maybe?

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

Whenever contemporary comic book writers have to "update" a character who started out as a female caricature in the silver age (and boy howdy a lot of Lana in the silver age was pretty cringeworthy....a ginger Lois Lane but less self reliant and even clingier if thats possible)...they usually end up "upbraining them" to scientist/engineer status...thats fine I guess, ye olde character templates don't always work with today's aud...but geez isn't ANYONE in the DCU a CPA or an Actuary??

All kidding aside Superwoman is becoming a fun read indeed...


Anonymous said...

This was actually my favorite of the comics I bought last week - not a thing I would ever have expected to say about Superwoman at this point. And that concluding splash of Kara is exceeded only by Artgerm's Supergirl variant cover as most stunning image of the week.

kenkraly2004 said...

Great review , Wow this was a great issue and the best of the series so far , Seeing Lana go crazy and being infected with Red Kryptonite was not only emotional but it was heartbreak and Lex trying to fight her off was cool as well. And Spoiler Alert the huge cliffhanger Supergirl to the rescue to save the day and sets things up for the next issue. Also the flashbacks with Clark and Lana in Smallville good as well. Great story and amazing artwork 9.5/10

Gear said...

I'll admit I wasn't a fan of this book in the past. The writing seemed disjointed, the story wandered, Lana's character seemed bizarre and really pretty unlikeable, and her relationship with Irons was a head scratcher.

What a difference a writer change has made. This has become a very enjoyable book, and Perkins has shown again she can walk in to an existing title and make it work. I know the sales numbers for this book are pretty low, but I hope it can continue for awhile longer. I enjoyed the Lana/Kara relationship pre-Flashpoint, I'm looking forward to seeing where she takes this.

Martin Gray said...

Terrific review, you're so right about the craft on display here, it is wonderful. I now see the point of a Lana book - without the World of Metropolis characters everywhere, the story has room to breathe. I'd like to see the SCU folk, the Steels and Daily Star people, but in alternating arcs. This time, though, none of them, and Lana gets a chance to shine - blaze, I suppose - in her own book.