Friday, December 8, 2017

Review: Superman #36

Superman #36 was the final part of the Imperius Lex storyline and was a definitely entertaining and interesting ending to this arc. For me, seeing the turmoil on Apokolips in the context of Darkseid being gone has drawn me in. As a Fourth World fan, seeing the members of the court in-fight for power is a new wrinkle to those characters.

I also love seeing the three members of the Lane/Kent family each have moments to shine, showing their strength and character in these harsh environments.

But the big thing for me was the denouement of the Lex Luthor arc. The title of this issue is 'Liberation' and that works for both the Apokolips arc as well as Lex's character. For the longest time I have questioned Lex's motives, wondering if the old evil Lex was just under the surface. Finally, at the beginning of this arc, I had come to realize that maybe Lex had indeed turned the corner and become a true hero. And then, like the best of stories, the ending threw me for a loop and made perfect sense. It is a great ending and brings a new sort of Rebirth to the Luthor name.

So story-tellers Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason really clicked on this arc. And Doug Mahnke shines here. I love his take on the Kirby characters. This whole thing crackles. The cover by Patrick Gleason is the first with the new print dress and DC symbol. Gone is the Rebirth banner. And Superman on the throne of Apokolips is a stark image.

On to the book.

The factions for ultimate power on Apokolips all finally collide. It is a battle of four armies - Granny and her Furies, Jon and the Hunger Dogs, Kalibak and his troops, and eventually Ardora and the rebel army. Added into the mix are Superman and an unconscious Super-Lex.

This is about as nasty a civil war as there can be. And Mahnke really shows us that on this fabulous two page spread, showing us the tooth and claw of the proceedings. This is one of those splashes where I paused and just looked at all the corners of this thing, drinking it in.

Again, I'm a Fourth World fan so this was right up my alley.

And I had to laugh at seeing Granny Goodness wade into combat herself. I guess that armor isn't just for show. I don't know if I have actually ever seen her in a true fight!

But isn't there something slyly humorous about her grabbing Kalibak's ear ... like a grandmother might do to get the attention of a misbehaving grandchild? I love how she still is menacing despite being dwarfed by the massive Kalibak.

With the members on the same battlefield, the Kents come together as a family.

The Furies mock Lois for going to her man and wonder if all she does is serve food. Lois won't have any of that, bashing her way through the Furies. Her love of her family isn't a weakness. No one has the right to judge her.

Since Rebirth, the Clark/Lois dynamic has been one of a team. She's been the reporter at the Planet. She's been the one who earned her place on this Fury team through guts and combat. Caring for Clark and Jon isn't a weakness.

We have seen Superman barbecuing and baking pineapple-upside-down cake since Rebirth too. If Kalibak said he was weak for caring about Lois and Jon and for cooking for them, I would expect a similar response. If someone told Jon that his respect for his parents was a weakness, I'd expect him to fight too. This is the dynamic of this family, shared responsibility and respect and love.

Throughout the beginning part of the issue, we are hearing the conversation between Ardora and the Prophet. Remember, it was their kidnapping of Lex that brought everyone here to begin with. They are looking for their messiah. Initially they thought Lex. Now they think it's Superman.

And they realize that they can't force Superman into being their leader. But maybe if they follow his lead they can convince him to be their force of good, their liberator.

And so their army, the fourth army, arrives (all we need are the eagles and we'll have the Battle of the Five Armies!).

And they seem to suddenly get control of the whole situation. All the other factions are subdued and captured. Maybe a little too fast??

They ask Superman for guidance and he tells them that execution isn't the right answer. Lex deserves to live. Granny deserves to live. Mercy is for those who need it.

If anyone deserves mercy, if anyone needs to learn the role of love and compassion, it is the elite of Darkseid's court.

Once again, Ardora asks Superman to ascend to the throne and rule. And with some support from Lois and Jon, he accepts ... sort of.

At the 'coronation', Superman gives the sort of inspirational speech you would expect him to give.

He talks of his humble beginnings, of how hope and love were the guiding principles he was raised to honor. He talks of early Americans shaking off the yoke of tyranny. He literally lights a torch to represent hope. Each person then lights a torch and lights the torch of the person next to them. Symbolically, the light of freedom and hope stretches out to the darkest corners of the planet.

I grew up with a Superman who wasn't ashamed to say 'the American Way'. As this Superman says, America is a symbol of hope, not perfect but growing.

I'm all about an inspirational Superman. He usually isn't this verbose; he usually leads by example and eschews speeches. But this is different. I thought it worked well.

There were a lot of good moments in this book. But I loved this one.

Superman won't stay and Apokolips and lead. But he will be available as a leader of sorts.

In his absence, Superman asks Ardora to head up a senate of sorts. She humbly says she is just a soldier but he reminds her that many excellent leaders started that way.

There is something about him choosing her, and her recognizing the horror that she has seen, that makes me think she will do a great job.

He is inspiring her to be more.

But remember the title of this is 'Liberation'.

Back on Earth, Lex confronts Superman about the Man of Steel not rushing to Apokolips to aid him. This is where I honestly felt like Lex truly thought he had become a hero and a friend. He can't believe after all he has done that Superman still didn't trust him. And, as if to rub salt in the wound, Superman says that he doesn't trust Lex.

With those feelings known, and probably feeling somewhat betrayed by Superman, and probably angry at himself for trying to become someone worthy of the S-shield, Lex frees himself of the mantle. He rips off the El family crest and destroys it. Frankly, part of me agrees a bit with Lex.

He is now free to scrawl whatever pattern he wants on a morally ambiguous world. He is free to be Lex again ... a villain.

I worry that this might make Lex an even more formidable enemy. And I love that too.

Imperius Lex has been a great arc.

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

I felt a little sorry for Lex, but he WAS happy to throw Superman into the messiah role in his stead. Really though, Superman should have spent time with him, sat down, give him the chance to change he gave Ardora and co.

This has been a superb arc. I could have done without the narrative back and forth, which slowed things down for me, but what a great story. I know one or two folk will complain about Lois fighting physically, but it's part of her, she's always been feisty, and what's the alternative here? Be crushed.

One thing that disappointed me artistically was that after the 'torch of freedom' talk we never got a full-page splash of an Apokoliptian Statue of Liberty.

I loved Jon trying for another pet!

Anonymous said...

Honestly I can understand Lex's point. He tried to change. He truly, honestly did. And it turns out that Superman doesn't trust him after all. If so, why bothering?

Sadly, Lex's redemption was doomed to failure. You can convert and redeem some villains. But the hero's arch-enemy? Claremont tried, and everyone know how successful Magneto's redemption was.

Anonymous said...

I didn't like this arc very much, but I did like the outcome of getting Lex back.

It bugged me a bit with what they did with Lois. I have always liked Lois for being a true badass. If there's a kidnapper she wouldn't have trouble taking a shot against him. She has been maybe the most badass human in the DC universe. What this arc does with her though is having her beat up the furies, but that removes that awesome human view I have of her and turn her into a mediocre Superhero. She is getting plot armor and plot powers that ruins what I so love about her. Next time I will see her in trouble with terrorists I feel like it won't even be exciting. They made her a bona fide Superhero now.

Anonymous said...

Completely unrelated: The news about DCEU being rethought, what are your thoughts? Good or bad for Supergirl?
After Justice League failing, will they dare to give Supergirl a chance, hoping for a Wonder Woman success story, or did any chance we had of seeing her in MoS2 burn up in flames while we have to watch reboots of the Trinity?

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this issue and the arc. Mankhe's art is well suited to drawing Apokolips and the ending where Superman technically becomes ruler of Apokolips was actually interesting. As someone who's not a big fan of Superman going all American, I wasn't too bothered by Superman's speech. It was more generalised at least and Apokolips did need to be inspired by the parallels in America's creation.

It wasn't flawless by any means, the last issue was rushed and Lois beating the Furies (who have fought Barda and Wonder Woman) was a plot armour moment. But it was an improvement over the months of filler we've been getting from the Superman title.

Interesting you picked up on this issue's name representing Lex freeing himself of being Superman's ally.


Thay said...

''Completely unrelated: The news about DCEU being rethought, what are your thoughts? Good or bad for Supergirl?
After Justice League failing, will they dare to give Supergirl a chance, hoping for a Wonder Woman success story, or did any chance we had of seeing her in MoS2 burn up in flames while we have to watch reboots of the Trinity?''

I think a Supergirl movie is pretty unprovable, but maybe somebody takes an interest in the character and ends up asking for a movie like Joss Whedon did with batgirl .... I think she has more chances to appear in some Superman movie but not in MoS 2 (which nobody knows anything about) and I'm pretty scared how they're going to present Kara with all that story she's already here on earth for a long time,I hope that Man of Steel Prequel be ignored.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Space Ace Kara origin story was a terrible idea. They really need that retconned. It wasn't a bad story per se, but they should have used another Kryptonian for it.

I would personally prefer a Midvale style Kara that has been hidden away, and her foster parents forbade her from Superheroing until she is revealed.

Anonymous said...

It seems we have some answers now. Looks like MoS Sequel and JL sequel have been dropped with a lot of other DC movies.
Among the ones left there is little to no chance of a Supergirl appearance.

Among the ones left I have the best hope for Batgirl which I think will be the Burnside version. Green Lanterns could be great if we get Jessica/Simon version or Guy Gardner. I am really not interested in a Hal/Kyle/John movie atm.

Least excited about yet another Batman movie.