Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Review: Superwoman #17

Superwoman is ending. Superwoman #17 is the penultimate issue and came out last week. And it seems we are heading for a dramatic conclusion of some sort. There are a lot of ominous goodbyes in this issue which makes me think that the whole idea of Superwoman might be coming to end.

And it is a shame. K. Perkins has elevated this book from the early mess it was. And there are moments in her run that really captivate me. Indeed, in this one, there is a dreamish sequence that stuck with me long after I read it. My guess is she'll bring this to some hopeful ending but I'm feeling a twinge of tragedy will be there too.

The art on the issue is by Federico Dallocchio and there is a nice style to the art here. I wish I could elegantly explain it. But there is a freshness and clean feel to to the art that really clicked for me.

It is a shame that this book never really exploded. I think, in the end, it was something of a noble experiment. But the 'Lois is/isn't the star', the convoluted early arc by Phil Jimenez, the Superman Reborn story demolishing the star's origin, and the inability for a dedicated reader like me to explain the character's backstory or powers easily left this on shaky ground. I suppose I should be impressed we made it this far.

On to the book.

 The book opens where last issue ended. Midnight has absorbed people and things into herself in hopes of obtaining energy to rescue her mistress Lena Luthor. But she needs more power, power only Superwoman has. And so she gives Lana a choice. If Lana gives Midnight power, Midnight will free all her captives.

One thing that has been explored in this book is Lana's anxiety and lack of self-worth. That is always in the background, even when she is flying into danger to help people. But even here she is challenged. Does giving in to this demand mean giving up?

There is something fresh-faced about this Lana. She looks pretty young here. But it works.

 Luickily, this book is sort of a team book right now.

The armored Natasha and the new Maxima fly in to bash Midnight and rescue a rapidly fading Superwoman.

I have liked the recent dynamic of this group of women working together as super-human allies. I dubbed them (with Traci Thirteen) the New Fantastic Four.

Okay, so with Midnight forced to retreat, her black hole energy dissipates and the sun shines over Metropolis again. But Lana is drained and near death.

Now I said above that even I'm not sure of who or what Lana is. So when Natasha said that Lana needs yellow sun rays to recharge, I paused. Is that true?

I mean it. I am confused. Lana received power from a solar flare bolt from a dying Superman who no longer exists. But she keeps saying that she received her powers from Clark in some way. But then we wondered if it was her suit? Or Red K? Or now some infusion of Kryptonian physiology?

You know what we really needed? (I can't believe I'm saying this.) A zero issue. A stand alone origin issue which delineated how Lana got her powers and what her powers are in the post-Reborn world.

After that moment, we get the best scene in the book.

In what is clearly a dream sequence, we see Clark and Lana standing in a cornfield. At times they are in their super-suits. At times they look like they did back in Smallville.

I talked about how part of the backbone of this book is Lana trying to deal with her anxiety and feelings of helplessness while also being a superhero.

So I loved that panel of the young lovers holding hands. And hearing Lana say that Clark believing in her is what made her believe in herself was just the sort of Smallville sweetness I love!

But then there is this sort of poignant and heavy moment at the end of this scene. Lana says it all seems to be heading to a goodbye.

I doubt that Lana will die but maybe the 'depowering' and becoming a more typical supporting cast member is probably going to happen.

But all of that happened while she was being recharged by solar lamps. Hmmm ... okay ...

Once awake, Lana is told that Midnight is 'an annihilator' and is destroying the city.

This is one of these moments you need to roll with. Did Maxima, Natasha, and Traci just hole up while Midnight is ripping the place apart? Did the JLA turn away from Metropolis (of all places) is being destroyed?

I guess I could say that in almost any comic book issue.

Meanwhile, Midnight goes all Skynet. She now realizes that she can be more than her code; she can exist for reasons other than rescuing Lena. She can be her own person.

So why not absorb Lana and become her own person.

Now this could be an interesting wrinkle if Perkins had the time to explore. Could Midnight stop killing people? Maybe release everyone as a sign of good faith? Ask the heroes for help? Or is she stuck in this 'might makes right' mindset despite her free thought?

 And then, more foreshadowing.

Lana decides she needs to head out and face Midnight. She'll need some help from her friends. But it is hard to know how this will all play out. Now it is Natasha who has a crisis of faith and Lana who needs to prop her up. Once again, Lana tells Natasha outright that Natasha is a great hero.

And once again we hear that this sounds like a goodbye.

Now we know that the book is going away. So this is a goodbye. But how big a goodbye? I hope they aren't killing off Lana.

After a bit of a brawl, including a nice trick where Traci has multiple images of Superwoman show up to confuse Midnight, the two combatants come face to face. After some back-and-forth, Lana decides indeed the time has come to give up, give in, and sacrifice herself to save everyone else.

How will it end! Is Lana gone? Possessed?

I have to say I like the sort of pixie-ish take on Lana on this page. The pony tail and legs up reminds me of someone on a trampoline, a rare feeling of fun which works in this rather dark page.

If I could go back in time, I'd have Perkins be the writer on Superwoman from the beginning. I am interested in seeing how this all plays out.

This book was really elevated by that Clark dream sequence. I loved that.

Overall grade: B/B+


Anonymous said...

The art isn't great but it's nice, and the story... is confusing. To no one's surprise.

"So when Natasha said that Lana needs yellow sun rays to recharge, I paused. Is that true?"

I asked myself: Did I miss something?

This lack of consistency has plagued the book since its inception. Lois is the hero. No, wait, Lois and Lana are both the heroes. No, wait, Lana is the hero. Her powers stem from... an event retconned by the last cosmic crisis retconned out, so it didn't happen. Lana's first adventure didn't happen... or did it? Lana's powers come from a dying Superman who never existed? Red-K? Sunlight? Lena did or didn't go crazy and evil?

Usually comics take decades to become so convoluted. Somehow Superwoman managed this in less than two years.

Sadly I'm afraid Superwoman was an experiment doomed to failure. It was a new book, featuring a character who had never gotten an ongoing, belonging to a franchise who isn't selling as well as it used to, and penned by a writer who was more concerned with pushing an agenda than writing a coherent plot, and whose first arc was retconned out as soon as it ended. Perkins did whatever she could, but the deck was stacked against it.

My bet is Lana will not die but she will be depowered in the next issue.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I suspect permanent depowerment will be the big payoff next issue, so that they can hand off the Superwoman Trademark to some other creative with a Big Idea sans any continuity consequences. Lana will go back to be a third tier Superman character...(purely my opinion mind you) until yet another ambitious creative has a Big Idea centered around her.
Its sad this could have been a great book but the storytelling was simply berserk at times with continuity contradictions to put the Empire Days of Bob Haney to shame.
C'est l'vie.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the above comment.
There has been some rumours in the rumour mill that another superwoman comic is in works at DC but this time the character is blonde. As always take this with a gigantic grain of salt.

Anonymous said...

If there is another Superwoman (I am not even sure if it's a good idea, the name is jinxed to lead to a short career), then this is what I personally believe should change:

* Give it to a Kryptonian. Or change the name. Whichever. It's a kryptonian symbol on their chests. A family crest. I accept Steel wearing it out of respect when Supes died but enough is enough.

* Don't give superpowers to a character whose Superpower is being an inspirational awesome civilian. Lana was perfect as a corporate woman to look up to. Lois is perfect as the inspirational reporter. Don't turn inspirational characters into sluggers. It's a waste and the writers forget what made them great in the first place.

* Don't ever create a white and red suit again. It looks like a draft. Like someone forgot to use the little paint bucket icon on half the suit.

* Fix the core Superman family first. Piling up more characters is not a good idea when the writers and editors can't build a world with what they already have. I would be so blunt as to say that in Rebirth there is no main continuity. This my opinion of how well developed the DC worlds are right now:

1) Injusticeverse
2) Gotham City Garage
3) Superhero Girls
4) Mystik U
Lobo meets Road Runner
956) The Main Continuity

It's a mess of merged timelines and DC can't put Humpty together to make sense again. It is at a point where I am thinking that maybe it's time for another reboot after all.

* Have her relate to the whole superman family and give her a team. Superboy didn't grow in a vaccuum.

* Make her an adult woman. Think mom. We already have a Supergirl. Supergirl is already hovering in the ages 15-35 depending on interpretation. Give us age 50+ Superwoman that can open for new interesting interactions. If they make her a young blonde Superwoman they should just make Supergirl bi-monthly instead.

* Throw the best script and artists possible on her during the first year. I really wanted Superwoman to be good, but with the possible exception of Deathstroke and Wonder Woman, all other Rebirth titles were better coming out the door. A new character is already at a natural disadvantage and needs to shine more than everything else.

Finally, use other channels to cement her as part of the DC world. Have her appear in the DCEU and DCSHG and JL:A and DC Digital Service.

Martin Gray said...

Yeah, what everyone says - Lana lives but is depowered and I’m good with that; for ever great moment we’ve had acres of contradictory, confusing plot elements. While I like all the supporting characters, I wanted Lana to be the focus, not part of a super-team. And moments such as the unearned ‘You’re the greatest hero I know...’ Come on!

Let Lana be what she was for decades, an adaptable supporting character, rather than a mopey, wannabe superhero. Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder’s Lana is a good modern take, bring her back.

Martin Gray said...

To address a point from the Anon above me, it’s easy to keep a world tight when it’s only appearing in one book and doesn’t have to consider any others.

Anonymous said...

I agree the main continuity right now is a mess, but I'm not in favor of another reboot. DC has thoroughly proved they're unable to learn from their mistakes, and Flashpoint had the same issues than COIE: partial reboot instead of a full restart, lack of direction, lack of coordination, lack of understanding of the characters and what makes them tick... and gutting the older universe rather telling "We're going to tell the stories of another universe, but rest assured: your favorite heroes are all alive and fine, and they go on living adventures somewhere else".

"Fix the core Superman family first. Piling up more characters is not a good idea when the writers and editors can't build a world with what they already have."

I fully agree.

For God's sake, Batman and Damian are right now more relevant in the Super-books than Perry or Jimmy.

A new blonde Superwoman? Hmm. Could it be...? No, no way. They're not bringing HER back. A pity because then those Linda fans who hate Kara for "replacing her" might let their hatred and contempt go. Regardless that, I don't think another Superwoman book will fare better.

Anonymous said...

If Linda Danvers came back (which would make me throw money at her) I think I would prefer they called her Matrix to Superwoman. However, if they aged her and made her a mentor to Kara as someone who has seen the best and worst of what life has to offer, Superwoman would work great. I think she would do great as a fairy godmother as someone who met the original Supergirl. That would really screw up the timelines, but I'm sure it's not outside the power of an Earth Angel. :)

Anonymous said...

"That would really screw up the timelines, but I'm sure it's not outside the power of an Earth Angel. :)"

Meh. At this rate and given the last AC issue relapsed into the "one single rocket" nosense, it will not be long before DC says Kara isn't Superman's cousin but the time-displaced grand-daughter of an Atlantean sorcerer.

It'd be nice if Linda became a mentor to Kara. I could see her thinking "Okay, I messed up with that Kara, I'll not allow someone to hurt this version."

Uncle Screensaver said...

It's sad that in its existene when I did decide to read this title, Lana was still trying to figure out who she was and how she had her powers. I had quit the booky after I decided I wasn't happy with Jiminez in writing and art. The first issue I didn't like Lana's attitude which seemed to reflect Jimenez own ideas but overall I'm just not a NuLana fan as I was with her depiction pre-Flashpoint.

I was among many upset about the lack of Lois, and while I appreciated the Superwomen Red and Blue, and the nod to Electric Superman, I just got sick of the costume. I was incredibly bored reading the title, and as mentioned above, how long can one read about the character's doubts and own uncertainty of her origin? I picked it up again because of Supergirl and had pre-ordered the second part of it only to have it not have anything to do with her. The only thing I enjoyed about the one part was Maxima was still the New 52 version where the solicited texts seemed to indicate we'd have to endure original Maxima again, eliminating a much needed friend and a queer character.

Uncle Screensaver said...

In any case, while Perkins' was no doubt left with a mess, and editorial to blame, I'm not sure why there could't have been some way to explain how Lana seems to have an electrified Kryptonian biolgy but more so the insinuation that she's been Superwoman for years and was encouraged to become "Superwoman" from Clark.

What I liked about all this: I was happy that Clark and Lana were written as best friends again and that Lois was portrayed as someone important to her. I liked we had Natasha as Steel again, and with a nice red S-Shield. I liked that Steel and Traci 13, who were "Supergirls" together had a re-established relationship. I liked that this waa a book that had such strong female characters in it and who were portrayed as close friends and family.

With Strange Visitor back, it would have been fun to see a face-off or team-up of a true nod to the 1990's Supermen Red and Blue. Then again, I'm getting fatigue from rehashes of 1990's storylines and seeing a Super female duplicate Superman stories or characters in general (such as with TV's Supergirl).

DC did give this book a chance but also didn't. DC could have had Lana join the Justice League or at least guest star. Although forced, they could have had a team-up or crossover with Batwoman. (Another character I love but whose title I haven't read in years and it seems like a retread of what I read before, family issues and some cult or organization after Kate Kane). A World's Finest mini-series where we had Superman/ Batman, Supergirl/ Batgirl, Superwoman/ Batwoman, Superboy/ Robin, (even Conner and Red Robin,) and any comibination in between, Superwoman/ Batman, Supergirl/ Batwoman, and so on, or have a Superwoman/ Wonder Woman crossover ... anything to promote the character and book would have been a smart move, I would have hoped. I don't understand why DC rarely has house ads anymore for their own books or why they seem to insist on keeping certain characters removed from the DCU as a whole. Not to mention why they seem to have guest appearances but few crossovers (such as with Supergirl and Batgirl,) but then I guess that would interfere with modern comic book writing of putting out trades for a six issue arc.

I wonder how much any of what has been established in this book will be kept, since it didn't seem to warrant much thought for TPTB. I wish somehow elements of this series was kept but the rest of it wiped away a la "Dallas" as a dream, or it was just a comic like "Sovereign Seven." If a Superwoman that was only Lana kept, I would like her to feel more like a Super character (oh yeah, why did her skin become orange when she transformed?) with a more traditional costume, or even more preferable for me would be that she has just enough power to use for the Insect Queen armour and that be her secret I.D. for years as it once was before. I would also be happy were she part of Supergirl's Scooby gang.

Uncle Screensaver said...

Regarding Linda Danvers, Linda was a reincarnated version of Kara until the weirdness brought her face to face with herself. I remember how a woman had writen in putting down Kara as "only doing what Superman didn't, and that there's a small vut very vocal fanbase who still wanted her." So, they are now in our spots but don't get itAD t. Furthermore, Linda was the closest it could be for PAD to have Kara involved, and he had wanted "Blonde Justice," with Linda as Superwoman, Karen as Power Girl, and Kara as Supergirl. It would be nice to have a version of Linda, only in addition to Kara, but I don't see how that would work when they couldn't get this version of Superwoman right, how they'd explain Linda nad Ariella's presence outside of time lost characters or from another universe. Give a Legion of Supergirls tite might be. Or, hey have Dr. Manhatten, this decade's Time Trapper, cause an integration with Linda and Kara in similar way to Matrix and Linda, where they combine, maybe an Earth Angel again, and bring back Buzz and bring back Fred and Edna/ Sylvia Danvers. Lana can be Kara-Lin/ Karalin/ Carolyn Danvers's best friend and confidante.

Anonymous said...

"Regarding Linda Danvers, Linda was a reincarnated version of Kara until the weirdness brought her face to face with herself. I remember how a woman had writen in putting down Kara as "only doing what Superman didn't, and that there's a small vut very vocal fanbase who still wanted her." So, they are now in our spots but don't get itAD t."

Basically. Karma struck them hard.

I feel sorry for the character and for Linda fans who didn't despise other Supergirls. The fraction of her fans who despised Kara and put her down and were happy that she was gone, though? They got what was coming to them. If you're okay with a character being replaced, understand what your favorite version isn't irreplaceable either.