Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Review: Superwoman #18

Superwoman #18 came out last week, the last issue in the series. I am sad to see it go. I am surprised it lasted this long.

This book has been buffeted about this last year and a half. There was outrage when the book, apparently pitched as a Super-Lois book, turned out to be a Super-Lana book. The opening story arc was muddled, cluttered, and ultimately confusing. Then the entire continuity the series was built on, that Lana received her powers from the explosion of a dying Superman, was swept away with Superman Reborn.

DC made a good move bringing writer K. Perkins onto the book to try to right the ship. There was a ton of improvements in the book. Lana still struggled with insecurity but was clearly a hero. She had a squad with her of Natasha Irons, Terri Thirteen, and Maxima! And we had Supergirl come by. At times it seemed like Lana was the only hero in Metropolis. Those high points buoyed my interest in the series.

Despite that, I still don't know if I quite understand Superwoman's origins in this post-Reborn DCU. Seriously, I'm confused. How could she have been given powers if that Superman didn't explode? It seemed like Perkins was going to explore that giving us issues where Lana disproved her powers being tech-based, seemed to learn they were Red K based, and then fell back to the Super-energy based answer.  And, to make matters worse, I only have the vaguest of notions of Superwoman's powers. I know they are energy-based. That's about it.

Given the shaky foundation, I'm not surprised sales tumbled. It would be hard enough to recover from the clunky opener and new continuity!

And yet, as I said, I am sad to see this book go. And I can lay all that at the feet of Perkins who just made this book entertaining to read even if I didn't quite follow everything. I'll miss this Lana's voice, and Maxima, and that team.

The art on this issue is by Max Raynor, someone who I have never seen before. There is a sort of Otto Schmidt/John Timms leanness to the art which is very good. And that variant cover by Emanuela Lupacchino certainly has a funereal but hopeful feel.

Be prepared to be confused ... or maybe be prepared to explain stuff to me! On to the book.

Last issue Superwoman and Midnight were in pitched battle. Midnight is an AI program whose sole directive is to drain Lana of her power and use it to free Lena.

The ending to last issue was somewhat unclear with Lana surrendering to Midnight to save all the citizens Midnight had sent into a void.

Somehow what happened is Lana has become possessed by Midnight. Midnight can control Lana's body. Lana controls the body's mind. They are trapped inside Superwoman's body.

So that is pretty strange ... but okay.

The situation does awaken new feelings in Midnight. She was a sentient but unfeeling program before. Now she knows what a human touch feels like. Now she knows what pride and love feel like. And it shakes her. Maybe this new 'humanity' will affect the entity.

As I said in the intro, I love this version of Maxima, created by Perkins in her Supergirl run. And I like that Maxima, the hero lead of the Crucible Academy, ranks Lana as an excellent leader. That is a far cry from the shaking, uncertain Lana we saw early in this title.

And then more confusion. Lois comes up and says she is proud of all Lana has accomplished since *they* were Superwoman. That means this Lois was Superwoman? Didn't that Lois die? How did this Lois get those powers? She wasn't there when that Superman exploded? And did that Superman even exist to explode??

Regardless, I like that Lois also compliments Lana's heroics. She doesn't impress easily.

Maybe, as someone suggested to me, this Lois shares that Lois's memories but not the actual experiences??

I'm definitely confused.

Somehow the Lana/Midnight amalgam continue to work well together. They help Natasha stop some looters who are running rampant in the post-Midnight Metropolis kerfuffle.

And the Lana Appreciation tour continues. I have to say that I really liked the relationship that Natasha had with Lana. It is clear that Natasha thinks Lana is a great leader and hero, a role model. And it is clear that Lana thinks Natasha is tremendous, poised to be something exceptional in their near future.

It is these sort of relationships that I will miss.

Unfortunately, there is still an impasse.

The directive is for Midnight to absorb Lana's power and free Lena. Lana won't do that. Lana keeps hoping that all this emotion will free Midnight of this directive so she'll leave on her own. But she can't.

It is interesting to see that Lana is willing to help Midnight grow, evolve, and be free. That is super.

So things continue with both entities in the body.

Remember when Lana was the main science reporter for the Globe? Remember when she was an action scientist?

Out on a romantic lunch, she is approached by young fan ... not of Superwoman but of Lana.

I liked this. You can see that this transition from super-hero to just normal person hero is happening. With the book ending, I all but knew how this would end.

Midnight decides that she'll never be human; she'll never truly feel. And now that she has experienced her feelings, she realizes she wouldn't want to live without them. She tells Lana to kill her.

In a turn that I don't think I quite understand (yet another confusing element), Lana says that destroying the Midnight entity will mean the end of her powers.

Okay. I don't think this was mentioned before. But that turns out to be the only clear solution.

And so Lana is no longer powered. She is no longer Superwoman. But she is ready for whatever the world throws at her. Now that is a great closing page.

In essence we are back to a baseline Lana. I doubt the anxiety and self-doubt aspects of her in this book will be seen again. I doubt we'll hear much of her time with powers. I guess she'll go back to being a reporter with links to the Super-family. I hope she lands in some book as a supporting character. Why not Supergirl?

Anyways, I am sad to see this book go. There was a lot of weird stuff to get through. But I saw tons of potential here. I read a lot of great character interactions. And I loved what Perkins did here with Lana and her gang of young heroes teaming with her.

I hope DC puts Perkins on something else soon!

Overall grade: B


Anonymous said...

I... I'm confused. Extremely so. I don't think I've understood this final issue at all.

And Lois saying she was also Superwoman? What is with that?

All I've got is Lana has been depowered and she's part of the baseline-human supporting cast again, which I think is for the best. Sadly the core books suck nowadays at using the supporting cast properly, but maybe Lana will find her niche again.

Anonymous said...

Heh - I didn't understand the origin nor much of the closure either, just rolled with it. I liked a lot of the artwork. And loved anything Emanuela Lupacchino drew.

Interesting that she worked with Kate Perkins on the Supergirl (New 52) Crucible Academy arc, where Maxima previously appeared

Her art on that Crucible Academy story in Supergirl was so gorgeous. One thing you can count on with Lupachhino is a certain kind of "very pretty" in her women; and even the superwomen always have their fingernail polish on! I can't say I ever notice fingernails in anyone else's art. It's an attention to a specific kind of beauty detail.

Perhaps it's only when she inks her own work, but she draws such distinctive, bold lines - think of how she'll draw hair, with bold outlines. I wonder if that's drawn with a heavy pen or marker, or is digital "inking."

So, we'll always have that artwork!

Re: Lana's career, I've finally been reading the whole New Krypton story (which is about 8 years' worth of comic book series if you add it all up!), and that pre-Flashpoint Lana was running the business section of the Daily Planet. And before that, had she not been CEO at Lexcorp? I think her engineering orientation must have been introduced with New 52.


Anonymous said...

Oh, and never mind Supergirl - Lana is sporting 8 polished nails on the variant cover you are showing.


Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

I do think a more concrete origin might have helped things.

But I keep saying it. I'll miss this book.

Anonymous said...

This book had tons of potential all of it mercilessly squandered, its a very chilling reminder of how quickly and easily DC Comics can botch things when they put their minds to it. And it all played out completely incoherently, likely there was simply no way to wrap things up cohesively in the space allotted and clearly no will to do so among the creatives. And yes, Lana gets depowered as her reward for being misused and badly written for a year and a half....sad and predictable.
Superwoman the trademark will now languish until some other hotshot creative pitches DC on a whole new direction etc....zzzzzzzzzzzz.
At least this opens up Lana to maybe return to the Supergirl book as yet another mentor for the Maid of Steel...given the tenor of the current storyline she could use a friend in the Fourth Estate.


Anonymous said...

I had a hunch this would happen when I first heard about Superwoman. The name is cursed I tell ya! Cursed! Don't get emotionally attached to anyone wearing the name. Superman reborn really didn't help. Whoever signed off on the Superman reborn idea made the worst call of Rebirth. One issue of glory for an eternity of unmanageable consequences. Not worth it. I wonder if this the last time we will see a character with the name Superwoman.

Anonymous said...

"I wonder if this the last time we will see a character with the name Superwoman."

No. DC needs to keep a character named "Superwoman" around if they don't want to lose the trademark (something they should have considered before killing off Supergirl). We'll see more Superwomen characters sooner or later, whether it's Kristin Wells, Earth-3 Lois Lane, Lucy Lane or whoever.

But I doubt we'll see another Superwoman book sometime soon. Or another Lana Lang book.

Martin Gray said...

Great review! And yes, this has been enjoyable despite the confusion. I really think they should have just waved away the question of Lana’s powers post Reborn - ‘I shouldn’t have these powers. Wow, Cosmic Mystery. OK, let’s prove I deserve them....’

What I want now is Lana back in the Superman supporting cast, she can be another cool auntie for Jon... just think, she could take him on an architectural dig. And I say Reborn is worth the loss of this series.

Now, would DC please give K Perkins a series that is safe, so she can go a little wild?