Friday, November 8, 2019

Review: Lois Lane #5

Lois Lane #5 came out this week and was an interesting issue. The major plots of the book were nudged forward just a bit. A subplot that has been nearly forgotten was mentioned again so we know that it is still out there. And there is great Question action.

But for a grizzled comic reader like me, the big joy of this issue was that I learned something. The young Anj used to be able to wow his parents with vocabulary and cultural references that he learned in comics. In fact, that was a big reason why my parents fostered the hobby ... I was reading and learning. In this issue, I learned a lot about journalism. That's a good thing.

Writer Greg Rucka does a good job of showing just how rigorous true journalism needs to be. He explains different levels of information that can be shared in reporting. And he shows how tenacious Lois is in following a story. He also shows how difficult it is to battle public perceptions of fake news.

Meanwhile artist Mike Perkins shows, once again, that he needs to be on a street level book. Please DC, give the man a Question solo title to draw. His work in unbelievable. But outside that, there is a page here, which I will share which shows the power of the genre, when words and images mesh.

I have really loved this book. So far, so good.

We start out with Lois on a flight to Washington D.C.

The person sitting next to her recognizes Lois and so starts up a conversation.

In it, the woman talks about how reporters can write anything and try to persuade or influence the public. We get a very impassioned rebuttal from Lois who reminds the woman that everything must be checked and double checked before she can print it. She needs to do her homework before she can release a story. You can tell it irks Lois when her integrity ... or the integrity of the press ... is questioned.

Still the woman wonders what is stopping reporters from lying. This is our era. The era of 'fake news'.

It is here we get Mariska Voronova, the murdered Russian reporter from the first issue, name dropped. It is a reminder that her story still has to be told.

In D.C., Lois touches base with Renee who is following her own story. She won't tell Lois what she is up to. This way Lois has deniability.

I love how Lois laughs it off as turnabout to the usual Perry/Lois conversation. It's true.

It is a small moment but I thought it was a great one.

Renee has been tracking Mr. Blakely throughout Metropolis.

Blakely is bringing a gym bag into a seedy bar, there to hire some thug to do something nefarious.

Of course, Renee is underwhelmed with the level of infidel here.

I loved this splash page, Renee mocking these crooks by with a 'serving number 17' line. She is taking them out like it's a deli line.

Just great. The art here is powerful. She is confident in her body language. But I love the small lines on her blank face. It is just enough for me to know she is smirking under that mask.

And then we get down too it and Perkins shows us wonderfully just how great Renee is at her job.

These are face smashing, bone crunching, devastating hits. And it all looks so so pretty.

Just gorgeous.

Meanwhile Lois is meeting with someone who has information about the detention centers and the kickbacks surrounding them. Kids are dying in these centers. Something has to happen.

But this woman needs to protect herself.

This opens up the book into a sort of primer on sources and levels of information.

What is 'off the record'?

What is 'background'?

What is 'deep background'?

How much can this woman be implicated?

Heck, I learned something.

And here is my favorite page, a great example of comics as a medium.

This woman has information. But she wonders if it is worth the fight. Throughout their conversation, the two are circling a statue of two young soldiers. Lois talks about how to her the statue shows the difficult decisions that need to be made in the moment.

That spurs the woman to reveal a memo exists which delineates the center issues. And Lois, looking as determined as I've seen her asks for more.

But it is that last panel that is magic.

We see the two silhouettes. It echoes to two soldiers. These are two people deciding to do what was right in that moment. And by removing background and distractions, we are focusing on them and the enormity of this second.

Love it.

With that Lois lets Perry know that she is on the case.

Even Superman couldn't keep her away.

Ah, the subtle glasses adjustment from Clark. It is so old school it feels fresh.

As for the Question, she knows Blakely's bag had $500K in it. He is paying for a hit. And that much money means the target is someone big.

It has to be Lois. She is about to blow the roof off government corruption. And she is guarded by Superman. She'd be pricey.

Again, love the subtle expression Perkins gives the Question's face here. Very similar to Denys Cowan's classic take on Vic!

So a very good issue. The plots do not vault forward. But I love the slow burn. This is a middle chapter. It is time to add the spice.

Overall grade: A-


John (somewhere in England) said...

As a boy I learned more from American comics than I did at school. Furthermore, the characters - the good guys - were usually more interesting and inspiring than the other kids at school. Recently I read a Batgirl story in which Babs talks about 'losing her centre' and being adrift - a great piece of vocabulary to describe an experience I can relate to.

Anonymous said...

I am curious what happened after the conclusion of #4, where Lois was about to let Renee in on a secret that only two other people know. It seemed important at the time. Presumably that's another thread we'll be returning to.

This book remains so much better than I had expected.

One thing leads to another, so with my interest in The Question(s) piqued, I'll be picking up the "Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage" 4-part Black Label series by Jeff Lemire, Bill Sienkiewicz and Denys Cowan that is starting up on Nov 20. It's probably worth it just for the cover art.


Martin Gray said...

Great review, especially your analysis of the statues scene.

I really enjoyed the Perry bow tie bit, and the gag about Batman. The art is indeed glorious, and the Lois and Clark relationship great. But overall, this was my least favourite issue. It’s just so very slow, and earnest. All those journalism definitions remind me of how I was turned off Checkmate by the sheer weight of tradecraft talk, all those code names and numbers... Greg Rucka does not wear his research lightly. And such a lot of talk about talk. The lawyer tells Lois there’s a memo but we don’t get told what’s in it. Lois tells Perry there’s a memo but she hasn’t seen it. Renee has a lead but she won’t share it. Last issue Lois had the Big Revelation, as TM says, but we don’t get to see it. So much tease.

And so much Question. Rucka should have been honest and called this Lois Lane and the Question, because she’s getting pretty much equal time. Why did she get too very similar big entrances in one scene?

Please, just give me one intergalactic suitor from the future who marries Lois then dies because he’s allergic to her hairspray...

Anonymous said...

Good points, Martin. There may be a theme here.

The Super Sons 12-part maxi-series also spun its wheels through its center half or even two-thirds. How was it executed? As a series of mini-adventures only loosely connected.

The first series of Walmart Giants featured 12-part installments of 12 pages each (for Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Titans). While I'm enjoying "Superman: Up in the Sky" and "Batman: Universe", they are also done as loosely connected adventures. Bendis's Batman flows far better than King's Superman, which is just a bunch of unrelated short stories hung on the loose thread of "Superman's efforts to locate, somewhere in the galaxy, a kidnapped young girl, puts him through a series of unrelated extreme challenges."

King doesn't even try to connect the dots, but just throws Superman somewhere else in each installment.

"Wonder Woman: Come Back to Me: was kind of episodic, though at one island location. "Titans: Burning Rage" was worse - it was literally one fight scene after the next, and the most pointlessly silver age-y of them all. I dropped Wonder Woman and Titans. Couldn't find any justification for continuing them.

So my point is, 12-part stories are not the industry norm, and it's evidently hard to do them without either wheel spinning, or constructing them as a series of disconnected adventures. (In literature, "picaresque" novels - loosely linked episodes.)

Rucka is using decompression to stretch Lois Lane to 12; Super Sons and the Walmart Giants used the episodic approach.

Trying to tell a long story in an ongoing title means you might wind up like Snyder's Justice League. That perseveres only through the periodic injection of high concept glittery objects (otherwise known as Nonsense). Snyder distracts by throwing so much at the wall that you even forget where the wall is.

Did anyone else vote for Villain of the Year? Voting is now open through Nov 10. Apparently the winners will be revealed in Harley Quinn: Villain of the Year.

Some of the nominations are interesting. For instance, Red Cloud is nominated in two lists.

Vote here: