Monday, February 17, 2020

Review: Superman #20

Hard to believe that we are basically 2 years into the Brian Michael Bendis Superman era and that we are still firing on all cylinders.

Superman #20 is another very good issue in a series of excellent arcs. The issue is basically split in half. As with the Superman title, it focuses on Superman's heroic efforts not only on Earth but also in the intergalactic stage. The United Planets are formed. Mongul is there to crash the party.

But the other half of this issue is dedicated the the Daily Star, the Daily Planet's rival. We have seen a lot of Planet Pit drama in Action Comics. So I think it was an interesting choice to put so much rival newspaper in this title.

And much of this has to do with Superman's recent reveal to the world of his secret identity. Now I admit that I am still not sold on the long term viability of this reveal. But unlike the last bite at this plot apple, I think Bendis' roll out has been better thought out and for the most part better plotted. He is asking or touching on all the things that weren't discussed in The Truth from a few years ago. And at least this time, Superman is the one who made the decision.

Add to that the return of one of my favorite supporting characters in Superman lore and this issue is a winner.

Ivan Reis shines on art as usual. He has always impressed me but the space scenes here, the brutal battles against Mongul, are very well done, in widescreen format.

On to the issue.

We open at the Daily Star and their editor is asking the right question ... did Superman cheat?

Is it fair for the Planet to have all these Superman exclusives when he was part of the story? Can his reporting be objective if he was part of it?

With all the high and might integrity that Lois is stating in her own book, with 'Truth' being the focal point of this reveal, you have to ask that question. Was what Clark/Superman doing regarding the reporting of the news fair?

I have wondered what the fallout would be regarding that since this reveal.

The good news is Bendis answers the question.

Meanwhile, a knocked out Superman is dragged around as a trophy by Mongul, accidentally rousing our hero back to consciousness. There is an interesting side note that Superman doesn't sleep that much any more. Let's tuck that nugget away for now and see if Bendis revisits it a later date.

It is clear that this is going to be a closer fight than prior ones with Mongul where Superman mopped the floor with him. Mongul takes Supes' best punch and keeps coming.

Reis' really does a great job conveying the immense destruction by this fight, showing how it is truly no holes barred. And whenever I see Superman blast Mongul with his heat vision, I can't help but think of the famous 'burn' panel from Moore's 'For the man who has everything'.

I have to say I love that Mongul is a physical threat to Superman and just towers over him. We need someone that can go toe to toe with our hero

As for the United Planets members, it is pretty chaotic.

Some are calling for their troops to join the fight. Others are calling for their troops to stay back and let Superman handle Mongul on his own.

For now, they are hardly united.

And this is brutal. We see Mongul incinerate the Dominator leader in a blaze of reds and oranges. Jeremiah Skipper really gives us the reds and oranges of blood and fire here.

Meanwhile in the Daily Star office, the staff is split. Some are upset at everything Clark/Superman, bemoaning it as the reason they aren't the top paper.

Then Bethany Snow, one of their reporters, gives her perspective. This is far from the conniving, Brother Blood loving Bethany Snow from my youth. She seems quite reasonable.

She talks about how three weeks earlier she saw Superman catch a plane plummeting over Metropolis, saving the passengers and who knows how many more on the ground.

It turns out the person who broke the story was Bethany and some reporter from a small free newspaper. He didn't submit his own story. He let someone else. He has been playing fair.

She knows that until Superman does something terrible on camera, he is untouchable. And the Star better figure out a different tactic.

But just like that Bendis answers the ethics question. Thankfully!

But, as if on cue, the Star gets an email with a video of the formation of the United Planets. And in that is Superman saying he'll speak for Earth.

Now this is something the Star can sink their teeth into.

Shouldn't it be a human speaking for Earth?
Shouldn't it be an elected representative?
Who does Superman think he is?

Suddenly that smoking gun Bethany Snow was looking for is dropped in their lap.

But seriously ... who was there recording? And who would send it to the Star?

And then an honest to goodness reveal.

Someone on the Star's staff will talk to Superman about this decision of his.

Lana Lang!

We haven't seen much of Lana since the cancellation of her Superwoman title. That was two years ago! Will we be building on that continuity? Starting fresh? Did she know Clark was Superman? Couldn't she do a pretty good exclusive if she did ... the weight of keeping the secret?

Hmmm ...

Look, I'm a sucker for Lana. I'm just glad she's back.

Back in space we get a the continuation of the Mongul fight.

It looks like Superman is crestfallen when he things about what this Mongul brawl means for the UP. This is a group that could barely decide on a neutral site to build their headquarters. How can they ever become a group again when terrified like this.


Turns out that maybe Superman is a better inspiration than he thinks! Or maybe the idea of a UP makes sense to these endlessly warring races.

Because as Superman looks up he sees troops from all the armies converging on Mongul.

And then, rallied by the Tamaranean king, the collective armies coordinate to avenge their Fallen United.

Maybe Mongul attacking was actually the best thing for the UP. Rather than sniping over small stuff, they had a trial by fire. The armies helped protect each other.

This is the power of a United Planets.

But this coming together of the planets. Wonderful.

Meanwhile things are heating up on Earth.

With a hook for her readers, Bethany Snow confronts Lois. How does Lois like the fact that her husband declared himself King of Earth?

Now that is interesting!

War torn space seems about to calm down.
Peaceful Earth seems about to get stormy!

I am really enjoying this arc. And I must admit, I didn't think I would.

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Superman, king of earth... will Clark kent have to be Metallo again? (That's one for the oldies!).

I had a few problems with the art, but overall really enjoyed this issue, I'm so glad Bethan snow has escaped her role as New 52 booster-in-chief.

Will you be doing Superman: Heroes?

Anonymous said...

Nice to see Lana again. I love how much Bendis likes to draw upon the whole DCU playground.

It's funny that she appeared here in a couple of panels before her big reveal - drawn a couple of times from the front but with no facial features. Which hardly seems necessary. I don't think anyone would have known that it was her without long hair and freckles. Or even with long hair and freckles.

Is it a new development that Lois has to put on a blonde wig disguise to head out? But her location is hardly secret if the Star just shows up at her door.


Martin Gray said...

Oh, of course, nice one TN, I never realised she was The Question impersonator!

Anj said...

Great pick up TN,

Steve said...

I don't know which Lana I want to see. I didn't like shrew Lana who tried to out teen Clark and grew up to annoy Lois, was bored with CEO Lana and as Mrs Pete Ross, and the whole New 52 Lana was tainted for me because they basically gave her all pre-New 52 Lois' characterization since Didio wouldn't let Lois be Lois. I loved the Lana who finally grew up and after that met Vartox and the Lana we got right after Crisis. I guess I'll just have to trust Bendis to give us some synthesis of what's best...