Monday, August 5, 2013

Review: Superman Annual #2

Superman Annual #2 came out last week and was a solid story focusing on Lois and her tenacity as a reporter. Written by Scott Lobdell with some comfort art by Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund, I thought this was a strong issue which added a new wrinkle to the upcoming psi-war. It feels like every psionic is somehow being drawn to Metropolis.

Anyways, the big draw for me was that this was truly a Lois Lane issue with Superman playing a bit piece. And overall, Lois shines here ... something which I haven't seen enough of in the New 52. And while she is upper administration now, it is great to see her get down and dirty, chasing a story.  But on top of that, we also get to hear Lois inner thoughts about herself, Clark, and the world around her.

Thanks goodness! I have missed Lois!

Lobdell uses a well-traveled story telling technique. He starts with Lois falling out a window and saying she is dead. We have no idea how she got there, what is happening, and why she says she is dead (outside of falling out a window). In fact, she says the word 'dead' not dying. At first I thought this was just about the fall. But we learn it is something more.

So we then have to flashback to bring us up to this point. It is a classic technique and it works here.

Luckily, Superman is there to help.Is he too late because of the physical trauma?

But there was something that caught my eye. She says 'Superman ... he's my friend'. Why the ellipsis? Why the pause? Is it that she wants more than friendship? Or does she think maybe he isn't her friend?

And so we flashback to how she ended up out that window. There she is, late night in the Planet, working on something when everyone else has gone home.

Again, some of what intrigued the most here is Lois' internal voice. So the pause with defining her relationship with Superman is one thing. Hearing her talk about newspapers in general, lamenting how their stories, meticulous searches for truth, was sort of depressing. I suppose with dedicated journalism and the press dying and sensationalism thriving, I guess she could feel low.

And given the opening scene, and knowing this is a flashback, it was slick to have her stop saying she loves reporting more than life itself.

After a talk with current beau Jon, she talks to Clark. Unlike Superman, she is pretty clear about her relationship with Clark simply calling him her Best. Friend. Ever. She also calls him the second best reporter in the world, a nice nod to both him and letting us in on her confidence in her own ability.

And Lois ... don't knock bloggers!

Her late night is interrupted when a young woman with a giant Brainiac-like head (like the 'Milton Fine' mutated Brainiac) sneaks into her office only to die immediately in Lois' arms.

The body is brought to S.T.A.R. labs to be examined.

One of the things I haven't liked about the New 52 Superman has been that feeling that he seems above everyone, floating over people and aloof. The opening of this scene in the lab fed that a bit. Even Lois outright asks him if he is just going to hover there.

Thankfully, he flies down to talk to her face to face about this.

The girl is identified and so Lois is out chasing down leads.

Again, some of this Lois monologue is so fascinating. While looking through this girl's things, she says she no longer feels like a vulture. It is such an odd statement. So that means she did feel like a vulture at some point? Picking at the bones of her subjects like a carrion feeder? Hmm ...

Well, it turns out that the girl was one of 'The Twenty', twenty people who simply disappeared during the Brainiac attack on Metropolis five years earlier. Somehow, even though she was felt to have vanished in thin air, she was there ... walking around ... not missing.

I have to admit being bummed that The Twenty was not a shrunk version of the classic organized crime family The Hundred.

And I also think that the whole Collector/Brainiac Kryptonian AI/Coluan thing is still confusing. Lobdell seems to be falling back on the classic Coluan origin.

Lois' digging keeps moving forward. In fact many of The Twenty turn out to not be missing, but living among the people of Metropolis, 'hiding in plain sight'. It is somewhat odd. But it becomes clear that the other 'Twenties',  much like Amelia the girl earlier, have been mutated and have psionic powers. And this one tells Lois that The Twenty are being hunted and so he is on the run.

I add this panel to really talk about how much I love Dan Jurgens' art. This is nicely horrific. And Lois' look of utter shock and surprise is perfect. In an earlier scene, we can feel Lois bristle and a slimy come-on by Amelia's boss. And we also feel her determination in scenes where she is burning the midnight oil to investigate.

The research leads Lois to hunting down a Senator Hume.

Hume is having a fundraiser and Lois is there, in the dress she is wearing in the opening scene. As readers we know the end is near.

Hume immediately lets Lois in on the fact that he is a Twenty. And then he gives us his origin. During the Brainiac attack he was homeless, a vagrant. Interestingly, despite what Brainiac did to the city and him, Hume vilifies Superman. He talks about the alien 'who believes he is better than us' and is talking about Superman! How odd that he has turned things on its head like that.

Rather than hide, Hume used his psionics to better himself, heading up all the way up the political change.

It is a sad commentary but how would anyone know that homeless Hume was missing? How could he be recognized as one of the Twenty.

In fact Hume actually knows some of what Brainiac is up to. Fearing that Colu was headed for destruction, Vril Dox downloaded all the Coluan's personalities into a mainframe. And with all those disembodied personas out there, Brainiac is looking for 'homes' for his people.

This is where there is a little disharmony in the Brainiac/Collector origin. The Collector was trying to save cultures doomed to die so they could be preserved. The old Brainiac liked to collect worlds so he could control and be the sole receptacle of knowledge. Now this one seems to be 'saving' worlds but also experimenting on some of the captured people to see if these alien organisms could safely house the Coluan people.

The Twenty were those experiments. Obviously, they can't. Each of the Twenty are powerful psionics. But they are dying off.

And thus we reach the end (and the beginning) of the story. Hume's body was dying. He knows Brainiac is returning. And as he dies, he pushes his psionic abilities (and there eventual death sentence) into Lois. Thus, she is dying and so we reach the beginning scene.

So as I said, this is a solid issue. The idea of the Twenty being psionic guinea pigs for Brainiac is new but I don't know if it fits right now with what I think Brainiac should be. I am open to it and will just have to see how Brainiac actually plays out.

For me, the best part of the issue was the Lois' inner thoughts. Some of them seem just a little odd. But they aren't off enough to sound wrong. In fact, it seemed to deepen Lois for me. To hear her talk about Superman and Clark and how she feels about digging into people's lives were pretty fascinating to me.

And, of course, Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund provide such solid art here. It makes the book. We get to see Lois in all modes of life ... office, fundraiser, hitting the street, home perusing papers ... wonderful.

Now, will Brainiac become another faction in the Psi-War? I hope so.

Overall grade: B+


Martin Gray said...

Great view, Anj. Lois is just a reporter again though, isn't she, rather than TV producer? I hope so anyway!

Anj said...

Thanks Mart!

Completely forgot that she quit the TV business. My how New 52 'continuity' is never quite continuous!

Dave Mullen said...

So as I said, this is a solid issue. The idea of the Twenty being psionic guinea pigs for Brainiac is new but I don't know if it fits right now with what I think Brainiac should be. I am open to it and will just have to see how Brainiac actually plays out.

I saw it as a nod to old Brainiac history. Remember when Brainiacs consciousness took over Milton Fine and eventually mutated him into something like what we see of the Twenty in this issue...?
All tht was eventually retconned by Geoff Johns to be a form of Avatar he sent out into the cosmos, but here Lobdell seems to be acknowledging it and building on it.

Anj said...

The appearance of the twenty does look like Brainiac in the 'Dead Again' sort of period. Like this cover:

Thanks for the post!

PRgirl1294 said...

What I'm confused about is when exactly this story takes place in the Psi-War story arc. I don't think that it can take place after Superman #22. I mean, Superman is gonna fall into Queen Bee's arms, I doubt that she would just leave him there instead of capturing him.