Monday, February 3, 2014

Review: Superman #27

Superman #27 came out last week and was another example of how DC Comics and Scott Lobdell don't understand the character.

The Superman in this issue acts selfish, thinking of himself before others. He is willing to put Lois in danger because it might help him with his problems. The Superman in this issue has little regard for those around him, fighting the Parasite in an area where people are most vulnerable. At the very least, Superman questions his actions but only after he allows them to happen. I don't think Superman would so casually roll the dice when gambling with other people's lives.

In fact, just about every other supporting character - Lois' boyfriend Jon, Cat Grant, even Sam Lane - come off as stronger, better people than Superman. Sadly, they also come across as more interesting too! Superman shouldn't be the least likable protagonist in the book.

Ed Benes does the art on the book but this sure doesn't look like Benes' work. Maybe I am used to his stuff from years ago when he was on Supergirl and Birds of Prey. But this is scratchy and sloppy for the most part. In fact the only page that looks Benes-ish are the Cat Grant pages.

But this was a pretty sorry issue of Superman. And with Action Comics, Superman Unchained, Adventures of Superman, and Smallville all hitting some strides, this now stands out like a wart on the Superman books.

Part of my concerns have been assuaged by this announcement over on Bleeding Cool. Geoff Johns is coming back to the Superman title. Some of us guessed this when the Romita news broke.

So last issue the Parasite made his way to the hospital Lois was admitted to and was draining her of her Brainiac energy.

While Superman and the Parasite pummel each other, someone actually shows courage and nobility! That is Lois' new boyfriend Jon, who looks like he has been living in the hospital at Lois's side. That alone is commendable.

But here, unsure why the Parasite is honing in on Lois, he decides to defend her against a super-villain. He shoves an oxygen tank into the Parasite's lap and shoots it with a pistol he grabbed off a dead policeman. While he is feels confidant that Superman will save him from such a close explosion, it still takes some guts for an 'ordinary person' to wade in like this. Jon has been a cardboard cut-out up to now. Here he is a hero!

Now whether or not an oxygen tank would explode? That is a different debate.

And if shooting the Parasite at close range wasn't brave enough, he picks up the comatose Lois and swings to a lower (and safer floor) on a fire hose!!

Who is this Jon? John McLean?

I mean this guy goes from beefcake annoyance to action hero in a couple of pages!

The bottom line, as you will see, Jon acts better than Superman.

We then go catch up with some of the supporting cast.

I will give Scott Lobdell some proper respect here. He has made me like Cat Grant, a character I have never really taken a shine too. Impressive!

Here she refuses to divulge her sources to other reporters. And later, she is offered $13million cash by Morgan Edge for While we end that moment on a cliffhanger, I think this Cat, a more idealistic Cat, might just say no.

But the bigger thing revealed here is that Cat's boyfriend is Aaron Lord. The last name of Lord is well-known to the DCU. And a Lord working on some brain enhancing machine?? Concerning. Maybe Aaron renames himself Maximus after a brain upgrade ... a new Max Lord. (Is there a Max Lord in the DCnU?)

And General Lane, while approaching his Senate confirmation, is told interviewed about by a man shrouded in shadows. It sounds like this unnamed man wants General Lane to work with him and discuss something called The Tower.

The silver hair and 'cloak and dagger' feel to this guy makes me think he is King Faraday. But I also wonder if it is Sarge Steel (is there a Sarge Steel in the DCnU?).

I am hoping this means I won't see General Lane and infantry firing on Superman any time soon. A new role for him is welcomed.

So after a couple of intriguing side trips to the supporting cast, what is Superman up to?

Well he is still punching the Parasite, hoping to overpower villain. At one point he talks about pounding the Parasite to oozing pulp.

Here he seems satisfied with himself for finally slowing the Parasite down by 'pummeling him through twelve floors' of the hospital. That doesn't seem very heroic. It isn't like patients can run away from a building being brought down around them. Why not take the fight outside?

As if that wasn't a big enough characterization gaffe, Lobdell piles on.

While we all knew that the Parasite draining Lois was going to be the solution to her Brainiac-energy and her knowledge of Superman, I thought it would happen serendipitously. Instead Superman thinks selfishly and decides to let the Parasite get to Lois, hoping he will drain her knowledge.

Superman even recognizes that he is endangering Lois but still decides to go through with it.

Superman is willing to risk Lois' life to protect his world as Clark Kent. I can't believe I just typed that. Why would DC allow that to happen?

I mean, here he is allowing the Parasite to get to Lois.

Yes, Lois is dying of Brainiac energy. Yes things are dire for her. But to let the Parasite get to her alone, without any sense of control, knowing he could drain her completely, killing her ... that is not any sort of Superman I want to read.

He should go rescue Lois ... shouldn't he? I can't believe I just typed that.

Sure it all turns out okay. The Parasite drains all the energy out of Lois and her memories of that time too. And luckily, in the Parasite, the Brainiac energy dissipates quickly as well as incapacitating him. All ends well. Luckily.

But Jon knows that Superman basically sicced the Parasite onto Lois, endangering her.

And Superman wonders why he did what he just did, risking his best friend's life over his secret identity. Is this really the Superman that DC is printing? This selfish creep who is putting his personal life over Lois' actual life? Did I really just type that?

So this is an awful issue. Superman is an egotistical ruffian, risking Lois' life, risking the lives of everyone in the hospital, thinking only of himself. And the art is the roughest I have ever seen of Ed Benes.

It is hard to believe that the parts of this issue that raise the grade are Cat Grant and General Lane! I can't believe I just typed that!

Overall grade: D


Martin Gray said...

Yes, this was dire in its portrayal of Superman, someone call Mopee.

There has been a New 52 Maxwell Lord, in the OMAC book, drawn in an interestingly Kirby style ... but you know DC will ignore that if it suits them.

Count Drunkula said...

I kind of wish Lobdell was summarily fired in disgrace rather than being pushed out to make way for the publisher's biggest name. I look back with fondness on a lot of Lobdell's work at the X-office in Marvel during the '90s, but his work in the New 52 that I've read has been atrocious.

Jay said...

Superman's plan was fine. His rationalization leading up to it was fine. He's taken such risks before when the circumstances were dire enough but the possible reward great enough.

The problem is Lobdell's insertion of that last line of Superman asking himself if he did it more for him than her. Completely forced and unnecessary drama and dragged the whole thing down. Superman worrying about his secret earlier in the issue I get, he has every right to be concerned about it. But don't start a stupid crisis of consciences like this, especially after a few pages earlier we actually see his inner monologue focusing on rescuing her. Just...forced is the only word. And made him look bad.

So in a way I agree. By the end he looked bad. But I think his behavior before all that, I think its being exaggerated how bad it was. This was typical a typical Superman crisis trope up until the end.

Dave Mullen said...

A bit too hard on the issue I feel, but valid on the criticism of Superman's moral dilemma.
The crux of the matter is that I believe it was the intention for it to be left deliberately vague as to whether he intentionally gambled Lois' life for her health or for his own personal secrecy, and yet the final delivery makes it quite clear to us that despite what Superman is trying to convince himself, yes he did act out of selfishness to protect his secret.
But this fact is only confirmed by that final page with him smugly walking away from Jonathan and the weak Lois, and after dismissing Jon in a very rude way. This panel is quite appalling in every respect...

If it wasn't for that final panel it would have worked fine. I think Lobdell did a really good job with these two issues, despite the conclusion I enjoyed them very much for the most part and feel it shows what he's capable of when left to himself and not forced into these over-stretched crossover events.
Last Issue the moral dilemma of Lois' threat to expose his identity was very well constructed as the context of the scene left Clark, and us, in very little doubt she meant it. He'd just been through a similar challenge with Hector Hammond, the Queen, and Psycho-Pirate, so all of this is what is weighing on his mind and causing real concern over the implications of Lois' position.

The theme of last issue was about the use and abuse of power, and while Clark has wrestled with the practicalities and ethics of his powers for most of his life Lois has just been handed near omniscience with no learning curve or prior experience at dealing with such power. And she is a reporter.
How can someone who is a committed reporter and as stubborn as she is possibly control her own impulses and NOT let that sort of power corrupt her?
That was the legitimate point Lobdell was putting forth, and I think it was a very strong idea, but with this issue he seemed unsure how to both develop the themes he was setting forth and resolve it in a satisfying manner. I am aware he has said his work is occasionally altered in negative ways, but as a reader we know none of that, we can only judge what we read, so while I like to think Superman was exposing Lois to the Parasite to cure her (superheroes take shrewd gambles like this all the time, I have no problem with it here) I prefer to think that he was also hoping that Parasite might take her recent memory too. His primary goal was saving Lois, not his own privacy. But obviously he can breathe a huge sigh of relief it all turned out to his own advantage as well...

It's just a shame that last panel torpedo's what was otherwise a fine moral quandary for Superman.

Martin Gray said...

'How can someone who is a committed reporter and as stubborn as she is possibly control her own impulses and NOT let that sort of power corrupt her?'

Well, as a lifelong journalist, I am black affronted by the slur on my profession.

Anj said...

Thanks for the great comments. Sounds like even for the people who thought the idea by Superman was good that the delivery was bad. But I am a little surprised Jay and Dave that you are okay with Superman's actions.

Let's regurgitate this story the way I would have preferred it.

Superman realizes that the Parasite can cure Lois of her Brainiac energy. It is risky but she is terminal if something doesn't happen.

He also realizes that a side effect may be that she will lose her memory, a welcomed result if it happens.

Knowing it is dangerous her subdues the Parasite and brings him close to Lois, monitoring the drain.

Of course the Parasite gains great power from Lois meaning there is a moment of conflict where he may escape Superman and kill Lois. Luckily Superman is able to defeat the Parasite. And, o happy day, Lois forgets.

Same story elements right?

But here Superman is present, watching the process, making sure his friend is safe, and in control.

It is the fact that Superman lets the Parasite lumber off alone, to drain Lois on his own, much more likely apt to kill her on his own, or escape. And all because he hopes she will lose her memory.

While the ends are the same, the means are so different.

Jay said...

I'm okay with it because Lois asked for Superman's help. And the options to cure her were slim to none as it was. And it was killing her. Based on what happened to most of the Twenty (outside of Hive Queen and Psycho Pirate), five years tops seemed to be the best prognosis for her, and that's even if she woke up from the coma at all. So they were flying by the seat of their pants as it was.

In comes Parasite, whom after a fight Superman uses his intellect, which is not too shabby itself, to surmise that Parasite could be used to cure Lois? Lots of risk? Yes. A possible big reward? Definitely. He's not entirely sure, but its a chance. And he takes it. I support that.

Again this is all minus Lobdell's dumb twist at the end.

Anj said...

I agree with the plan too.

It is the way it was carried out that bothers me. And it seems like Superman's primary goal is the memory erasure, not the rescuing.

Tough issue all around for everyone it seems.

Jay said...

I thought his primary goal seemed clear enough in regards to curing her until the end. The way the story moved chronologically with his thought process worked well enough for me. Fighting a villain who shows up unannounced, fretting about Lois's promise to out him. Then he thinks about actually using the Parasite on Lois and in his own head terms it as her "cure". Not saying his own skin but curing her. So that all worked fine for me.

So to me it was all on that ending. That one thought bubble flushed everything down the toilet for me. So it was definitely a tough issue for me too, even if I may be more lenient on the stuff that came before that ending.

Now we have yet another Superman being unsure of himself moment, and regarding his best friend's life at that. Pretty big fail. If Lobdell's not going to do it himself, maybe Johns will fix this particular snafu somehow if he's indeed the one taking over this book as rumored.

PRgirl1294 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PRgirl1294 said...

Aw, man, Jay! I wanted to be the one to drop the "Geoff Johns taking over Superman" good-news bomb with this link: , but you beat me to it. Well either way, here you go, guys. Hope it makes you happy.

Anonymous said...

Well written stories and consistent characterization will make everyone happy. If Scott Lobdell could have done that people would have been happy. If Johns can do that people will be happy. If he can't, they won't.

Dave Mullen said...

Well, as a lifelong journalist, I am black affronted by the slur on my profession.

No that's not what I was saying - Did you read Lois' own prediction at the end of the Superman Annual where she gained this power?
She knows what will happen to her, she knows she will feed the power and the power will consume her as by her ingrained nature she cannot stop driving for the 'truth' and opening doors... she's too much the consummate and driven reporter and this sort of power she has been handed will only corrupt her.

Dave Mullen said...

Thanks for the great comments. Sounds like even for the people who thought the idea by Superman was good that the delivery was bad. But I am a little surprised Jay and Dave that you are okay with Superman's actions.

No, read again and you will see that's not at all what I said. I'm certainly not happy with his actions, not as presented in that final panel at least. Something went badly wrong with the payoff to this storyline, but the concept itself was fine. Very good even. He set up a good moral dilemma but didn't seem to know how to resolve it in a satisfying way. I think you can say that about a lot of his stories perhaps, but let me say that I don't go along with creator bashing that I see endemic online - not against Lobdell, Not Bendis, and not against the likes of John Byrne and Jeph Loeb. There seems to be a strange pack mentality at work on the web that will latch onto certain creators and make them scapegoats and villains. I don't like it and I certainly wouldn't involve myself in it.

For the record I think Scott Lobdell has done a terrific job with Superman on the whole, yes that's right, I'm standing up for him as what he did with his arrival in #13 with Ken Rocafort was take a book and character that had been rather mundane and disappointing in the previous 12 issues and he put the life back into him.
He was clearly looking to the All-Star Superman and Silver-age for a tonal inspiration and I think he did a terrific job in marrying some of the mythic feel of that classic Superman with a bang up to date reinterpretation. Where he suffered was by being diverted into these achingly long and tedious crossover events that that go nowhere and take away from the books actual base of operations. ALL of DCs major books are suffering from this though. I strongly suspect a reason DCs sales are heading south and 2011 reboot faltered is because of these unwarranted multi-part crossovers and the completely unreasonable demands they put on the audience - follow H'el on earth across every super-book... or Death of the Family across every Bat-book for three months solid... no. This is not what the reboot was supposed to be about, accessibility to books and simplifying characters was the promise. Instead they are just repeating the same mistakes that dogged them pre-Flashpoint.

But I digress. I disagreed with the way Superman was handled in issue #27, I do not however castigate Scott Lobdell for it. He made a mistake, it was a poor outcome for the storyline, but it doesn't suddenly ruin all the good work he's done on the book, And yes, he has done good work - selling me on the Wonder Woman romance. Making Lex Luthor extremely dangerous again. Coming up with Clarkcatropolis as a new outlet for Clark. Building up Cat Grant, and to a lesser extent Jimmy Olsen. Making Superman Super again. Delivering a fantastic Krypton and a terrific Jor & Lara I want to read more about. There are other things, but while I dislike his work elsewhere I can't say his Superman has dissapointed on the whole, not given the pressures doing this book brings with it (c.f. Action Comics, George Perez, Andy Diggle)

All the best - don't take the above as any kind of a slam as it isn't. I just need to offer what I feel is a more fair critique.

Martin Gray said...

Aha, cheers Dave, I'd forgotten that bit of the Lois story.

Anj said...

No worries Dave. I like spirited debate. Didn't sound like a slam, sounded like 2 valid viewpoints.

I agree that Perez' arc made no sense. And unfortunately, Jurgens run felt like a stop gap. I remember almost nothing from it other than Lucy Lane.

I have praised Lobdell when I have felt it was merited. I did see some Silver Age flourishes in his naming of prior adventures (like Eternal Maelstrom) and even fighting that lady and her Sun centurions.

But this Superman feels miles away from the inherently good almost messianic one in All Star.

And I have had a lot of trouble with some of Lobdell's story techniques - the leaps in logic, the weird turns and transitions, and his off-characterization.

Even if the Parasite is the cure for Lois, to have Superman wait and let the Parasite go off alone to her room sounds inherently dangerous and short minded.

I will say that I like his Cat Grant more than any other Cat.

Dave Mullen said...

I agree that Perez' arc made no sense. And unfortunately, Jurgens run felt like a stop gap. I remember almost nothing from it other than Lucy Lane.
I didn't dislike this first 12 issues but the first six issue arc was nothing like as exciting as a debut arc of a reboot should be. I appreciated the attempt at a heavy word count but this was no story to launch a Superman book on. There is also a despondency to the run that is very unlike a Superman comic, Jurgens lightened it up a bit and I rather enjoyed his run for what it was, but it wasn't until #13 that I actually felt this book had arrived... THIS should have been Superman #1.

But this Superman feels miles away from the inherently good almost messianic one in All Star.

And I have had a lot of trouble with some of Lobdell's story techniques - the leaps in logic, the weird turns and transitions, and his off-characterization.

I can understand that, and agree to a point. I thinkI should point out that my own philosophy regarding Superman isn't grounded in whether a story makes absolute sense, rather I look to whether it entertained me and "does this feel like Superman?".
Lobdell's approach to me has been to take the classical feel of Superman, the fantastical setting of Metropolis I remember from the Pre-Crisis, and the "...Battles evil all over the earth - and Beyond - As Superman!" mantra, and update it for todays marketplace. I don't know whether he deliberately set about this style or presentation deliberately or not but the evidence of his first issue strongly suggests he did.
Yes his stories aren't airtight, and yet the logic is frequently off, but then the stories pre-1985 were usually just as faulty. But for me it isn't about analysing a story for its logic, it's about whether it entertains me, and within its own terms I have found Lobdell has done good work for the most part... but as I keep saying these multi-part crossovers he's had to field and engineer didn't do him any favors. Right now I could list probably over half a dozen subplots he has yet to get back to because of that - Jimmy Olsen and his missing parents. Helspont and his plans. Sir Harlan Quint and his mysterious secrets. The Senate's attempts to gain entry to the Fortress. Brainiac and The Twenety. Where HIVE and the Hive-Queen stand at present. The Psycho-Pirate.... all these are threads that are either ongoing or could do with addressing. An I appreciate the latest issues as he is finally able to get back to this stuff and (I wager) tell the stories he actually wants to tell, rather than fielding crossovers every three issues....

Supertorresmo said...

Also very happy that Lobdell is out and Geoff is in :)

Jay said...

Part excited, part concerned, due to Johns' use of the term "reset". If he's talking in terms of just taking a step back and reworking the Superman title, which standing alone has been inconsistent from the word go, excellent.

If he's talking about touching anything from Morrison's New 52 origin, I will be quite miffed.

Anonymous said...