Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Review: Superwoman #6

Superwoman #7 came out last week and was something of an overstuffed and semi-confusing issue. One of my compliments about this book is that Phil Jimenez (as is his style) tends to really fill his issues with story. Between scene changes, inset panels, and strong dialogue, a Jimenez issue often feels like two issues. It isn't coincidence that Superwoman tends to be the last review I do the week it comes out. It takes me that long to digest.

But this issue felt as if Jimenez tried to put a bit too much into the issue without as much explanation or discussion as felt I needed. Things seem to happen and we move on before we learn why what happened happened. So why does the Superwoman Bizarro break free? Why is that Bizarro inexplicably ripped in half in one panel but whole a page later? What did Lena learn from the Kryptonite Man? When did Natasha make an squadron of armors? Etc etc.

It also doesn't help that another aspect of this story is to build up Lena at the expense of Lex. I just commented in my review of Action that Dan Jurgens is making me rethink Lex as a possible hero. Here, perhaps to narrate a hot political topic, we learn that Lex takes credit for Lena's work, steals her ideas, and is only who he is because of Lena. And I don't know if I need that wrinkle in Lex's story. Why play out feminism issues in Lex's origin, something pretty firmly set? Why not use all that story for a different villain with less history? It is a good story to be told but maybe not with Luthor.

The art is a mix of Jimenez, Jack Herbert, and Matt Santorelli and they do well mixing in the action sequences and talking scenes.

But still, I left this issue a bit reeling. I don't necessarily know what truly happened here.

Last issue ended with Superwoman fighting a Bizarrowoman and the shape-changing Superwoman. It was hard to know which of the Superwomen was the survivor of the fight.

It turns out that the Bizarrowoman (the mutated Superwoman from the Crime Syndicate) has gone against Lena's orders. She is rogue and wants to help Lana. In a nice scene, we see the Bizarro vaporize the shape-changed other Bizarro.

One thing I like about this scene is that Lana is just incensed, filled with anger, and ready to violently attack to end this takeover.

But remember Lana's powers are killing her. The brawl with the Bizarros have drained her. She is falling to her death until the vision of Superwoman Lois shows up to be the wind beneath her wings and prop her up.

It is interesting that these Lois visions seem to appear in costume or in civvies depending on where she appears. And, of course, the 'you've got me, who's got her' line. Hysterical.

But really, the most amazing thing about this scene is that it is clear that Bizarrowoman can see Lois! That means there is more to Lois than just psychological hallucinations from Lana.

But then things happen in a hurry. Earlier in the issue, Lex's assistan Mercy (dying in Lena's HQ) tells Lex she did something to the shape-changing Bizarrowoman ... the one that was just incinerated by the other Bizarro. What does that mean?

Then we hear the Kryptonite Man say he was dissected because Lena needed to learn something from him. I assume it is how to survive as just a head. But we don't hear it.

Here, we hear that this is truly the Crime Syndicate Superwoman who has been mutated and now controlled by Lena. But somehow she has broken free of that control. How did Lena capture her? Do this to her? How did she break free of Lena's control? What are the terrible things she feels?

Maybe all will be explained later but when things like this pile on that I have to say 'just move on' as a reader, the story sometimes breaks down.

The Bizarrowoman wants to aid the Lana and the rebels from having Lena's plot fulfilled.

And we learn that Lena's plot is to invade the Phantom Zone, taking her prisoners and experiments with her.

Okay. That just seems to come out of thin air. Why would she want to do that? What is she hoping to do there? Again, maybe all this will make sense in an issue or two but all these 'that's new' seems to be building up and up.

Once again, Lana intuits that saving Lex is going to be the key to defeating Lena. The heroes learn that Lex is imprisoned below Lexcorp. Lana and this Bizarrowoman will sneak in while the other rebels distract with an all out assault.

I like Lana acting as the leader here. Perhaps she absorbed more from Superman than just his energy manipulation powers?

But it is that last panel that troubled me. It was only on the third reading that I realized this isn't the Crime Syndicate Superwoman ripped in half, it is a different one. (You can tell by the slightly different costume and the purple boot behind Steel.) But imagine my confusion when I thought this was the Bizarro which just helped them suddenly ripped in half. And where did this one come from? Am I forgetting something from prior issues?

To distract Superwoman, the rebels will need more than Steel.

Luckily Natasha has an army of armors to put ordinary folk into to fight.

I suppose this is the easiest thing to just roll with.

Finally we get to the key part of this issue, uncovering Lex.

I like this prelude to his interaction with Lana where he says he finds being 'normal' a contemptible thought. He would do anything to bigger than life.

That gets the ball rolling.

Lana won't save Lex until he tells all. Why does Lena hate him so.

But the intro of how it could be hard to help Lex with all the history between them is summed up nicely. Lex has tried to torture and kill Clark and Steel. He has delusions of grandeur. How could you easily let this monster free?

Of course, all of this is grist for the mill when you compare it to the God-Killer arc in the current Action Comics. There, Superman is moving past this.

But then the part that I don't like. (And please correct me if all of this has been put in canon before this!)

Lex divulges that Lena was a more brilliant scientist than he was. She created an engineering compound that was revolutionary. When she gets a bout of Guillain-Barre syndrome, Lex tries to cure her on his own but paralyzes her. Then he takes credit for her compound, becomes a billionaire, hires her as a nameless scientist and takes credit for all her discoveries. Of course Lena hates him.

But if Lex isn't the brilliant scientist, what is he? Why is this a zero sum game where for Lena to be great, Lex must be devalued? And will this really stick to Luthor's comic history? Or is this just a pebble in a puddle.

I get it. I understand the struggles of women in STEM and the need to trumpet them. I understand equal pay. I understand it all. But to retroactively stick these issues to Lex seems off. Why not do it for someone just as vaunted by less well known like Professor Ivo or T.O. Morrow?

But now we can check off the social justice box.

So many questions! And now a rewritten Lex origin? I guess I will need to read the end of the arc to see if it all comes together.

But this was a speedbump for a title that had been firing on all cylinders.

Overall grade: C+


Anonymous said...

Well, I guess we can write the Cir-El theory off.

Maybe that Lois is a vision sent or created by Oz?

I also believe Jimenez tried to jam too much plot into a single issue. Many developments feel rushed or inadequately explained.

And Lena being a more brilliant scientist than Lex and her big brother stealing her credit? Yes, I'm sorry. I don't buy it. Lex is twisted, self-serving and mean-spirited, but he's also a genius. That's because he can defy Superman, Brainiac and most of DC villains and cosmic entities. That's because Superman can never put him behind bars permanently.

Not quite on topic but related to Lois and Lana... I've found out that John Byrne would have dumped Lois altogether and turned Lana into Clark's true love if DC had let him when he rebooted Superman.

I wasn't aware of this. I have many issues with the Post-Crisis reboot -dystopian Krypton, no Superboy, no Krypto, no Legion, Supergirl "We have to keep the trademark of the name" Matrix, Clark deeming his heritage as irrelevant and meaningless, Lex never living in Smallville...-, but I used to think of "The Man of Steel" as "good story but not my favorite Superman". Now I'm leaning towards "harmful interpretation that could have been potentially disastrous to the mythos". Dumping Lois and replacing her with Lana? If I remember correctly, Chuck Austen wanted the same thing. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

Very disjointed issue...I dont' think anyone is thinking more than an issue or two in advance...hence the escalating incongruities and plotholes. I'm vaguely curious as to how all this turns out but at some point I'll bail simply because the writers can't connect their ever more dense field of dots.


Anonymous said...

I've been a little distracted by politics (to put it mildly) so I am just catching up on comics. I was a little confused after reading Action and then Superwoman. But? Disjointed as it was? One thing I appreciated was her conversations with Lois was a lot less mean spirited. (That had been my complaint in their interactions real or memorex, because it's through Lana's POV so it doesn't have balance and reads like a laundry list of all the Lois Lane personality complaints over the years and that just irritated me).

So I appreciated Lana's character development but yes, the events had me scratching my head. Albeit I've been so out of the loop for months I figured it was me. Interesting to see that isn't the case.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.
Glad I wasn't the only one who was scratching their head.

Hope Jimenez pulls it all together!