Friday, October 6, 2017

Review: Superman #32

Last month, Superman #31 shined a bright spotlight onto Lois, showing how she works as she tracked down Deathstroke and got the mercenary to open up about his life as a cold-blooded killer. It was a fantastic issue giving Lois fans a story they could sink their teeth into, something that has been pretty rare in recent years.

Superman #32, from the same creative team of writer James Bonny and artist Tyler Kirkham, continues that story but shifts the focus back onto the Man of Steel. After an issue of her essentially being a hero, Lois slips into the role of damsel in distress, used as a prop to see if the Terminator can push Superman to an extreme action.

The story is fine with a nice little twist ending. The art is great. And had the first chapter not preceded this, I might have liked this more. But after Lois starring last issue, this felt a little flat for her. And, I will admit, the characterization of Deathstroke felt a bit more like Deadshot here and so that also felt a little off.

And that is kind of a drag because I loved last issue. Everything clicked ... Lois, Deathstroke, and Superman. This issue just felt like a step back. On to the book ...

Last issue ended with Deathstroke coming to Metropolis and firing a gun in Lois' direction. I thought for sure he'd be shooting past her at assassin's coming for her.


He is straight up trying to kill her. And it is only the timely rescue from Superman that she is still alive.

Throughout the fight (and indeed the issue), Deathstroke keeps saying that he won't stop coming until Lois is dead. We don't get a great motive for this. He can't be mad about the interview; he gave it.

Luckily for him, Deathstroke is wearing some gravitational shield which absorbs and ricochets the power back to Superman.

But Terminator's internal monologue shows how he is trying to bring out the worst in Superman. Deathstroke knows Superman has feelings for Lois. He knows that Superman's responses are human and that a threat to Lois will bring out anger.

And then he sees that Superman recognizes he is being played here. Realizing that this chapter of the game is over, Deathstroke uses a grenade to threaten a bystander, forcing Superman into a rescue, and slips away.

 But Terminator's goal is clear ... killing Lois. And this upsets the balance of Lois and Clark's life. Lois is worried but wants to keep doing her job. Clark wants her to go away with Jon. At the very least, he needs to keep an eye on her.

The playground scene is a classic trope. The innocence of kids playing in a safe place is a nice contrast to the life and death dialogue happening nearby.

I have to say, given who Lois is, is this really the first time that she has been threatened. Sure, Deathstroke is a supervillain. But I would think prior scoops have infuriated criminals, corrupt politicians, and sleazy business people. This shouldn't be 'new' to these two.

 After a calm, Lois is called to a fire at a propane storage facility. And Superman is there, floating nearby, watching to make sure Lois is safe.

Superman flies to help tend with the fire. And in that moment, we see Deathstroke is nearby. He set the fire to lure both Lois and Superman out.

Meanwhile, Superman begins asking himself the heavy questions. There is only one way to stop Deathstroke ... killing him. But taking a life is a line he can't cross. It is self-destructive.

Okay, these words read true. And they echo what I think Superman would be thinking, should be thinking.

 And then he rethinks about the justification of killing. Is killing in war okay? Is killing many in one swoop to stop even more killing morally right? Should he do this? He equates the loss of any life as the beginning of the death of worlds. Whew ... heavy.

Superman should always be thinking 'there is another way'. At least my Superman.

But in a world where there are many books written where Lois dies to coarsen Superman, in a world where the Superman movie has him killing to end a threat, I guess I should be thrilled that Bonny subscribes to this thinking.

 And then it comes down to this. Deathstroke, his gravity field broken, is standing with a gun to Lois head. Lois wonders if Superman will kill Terminator to end the threat ... although she doubts it. Deathstroke knows Superman is close to crossing the line.

And Superman knows, even for Lois, he can't.

There was something off of seeing Lois so helpless here. She is just standing there. Initially she is gagged. There is no defiance here. She seems so passive. That isn't the Lois we saw last issue.

 Eventually the fire at the facility hits the main tanks and there is a huge explosion throwing Lois and Deathstroke into the river.

Amazing that Superman let the fire rage like this. Earlier we heard that an explosion could take out the area. Is Superman endangering the lives of everyone nearby while he has this standoff? If he thinks he is being played, if Lois should be dead if Terminator wanted to kill her, why not fly off and stop the fire?

Regardless, Deathstroke's inner dialogue is pretty fascinating. Deathstroke lives in a world of 'might makes right', where 'the strong survive'. Superman, despite his power, doesn't endorse that.

 Of course, killing Lois never was the goal. Deathstroke rescues Lois.

The goal was seeing if Superman could kill. I won't tell you who hired Deathstroke. But the fact that the Terminator had no shields while he faced off against Superman, especially with the goal of seeing if Superman would cross a line, makes it sound like Terminator has a death wish. And frankly, rereading this issue, Deathstroke does nothing here that Deadshot couldn't do. And given who the Terminator's employer was and seeing this fatalistic streak, I wonder if Deadshot would have been better in this role.

I don't know.

I loved last issue. And I think this issue suffers from being in the glow of that book. And I guess I wonder if we need a story just to verify that Superman won't kill. All that said, and I know I haven't mentioned it yet, Tyler Kirkham really delivers on this issue. I love his Lois. And I'd love to see him on a monthly book if he could handle it.

Overall grade: B-


Anonymous said...

I agree, this issue isn't so good as the last one.

I'm a tad sick of the trend of "Superman would cross the line for Lois?" storylines we've seen of late. Can the writers stop using Lois as a plot device rather a full-fledged character, please?

Martin Gray said...

I’m with Anonymous, the best stories with Lois feature her as equal partner or adversary.

art.the.nerd said...

I have said this many times before. Whenever Superman battles a non-powered human (even one in a high-technobabble supersuit), the battle should be over before it begins. The guy has superspeed; he can get in a punch before the bad hur can blink. The guy has laser vision that can melt the bad guy's weapon or slice off the bad guy's arm. The guy has (or used to have) superbreath to freeze the bad guy. The guy has the equivalent of a Canary Cry.

The bad guy has Plot Immunity. That's the only reason he survives.