Friday, November 3, 2017

Review: Superman #34 (or is it #800)

Superman #34 came out this week, an issue also touted as the 800th issue of a book titled Superman (complete with a Superman #233 homage cover), and continued the Imperius Lex storyline taking place on Apokolips.

I am impressed with the tale that storytellers Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason are giving us here. And I can best sum this up by saying that at points in the story I describe it as confusing and compelling. I am confused at motivations and the emotions I am feeling. But I am compelled to read on. I am utterly engaged as a reader. So please read on ...

Lex Luthor is being held up as a Messianic figure to the hunger dogs on Apokolips, a title he isn't sure he wants. Meanwhile, his new relationship with Superman (Lex almost acted like a young Syndrome to Superman's Mr. Incredible last issue) take a fascinating turn here.

But the bulk of the issue is devoted to Lois Lane and I am thrilled by it. Lois shows just how strong and capable she is, even on a hellish landscape like Apokolips. Without batting an eye, and with keeping her need to protect her family in her sight, she wills herself to a place of prominence. Long gone are the days of Lois yelling 'Superman help me'. This Lois is just as ready to pick up a weapon and fight Shai Hulud.

And separating the super-family can only lead to a fun arc. We saw Lois this time. We get a hint of what Jon is going through at the end. Eventually there will be a reunification. But what will the members have to do to get there. This gives Superman, Lois, and Jon all a little spotlight time.

The art is done by Ed Benes and Jack Herbert. And while the usual Benes flair is there, it feels more grounded by Herbert's art. The images really bolster the story.

On to the book.

Last issue, Lex was kidnapped by Ardora and her band to lead on Apokolips. This all seemed out of left field to me but I have subsequently learned that some of this story started in the Justice League Darkseid War Lex Luthor Special, a book I didn't buy. If someone has bought it and read it, feel free to fill me in!

We get the gist of it through some exposition. There has been a prophecy of someone coming to Apokolips and bringing about change. It is a human, from Metropolis, who has saved the world many times.'

Ardora and her band assume this is Lex. And any prior time, Lex also might think those are his qualifications. But he wavers here. He even draws his own blood, cutting his palm, to prove the point that he isn't a god.

The last line sounds familiar, pointing us in the direction of the other person from Metropolis who has saved the world and believes in Truth and Justice.

But it is very interesting to hear Lex say this isn't him.

Another, haughtier Luthor, would say he embodies the best of humanity and has saved the world, delivering the truth about its so-called heroes.

 But here, almost on cue, Superman boom tubes in. And Lex declares Superman as the real messiah in the prophecy.

Okay ... can I take a step back here ...

The one of the first lines of the prophecy is 'this human was a great hero'. The word human hangs very heavy. All Lex's life he has said that humanity needs to guide itself forward and not be led by Superman, an alien. And yet now Lex says Superman fits the bill.

Part of me wants to believe that Lex has turned the corner. Maybe he recognizes Superman as the best of humanity. Maybe he really is the hero worshiper we saw last issue.

But part of me also thinks this is the duplicitous Lex all over again. Getting Superman embroiled in Apokoliptian politics is a great way to keep Kal of Earth and open the door for Luthor.

This new Luthor is both confusing and compelling!! 

 Meanwhile, Lois has been boom-tubed in the middle of a scrap between the Female Furies and rebels called the Jet Bow Squad. I would assume that the Furies would simply eviscerate anyone they think is an enemy. Instead Lois is cuffed as a prisoner, something new for Granny and the Furies to play with and break.

I love Lois' grit and determination here. She is a survivor. She doesn't flinch in the face of this horror. She just steels herself, all while wearing her nice work clothes.

That is impressive.

The prisoner march is interrupted by the attack of a Dredge Worm, a powerful animal native to the planet. When the unnamed Fury guarding Lois is immolated, Lois goes into action. She picks up the Fury's weapon, blasts her cuffs off, and joins the fight.

This is another interesting choice. Lois could have run in the chaos. But instead she decides that she has a better chance of survival joining this band. Lois and the Furies ... who knew it would be like chocolate and peanut butter.

This might be my favorite panel in the whole book. So much is said without a single word.

After defeating the dredge worm, the Furies have to rest. You can just see how weary the are by their body language. Lois has her hands on her knees like someone run ragged.

We very rarely get to see the immediate aftermath of battles like this. And this silent panel somehow humanized the Furies for me. Even Granny has this wonderful expression of grudging respect for Lois and how she fought. She picks up the armor of the fallen Fury and bequeaths it to Lois.

And yet, do I want to feel anything for the Furies, a band of assassins who a couple of panels before were delighting in flaying people? Do I want like Granny's respect when I know she tortures children??

Confusing. Compelling.

When the Furies balk at such a meteoric rise in their ranks, Granny reminds them of  Alianna Hubbard, a human Fury. Lois dons the armor.

Granny won't take no for an answer. Lois is in. Everyone needs to rest and eat the worm for sustenance.

So what is Lois' Fury name? Pistol-Lane? Lois Common Denominator??

 Alianna Hubbard?!?

Now that is the deepest cut from the 1978 relaunch of Mr. Miracle. I'll admit I don't have this issue. I have all the others from the relaunch. So now I have a new mission for the back issue boxes!

Despite being in the group, Lois for the most part stands apart, looking at the horizon. There are no thought bubbles but I can intuit what she is thinking. 'Where is Jon? Where is Clark? And how the heck do I get myself and them out of this mess?'

In a nice twist, Granny shows up to congratulate Lois again and give her a hunk of meat. Granny talks about the importance of family, meaning the Furies. But Lois is thinking of a different family all together. The almost blank stare on Lois as she eats bloody worm meat is a bit frightening. We know what she will do to protect her brood. And because of that dichotomy of which 'family', this panel  works very well.

The last page sets up Jon's adventure. But between the very intriguing early pages with Lex and this high stakes shoot-out with Lois, I got two stories that pulled me right in. And I want more. Now. That is always a good sign.

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Great review of a compelling comic, I can't wait to see where this goes next. I am so thrilled to see Arianna Hubbard, I read those issues when they came out. Over on my blog, Rob tells me they're on Comixology, if that's a help.

His name's not on the cover, but Doug Mahnke also looks to have worked on the book - as ever, the splash page doesn't give specifics. The Jon pages, I expect.

Anonymous said...

First thing came to my mind when I saw the cover was "Kirbyesque", which is a good sign.

Very interesting issue, although I can't help but think Kara should have showed up in this story. Heh. Clark, have you realized two women in your life have become Female Furies at different points? If Ma was still alive maybe she'd have an interesting story to tell.

Interesting Lex doesn't think of himself as the defender of truth and justice. I guess he can't see himself as Superman deep-down, no matter how loudly he claims otherwise.

I wonder, what is this Lex's backstory? We know most of Post-Byrne stories happened, but I can't imagine Superman trusting 90's Lex Luthor, not even a bit.

Off topic: I recommend to read "Gotham City Garage", even if only for its Supergirl's depiction. A determined, fierce, cheerful, compassionate Kara who idolizes Wonder Woman and develops strong ties with Barbara Gordon, Big Barda, Natasha Irons... Why can't we have this in the main universe?

BigShadow said...

Granny Goodness seems almost like a decent and loving Granny but she is still a twisted gargoyle and her cruelty is almost without limit hopefully our young Superboy doesn't get sent to her orphanage

Unknown said...

When our eternal soul
leaves our mortal body
to meet our Maker,
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according to the deeds WEE mortals
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If you're RIGHT,
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Find-out what RCIA means and join.
Make Your Choice -SAW

⚠️DO NOT⚠️take the Mark of the Beast;
otherwise, we'll be in two, different eternities.