Monday, September 18, 2023

Review: Superman Lost #6

Superman Lost #6 came out last week, starting the back half of the series. We are six issues into this series and my feelings for the book have been interesting, rocking between pure enjoyment and sheer frustration. This issue veers more towards the former. This is a good issue.

Writer Christopher Priest has an interesting concept of having Superman having been lost in time, stuck on a planet for 20 years even if the time he was missing on Earth was minutes. Priest has had Superman stuck on a planet that the Man of Steel dubbed Kansas. An obvious stand-in for Earth, the world is plagued with polarized populations and horrific climate change and pollutants. It is dying, much like Krypton, much like our Earth seems to be careening to destruction, and they won't let Superman help them. 

I am one of those people who has felt that politics and activism has seeped too deeply into comics these days. I read comics for super-heroic entertainment not for ham-fisted sermons. Priest walks a fine line here. Yes, this is a political book but told in allegory and shockingly down the middle, skewering all sides in a way. 

But Priest also knows that I need more than that. This is a Superman book. So you see a Superman trying desperately to save his new home. You see him struggle with loneliness. He has a 'villain' to deal with. And we see yet another version of his origin, being rocketed away from a doomed planet. All that ups my interest. It adds to the entertainment. 

Carlo Pagulayan brings a precise and gorgeous art style to the book. There are scenes here that are just conversations that are still beautiful. And the action pieces are wildly energetic. He's a revelation to me here even though it looks like he has been around for a while. 

I am curious what my feelings for this title as a whole will be when it wraps up. On to some particulars.

The book starts in the 'present' on Earth where Superman is still struggling to reacclimate himself to his old life. He's been gone for twenty years and he clearly is psychologically traumatized. 

When the League flies into deep space on a mission, Superman stays behind. He is almost frozen, unable to join. 

I like here where Bruce finally approaches Superman to ask him to finally open up. And I think it is important that, even though we are on the satellite, it is Bruce not Batman who does this. This is a human moment. So, for me, it makes sense it is a human trying to break through, not a super-hero.

We cut back to the planet Kansas in 'the past'. Remember last issue Szhimi, the Jimmy Olsen stand-in, had discovered a temporal star-gate that could get Superman home. He was murdered by the GL 'Hope' who has fallen in love with Superman and doesn't want our hero to leave.

Now killing Jimmy is an evil act. But I don't think she is a hand-wringing villain. She has lost her world too. 

Priest lets us know that she isn't pure evil and that perhaps she regrets her actions. When she says her GL oath, she pauses on that 'no evil shall escape my sight' line. She has done evil and she knows it.

I love the anguish Pagulayan puts on her face.

'Hope' knows that Kansas is doomed. Worse than that, it's star is growing into a red sun meaning Superman is losing his powers. She wants Superman to leave with her. But he is determined to save the world.

I love what Priest does here. The planet is torn between squabbling political groups. Neither will work with the other. They are clearly modeled on America's polarized sects. What I like here is that Priest admits that both sides are at fault for not working with the other. 

He also gives us a peek into Hope's psyche. She is terrified of being alone. She wants Superman. 

Pagaluyan does a great job here pulling the camera back. That last panel shows literally how far apart Hope and Superman are in their hopes.

Superman gives it another shot, trying to convince the people of this world that they are in danger and need to save themselves. 

The first group are the surface dwellers, the climate change deniers, the tech-obsessed. They no longer talk to each other, instead looking at their devices and posting their opinions on the 'tapestry'. Clearly, this is a take on the Twitter-verse. The leader of this group derides Superman for his 'intelligence' instead pointing out how stupid and gullible the masses are.

Priest is really laying it out here.

But 'Victor', the leader of the 'elite' underground dwellers, is no better. 

He doesn't want to leave or move forward either.

Indeed, he has obtained a star-drive but he is using it to send Superman away, not build an ark to save the populace. 

Priest knows that on that world ... as on our world ... the inability to reach out and work together will lead to destruction. It is ironic that Superman's persistence in telling these people they are doomed is too much for all of them. For once they are united, united in their hate of him. 

Years later, Superman is nearly depowered.

Victor shows up and says that the temporal rift Jimmy discovered is about to open. Why isn't Superman doing anything about it. Of course, Superman doesn't know about it because of Hope's actions.

When Superman learns of her deception, she lashes out. She kills Victor. She won't be alone. 

Great scene and action by Pagulayan. The drama is ramped. 

Hope's ring is 'old' Oan tech, retaining the weakness to yellow. He is able to defeat her.

Finally Superman knows what he needs to do. He needs to get help. So he jumps into the ship Victor made to head to Earth. And he asks Hope to call in the GL Corps if he doesn't make it back in time.

I had to mull this over for a bit. Hope is a two-time murderer. But Superman knows that he might need her to save billions. He doesn't imprison her, or turn her over to the Elites. Interesting.

Also, I have been struggling with Superman staying on Kansas for what we learn is 19 years. Has he given up hope of ever getting home? Is he staying only because the world was in danger? Why not try to bring back help earlier? Unless his failures in space travel in the prior issues made him think it was hopeless.

Has Superman done the right thing? When I ponder stuff after a comic it means it has been well written. It has made me think.

Heading into the temporal wormhole, the ship Victor made is torn apart. Then Superman feels he is being torn apart.

But then we get a great ending splash. Within the time warp, Superman is stopped by ... elderly Superman???


I thought overall this was a solid issue for this series. I wonder if the complete lack of the Lois subplot about corrupt politicians and the concentration on Superman's time on Kansas gave the book more focus. I like that Priest sort of castigates all political groups for not looking past their own biases to try and help everyone. I think the character of Hope is fascinating, a person suffering so much they make bad choices. And that ending!

Solid issue. Great art.

Overall grade: B


Anonymous said...

Pagulayan is excellent, and he's been around for a while:


Alan said...

I don't always love what Priest writes, but I often find it interesting.

Martin Gray said...

I hate Hope. I get where she’s coming from but if she’s stop killing people she’d have less chance of being alone. And if she’s reallg in love with Superman, and he’s spent 19 years giving her nothing substantive back, she’s pretty pathetic, and he’s borderline cruel.

Nineteen years! It’s impossible to believe that in all that time all the seers, spacemen and scientist Superman knows have come up with nada.