Batman/Superman Annual #1 came out last week and was a fine issue. I had very high hopes for this book for a number of reasons. It guest starred Supergirl. It also had Red Hood, Batgirl, and Steel! And it was to be a commentary on the recent deaths of Damian Wayne and Superboy. That is a lot of great stuff to cover.
It also had great creative clout with writer Greg Pak and artists Jae Lee, Kenneth Rocafort, and Philip Tan. I knew this was going to be a very beautiful book.
So I have a very rare complaint. I think this story was rushed!! I usually complain that in this current DC market that everything is decompressed and stretched to fit a 6 issue trade compilation. But this story is a whirlwind. In fact, the best parts of the issue is the opening chapter where things proceed at a nice pace allowing the characters to breathe a bit. But the middle chapter is so fast that the plot feels rushed. And the emotional 'oomph', the reflection of Damian's and Kon's deaths, is an afterthought when that should be the driving force of this book.
Now this isn't a bad book by any means. I enjoyed it ... especially the Supergirl parts! But I almost wish that this was a three issue mini-arc in the main book. There is so much untapped story here.
The book opens with Superman and Batman reviewing their recent battle with Mongul. The interstellar tyrant was thrown into the Phantom Zone by Superman. It is a somewhat chilly interaction between the two. Batman is surprised that Superman would have the intestinal fortitude to throw Mongul in that prison without a trial. And Superman thinks that he isn't a boy scout; he is there to protect.
I did love this moment, a sort of softening of Batman. He looks down on a couple of kids playing ball and says the 'little joys' make life bearable. There is a glimmer of hope in him!
This quaint reflection is interrupted by the arrival of a new Warworld and Mongul's son Jochi. On Warworld, grievances are dealt with in the arena. Jochi is upset about his father's defeat and needs familial justice. Batman and Superman will either bring a 'clan' to battle Jochi on his world to fight or Warworld will destroy the Earth.
There isn't much choice. Batman and Superman go to pick their 2 clan members.
As a Supergirl fan, I have had my share of complaints about how she has been characterized in the New 52. One of my biggest complaints has been her utter lack of interaction with Superman. Luckily ... happily ... Pak must not know about this. He has Superman pick Supergirl first ... the easy pick!
Look at how the 2 super-cousins are working together to save a falling bridge from a giant kraken-like thing. Superman and Supergirl collaborating!! Action friendly!! Acting like a family! Thank goodness.
And Jae Lee's art is so beautiful I love his representation of Kara.
I know we are in the Red Lantern phase of things. I can only hope when that story is over that Pak and Bedard smooth over this relationship.
Wonder Woman shows up asking to join the clan but Superman tells her she needs to stay behind to defend Earth should something go awry. Diana gives Kara her sword. It is odd that Wonder Woman doesn't seem to recognize Kara. They brawled in H'El on Earth.
And Clark and Diana share a moment to say goodbye. This is the first time I have read them interact as a couple where it sounded semi-reasonable and natural.
As Diana flies away, Supergirl talks to Superman about her and how much Kara likes her! Look ... two family members talking about their lives to each other!!!! It can be done!!
Along the way Superman picks up Krypto as his second and Steel as a hidden ally.
As for Batman, he approaches Batgirl and Red Hood to join him. They are interesting choices, especially Jason who is something of a wild card. Batman knows he might need someone a bit unhinged for the arena.
Despite my love of Superman, this is my favorite page. Batman knows he has already put these characters through the wringer. We see shots of The Killing Joke and Death in the Family (nice channeling of Mignola by Lee here). And we see a ghostly vision of Damian (looking quite Quitely).
Batman warns the two that they might not come back from this mission.
I love ... LOVE ... Jason's response. They might not come back from any mission. Bruce should realize that. Fantastic! For too long it seems that Batman has been an immutable force in comics. I am glad to see someone call him out a little.
This early chapter flows nicely as we see the main heroes pick their family to fight alongside. After this things get a bit rushed.
First off, Steel and Batgirl slip away before the heroes head to the arena. They are tasked with dismantling Warworld's weapons so Earth will be spared.
In the meantime, Batman sees Jochi alone in combat on Warworld. Jochi needs to fight for his own honor and for a place on Warworld. In an odd twist, Batman claims Jochi as one of his clan since Batman defeated Jochi's father. That right falls to Bruce.
It puts Jochi in an odd place. He either needs to join Batman (the guy he wanted to fight, the guy who banished his father) or get killed immediately.
Okay, I consider myself a decent reader of comments. But the muddled politics of Warworld are a little confusing. I guess I just have to roll with it.
While Steel and Batgirl try to eliminate Warworld's weapons, the 'Clans' on Warworld fight to see who will eventually rule the place. As expected, the last two clans are the Batman Clan and the Superman Clan. Because, after all, we need more of Superman fighting Batman.
But all this noble fighting has made Jochi have something of a change of heart. Maybe he can be more benevolent than his father was. Maybe he can change.
The final battle is a fight to the death. And if the two clans shadow-box, the Warworld elite will kill both teams and destroy Earth. How can this end??
I suppose having Jochi be a reasonable 'villain', someone outgrowing the limited views of his father, is a nice touch.
After toiling to do things his way, Steel finally relents to Batgirl's suggestion throughout the book. The easiest way to dispose of Warworld's weapons is to disassmble them with explosions. It is a funny moment.
But then the ending gets rushed. The two remaining clans fight each other. Batman doesn't kill Superman with a Kryptonite shard. Jochi tries to wrest control of Warworld. The Council sends Warworld on a collision course with Earth. And Superman sends the whole thing into the Phantom Zone. Oh, and in the zone, Mongul kills his son.
It all seems like just a bit too much too fast. There was no time to savor the fights, to give us more of those personal moments within the clans, to see Jochi slowly turning, to grasp the intricacies of Warworld's system.
There was this nice moment at the end. We finally get back to Kon and Damian. Of course, both of them were flawed 'sons' like Jochi. Maybe if time permitted, Superman and Batman could put the two of them on the right track. While Superman wants to mull it over, the pain must be too much for Batman who says they shouldn't dwell on the past.
Now that is a nice moment. It is really the payoff moment of this book. But it was only on the second reading did I realize that Jochi was a reflection of Kon/Damian. Because the fight scenes have to be there, because we need to get to the ending, and because we have to get there fast, everything outside of the Lee pages careens to the ending. I see glimmers of what could be a very good story with an emotional undercurrent. But I am left wanting a bit more.
Still, those glimmers are good glimmers. And the clan interaction when we see it is fantastic. I hope we see more Superman Family and Batman Family crossovers in this book.
It sounds silly to say but comics work best when words and art complement each other perfectly. Think back to some of the more classic runs in history - it is always a writer and artist (sometimes the same person) who just seem to build on each other, resonate with each other, to make stories be that much better. As a reader, I love when I am reading those books because everything just seems to click.
And right now, I feel that sort of synchronicity between writer Greg Pak and artist Aaron Kuder on Action Comics. Action Comics #29 came out last week, the conclusion of their duo's first story arc, and it just crackled off the page. Pak seems to have a great handle on Superman. There is a ton of classic Superman here. Superman is good, cherishes life, draws on his Smallville roots. He is a smart fighter, rallying for justice. He is a man of Action, flying into battle. And Kuder is brilliant. Detailed when he needs to be. Changing angles. Bring innovative. He uses splash pages when he needs to, making big action bigger. And he can go small to bring about the story. The two creators seem in lock step with each other.
And I haven't even talked about how great Lana Lang in this book. She is as heroic as Superman is! I love how she is able to relate to Superman in his fight for truth, justice, and the American way!
It has been a pretty wild first arc. Lana has uncovered an underground culture. Clark has befriended Baka, the boy-dragon. The subterranean leaders use meerkat like creatures for energy. And the US has sent the Ghost Soldier to investigate.
Superman is pretty hurt in this opening scene, stabbed in the chest by phased knives. But I love this scene as he instantly assesses all he needs to do. He needs to stop dying. But he needs to protect the energy globe. He needs to protect the creatures he has saved from their underground death sentence. He needs to save Lana. He needs to do it all. This isn't a mere punching hero. He actually is thinking. And he is thinking about everybody and everything else ... not just himself.
I can't believe I need to applaud this. This is who Superman is! And I love that Pak has brought it back.
Those meerkat cuties from last issue mutate into giant worg-like beasts in the yellow sun. Before Superman can corral them, the Ghost Soldier decides to save Lana by killing them. The Soldier is ... a soldier. He seems to have good intentions. But his means are a bit brutal.
I really love this panel by Kuder. Such an expressive look at Lana showing her horror at this butchering of the animals.Just lovely. And the panel inset and progression works wonderfully too.
And Superman isn't going to take the sort of tactics that the Ghost Soldier uses lying down. The Man of Steel engages. After reading Superman/Wonder Woman where Superman has been portrayed as an inept fighter, I love seeing this thinking Superman. He admits to be fighting stupid, a sort of rope-a-dope style to lure the Ghost Soldier in for the real attack, freezing super-breath. I love the writing here! That is Superman.
But I love Kuder's page here. I love how the heat vision blasts have been used as pseudo-panel border here. The cocked right arm's angle mirrors that beam. The left straight jab's angle mirrors the slightly angled panel border below, which also is similar to the super-breath blast. It all flows and is so spectacular. Just great page composition and figure work.
While the blast freezes the Ghost Soldier in a solid state, it also freezes everything around him as well. That means that small things like butterflies are also killed.
Pak has us pause here, getting us into Superman's mind who apologizes to the butterfly! This is a Superman who cares for all life. It is wonderfully retro, a Superman with a code of ethics. It isn't the iron clad 'no killing' of the Silver Age. But it is close enough. He is upset at himself for having to cross this small line even if he needed to in order to save everyone else.
Compare this to the beheading the Soldier did.
This isn't exactly a victory. The 'meerkats' are dead. And with a clue from the Soldier's visor, Superman vows to go and shut down the Ghost Soldier's headquarters. Superman is clearly angry about this whole thing, upset about the death around him. Upset around the death he was part of. And Lana can sense that unease, relating it to when Clark saw a puppy die in their youth.
I love how these two act like no time has separated them. They know each other and understand each other.
But I also love how Pak goes back to the dead butterfly! Any death upsets this Superman. Even this small loss.
Again ... wonderful!
Ukur arrives to the surface to retrieve Baka. Baka is the prince of this world and needs to return.
Again, this is a wonderful moment of both words and art. Baka doesn't necessarily want to go back. He runs and hugs Superman. Nice panel.
But then Kuder blurs out when Superman hugs back. As readers we know who is who, we know they are hugging. But we get to fill in the details with our imagination. For an emotional scene like this, sometimes that is the best way to convey it.
With Baka sobbing, Superman seals off the passage to the underworld. No one will be able to get to it. I doubt we have seen the last of that world. And I hope we see more of Baka. Amazing how these two characters connected so quickly. And it felt natural.
And then this wonderful panel. Superman leaning on Lana, against the rock plugging the underworld, aware that everything they hoped for has left them. Baka is gone. The creatures are dead. The energy globe cracked becoming inert (powered by a captured meerkat anyways).
These two don't feel like victors here. Superman is apologizing again. And that feeling of being small is perfectly shown in this panel and it's pulled back perspective. Even the tiny fire in the lower left corner works, a small sign that things aren't controlled.
Just perfect story and art.
But the Ghost Soldier's superiors aren't done. They send drone bombers to raze the area.
I think Superman is both sad and angry about the proceedings. He can still hear Baka crying. So nothing like drones to take out a bit of his frustration.
This is a great splash panel, iconic in its portrayal of Superman.
With the drones destroyed, Superman streaks to the Soldier's headquarters.
And we see that the Ghost Soldier isn't the only on with phasing ability. The commanding officer is called Harrow. And she seems rather spectral herself.
I am not happy that we have yet another American military unit fighting Superman. But this squad seems well-suited to fight him. Are they tech-based? Supernatural? Both?
This was such a great issue that I really had to decide which panels to share. There were great moments I didn't show. Lana blasting the Soldier to protect Superman. Superman screaming that he would have tried to save everyone!
And the art is just solid all around. Crisp, detailed, expressive.
This book is sizzling right now, my favorite book from DC right now. Thank you Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder for getting Superman right!
A couple of week's ago, the All Access column in the back of every DC comic covered the 'Supergirl-as-Red Lantern' story.
This week, Red Lantern Supergirl story is *the* story of the Channel 52 promo piece at the end of DC Comics.
That's a lot of promotion for the Supergirl character, more than I have seen since her return by Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner. As I have said, I don't necessarily agree with this direction for the character. But if this is a transformative story, done well, and ends up with Supergirl in a better place, I will abide.
One thing I do think is interesting is the reaction to the 'Channel 52' characters ... maybe more aligned with the comic reading populace?
Bethany Snow looks shocked and wonders how Supergirl will deal with the 'napalm and fire-breathing' of the Red Lanterns. I am pretty shocked about this too.
And Ambush Bug looks nauseated.
I am happy that Supergirl is getting her share of publicity. I am hoping I will see a heroic Supergirl in a classic uniform sooner rather than later.
And so I finally reach the end of the delayed reviews of last week's comics. And I thought I would save the book I was most interested in reading for the end.
After being semi-snubbed in the main Superman comics, I was glad when DC announced this Superman:Lois Lane #1 one-shot special. Lots of characters have suffered under the weight of the dour New 52. Lois, in particular, has been pushed to the side. Like many, I was happy to see this book and hope it is the beginning of many one-shots or even a solo title/mini-series.
I also liked the creative team attached to the book. Writer Marguerite Bennett's work over on the Batman books has been lauded so I was interested to see what she would do with Lois. And the bulk of the book is done by Emanuela Luppacchino, an artist whose work I have enjoyed on covers. On the plus side, it also means the book had an all-woman creative team, fitting for the first lady of comics.
Now the art ended up being a hodge-podge of Lupacchino as well as Ig Guara, Meghan Hetrick-Murante, and Diogenes Neves but the DC style is pervasive throughout the book. No one style stood out as being radically different from the other. As a result the book's look is smooth on the interior. It also sports a sharp cover by Kenneth Rocafort.
The story itself is a dizzying and in-depth look at Lois' life. We see flashbacks of early life, back when mother Ella was alive. We get a better sense of her relationship with younger sister Lucy. We see her attack a story, investigating a new drug on all levels. And we see what it is like to live in a universe like the DCU ... where a story about drugs on the street becomes a sci-fi thriller.
My biggest peeve with the story is the 're-introduction' of Lucy Lane. She was something of big part of the brief Dan Jurgens run on the Superman book and there seemed much more together and more mature than the Lucy we see here. Now maybe I can mentally squint and make them the same person. But I would also hope that DC would remember that the Jurgens' Lucy was out there. That was only a year and a half ago.
On to the story.
We start out with a flashback of the Lane girls, living on a military base, and playing. This opening scene with Lucy being risky, reaching higher and higher, depending on Lois to save her if she falls, permeates the book and helps set the tone. Lois is the grounded one. Lucy is the dreamer.
But this look into Lois' past feels new to me. I don't recall often seeing glimpses of her as a child. I liked seeing her so close to Lucy, to see how they have a code comprised of bits of the languages they have learned on their travels. These two are close.
And beautiful are here, colored nicely in pastels.
We see a similar scene play out in the present. In cut pages we see Lucy running from her apartment to Lois. Men have broken into Lucy's place and kidnapped her roommate. Scared and looking for a safe place, she heads to Lois'.
And so we see her 'fall' again, being caught by Lois once more. (I can't get into Lucy calling Lois 'Lola'.)
I don't understand why Lucy would break Lois' kitchen window to get into the house. I especially don't get it when she says she smashed the window because she didn't want to ring the bell and wake Lois. Huh? I suppose it goes to show how immature or addled Lucy is at this point.
The flashbacks are a nice part of this book sprinkled throughout the issue.
For me I especially love the peeks into life with Ella, who seems to be a supportive mother trying to keep this family together and happy despite their many travels. We learn that Ella is fighting cancer and eventually succumbs. As a result, Lois feels obliged to try and be Lucy's mother and sister ... and feeling inadequate. It brings in a layer of humility and humanity to Lois.
We learn that Lucy's roommate Amanda was in pain, ill, and took some drugs by a physician named Osterman. The drugs helped with Amanda's pain but had the unwanted effect of having her mutate into monstrous creatures. Tonight, a group called the Cartel (including a new character 'The Agent' who has the feel of Codename:Assassin) broke in and kidnapped her.
They also tried to grab Lucy ... although we don't know why right now.
So we move from kidnapping and street drugs to the fantastic.
This is why I love comics.
This is personal ... but it is also a story. A drug cartel is making people into monsters (metaphor?) and then kidnapping them ... in Metropolis? It is time for Lois to investigate. And the first person she calls is her friend and colleague Jimmy Olsen. She needs some tech to record what she is investigating.
There is very comfortable and sweet and believable between these two. My favorite line is Jimmy asking why aren't they meeting in a diner to discuss the details. I really loved this scene.
And I also loved that the first call wasn't to Superman! Lois can do this field work on her own.
Dressing like someone looking for the 'pretty pills', Lois heads into the seedier areas of the city. And just as she is about to score, that Cartel group and The Agent arrive. They grab both Lois and the dealer (who mutates himself in front of her) taking her to their stronghold, in a the derelict remains of tanker ships in Metropolis harbor.
Well, it turns out that The Agent knows that Lois is Lois. And he isn't necessarily the bad guy here. He wants to help those exposed to the mutagen. And the best way to do that is to scoop them up and bring them to therapy.
Couldn't he approach the people before he grabs them? "I know you probably don't like turning into Scyther from Pokemon; I can help." That might be more helpful.
And if you are some government sanctioned task force, maybe a cleaner detox facility might be less ominous. How about a hospital rather than the wreck of a ship.
I suppose I am overthinking this. Maybe this group just wants a swift solution and kidnapping is the most efficient way to eliminate the problem. And a 'secret' place would be more anonymous.
It turns out that Dr. Osterman did create the drug and went through all the proper channels of testing. I hope he didn't lie about this 'side effect'.
The drug hit the streets when some thugs broke into his lab and put it on the streets. There is no cure except detox. Interestingly enough, The Agent says that some people die during detox, or die trying to hold onto their new monstrous form. More metaphor for a drug problem.
Lois decides that this solution of imprisonment isn't right either. She breaks out of her cell and frees all the prisoners. A fire fight breaks out with agents shooting guns at crazy mutated creatures.
In the melee, Lois finds Lucy's roommate Amanda and leaves on a giant bug creature which is presumably Lucy's cat who got into the drug.
Again, we go from a very street level plot with a slightly monstrous bend to this shot of a tiny Lois flying on a giant alien bug. This is such a wild story.
And I love that Lois seems to take this all in stride. Riding a giant bug to my apartment ... no worries.
Finally Lois calls in Superman who arrives to find the ships deserted.
This might be my favorite panel of the book. The Agent calls Lois and tells her he is detoxing the victims and will release them when they are normal. He then tells her to keep the story under wraps.
Look at that killer smile on Lois as she says that they don't know her at all. She isn't going to kill a story. She is an investigative journalist. That one panel is pure Lois.
But in the end this is a personal story. The giant bug turns out to be Lucy who dabbled in the drug as well.
Even if Lucy fell, even if she is hurting, Lois is there for her.
I thought this was a very solid issue, showcasing just about everything I love about Lois while giving me a nice peek into her past. The whole 'drug cartel - are they good guys - who is the villain' part of the book was a bit blurry to me. But that is picking nits at an otherwise solid book for Lois fans. I can only hope we see more.
Adventures of Superman #10 came out last week in print and carried two related stories which brought smiles to my face. I have said in the past that this book of digital first, out of continuity stories has been an oasis for readers looking for a classic Superman. That means more than just the red tights. It means a simpler, purer Superman with that sense of inspiration and goodness that is often missing from the DCnU.
This issue replays one of my favorite Superman tropes - the letters to Superman and how/if he answers them. I have read this sort of story in almost every 'age' of the Man of Steel. My favorite doesn't even star him ... instead it is his friends keeping up the tradition in Funeral for a Friend.
These stories tug on the old heart strings in different ways, both showing a different aspect of Superman that made me a big fan of his to begin with. The first story by Derek Fridolfs and Sean Galloway is titled 'In Care Of' and shows how Superman will bring his never-ending battle down to a very personal level when needed. It reinforces his love of life. The second story by Josh Elder and Victor Ibanez is titled 'Dear Superman' and shows how Superman recognizes the battles that everyday people face and how much strength it takes to carry on, especially when you don't have Kryptonian powers.
I loved both.
You can't go to this well month in, month out. You need to spread out these emotional gut-wrenchers ... at most once a year. But this was such an unexpected treat, especially in contrast to the dour Forever Evil New 52. I have nothing but praise for the creators. In particular, the art complements the stories perfectly. Sean Galloway's Timm-esque manga style works well for a story of Superman battling a monster. Victor Ibanez more realistic look works well for the emotional payoff at the end.
The story opens with Superman battling Brainiac, a sort of Bond-like opening which had little to do with the main story.
It is several pages in that we see the premise. The Daily Planet staff ... known to be friends of Superman (how novel) ... get letters for Superman written to them 'care of'. It is bags of letters which range from pictures of pretty admirers to offers to dry clean his uniform to true letters of gratitude.
Clark actually seems happy, lying in bed reading the 'thank you' notes. It is great to see him so touched by those he has helped.
Then he gets this interesting note, intriguing enough to have him go investigate. Imagine, Superman responding to a letter personally. It is what I should expect of him.
In this unnamed town, Superman meets Theo and scares off bullies picking on him. Unfortunately after the scene, Theo shows signs of low blood sugar - pallor, sweating, and feeling faint.
Low blood sugar is best treated with sugar. So we see Superman and Theo in a diner, having an ice cream treat.
It turns out Theo is a diabetic. He has stopped taking his insulin. As a result, his symptoms are out of control.
Okay, so diabetes is a problem with blood sugar being too high. Stopping insulin would mean high blood sugar. Taking insulin but not eating can lead to low blood sugar. So ... things are topsy turvy here.
But things get even crazier. It turns out Theo is the monster in the town. His diabetes is also a mutagen, turning him into this crazy Pokemon. The art just works so well here.
Out of control, Theo simply rages. But in some of his calmer moments he asks Superman to kill him, ending the horror of his life. And surprisingly, Superman agrees.
After a brawl, Theo reverts to his human form. And he tells Superman to remember the promise to kill him.
I love how Superman keeps his promise. He will 'kill' the monster, but save the boy.
It is this ending that got me.
Theo will live at STAR Labs until his particular disease is controlled. I love how he thanks Superman for reading his letter, hearing his plea, and helping someone. That is the Superman I love ... no problem too small. He is here to help when he can.
It is a never-ending battle. That isn't just when Brainiac tries to level Metropolis. It also is one person fighting. And we all need to help each other.
So a very nice, very sweet ending.
The second story also is based on a letter to Superman, this one a simple fan letter written by a young girl named Connie. We see how Connie visits Metropolis, sees Superman losing to Metallo, and has the strength to call out and try to help. Brave girl!
During the fight Superman is pummeled, in pain, suffering from Kryptonite poisoning. It is with the help of the Metropolis SCU that he is able to finally rise up and win. And during her letter, Connie tells him how much she knew he would win because he doesn't give up, no matter what he is feeling, no matter how bad things are.
In the end, we see Connie retelling the story to children in a hospital ward, clearly for cancer patients. Superman arrives and talks about how Connie is his hero because she also shows tremendous strength for carrying on no matter what.
That lower panel is so wonderful. Ibanez is able to convey how sick Connie is feeling. But that look of astonishment is perfect, that moment this person she admires so much tells her that they admire her back. It is wonderful ... sweet, inspiring, sad and happy at the same time, fantastic.
While I very much enjoyed the first story, I completely loved this story. It shows Superman acknowledging the small daily battles we all deal with. How our stories are as heroic as fighting a robot. How we need to be strong to overcome our goals no matter how insurmountable they seem.
Even though this is Superman saying he is inspired, this is still Superman being inspirational. After reading this I felt I needed to acknowledge everyone who is working through something, letting them know that I commend there efforts and can help.
A whole solid issue of Superman being an inspiration to a young generation.
I have, in the past, been somewhat persnickety in my reviews of Scott Lobdell's Superman. There have been times when the book has not felt like a Superman book at all.
Happily, Superman #28 feels like a Superman book. It is a wild ride of new plots, quick scene cuts, and some nice character moments. Perhaps the best part of the book is the inclusion of a strong Lois working a story and interacting with Clark.
Adding to the fun is some slick art by Brett Booth. I think Booth's style works best on high energy stories, injecting just enough pizzazz to make the sequences pop off the page. In this issue, he shines in quieter moments - Clark talking to Cat in his apartment or Clark and Lois talking in a police station. Really wonderful art here.
Lobdell isn't on the book for much longer. Hopefully the remainder of his tenure will have this quality.
The book opens with Lois being Lois, out with the Metropolis Police Force, investigating crimes in the Suicide Slum area of the town. The lone car is suddenly pinned down with serious fire power. Just when things look their bleakest, Lois shouts for the criminals to stop and ... they do.
And so it seems that the Parasite didn't drain off all the Brainiac power from Lois. But it does seem he drained off enough to remove the memory of Superman's secret identity. I have to admit ... I was hoping for a 'normal' Lois. But I guess we will have more psionics from her.
Meanwhile, Superman just happens to be scanning the sky when he sees an odd crystal door to nowhere floating in space. Covered with odd glyphs and looking ornate and ominous, I am sure something awful will emerge soon enough.
What we do learn we get from the omnipresent Shay Veritas. From deep in the block, she has scanned the thing and moving it will do something ghastly to the space/time continuum so it is best left alone.
I have talked about Veritas a lot in the past. There is this faint whiff of malevolence in her. I think her thirst for knowledge probably blurs the lines between good and evil in her. Almost everything she says could be said in a subdued evil tone. Even here her saying 'It's weird. I love it.' is just odd.
Will she eventually turn heel?
Back home, Clark enters his apartment to find Jimmy crashed on the coach.
It seems all the money has made Jimmy feel lost.
I thought this scene was solid showing the friendship that Clark and Jimmy have. It is almost a cry for help from Jimmy who needs to feel grounded again. Of course Clark is going to open his doors to his friend. It might seem cheesy, but I thought the fist-bump worked as an image of them coming together.
Now it isn't a perfect issue. I like the idea of Sam Lane being elevated from warhawk general to Senate insider. I wonder if suddenly being in the belly of the political beast will soften him. He was becoming rather two-dimensional as the gun-toting anti-Superman warrior. And here he is suddenly confronted in his own apartment by a black-clad group willing to share what they know about The Tower.
Of course, before we get to that scene, we have to see the General's girlfriend in post-coital bliss saying how 'athletic' Sam is in the sack. It is one panel ... but felt gratuitous. I don't need to know about General Lane's prowess.
Okay, enough of being a downer. I thought this was supposed to be an upbeat review.
As I said above, I like the quiet character moments in this book. And I have really liked how Lobdell has handled the Cat Grant character over his tenure. She has become something more 'real' here, not just vamping and being catty.
In this issue, she talks about selling ClarkCatropolis to Morgan Edge for 13million. She likes being well-off. A poor Cat isn't a happy Cat. While Clark understands the sentiment, he tells Cat she should be proud of making a true news site, something with integrity. He believes in her.
I love how Cat responds. Despite her overly confident exterior, she sounds like she has an inferiority complex. No one has believed in her before. Nice.
Of course, Jimmy knows you have to follow the money. Why would Edge offer that unless they were close to something? I wouldn't mind a rehash of the Edge/Intergang connection. Any other guesses.
Contrast that Cat/Clark hug to this Lois/Clark hug in the police station in the next scene. Clark heard the police scanner talking about Lois' encounter and heads to the station.
It is clear Lois is worried about what is happening to her but isn't ready to talk to Clark about it yet. That hug speaks volumes. She loves Clark on some level. And the lack of background really makes the reader focus on the act.
But I love Clark's reaction. Contrast that to his happy smile with Cat. Here he is shocked, unable to finish the hug, his arm poised away from her. His feelings for Lois have been confused in this title ... loving her but keeping his distance. That expression he has here is perfect to convey that.
In one of those Lobdell leaps, we jump from Clark talking to a police officer to Superman standing in front of a tattooed individual claiming how powerful his group is. I have to assume that it is one of the goons brought in from the Lois crime scene. And Superman wonders what power the guy might be talking about, noticing some odd movement in the evidence room.
But before he can investigate further, Starfire (who saw something on her team's monitors that threatens Earth) arrives, blows through the police station wall, and tells Superman to get out of her way so she can save the world from this mystery threat.
Outside of the Sam Lane moment, this one also felt a bit off. I wish we were in a DCU where heroes didn't explode through walls or yell at Superman. Wouldn't it be a better place if Starfire flew through the window and said 'Superman I need your help to save the world?' I suppose that it is more a criticism of the New 52 than to Lobdell.
Still, overall this was a pretty good Superman issue with some zaniness, some action, and some great character moments with the rich supporting cast of the super-family. Add to that the slick Brett Booth art and I have to say I was entertained.
Yesterday I reviewed Batman/Superman #8, the opening chapter of First Contact, and raved about the characterization by Greg Pak and the dream-like art by Jae Lee.
Worlds' Finest #20 also came out last week, part 2 of First Contact. Unfortunately, it doesn't carry the quality of the opening chapter into this book. I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised. Worlds' Finest has been an 'okay' book for some time now. Paul Levitz struggles to make the main characters three-dimensional, especially Power Girl who vacillates between maneater and innocent girl, sometimes with unintentional comedy. Levitz can't seem to get the two working together for any period of time, having them split up on separate missions rather than working together. And the art by RB Silva just doesn't seem to match the tone of the book, a bit too rough and scratchy for these characters together.
Those concerns carry forward into this issue as well. There are some nice moments particularly for Huntress. But Power Girl again seems wrong, switching from tough, hard-nosed veteran to trusting fool in the span of a couple of panels. I would be irate of Supergirl acted this way ... so I have to be consistent.
There are more chapters to go in this story so hopefully things will get pulled in tighter leading to a satisfying conclusion. I can hope.
Last issue ended with Superman absorbing whatever was ailing Power Girl. Now both plummet from the sky, unconscious, with unclear power levels. It is up to Batman and Huntress to come to the rescue.
As I said in the prior review, the most interesting part of this story is the interplay between Worlds' Finest duo and their Prime Earth mentors. It is the similarities and differences that are the most interesting things to learn here.
So I liked how Huntress seems surprised that this Batplane doesn't have cannons. And how matter-of-fact Batman in with his response.
We know that the Earth 2 Batman was engaged in a world war with Apokolips. It isn't that shocking to hear he had major weapons on his plane. So I like that the Prime Earth Batman, supposedly grimmer, actually has a stronger anti-gun ethic than Huntress' father.
It is clear that Superman has absorbed what is ailing Power Girl. He is now glowing, overpowered, and struggling to maintain control. Of course, Batman's first idea is to lay Kryptonite onto Superman, hoping a weakness will downgrade the strength of this power surge. It seems like a bit of a jump but desperate times ...
I did like how Huntress and Power Girl react. Potentially killing Superman in an attempt to control him seems unbelievable. Huntress declares what we know ... this isn't her father. This apparently is a darker, more driven, Batman. My few glimpses of the E2 Batman showed him to be pretty tough ... although I wonder if the love of Catwoman softened him.
Power Girl and Batman streak off to investigate Rheelasia capitol, leaving Huntress and a weakened Superman on the beach. Of course, such an explosion brings some Rheelasian defenses, including a metahuman (or maybe someone in tech armor).
Despite being outgunned, Huntress defeats the guy, incapacitating him. It is a nice moment for Huntress as she protects Superman! I like the respect Clark has for her here.
Levitz just seems to understand Huntress more than Power Girl. Helena just shines more.
As for Batman and Power Girl, Karen shows just how tough she is. Batman suggests that Power Girl enter the country as Karen Starr, going undercover and diverting attention while he sneaks in.
Interestingly, Power Girl will have no part of it. She shuts him down, refusing to be 'bait' for his grand idea. Instead she will bash her way in.
It is a different diversion ... but not Batman's way. He calls her less disciplined than Clark when he thought her more in control at first.
I like this show of personal strength for Karen. It is understandable given prior stories where she thought with her fists first. I can also imagine that Superman dying in front of her, from her problem, has given her some adrenaline. She probably doesn't want to lose Kal again. Nice moment for her.
Too bad that nice moment is immediately followed by one of her weaker moments.
With a blinding rage, she crashes into the capitol, right into Gamorra's headquarters. But the site of Gamorra seems to shake her resolve. Despite him admitting that it is his nanites that caused her problems, despite knowing that Superman is dying from that problem, she allows him to sway her with his words. He can get her back to her world. He shows her Earth 2 on a monitor. And she willing puts her hand in some sort of genome reading device.
It is H'El on Earth all over again. Power Girl seems to trust too easily, forgetting her family and the current concerns, instead concentrating on getting her lost world back. Gullible and misguided - it isn't right for Supergirl. It isn't right for Power Girl either.
Because, not surprisingly, Gamorra turns out to be a bad guy! I mean, he released nanites he knew were interfering with Power Girl, didn't let her know, didn't stop using them, and talks about mapping her genome. None of it sounds good, even if it includes a promise of returning home. Jeez ... he does sound like H'El.
Here he releases 'the Army of Gamorra', a bunch of superpowered synthoids based on Karen's DNA. How will she and Batman defeat these things?
So some rough characterization with Power Girl. Some good characterization with Huntress. Some 'rough around the edges' art. It sounds like Worlds' Finest, doesn't it? I have to say, it probably suffers a little bit from being released on the same week as (and read immediately after) Batman/Superman #8.
Still, it is good to see Huntress and Power Girl interacting with the DCU at large.