T. Kyle King’s published work ranges from newspaper columns to film reviews and from short stories to law review articles. Most notably, he served as a site manager and staff writer at DawgSports.com, a daily weblog devoted to University of Georgia athletics, from 2006 to 2013, and he is the author of a book about the history of the college football rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Clemson Tigers published by Clemson University Digital Press in 2013. Kyle is a lifelong comic book fan whose thoughts on comic books previously have appeared at ComicsVerse, Progressive Boink, and the Superman Homepage. Kyle is a Superman guy.
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Superman #12 began a new story arc for Clark Kent and Lois Lane. Co-authors Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason teamed up with penciller Doug Mahnke for the action-packed opening installment of Super-Monster. ComiConverse’s Krypton chronicler, T. Kyle King, offers his thoughts on a story that throws its share of S.H.A.D.E.
Superman #12 Review:
Lois is back after a conspicuous absence, and her effort to make her mark in Hamilton County places her in the path of Frankenstein… but why is the undead S.H.A.D.E. agent targeting the publisher of The Hamilton Horn?
Superman #12 Synopsis:
Even though she has returned to work as a Daily Planet reporter, Lois meets with Candice at the Horn offices to continue their conversation from the county fair. Candice is offering Lois an opportunity to do some investigative journalism for the local paper when Frankenstein bursts in, gunning for the newspaper editor. Lois uses a pilfered glove from the Hellbat suit to slow down the monster, allowing them time to swipe his hover-bike and make their escape.
Frankenstein catches up to the fleeing reporters just as Superman arrives to intervene. Aided by neighbor Cobb Branden, the Man of Tomorrow momentarily subdues the agent of S.H.A.D.E. and attempts to reason with him. When Candice and Lois are carried back to the scene by the hover-bike, however, Frankenstein makes a stunning revelation to the Action Ace.
Superman #12 Analysis:
Mahnke, who co-created the New 52 Creature Commando Frankenstein with collaborator Grant Morrison, is in his element in Super-Monster — Part One. This issue bristles with intensity and is filled with rippling muscles, rapid movement, and big bursts of energy and fisticuffs. With Jaime Mendoza’s and Christian Alamy’s inks defining the lines, and with Wil Quintana’s colors adding the high shine to the imagery, the artwork of Superman #12 lends both clarity and fluidity to the visual presentation of the tale.
The eye-catching graphics grab the reader from the very first, commencing on the cover crafted by Mahnke, Mendoza, and Quintana. The grimacing Frankenstein glowers out at the audience while pulling open his shirt to reveal a makeshift S-shield stitched into his chest. That arresting depiction immediately gets your attention. I mean, really; who isn’t up for a fistfight between Superman and Frankenstein?
Although they keep Super-Monster — Part One moving along at a brisk, and sometimes frenetic, pace, Tomasi and Gleason still make room for snippets of story, dashes of characterization, and the inclusion of humor. Lois, having languished in the background in recent adventures, returns resolutely to center stage in Superman #12, displaying her community-mindedness by biking to The Hamilton Horn and making time to hear Candice’s pitch, even though her new post at this Earth’s Daily Planet has rendered the local publication strictly small potatoes for the decorated reporter.
When Frankenstein comes crashing through Candice’s office wall, Lane does not cower in fear and await the arrival of the caped cavalry; she places herself in harm’s way, first striking the Creature Commando with her backpack, then breaking out the heavy artillery with the welcome return of (at least a part of) the Hellbat suit. Everything about the reappearance of the glove is marvelous: Lois’s gutsy determination when donning it, her astonishment at its offensive effectiveness against an undead assailant, and the reader’s realization that only Lois Lane could get away with stealing weaponry from a Batcave based on the moon.
Weirdly, the Hellbat glove mysteriously disappears between panels. It’s on Lois’s left hand in one panel, and it’s gone in the next, despite the fact that no time passes between the two: Lane begins speaking a sentence in one image, with the glowing glove clearly visible, and she completes her thought in the succeeding shot, in which her left hand is both seen and uncovered. It’s an odd incongruity, but, by then, Superman #12 has kicked into high gear. The languid, large-paneled grids of the first couple of pages have been replaced by overlapping graphics, tight shots, and quick cuts whose choppy shifts mirror the rapid movements of the drama and the actors in it.
In addition to the fast action, though, Tomasi and Gleason have the patience to insert — and Mahnke has the steadiness to pull off — a delightful confrontation between Cobb Branden and Frankenstein, in which the former slowly reloads the shotgun he has just emptied into the latter. When Superman shows up to save Clark’s and Lois’s neighbor, the Man of Steel shrewdly feigns ignorance, pausing in mid-thought to invite an introduction before advising “Mr. Cobb” (whose given name the Metropolis Marvel pretends to mistake for his surname) to hide indoors “with any other family members” (a class the Action Ace secretly knows includes Kathy). After the Big Blue Boy Scout’s recent absent-mindedness in Action Comics #968, it was good to see some subtle cleverness from the Last Son of Krypton in Superman #12.
The combination of high-impact superheroics, insightful dialogue, and physical humor culminates in the hilarious — and plot-advancing — collision of the hover-bike, making its circuitous route back to Frankenstein, with Superman. This interruption sets the stage for the S.H.A.D.E. agent to pose his most grievous threat yet, which leads in turn to the cliffhanger reveal that ends Super-Monster’s opening chapter with a twist and provides a satisfying payoff to a hard-charging issue.
By design, Superman #12 poses many more questions than it answers. (Not least among the intriguing uncertainties, for instance, is what, if anything, this holdover New 52 Frankenstein recalls of his encounter with the predecessor of the pre-Flashpoint Man of Steel while both were under the influence of the Black Mass.) After a more low-key adventure in Superman Annual #1, though, Super-Monster — Part One was a welcome counterbalance showcasing the return of a trio of longstanding mainstays of the Man of Steel’s escapades: Lois Lane, physically menacing supervillains, and up-tempo action. It’s hard to go wrong with that formula, and this capable creative team executes it effectively.
Did Frankenstein’s fracas with Superman merit a front-page headline in The Hamilton Horn, or did it deserve to be left below the fold?
Execute your super-human advanced defense of Superman #12 in the comments!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
This fast-paced thrill ride presents a solid story with flying fists, plot twists, and physical humor.