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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Dan Jurgens and Lee Weeks have teamed up to revive the pre-Flashpoint Clark Kent and Lois Lane, who are married, raising their son, and hiding out in the background of the mainstream New 52 DC Universe. ComiConverse’s Clois correspondent, T. Kyle King, brings you his review of Superman: Lois and Clark #4.
The fourth installment of the series’ opening Arrival story arc was released last week, and the continuing adventures of the first couple of superhero comics once again were penned by Jurgens. Weeks was joined by co-penciller Marco Santucci to produce the artwork as the web closing in around the clandestine Kents drew slightly tighter.
After she recalls giving Clark the all-black Superman suit he wears on this Earth, Lois visits her publisher with their son, Jon, in tow. Her attempt to make certain her friend is safe backfires, as Lois learns Cora has been kidnapped and has a troubling encounter with Intergang leader Bruno Mannheim. Mother and son walk away unscathed, but the gangster now knows Lois’s true identity as Author X.
In his mountain fortress, Clark breaks free of the rubble under which Hank Henshaw has buried him, only to discover that Blanque has broken out of his cell and is controlling the metahuman astronaut. The self-styled artistic supervillain traps the aging Superman beneath an avalanche, then turns his attention to going after Lois and Jon. On the Jovian moon Europa, the mysterious aliens seeking out the missing Oblivion Stone uncover the clue that leads them to the next stop on their search: Earth.
The reliability of Weeks’s work has been one of the strengths of Superman: Lois and Clark, so the addition of Santucci to the masthead initially was cause for concern. Nevertheless, the visuals in this issue retain their quality and consistency throughout, as emotionally evocative facial expressions and such subtle touches as the titular couple holding hands on a walk through Metropolis abound from start to finish. Stylistically, the look of Arrival – Part IV meshes well and conveys character and mood equally well in flashbacks, verbal confrontations, and action sequences.
Jurgens continues in his unhurried delivery of a tightly plotted story that is strong on exploring character and on building tension. The author understands his audience well enough to know that the readership of Superman: Lois and Clark is only too happy to have him take his time to show the interpersonal relationships in depth, yet this does not come at the expense of breadth: Jurgens is weaving together a myriad of plot threads. In this issue, he brings each of these a little closer to home, but the distances still are as near as being face to face on a city street and as far away as Jupiter. Jurgens knows the recipe for Superman: Lois and Clark calls not for a microwave, but for a slow rolling boil.
The equal marital partnership of Lois and Clark always has been a selling point for the series, so it was good to see that (as expected) the wife has been restored to her proper role of sharing the narrating duties with her husband. The delightful opening scene, in which the couple visited Metropolis for their wedding anniversary when Jon was four years old, is told in Lois’s voice, and it encapsulates neatly the essence of what has made Superman work for more than 75 years, from Jimmy Olsen to Lex Luthor to the interplay between Lois and Clark.
As usual, Lois’s insights help her husband maintain perspective. She reminds Clark that, even though the New 52 version of the Man of Steel “is the only Superman Jon knows”, it is time he donned a more covert version of his traditional costume in order “to be true to who you are” in spite of the fact that only they are aware “that you’re my Superman.” His wife’s example continues to inspire him, even years later and in her absence, as Clark’s first present-day appearance in the issue is accompanied by his admission in the midst of adversity that “I’m going to have to work harder.”
Of his satirical Vietnam-era antiwar comedy, M*A*S*H, director Robert Altman famously said, “This film wasn’t released – it escaped.” There are moments at which the same could be said of Superman: Lois and Clark, which often reads as a damning indictment of what DC Comics has done to the Last Son of Krypton in the past five years.
Overcome by boredom in the waiting room of Lois’s publisher, Jon happens across the infamous edition of the Daily Planet that signaled the start of the Truth arc. The youngster surreptitiously rips out the front-page article revealing Superman’s secret identity and stuffs it in his pocket, so it undoubtedly will fuel Jon’s growing suspicions that his parents are not as ordinary as they seek to seem. He discovers this, though, while his mother is risking her own safety to protect a friend, a colleague, and a fellow publisher with the public interest at heart.
If that sequence did not demonstrate sharply enough the stark contrast between who Lois Lane truly is and who the coarse marketing of the Truth arc falsely made her out to be, the flashback with which Superman: Lois and Clark #4 began certainly fired an unmistakable shot across the recent storyline’s bow. Walking through this world’s dirtier and more dilapidated Metropolis, Lois spots an item of merchandise she simply has to purchase. The page-turn reveal shows the smiling Lois facing the reader and holding up a Superman T-shirt very much like the one the New 52 Action Ace has been wearing throughout Truth.
Yes, Lois wants to buy it for their four-year-old son, but therein lies the message. “Please tell me you aren’t serious”, says the more seasoned Superman, making it clear that, from his mature perspective, a Superman T-shirt couldn’t possibly be suitable for anyone other than a child. Noting that the S-shield is subtly different, Clark wryly remarks, “I like mine better.” Unconcerned that their precocious son will have his suspicions stirred by the purchase, Lois observes, “He won’t suspect a thing.” That is the shrewd and worldly Lane echoing Altman in a moment that is simultaneously both touchingly sweet and bitingly subversive.
Altman is not the only maverick film director of whose cinematic work Superman: Lois and Clark #4 is reminiscent. After years of underground incarceration, Blanque emerges as a chilling amalgamation of a pair of dangerous David Lynch characters, combining the wildly sinister look of the homicidal Bob from Twin Peaks with the sophisticated demeanor of the suave Ben from Blue Velvet.
Not surprisingly, the result is a genuinely creepy bad guy.
The creative team behind Superman: Lois and Clark #4 understands how Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Superman are supposed to think, act, look, and sound. Dan Jurgens, Lee Weeks, and their colleagues get what has made these characters tick since quite literally the first superhero comic book ever published. Consequently, they are able to deliver a character-driven narrative carried along by carefully paced plotlines, both intriguing the reader intellectually and engaging the audience emotionally. Superman: Lois and Clark is simply what a comic book starring these characters is supposed to be.
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T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Dan Jurgens continues to deliver Clark Kent and Lois Lane the way they are meant to be.