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: Lois and Clark #5 was released this week. Writer Dan Jurgens has revived the pre-Flashpoint Clark Kent and Lois Lane, who are married, raising their inquisitive son Jonathan, and keeping themselves concealed while secretly doing good deeds in the background of the New 52 DC Universe. ComiConverse’s Clois correspondent, T. Kyle King, is here with his review of Arrival – Part V.
Penciller and co-inker Neil Edwards joins Jurgens for Superman: Lois and Clark #5. Batman, birthday parties, Blanque, Hank Henshaw, Intergang, and the aliens pursuing the Oblivion Stone across the galaxy all appear in Arrival – Part V, which still manages to introduce four new characters within the space of a half-dozen panels. But will we love it when the plan comes together?
In an opening scene set several years in the past, Clark confesses to Lois during the preparations for Jon’s fifth birthday party that he almost revealed his existence to this Earth’s Batman. In the present, Clark extricates himself from beneath the mountain Blanque has dropped atop him and recaptures the villain with Henshaw’s help. When returning Blanque to his cell, Superman speaks to Dratania and Klon, a pair of aliens residing there until the Kryptonian can find suitable places for them to live.
Bradley Glenn is released from prison, and Trish Riddick offers him the opportunity to destroy decrepit public structures as an armored supervillain on a reality TV show called Bad Ass Nation. Clark returns Hank to the Excalibur crash site. The orbiting aliens are near enough to Earth for their leader to sense the presence of the Oblivion Stone from space. Lois lets Clark know about her encounter with Bruno Mannheim and argues that it is time for them to tell their son his father is Superman.
The combination of Dan Jurgens and Lee Weeks for each of the series’ first four issues made Neil Edwards’s presence on the masthead of Superman: Lois and Clark #5 somewhat jarring, though this is a credit to Weeks and not a slight to Edwards. Stylistically, the look of the book is not fundamentally different from Arrival’s earlier installments, so the switch in pencillers does not represent a sea change. Some facial expressions, particularly Lois’s and Jonathan’s, are a tad exaggerated, but those are minor defects in an issue that conveys action effectively and establishes settings well.
Jurgens continues expertly to fill in backstory in a way that fits narratively with prior chapters while meshing thematically with the current issue. Each of Arrival’s flashbacks provides another vignette in a linear sequence showing Lois and Clark coping with their changed situation and working harmoniously to be true to themselves even while circumstances require them to conceal who they are from everyone except each other. The inability to be completely honest with anyone else has served only to strengthen the bond of trust between Lois and Clark, which permeates every aspect of both their lives and the story.
Every issue in the series seems to introduce a new character or plot thread, so Jurgens’s delicate balancing act raises the question whether he can keep an increasing number of plates spinning simultaneously, but none of the place settings have yet come crashing to the floor. Superman: Lois and Clark #5 adds further to Jurgens’s mounting arsenal of Chekhov’s Guns, devoting a page to a tattooed ex-con being offered empowering armor and revealing that Dratania and Klon are confined in Superman’s fortress not to protect the world from them, but to protect them from the world.
These latest alien additions raise particularly intriguing possibilities. The stakes are unmistakable: Dratania, whose ethereal speech bubbles are a clever contribution of colorist Jeromy Cox and letterer A Larger World Studios, unequivocally states that, if she steps outside the confines of her environmentally isolated chamber, she will die. Clark assures her, “I’ll keep looking for a place you can survive.” His solemn promise to Dratania and Klon recalls the ongoing tragedy yet hopeful odyssey of Kandor, without the narrative challenges of having countless microscopic Kryptonians kept in a bottle at the North Pole.
Is Jurgens ultimately going to be able to tie all of this together? I don’t know, but, so far, he’s weaving the divergent threads into a grander tapestry with slow and steady stitchwork. This issue’s two significant partial reveals both brought in elements from earlier installments of Arrival, providing a huge hint about who has custody of the Oblivion Stone and interlocking the seemingly unrelated puzzle pieces of the T-shirt and the newspaper clipping from the previous chapter in a closing image that was foreshadowed on the front cover of the first issue like the clue to solving the mystery hidden in plain sight in the title of The Last of Sheila.
In the midst of the whirlwind whipped up by these tightening concentric circles of converging circumstance, the title characters remain, at their core, unapologetically who they have always been. Buried beneath an avalanche of rubble, Clark is inspired to battle back by thoughts of his family: “Jon. Lois. They’re my life. I can’t let myself be beaten.” “We’ve been lying to him all this time,” Lois laments when defending her son’s understandable curiosity about his parents’ secrets. She cites the fact that Clark confessed his true identity to her when proposing, prompting her husband to reply, wryly yet forthrightly, “I always assumed you had it figured out, Lois.”
Just as Lois Lane had given Clark Kent ample basis for believing she had sussed out his most carefully guarded secret, Dan Jurgens has provided his fellow Superman fans with plenty of evidence that he has figured out how to deliver a story that does justice not only to the caped champion behind the glasses, but equally as much so to the first couple of superhero comics and the young boy who believably is the offspring of them both.
That this story is billed as Arrival – Part V suggests strongly that we still are in the introductory phase of a tale in which Jurgens is playing the long game. Superman: Lois and Clark #5 reminds us that it’s not the destination, it’s the journey, and, even without Weeks contributing to the interior artwork, this latest leg of the trip offers yet another fun ride.
What are your thoughts and theories on the ongoing storylines and newly introduced characters from Superman: Lois and Clark #5?
Share your ideas in the comments and ComiConverse with your fellow fans below!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
The highlight of Dan Jurgens’s intricately plotted tale is the honest authenticity of the central characters.