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 #6 was released this week, continuing writer Dan Jurgens’s and penciller Lee Weeks’s chronicle of the adventures of the pre-Flashpoint Clark Kent and Lois Lane as married parents hiding out in the background of the New 52 universe with their son, Jonathan. T. Kyle King, ComiConverse’s Man of Steel reviewer, offers his thoughts on Arrival Part VI.
Weeks returns after a one-month hiatus, but the reunited artist and author do not form this issue’s most noteworthy twosome. Both halves of the titular team of Superman: Lois and Clark #6 are given the chance to shine separately in Arrival Part VI, and Jonathan White gets his moment in the spotlight, as well.
Clark concentrates, listening intently with his super-hearing, while Lois calls the cell phone of her publisher, Cora Benning. Identifying the sound of Cora’s Lois-specific ringtone, he locates the kidnapped editor and rescues her from the Intergang assassins who have forced her to reveal Author X’s identity. Lois picks up Jon from school, and, upon discovering that her son is researching Superman, she steels herself for the conversation she has long dreaded having.
Before they can speak, though, Lois and Jon are nabbed by more Intergang minions, who tie up the duo in a school supply shed and set the building afire. Clark is already on his way to find them, but he is waylaid by a disaster caused by the armored Bradley Glenn’s destruction of a bridge that remains in use for the first episode of Bad Ass Nation. Hank Henshaw’s interrogation on the island is interrupted by the arrival of Hyathis, the alien high panala who has pursued the Oblivion Stone across the galaxy. Left to fend for themselves, Lois and Jon are given hope of escape from an unexpected source.
With all due respect to Neil Edwards, who filled in capably as the previous installment’s penciller, it was good to see Weeks back on the job as the artist for Superman: Lois and Clark #6. Aided by Scott Hanna’s finely detailed inking and Jeromy Cox’s subtly shifting colors, the series’ regular penciller was able once again to convey big emotions and portray dramatic action in small spaces, using nuanced facial expressions and vivid displays of motion in tightly arranged layouts to show a lot with a little.
Jurgens’s layered plotting has set into motion more storylines than a single 23-page issue can contain — Blanque, Dratania, and Klon received nary a mention this month, for example — yet still the writer manages to keep multiple plot threads in motion without upsetting his steady pacing. Arrival Part VI never drags, never feels rushed, never comes across as contrived, and never seems overly busy, even when it is raises questions that yet remain unanswered. (Sometimes, the question isn’t even asked overtly, as when the last panels of the opening page innocuously yet inexplicably dolly in on the ladder leading down to the shadowy basement from which Clark emerged.)
Partly, all this is attributable to Jurgens’s effective blending of what appear at first to be unrelated strands into compelling combinations. For instance, the mystery of what happened to the Excalibur continues to deepen, but the investigation of Henshaw both meshed in the story with the unveiling of Hyathis and melded in the storytelling with the scene transition from the island to the Lancaster Elementary School field house in which Lois and Jonathan had been bound. Superman: Lois and Clark #6 serves as an exemplar of the series’ strength at tying together both the events of the tale and the presentation by which it is told.
Jurgens’s confidence as a writer comes from the faith he has earned from his readers, who know there is nothing haphazard about plot developments that may initially strike the audience as random additions. The introductory flashbacks with which each issue begins serve the dual purpose of filling in more of the White family’s backstory and establishing the theme of each month’s adventure, and the careful craftsmanship underlying the serial installments sets the stage for highly satisfying surprises when two separate plot elements come crashing into one another, as they repeatedly do in Superman: Lois and Clark #6.
Arrival Part VI is about the price of honesty, the pain of revelation, and the ways our ignorance of who others are diminishes our awareness of who we are. Hence, “Who are you?” becomes a leitmotif, one of several questions frequently asked yet never satisfactorily answered. In his usual slyly subversive manner, Jurgens opens this issue by taking us back to the day this Earth’s Lois Lane exposed Superman’s secret identity on the front page of the Daily Planet. The older, wiser Lois is appalled, showing the headline to her husband with the aghast exclamation: “I can’t believe she did it! It’s unthinkable!”
Clark calmly agrees — “If that’s good journalism, I would’ve felt it necessary to reveal Bruce and Hal’s secrets long ago” — but the outing of the New 52 Man of Steel is not the issue’s only exposure of a truth that was kept hidden for a good reason. When the publisher confesses to her unseen rescuer that she was forced to reveal Author X’s real name, though, the dark-garbed Superman flies off while thinking: “Can’t blame Cora for breaking.” Superman can be both shocked by the sharing of a secret and sympathetic to the snitch.
Likewise, Lois, who ended the previous issue insisting to Clark that it was time for them to tell their son who his parents really were, finds herself flummoxed when faced with the need to act on her good intentions. “Is it time? Are we about to have the talk?” she wonders, and, when the awkward discussion suddenly is interrupted by the jarring intervention of Intergang, it looks like “someday” will be put off for another day… until Jon, panicked and emotionally overwrought in the midst of their deadly predicament, lets all his unanswered questions spill forth in a teary-eyed torrent.
All this makes for compelling drama and moving storytelling, and Jurgens’s longstanding familiarity with the rich history of the first couple of superhero comics gives the writer the breadth to show these characters’ depth. At the core of this story, behind the superpowered Kryptonians and the exoskeleton-wearing supervillains, beneath the crashed spacecraft and the myriad aliens, before the clandestine investigations and the parallel realities, there is a credible couple composed of a good man and a good woman doing their best to raise a good son and make a better world… and, all things considered, doing a pretty decent job of it.
The situation is tense, but the tone is encouraging (and not just the pitch-perfect Lois ringtone, either). The dangers are believable enough to feel real, yet the faith in the heroes — plural; purposely, the title of the series is conjunctive rather than disjunctive — is sincere. There will be genuine peril, but the good guys and the good gal will win in the end, even if we aren’t quite sure exactly how. Superman: Lois and Clark #6 is the latest course session from Dan Jurgens’s master class in how to write a Superman comic book.
What did you think of Arrival Part VI?
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T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Dan Jurgens has penned another tightly plotted adventure story featuring tense drama, surprising twists, and poignant characterization.