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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Superwoman #1 was launched on Wednesday, becoming the latest debut to be rolled out as part of DC Comics’ Rebirth initiative. Written and pencilled by Phil Jimenez, the series pairs the New 52 Lois Lane and Lana Lang in Metropolis’s new world order. ComiConverse’s Krypton correspondent, T. Kyle King, offers his thoughts on the issue.
The post-Flashpoint Superman is dead, the post-Crisis Man of Steel is back, and Lex Luthor is wearing the S-shield… and, now, so is Lois, who, along with Lana, was zapped by a bolt of energy from the fallen Action Ace. What answers are in store in the story posing the titular question Who Is Superwoman?
(TOTAL SPOILERS FOLLOW!)
Superwoman #1 Synopsis:
Lois pays the latest of several visits to Lana in Smallville, showing that she has gained Superman’s powers and asking Clark Kent’s oldest friend to help her learn to control them. Lana reluctantly agrees, but becomes concerned when Lois begins having nosebleeds. Lois discerns that Lana, too, has been empowered by the solar energy from the dying Superman, and the two form a partnership after Lane promises Lang that she will not desert her.
As Metropolis celebrates its 375th anniversary, the Daily Star sends its new on-air science commentator, Lana, to cover the unveiling of the Gestalt, Lex Luthor’s armored battle cruiser. When both Lex’s ship and his battle suit are rendered dysfunctional, Lois flies onto the scene as Superwoman. She and Lana work together to avert disaster, but, when they search the Gestalt to find the saboteur, a mysterious foe attacks — and, apparently, kills — Lois.
Superwoman #1 Analysis:
Superwoman #1 is a busy book, both in plot and in appearance. To a great extent, this was inevitable; the story necessarily contains New 52 invocations of Truth and The Final Days of Superman, as well as Rebirth references to recent events in Action Comics. DC Comics is in a transitional phase, so, for the moment, these characters are, too. It was regrettable, however, that Who Is Superwoman? had to include callbacks to such forgettable moments as Lois revealing Clark’s secret identity and Lana punching Lois.
Fortunately, Superwoman #1 contains more and better allusions than these. The Superwomen’s respective costumes, coupled with Lois’s nickname for Lana, openly recall Superman Blue and Superman Red from the 1990s. Outdated gender roles are reversed for updates of traditional lines from TV (“Then this is definitely a job… for Superwoman!”) and movies (“You’ve got us?! Who’s got you?!”). An opportunity was missed when Lana called her teammate “Chief” and Lois failed to give the expected Perry White rejoinder, but Jimenez’s script was overflowing with homages.
The cumulative effect of stuffing so much content into so few pages sometimes was overwhelming, however. A multitude of minutely detailed panels painstakingly arranged, interspersed scenes shifting between past and present, points of view provided through technology, and overlapping dialogue finely lettered by Rob Leigh all were worthy contributions to Superwoman #1, but the cacophonous combination caused considerable confusion.
Much of Who Is Superwoman? was clever, but some story conceits — such as the mysterious malefactor watching events unfold on a bank of television screens, a la Mr. Oz, or the use of a newscast for exposition, after the fashion of Superman: The Coming of the Supermen — were commonplace. Where Superwoman #1 could have benefited from borrowing a recently used idea, though, was in the narration: Dan Jurgens’s Superman: Lois and Clark effectively employed both lead characters’ internal monologues, while Jimenez mistakenly makes us privy only to Lang’s innermost thoughts, not Lane’s.
Indeed, to have been the first issue of a series supposedly starring Lois Lane (and offering hope that fans finally were getting the Lois solo series for which many understandably have been clamoring), Superwoman #1, like its heroine, was overly dependent upon Lana Lang. As a Superman enthusiast, I never thought that a fondness for one of the women in Clark’s life obligated me to regard the other with disdain — Erica Durance’s and Kristin Kreuk’s respective portrayals of Lois and Lana on Smallville, for instance, made both characters sympathetic and significant — but Who Is Superwoman? is imbalanced… if, in fact, the title and the cliffhanger do not indicate that a bait-and-switch has occurred.
The Lana Lang of Superwoman #1 is too much the Jill of all trades. A quarter of the way into the issue, the Smallville scientist suddenly is in Lois’s city and in Lois’s profession, an event explained only by Lana’s offhand observation that she is “pretty good on camera.” When Lane proves atypically tentative and apprehensive in the midst of a crisis, Lang comes to the rescue, self-assuredly summing herself up thusly: “Farmer by blood. Engineer by trade. Burgeoning news personality by chance. And a Superwoman by fate.” Lois is made to suffer needlessly by comparison, with the result that she is upstaged by her understudy in her own book.
The idea of partnering Lois and Lana is not inherently a bad one, and their longstanding rivalry (which descended into open animosity in the New 52) is something the characters will have to overcome, but a lighter touch was required than Jimenez left himself room enough to employ in Superwoman #1. Because the emphasis is on the ladies’ differences — their dislike for one another, their lack of friendship, how little they have in common — their repartee is mean-spirited, rather than good-natured, sounding a sour note in an issue that otherwise has much to recommend it.
If I took the ending seriously, thought the New 52 Lois was actually dead, and believed Superwoman #1 was a Lane one-shot existing only to set up a Lang solo series, I would view that as a fatal misstep. Because I trust that this introductory issue simply had too much to do for all of Jimenez’s good intentions to emerge as clearly as we had hoped, I remain confident that Who Is Superwoman? merely made the correctible error of burying the lead.
Were you pleased or disappointed by Superwoman #1? Let us know what you think and ComiConverse with us in the comments!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Source: DC Comics
There was a lot to like about this debut issue, but it was marred by a partnership that diminished its star.