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 #4 came out last week, allowing writer Phil Jimenez and penciller Emanuela Lupacchino to continue asking the titular question Who Killed Superwoman? Mystery, intrigue, and callbacks all abound in the latest issue, which T. Kyle King, who covers every superhero wearing a costume with an “S” on the chest for ComiConverse, is here to review.
Superwoman #4 Review:
Throughout the series’ brief run, reluctant superhero Lana Lang has been haunted by the lost loved ones from her past. In the tale subtitled Together Again (For the Very First Time!), though, has that become literally true, or is the Daily Star science reporter’s despair descending into madness?
Superwoman #4 Synopsis:
Lana worries that her mental faculties are starting to slip when she finds herself shifting between the Ace O’Clubs in Metropolis and her family farm in Smallville, as well as conversing not with the pre-Flashpoint Lois Lane who is now back at the Daily Planet, but instead with an apparition of the late Lois Lane who had been Lana’s fellow Superwoman. Lang, John Henry Irons, and Steel’s niece, Natasha, watch a newscast that covers the disappearance of Lex Luthor and the allegations he has mistreated supervillains at Stryker’s Island.
Trailed by Lois’s ghost, Superwoman confers with Maggie Sawyer at Special Crimes Unit headquarters. Trapped within a tesseract, Lex remains hidden from the police search teams scouring Lexcorp Tower. John Henry’s medical scans of Lana repeatedly reveal that the radiation from her powers is killing her. Natasha’s girlfriend, Traci 13, arrives through a portal to inform Superwoman of the details of Ultrawoman Lena Luthor’s ambitious plans.
Superwoman #4 Analysis:
Inker Ray McCarthy brings to Lupacchino’s pencils a sharpness that adds clarity, definition, and depth to the graphics of Who Killed Superwoman — Part 4. Together, Lupacchino and McCarthy lend a fluidity to the imagery that comes through vividly from the very beginning, in the form of the folds on Lois’s rumpled T-shirt, the unkempt flip of Lana’s ponytail, and the aerial splash from Lang’s dropped cup of coffee. Particularly for an issue featuring a great deal more talk than action, Superwoman #4 palpably crackles with kinetic energy.
This seeming flow even of subtle motions places only minor reliance upon lines indicating movement externally, focusing instead on the figures themselves. Rather than rely solely on the elegant emotional articulation with which she suffuses her subjects’ finely refined facial features, Lupacchino also excels at the effective portrayal of expressive body language through deliberate positioning and dynamic gestures. The artist’s emphasis on making full use of the tactile and agile human form is made all the more impressive by the way she presents even partially clothed characters evocatively and not provocatively.
The energy inherent in Superwoman #4 exists literally within the adventure itself, offering colorist Hi-Fi an expanded canvas on which to give the images some sizzle. The series’ shift away from minutely detailed tiny panels, which were ubiquitous in the initial issues, has helped considerably, opening up the opportunities available for using hues to imbue with palpable power the ripples emitted by Lana’s lightning bursts, Maggie’s neuromuscular incapacitator, the Atomic Skull’s radioactive cranium, Lex’s interdimensional prison, Steel’s high-tech sensors, Traci’s urban magic, and Lena’s otherworldly enhancements.
All this intricate imagery is introduced with the stark simplicity of Jimenez’s, Lupacchino’s, McCarthy’s, and Brad Anderson’s attention-grabbing cover. The shadowy figures at the center of the minimalist, and almost monochromatic, depiction are arresting… and as apt to haunt the audience as the issue’s living leading lady. Finally, the last puzzle piece put into place in defining the look of the book was Rob Leigh’s effective lettering, highlighted by his use of the classic font from Lois’s long-lived solo series in introducing the spunky spirit visiting her tortured teammate.
That nod to Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane — a series that contained no shortage of stories about the supposed death and afterlife of the famed Daily Planet reporter — is far from the only allusion appearing in Superwoman #4, though. Indeed, this issue is planted thick enough with Easter eggs that the callbacks’ combined mass must equal that of Easter Island. Since Jimenez’s costumed Lana Lang is herself largely an homage to Superman’s Electric Blue Era, the presence of Bibbo Bibbowski follows logically, but Who Killed Superwoman — Part 4 contains multiple other references to that same period: Clay “Crash” Irons and Ramsey “Savior” Murdoch both make vocal cameos, while Luthor is incarcerated inside a tesseract that comes straight out of Grant Morrison’s DC One Million. It likewise is Morrison’s version of Kryptonite Man, Clay Ramsay, whose disembodied head appears to provide exposition to Lex.
Aside from the clunky information dump of Luthor’s and Ramsay’s page-long exchange, Jimenez does some of his best writing in this series over the course of Together Again (For the Very First Time!). It’s a shame that Lois had to die to get the book’s dual leads to this point, but, after some understandable initial hostility from Lana, the banter between Lane and Lang becomes less biting in Superwoman #4. Lana’s sudden scene shifts amid uncertainty concerning her sanity are reminiscent of Jason Wyngarde’s Black Queen illusions during the Hellfire Club plot that transformed Jean Grey into Dark Phoenix, and — given the undeniable ties between this and other Rebirth publications starring members of the Superman family — it is interesting to speculate whether these ostensible hallucinations may be connected to the events in Trinity.
Due to the interconnectedness of all of the DC Comics series in which Lois Lane appears, however, readers cannot help but be curious about when Superwoman #4 takes place in relation to those other books. In Who Killed Superwoman — Part 4, for instance, Lana refers specifically to the events of Action Comics #966, but, in spite of a plethora of editorial asterisks, it remains unclear how Lena Luthor’s clandestine confinement of her battle-suited brother lines up chronologically with Lex’s concurrent clash with L’Call.
Much like Lana Lang on the cover of this issue, the series continues to toil within the dark shadow cast by the unnecessary death of Lois Lane. Nevertheless, Phil Jimenez hit his stride with the script for Together Again (For the Very First Time!), and the graphic arts team led by Emanuela Lupacchino produced crisp images to accompany the sharp story. As hard as it will be for this highly anticipated title to overcome the bait-and-switch beginning that tainted it with an unforgivable (and familiar) fridging, Superwoman #4 at least offers the promise that there’s a ghost of a chance of getting there.
Is the mystery of Who Killed Superwoman keeping you intrigued?
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T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Source: DC Comics
With sharp art and solid scripting, this issue earns honorable mention as Rebirth’s most improved title after an initial major misstep.