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 #8 tied the fate of the gravely ill New 52 Lana Lang into the ongoing Superman: Reborn crossover addressing unanswered questions surrounding the pre-Flashpoint Man of Steel. Writer Phil Jimenez authored By a Thread, which featured pencils and inks by the artistic tag team of Jack Herbert and Stephen Segovia. ComiConverse contributor T. Kyle King assesses the series’ latest effort.
Superwoman #8 Review:
While John Henry Irons struggles to save the comatose Superwoman, Lana’s subconscious plays host to ghostly visitors. Are Lang’s spectral guests present to urge her back to Earth or to escort her to the great beyond?
(Warning: Some spoilers follow!)
Superwoman #8 Synopsis:
Seemingly awakening from her soporose state, Lang briefly believes the living Lois Lane is still visiting. It soon becomes clear, though, that she is among the dead: Lana’s late brother and parents are there, along with the deceased New 52 Superman and Lois. Lang reacts with confusion and outrage, feeling so rejected and dejected that she fails to fight for the survival Steel is laboring tirelessly to attain.
At LexCorp, the caged Lena Luthor berates her brother, Lex, as he shuts her away in isolation once more. Maggie Sawyer installs new stasis cells at Stryker’s Island before showing her gratitude to their designer, the Atomic Skull, by permitting him a visit with Bizarress #1. The spirits of the departed Superman and Lois take Lana to her Smallville farmhouse, where they explain why they need her to return the red energy that will enable them to go home to their universe to be reunified. Lang agrees.
Superwoman #8 Analysis:
By a Thread is subtitled Superwoman Reborn? to indicate its integration into the Superman: Reborn story arc, but there is a reason why the story’s moniker ends with the uncertainty of a question mark instead of the emphasis of an exclamation point. Superwoman #8 attempts gamely to combine the upbeat optimism infusing the Big Blue Boy Scout in Rebirth with a death-haunted and depressed Lana Lang locked in a ghostly dance with the grim New 52 Superman, yet the endeavor inevitably results in a mixed bag.
These shortcomings are by no means due to a lack of effort on Jimenez’s part; the writer simply had too much ground to cover and too few pages in which to do so. Concluded plotlines required recapping, ongoing character arcs necessitated continuation, and lingering lacunae from the New 52 needed closure. All the while, the author found room to incorporate more of the series’ trademark callbacks into Superwoman #8, this time providing a cameo for the Guardian. Although he speaks just three sentences in as many panels, his presence evokes multiple eras and offers one significant (if subtle) allusion; the Guardian was introduced by Jack Kirby in the Golden Age, revived by the King in the Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen run that marked the dividing line between the Silver and Bronze Ages, and reintroduced to television viewers as James Olsen’s costumed crimefighting identity in Supergirl… and, underneath it all, the original character was a policeman patrolling Metropolis’s dilapidated Suicide Slum, a fitting reminder of Lana’s despondent struggle with her desire to surrender. Despite that lone refined reference, though, Jimenez’s need to keep so many plates spinning simultaneously left By a Thread more than a little threadbare.
Ultimately, the duty to do too much left precious little room for nuance. Superwoman #8 was a notably wordy issue; Lana’s and Lois’s extended exchange over the eight panels of the story’s ninth page consists of a staggering amount of verbiage. Jimenez’s ordinarily elegant writing is required to be noticeably on the nose in By a Thread: Natasha Irons appears solely to deliver flat-footed narrative exposition, and the metacommentary provided by Lana, Lena, and Lois — however valid — is too pointed to come across as anything other than contrived. The heroines’ final flight together accordingly feels forced. Superwoman Reborn? simply has too many moving parts for the whole to be equal to the sum of them all.
Because circumstances necessitated that the writing in By a Thread tell rather than show, many of the issue’s otherwise effective visuals were stripped of their impact. Lana’s wide-eyed exclamations in the initial panels of the first and last pages, Lois looking out at the audience while speaking to her former partner, and the epic two-page spread recreating at the end the uplifting image from the beginning all come across as over the top in the context of Superwoman #8. The artwork also is not aided by the odd mismatch of Herbert’s and Segovia’s styles, which are mixed but do not mesh.
In the due course of events, we will see how the pieces of By a Thread fit together, both with the series’ ongoing storylines and with the larger Superman: Reborn arc for which it provided clues. For the moment, though, Superwoman #8 may be credited with failing while daring greatly, but that conclusion requires an acknowledgment that the tale, in fact, failed.
We welcome your contributions to the ComiConversation about Superwoman #8 in the comments!
Source: DC Comics
In attempting to stuff too much story into too short an issue, the latest installment did nothing well and fell far short of its ambitions.