Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Lois Lane and the Resistance #1 review

Would someone please give DC Comics a clue? Or better still, an atlas? Anyone looking at the expository panel on the first page of this Flashpoint tie-in could be forgiven for thinking that the United Kingdom is a synonym for England. It ain't. The UK is 'The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland'. That means Wales, Scotland and NI must appear on maps too... sheesh, didn't anyone go to school?
The UK as we like to imagine it
Did Aquaman sink a few UK nations too?
Things get better, quickly. If there's a funnier moment in the Flashpoint event than Perry White trying to sell Lois Lane on the value of haute couture I'll be pleasantly surprised. The grizzled old newsman bidding to convince Lois - and himself - that covering a fashion show is a suitable use of her skills when the planet is at war is a smart, speedy way to signify that the world really has gone mad.

Their presence at Paris Fashion Week puts Lois and pal Jimmy Olsen at the heart of the Atlanteans' sinking of the City of Light. Jimmy dies a hero, while Lois survives, to be rescued by Amazons in invisible jets - heartless women who refuse to save a Christian priest for being 'a worshipper of a false God'.

Over in the UK - dubbed New Themyscira, looking titchy and sprouting Graeco-Roman temples - Lois learns that there was more to Jimmy than big-hearted photographer, as his camera proves to be a 'smart metal' device given to him by Cyborg, who we learn is the 'national security advisor'. Jimmy had been tasked with making contact with the resistance movement on the superhero's behalf, but never got as far as the UK. Lois volunteers to pass on information herself, as she's headed for the Amazons' re-education programme. After three months the day comes when she has to break free, or risk becoming a monster should Amazon science fail to transform her into a superwoman. (Interestingly - well, to Doctor Who viewers - the transformation into Amazons is being attempted at London's Battersea Power Station, where the Cybermen once turned unfortunates into recruits via extremely painful means.)

It's then that she meets British freedom fighter Penny Black, who stamps her authority on the women warriors pursuing Lois, until someone turns up who can in turn lick her - the Amazon Artemis, with Hawkwoman at her side.

Wonder Woman doesn't appear here beyond a montage panel, but it's good to hear Lois's assessment that she seems conflicted. This isn't quite good enough when you're nevertheless enslaving the UK but it offers a glimmer of hope that Diana will see the light; I trust Lois's observations and instincts. There's still no clarification or refutation of claims that the Amazons are mutilating the menfolk, all we know is that they taken away somewhere.

This is another fine tie-in from writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. I've detailed the plot points, but what elevates this from being simply a collection of incidents is the characterisation, delivered through dialogue that hits all the emotional notes. Lois, Jimmy, Perry, the priest - they're beacons of humanity in a world turned cold. It feels like years since Lois has been given so much to do in a story, and while this isn't the regular continuity Lois, it's yet the Lois I know and love - smart, fearless, ready to do what's right. If she gets a story along the way, great, but she puts people first. And the risks she takes are measured - there's no jumping off high buildings in the hope a passing hero will save her. 

Little details such as the Amazons' invisible aerial surveillance add a sense of danger and urgency - it does feel that Lois could be discovered at any moment. It's a testament to her strength of will that she fools the Amazons' psychological testing techniques, enabling her to continue with her mission. I'll be disappointed if Lois doesn't survive the next two issues and help bring about the Amazons' (and Atlanteans') defeat, but in this interim world between DC's current and coming continuities, there's no guarantee. 

The pencilling by Eddie Nunez at times looks like someone's told him to impersonate Ed Benes, all unlikely waists, massive boobs and arched backs, but it's expressive and gets the story told. Nunez is very good at showing movement, and there's a terrific panel in which he captures both Lois and Jimmy's characters with simple silhouettes (click on image to enlarge).
Shadows and shakes
A tiny niggle: Nunez - or perhaps it's inker Don Ho - does that thing with the hair of highlighting via random blocks of light ... I don't think colourists Hi-Fi are behind that, it's not something I've noticed in their collective efforts. It's distracting in that it just doesn't work.

While inside the book Lois spends three months in a fancy frock chosen for the fashion shows, the cover has Lois in proper reporter mode, magnificent in a mac. I like that. I also like the promise of an appearance by the Canterbury Cricket, my favourite character who's never actually appeared on-panel. The logo's a bit weird, mind, with the main portion looking more suited to a cyber-insect character than a girl reporter, and the latter part looking like it should go on a Clayface strip. 

She's not been given one of the 52 new titles DC is producing post-Flashpoint, but I hope this issue persuades the DC higher-ups that, written properly, Lois still has what it takes to carry a book. With the ongoing horrors visited on Wonder Woman in any continuity you care to name, and the constant fiddling with Supergirl, more than ever, Lois Lane has claim to be the first female of DC Comics.

10 comments:

  1. Hi Martin,

    I adore your reviews - smart and funny! I am thankful for your writing. However, I think you missed a vital point on the silhouette panel. Who would wear such a chunky heel with that evening gown? Keep up the great work!

    Best,

    Pieter

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks so much, Pieter. I reckon Lois just doesn't 'get' fashion. If it's not a twinset with a pillbox hat, she's lost.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What DC really need is a *relief* map of the UK. I mean, you'd think that if anywhere was going to stay above water it'd be Ben Nevis and Snowdon.

    The entirely different map in World of Flashpoint shows Cornwall and the South-East drowned and a good bit of Northern Ireland, North Wales and the Highlands intact, by the way...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Mart, while your review is once again great, it also shows why I'm quitting comics. Wonder Woman has been ruined, Supergirl is being made bratty (again), and Lois and Clark are breaking up. The higher ups at DC are clueless, imho. It looks like I'll be looking for a new hobby come September, as I can't see a single change in the new DC that I can even stomach. It's really sad!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I was loving how they painted the Amazons as a wise and peaceful nation—but as soon as they got wind of the existence of another country, they reveal themselves to be the brutal, vicious animals that women truly are. Bleah on DC. Bleah on their treatment of/attitude toward Wonder Woman.

    And you ain't gonna get me to like Lois, sorry.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Cheers Jules, I suppose the UK map must be changing day to day. Such turbulent times ...

    Sad to hear you say it, Sheldon, but it's understandable. Are you giving a few of the new issues a try?

    Carol, of course the Amazons went bonkers, men stepped on the island. They should be fighting over them by now!

    And you won't like this Lois, or any Lois?

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm going to read some reviews (your blog in particular) and look for a book or two that aren't totally dark and dreary. But it doesn't look promising at this late date.

    As always I enjoyed Carol's comments and found them right on. I can just hear the higherups at DC replying, "What do we mean implying we're sexist? Just because we've changed all the attributes that made our heroines unique and empowering, that doesn't mean we don't like women. After all, we've put them all our superheroines in ugly costumes with pants and pants healeth all wounds!"

    ReplyDelete
  8. A few months and we'll see what DC's approach to female characters is. Fingers crossed.

    Hope you find the comics you need!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm a big fan of giving Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane their books back, but I don't expect it to ever happen despite experiments that show they CAN carry a book.

    Carry is not the same as sell, sadly.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I dunno, weird things happen at the Nu DC. My Greatest Adventure, really?

    (Oh, if only the Doom Patrol would appear there ...)

    ReplyDelete