Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Superman #19 review

It's Surprise Over The Gatefold Month at DC, but the reveal here won't surprise anyone who read last issue - it's Orion of the New Gods, sent to Earth by Highfather to deal with the problem that is (allegedly) Superman.

Orion shows up towards the end of the book, but the really fun stuff comes at the beginning, as Superman saves Metropolis from new enemies The Sunturians. Aliens 'composed of red sun particles', they take away Superman's powers by their mere presence. But a neat bit of thinking on Superman's part sees them off before long, leaving only their floating HQ in need of investigation.

Writer Scott Lobdell has huge fun with this scene, as Man of Steel confronts interstellar Romans, even down to naming their 'Solaratrix' Allysun. It's cornball, but presented with such a straight face the Lobdell gets away with it, while showing us that Superman's wits are as important as his powers. And artist Kenneth Rocafort's designs are splendid, with the soldiers looking regal and their leaderene like some ancient sun goddess. I'll be disappointed if we don't see this bunch again, especially as, unlike Superman, we don't get a peek inside their wacky craft, a cross between a spaceship and a Classical palace.

Back on Earth, Clark Kent is late for Lois Lane's flatwarming party, but date Diana Prince is on time, and it's safe to say she impresses everyone with her regal bearing and looks. She's anything but snooty and arrogant, though, mixing well with the Daily Planet staff, especially old smoothie Perry White (click on image to enlarge). They display more chemistry in one panel than Superman and Wonder Woman have shown in a host of appearances - anyone for a Prince/White fling?

Clark arrives, to be greeted by a vision of Lois opening the door dressed as Wonder Woman, then Lois as herself, gushing about how much she loves Clark. Inside, there's more surprising behaviour as people either lose control of their 'inside voice; or say things they don't mean.

Clark gets that there's likely mind control going on - and that's without knowing that mad mentalist Hector Hammond is across town at STAR Labs - but he's unable to think clearly enough, for long enough, to work out who may be behind it. And just as he's about to kiss Diana he's grabbed from Lois's balcony and thrown into Hob's Bay by Orion, who's looking to pound Superman into paste.

Which should make for a fun issue next month. This month's instalment of the New 52 adventures of Superman is certainly a delight, the best issue since Lobdell and Rocafort joined the book. Superman comes across as the wise, experienced hero he should be, not a god but certainly able to deal with everyday space invaders, even ones who should have him at a disadvantage. Clark has none of the cockiness he's occasionally displayed over the last year and a half; indeed, he's rather humble in how he thinks of his non-romance with Lois - he's dating a demigod but it's the regular woman who's the unattainable mystery. The dialogue sparkles throughout, with my favourite scene being the aforementioned encounter between Diana Prince and Perry White - I do hope this is the real Perry, and not a Hammonded version.

Intriguingly, there are strong hints not only that Jimmy sees straight through Diana's Clark-inspired secret ID, but that Perry has known Clark was Superman since the day they met. And there's a pleasing moment as Lois addresses her return to reporter status after a period as TV news producer. Plus, more confirmation that while Clark's dating Diana, it's Lois he loves (call him not caddish, but confused), and perhaps confirmation that Lois feels the same way about Clark. Let's not write off a romance just yet ...

And let's not scare the horses, but Clark is actually seen buying alcohol! It's almost as if he's finally being allowed to be a normal adult.

The only thing about the script that saddens me is the lack of Cat Grant, recently treated with disappointing disdain by Clark - hopefully Lobdell will address that soon.
Rocafort's art is as breezy as Lodbell's script, especially in the moment Clark sees Lois as a fancy dress Diana, all winks and patriotic starbursts. There's another standout image as Superman becomes Clark and we see him altering his hair - I love that Rocafort draws our hero in classic style, rather than as the Harry Potter wannabe of recent Action Comics. I've already praised his Sunturians, but I should mention Allysun's wonderfully bored expression, it's pure Flash Gordon space princess. And Clark's co-workers - Lois, Jimmy and Perry - all look great, while Lois's boyfriend Jonathon looks to be a nice guy rather than some stereotyped romance interloper.

Aiding the overall look is colourist Blond, who is refreshingly unafraid of using rich hues, and knows how to apply highlights for make-up and specs without going over the top. And Rob Leigh's letters speed things along nicely.

Simply put, this is the most enjoyable issue of Superman since the New 52 began. If Lobdell and Rocafort keep the inter-title crossovers at bay, and concentrate on the world of Superman and Clark, we may have a longterm winner.

31 comments:

  1. OK, so...I didn't hate this. But there is still something about it that leaves me slightly...uneasy. I agree with everything you said about the beginning sequence. That worked well.

    First off, Rocafort's art is stunning. He may be just be my favorite artist at DC right now.

    Now, I agree with you that the party scene was great fun and that the revelations that came out of people's mouths were interesting and thought provoking.

    I agree...Clark doesn't come off like a cad. He comes off confused and...a lacking direction in some respects. But not mean.

    Clark's vision of Lois in the Wonder Woman costume lustful and waiting for him is...actually not as weird as many people might think. Smallville actually explored the idea in the later seasons that Clark was very turned on by the FANTASY of costumes when the WOMAN in those costumes was Lois. There was a whole episode written by Bryan Q. Miller rooted in the idea that Clark wanted to give in to fantasy and the vision of his fantasy was Lois. She even dressed up as Wonder Woman in the episode and it was clear that he liked the costume ON HER. So yeah...it's telling that his hallucination was of "Wonder Woman" but not of Diana in the costume but of Lois waiting for him. But also not out of character even from before the new 52.

    Lois's behavior..is a bit more puzzling although I guess it makes sense. Part of the problem is that we've seen so little from her POV thus far that we really don't know how she feels about Jonathan. The little we HAVE seen suggests that she has feelings for Clark but we don't see enough of her to really know why she never felt she could act on those feelings. Are we to think that he was just always pulling away from her and she eventually just grew tired of it?

    The only characterization that felt...off...to me was Wonder Woman. Now, I agree that her portrayal with Perry White was great. I liked her conversations with Lois. But....I don't know. There was an awful lot of women throwing themselves at Clark in this issue. Clark has both Lois and Diana at his feet. It just felt a little bit like wish fulfillment.

    But even the line at the end when Wonder Woman says, "Shut up and kiss me." First....that line is TOTALLY ripped off from a very famous SUperman/Lois scene. That was a REPEATED line in the Supermarriage. And it's a line that made a TON more sense coming from Lois. I just can't picture Wonder Woman ever saying anything like that. That's Lois characterization. Not Diana. Second, I sort of feel as though we aren't seeing enough of her POV. All we are getting is her fawning about how "special" it is to be there with Clark when he's harboring feelings for another woman. Which...ok...everyone knew that. But, at some point, it might be nice to know that Diana isn't a fool to this and might be wiser than she seems about the situation. She is, after all, Wonder Woman.

    I didn't dislike the issue. I thought it was fun and the art is stunning. I also fear that these kinds of bones will be thrown out with Lois Lane and then fear she will be forgotten again for months on end. She has so little to do in the Superman books these days that it's hard to know what to make of the little she DOES get to do. Make sense?

    -Shades

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    1. Hi Shades, thanks so much for the thoughtful response, you're makaing plenty of sense.

      Given that I really don't feel I know New 52 Diana - idiot in her own mag, warrior turned Queen of Romance in JLA - I didn't notice her being off. I'm happy to accept her characterisation here as a worldly woman who doesn't intimidate, but ingratiates - she gets on with people. And she is meant to be having a romance with Superman, so she's hardly throwing herself at him.

      I've never noticed the 'shut up and kiss me' line as a Superman/Lois thing, but I'll take your word for it. It is, though, a pretty standard romcom line. Even if Lobdell is referencing old Clark and Lois moments, perhaps it's a good-natured nod rather than some kind of tacit torch-passing. This new interview at Newsarama has me thinking he doesn't dislike Lois as much as I'd feared (though he loses points for an awful bit of villain renaming):

      http://snipurl.com/hishades

      I totally agree that we need some Lois-centric narration, to see if there's any actual depth to her feelings for Jonathon - at the moment, both he abd Diana look like love-patsies.

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    2. The "shut up and kiss me" line is actually a pretty famous Supes/Lois thing. I agree it's standard romcom but it's been done enough times now with Superman and Lois that it did make me flinch a bit when I saw Diana saying it. Honestly, if I can scans present I could post them. But I'd say I've seen it within the SUpermarriage at least 4-5 times as well as on Smallville. Either way, it just wasn't a line I bought from Diana. Or at least, my vision of who Diana is.

      I think part of what bothered me about it is that I've felt for a while now that certain writes (including Geoff Johns) aren't really sure who Wonder Woman is so they are, in a weird way, trying to write her like Lois in a relationship with Clark only giving her superpowers. But because she's not Lois the things that worked with Lois and sparked there are just falling flat.

      I did like that Diana and Lois were shown to be friendly. Truth be told, I could have done with more friendly conversation between the two of them. As worldly as Diana is, she's also supposedly "new" to the secret identity thing. So it might have made sense if she was feeling a little bit out of place and Lois helped her feel more comfortable. It's not like she grew up putting on the act like Clark did.

      The missing link right now is also that we are not getting any of Diana's POV in terms of Steve Trevor. That's really the larger problem. My instinct is that Clark is not the only one who is "confused" in this relationship and longing for someone else but because DC so often fails to give us Diana's POV we don't really know where she is coming from.

      Btw, I don't think Scott Lobdell hates Lois. I do think sometimes he seems to enjoy trolling her fans which is odd to me (and I really wish he wouldn't) because God knows they've been through enough in the new 52. But my instinct is that he doesn't hate her.


      -Shades

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    3. Hold them scans! I do believe you, and everyone else is likely nodding that they know just what you mean.

      We definitely need some perspective on Diana and Steve, but Brian Azzarello has no interest in using the romance plotline so we're not going to get it in Wonder Woman's own book. And this comic isn't likely to focus on Diana. As for JLA, well, Geoff Johns ...

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  2. Shut up and kiss me is NOT a Lois and Clarkism. This is kinda of reaching or trying to give their relationship something definitive when it actually is extremely common and used all over the place. It is a common troupe used in romantic literature, movies, comics etc as you so wisely and politely pointed out.

    vtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ShutUpKiss

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    1. I assume this is the same guy "penguin" who abused me when I brought this up over at the CBR forums. He's a bit nicer over here than he was there. :) He was pretty nasty to be there.

      I never said it wasn't a common romantic trope. I never said it wasn't common. I said that it pulled me out of the moment and didn't work for me because it reminded me of scenes I had scene previously between Lois and Clark where the line was used.

      It rang more true to me, in that context, since Lois and Clark had such a playful relationship and since Lois is known for talking way too much often even needing to be "shut up" with a kiss so she will stop talking.

      http://fyeahsupermanandloislane.tumblr.com/post/48794193598/shut-up-for-tomorrow

      http://fyeahsupermanandloislane.tumblr.com/post/48788881201/shut-up-and-action-comics-904

      http://fyeahsupermanandloislane.tumblr.com/post/48791297835

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZeH-mp_K-Y

      So yes, it's a popular romantic trope. No question there. But it's a trope that reminds me, at this point, of Lois and Clark where I felt it was done better and fit the relationship. So it pulled me out of the comic.

      You can of course, agree to disagree. Mileage may vary etc.

      -Shades



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    2. Your definition of abuse is actually when anyone opposes your opinion? It's funny how you how you go around other twitter and tumblr "abusing" DC writers and posters who you claim are killing your precious clois but sing so sweetly here. Look in the mirror, my dear. Giving and not being able to take cyberwise seems your problem.

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    3. And ... time out. I love the passion Clark and Lois and Diana elicits, but I don't want this blog to host an ill-tempered back and forth. You've both made your positions clear, and I thank you for the various insights and opinions.

      But enough is enough. I'm not interested in the personalities, or past run-ins, I simply ask that for the sake of a peaceful posting area, you agree to differ, or continue this 'outside'. Meanwhile, no more 'Clois' (horrible contraction!) if you please.

      And if you fancy chatting Sunturions or any other aspect of the issue, feel free!

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  3. While I agree Superman #19 a great issue, I don't think this story gives any reason to suppose that Lois and Clark will be anything but platonic for some time to come.

    Everything after Hector Hammond flat lines is clearly suspect. Hammond is pulling stuff out of peoples subconscious. It is in effect a waking dream for all involved.

    Superman even realises his feelings aren't reasonable as he changes to Clark to go to the party.

    Just because you act one way in a dream doesn't mean that accurately reflects how you would act in a waking state!

    Dreaming about your ex - or former unrequited love does not mean a person is secretly still in love with that person. It's just another example of cognitive dissonance.

    For example Perry is perfectly able to have both negative and positive feelings toward Clark, he can both admire his stand against Edge, and dislike it. That's how the mind works.

    Also I didn't get any sense that Perry had seen through Clark's glasses, nor Jimmy through Diana's his Princess comment - I read - as a clumsy chat up line.

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    1. I love how you keep psychoanalyzing and denying the CLark/Lois romantic connection and Clark's obvious strong romantic feelings for Lois & viceversa.

      Lobdell himself quoted this review, in which these lines were written "...Plus, more confirmation that while Clark's dating Diana, it's Lois he loves (call him not caddish, but confused), and perhaps confirmation that Lois feels the same way about Clark... "

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    2. Cherub, anyone who did the smallest bit of psychology as well know we all have co-workers or people we know, we might crush on, could technically sleep with in our head( it's a tricky and muddy and alarming concept for the true love for ever and ever folks to see that) etc but hardly means we will act on our subconscious desires or fantasies. Supes fantasy is a woman that embodies the two women. He could genuinely be confused or working through his feelings or who knows what Lobdell means? It's all impressionistic. He might actually think his real desire is Lois dressed up as WW but in a way it means he sees something lacking in Lois too that she needs to be in his girlfriend's clothes. WW is his girfriend folks. Not WW and I believe we had Supes view Lois, Lana in Diana's clothes before. I found it a little dickish of Clark when he talked about Diana as if she was some obstacle to him ever getting with Lois instead of acknowledging he's happy to be with her and trying to really move on.I thought after reading Action he made that choice and it should be something for better or worse while with Diana to be a man about it. It's ironic how some clois shippers are applauding a review that sees Clark that would view Diana as the poor second choice to Lois and can't wait for him to break up with her. To Clark,man, YOU not a really good date but your date handled herself beautifully. You might not be good enough for her.

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    3. Oi, I'll take what applause I can get!

      And it's undeniable that Clark's behaviour is, to be polite, inconsistent.

      Now, how about we knock the Clark/Lois/Diana chat on the head? I think that's about enough for one review ...

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  4. I enjoyed the issue overall. The Lois and Clark moments were cute and innocent in my opinion....but I can see why some might jump to conclusion. Of course, I loved the Clark and Diana scene.

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    1. I'm glad you liked the book too, it's great to read an on-form Superman, and I always miss the Planet cast when they're not around.

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  5. Haven't read it yet. But I'm hoping Clark doesn't come across as too dickish. I don't like the idea of Superman being unfaithful -- regardless of whether you support the Ultimate Power Couple or not, infidelity isn't something that would sit well with me. If DC decide to pair Superman back with Lois, that's up to them (it's as boring as watching paint dry but whatever) I just hope they at least give the Ultimate Power Couple a decent turn ... and maybe even after that let Superman be single. I don't see why he necessarily MUST be paired with anyone.

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    1. And for some of us watching Clark and Diana share space has been as boring as watching paint dry! Ain't life grand!

      I have to wonder though. Were you this concerned about infidelity back when Clark was married to Lois? Because I seem to recall there were a few fans who thought Superman was a "pussy" for not having sex with Wonder Woman in the 1,000 years arc when he was still married to Lois. In fact, as a fan of Lois and Clark, I've watched certain fans openly root for years that Superman would cheat on his wife or long for another woman while he was married. (Of course, that would never happen. Clark Kent long for another woman when he actually had his true love in his bed? Never. )

      It's just funny how the tables turn. No worries though. I don't see any signs of infidelity for either party present. Nor do I think Clark was a dick to anyone. But Lobdelk got people talking which is, I guess, one of the things he is very good at. He provokes conversation.

      --Shades

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    2. I'm with you, Anon up there (I do wish everyone would put at least SOME signoff, to distinguish the Anon Choir!) - as Clark is seeing Diana, he shouldn't mess with the even more committed Lois. I really can't see that happening (famous last words ...).

      Shades, I loved that Clark was steadfast in that Joe Kelly story in which he and Diana got stuck in Valhalla, but what a daft tale that was. A thousand years! I prefer to pretend it never happened.

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  6. Just give me my LOIS/CLARK romance back!
    Kill that WW romance with fire!

    :(

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    1. It'll be back, have no fear!

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    2. I doubt it :'(

      I'm just gonna take comfort in the fact that the new Superman movie Man of Steel is gonna make them fall in love.

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    3. Are you new to comics? Superman and Lois have been romantically involved for 75 years; they've broken up plenty of times, and always gotten back together. There is no way in the world Diana and Kal will still be involved this time next year.

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  7. Good issue! As for the Cliana and Clois moments, nothing new there. However, I still prefer Cliana and since it's now the new status quo I hope it gets explored further.

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    1. Oh, I love Lana - much as I believe Lois and Clark will be together, forever, one day, in the meantime I wouldn't mind a romance with her at all, I loved the Bronze Age Clark and Lana fling.

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    2. In JL#12 power couple get together because they are lonely and can't be with the person they really love so as to not endanger them. It was again emphasized by Andy Diggle's run in Action Comics where Clark is very much interested in Lois but can't be with her so her life is not in danger. In this book Clark imagines Lois in Wonder Woman costume which I interpret that Clark will be with Lois if he can be assured that being with him is not going to endanger her. Also not sure what to think of Jonathan wondering if Clark was moving in with them and Clark's response. Is there going to be a Clark-Lois-Jonathan triangle?.

      -Mbml2104

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    3. Hi Mbm12104, I read that as Jonathan having subconsciously recognised that while he's living with Lois, Clark and Lois consider each other unfinished business - he fears Clark will never be far away.

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  8. I just finished getting all 19 issues of Superman yesterday. I'm totally lost right now in terms of story.

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  9. I have every issue of Justice League also, but I haven't read a single issue of Wonder Woman, so I don't really have any idea who Diana is outside of the Justice League series.

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  10. To be honest, Yusuf, she's different in every comic.

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    1. Agreed... Wonder Women so far for me seems different in every comic. She's fawning over Superman in the Superman and Justice League comics; being a warrior women in her own comics. And then there is the implication of her being lesbian in the Batwomen comics..... all the writers need to come together so WW personality and character can actually be consistent.....

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  11. I haven't read this issue yet, but I always do a quick skim of your write ups to see if it was a thumbs up or thumbs down anyway; and you've just said exactly what I wanted to hear!

    I have great hopes for the rockafort/lobdell team up but they seem to be bogged down by events and crossovers that they need to hit so much that I never get to hear their voice for Supes. Good to hear that they starting to warm up, I'll catch up to this issue soon!

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    1. I'd love to hear what you reckon to it, if you get a chance, Arvin!

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