The book opens with the striking image of Lois somehow struck down, convinced she's about to die. Her whole life doesn't flash before her eyes, but Lois does think back to the last few days, and how her investigation into a five-year-old case of multiple missing persons spiralled out of control.
As readers of the monthly Superman series know, The Twenty are individuals who vanished during Brainiac's attempts to kidnap Metropolis, and the HIVE Queen is one of them. Here Lois meets some more, but sadly they're less hale and hearty than the villain, with their psionic powers backfiring against their bodies.
(And something Jon says here has me a little suspicious that he's seeing someone else, even after his apparent attempts to get Lois to, er, blow a kiss at him.)
Scott Lobdell's script is simply splendid, capturing the Lois I love - independent, strong, kind and very, very smart, well able to carry a comic book. I like how the nature of the Twenty is gradually revealed, taking us towards the shocking opening of the issue. A new angle on Brainiac provides food for thought. And while the only real pyrotechnics come in a flashback to Grant Morrison's Action Comics run, the issue is never less than absorbing. And there are plenty of arresting images, one favourite being a close look at a member of the Twenty.
|Look, his head's too big for the panel borders!|
Andy Kubert's cover, with colourist Brad Anderson, is rather spiffy too, though it's very much thematic rather than literal.
'The Last Byline' runs to 32 pages, but that's not 'all' this issue has, as the World of Krypton serial continues here from Action Comics. I'm not delighted with that choice - I'd rather have a self-contained short, or Who's Who pages. Maybe a recipe. And readers of Action only should be able to follow the whole story of Lara and Jor-El fighting to save Krypton there.
But still, it adds to the value of the book - $4.99 for 38pp, as opposed to last week's Hawkeye Annual from Marvel, which gave us 28pp at the same price (and many of those pages didn't deserve to see print). Writer Frank Hannah, artist Tom Derenick and the rest of the creative team acquit themselves well enough, providing a decent continuation of a story that's not my cup of tea (the New 52 Jor-El and Lara are a shocking pair).
Overall, this is a terrific annual, one which should please the Lois fans out there who've been vocal in their disdain for her current minor role in the DC Universe. Now, how about a series, DC?