Superman #26 review

It's rather appropriate that an issue featuring the Parasite should prove especially absorbing. Not for the fight with the power-sucking plunderer, which is eye-popping fun, but for the characterisation. Let's take a look ...

The issue opens with Clark Kent cooking for Wonder Woman. As he's been offering her rhubarb soup - does such a thing even exist? - she's not too upset when Lois Lane interrupts the date. Lois is currently a major league psychic and in possession of Superman's secret identity. The catch is that the power is too much and while her mind roams free, Lois' physical form is in a coma. Able to manifest before Clark and Diana, she's in need of reassurance that everything will be OK. 

After some kind words and a hug, Superman accompanies Lois back to hospital, and the two have a heart-to-heart en route about dealing with massive sensory input. On spotting her father at her bedside, Lois reunites mind and body while Superman observes from outside. Sam Lane tells his unresponsive daughter that he's taking the seat of the late Senator Hume, the Brainiac victim whose mental powers passed to Lois on his death. Lane is hoping to use the role to tear open the secrets of something known as the Tower. 

After Sam leaves, Lois encourages Clark to look into the Tower too, before her boyfriend Jonathon Carroll arrives, despondent that in brief moments of wakefulness Lois was muttering just one name: Superman. Clark points out that while Lois could win any man's heart, she chose him. 

Across Metropolis, in Suicide Slum, the Parasite hatches a plan, and hitches a ride on an ambulance, sucking the life out of paramedics en route. He arrives after Clark and Jon's chat, unsure as to why he felt compelled to head for Metropolis General. By the time the Parasite begins a rampage, turning corpses in the morgue into husks, Clark is back at his desk, working on the news blog he's begun with Cat Grant. The reporter is ruminating on the difference between being his own boss and working for old newsman Perry White at the Daily Planet. 

Then it's back into costume for a conference about Lois's condition with the holographic avatar of super-scientist Shay Veritas, who tells him that Lois isn't healing, she's becoming something new. 

Screams draw Superman to Metropolis General, which the Parasite has transformed into a charnel house. Battle ensues, with the hospital taking quite a battering, before Parasite realises what he wants - Lois.

Superman #26 is a packed, entertaining issue, with the Parasite's presence presumably the way to wipe out Lois's mental powers, and with them, the knowledge of Superman's secret. For now, though, Lois knowing Superman's ID has brought them closer, enriching the character of both hero and girl; I wouldn't mind at all were an open Superman/Lois partnership to become the norm. That's unlikely right now, though, as the Superman books work through the 'Clark loves Diana' nonsense. That gives us the issue's one cringeworthy panel. 

Diana also features in an off-moment, which may be due to artist Ken Lashley mis-drawing a facial expression, given that Wonder Woman has been nothing but understanding about Lois seeking out Clark. Otherwise, I'd have to believe Diana is lying to the pair - and Wonder Woman doesn't lie.  

I'm also putting Lois's expression in this next panel down to a misunderstanding - I cannot believe that after the earlier tender exchange, Lois would betray Clark. And then there's Wonder Woman in her superhero outfit while at Clark's for a date - what if there's an LB Jefferies nearby?

These few moments, and a somewhat brokeback Lois on the credits page apart, Lashley does a tremendous job of filling in for Kenneth Rocafort, keeping the leads on model and continuing the freakish look of Parasite pioneered by Aaron Kuder in his recent special. The carnage at the hospital is horrific without being over the top, Suicide Slum has inner city grit and Sam Lane is heroically wrinkly. 

But it's Lobdell's script which really pleases me this time, as he ladles out bags of convincing characterisation alongside the chaos. He manages to show a spark between Clark and Diana while also making it clear just how Clark and Lois' feelings for one another are growing - 'best friends' indeed. And he actually has Clark think about his career as something more than an irritation, a diversion from his work as Superman. I also appreciate how Lois's new abilities are presented as utterly alien to someone used to digging for answers. 

As well as writer and artist, colourist Pete Pantazis and letterer Rob Leigh put in a good showing inside the book. The outside is blessed with a striking image courtesy of Lashley and colourist Alex Sinclair. 

This is an above-average issue, progressing the ongoing storylines while putting the Parasite, a compelling baddie who's actually a challenge to Superman, front and centre. If you're not reading already, give this series a shot. 


  1. Martin, I have to be honest....I find Lobdell's choice to have Lois say that she would expose Clark the "second she was out of the coma" to be really brutal, disturbing character assasination. That's guttingly wrong. For 75 years, Lois Lane has proven that she wants the truth about Clark because she believes in truth. Truth is everything to her. That said she has also proven time and time again that she believes that protecting Clark's secret is a service to the greater good. To portray her here as someone willing to betray him? That is...gutting. I can't believe Lobdell would even consider putting it to page. I find it so insulting that I'm struggling to even put it to words. It feels like something that some writer or editor would find an "interesting" shake-up bit it's not. That's brutal character assasination that attacks the core of who Lois is and WHY she's a hero for so many women (and men.) It also raises really dangerous implications for the future because Lobdell has essentially justified Clark leaving Lois in the dark and feeling afraid to reveal himself to her. That's awful. The less said about Diana's characterization the better. Lovesick Diana mooning over Superman is cringeworthy. It's not that I don't agree that there is interesting stuff here---there is. My concern continues to be that it seems very clear to me that the people in leadership roles at DC just do not understand Lois Lane or Wonder Woman at all. They just don't get either of these women. --Shades

    1. Oh, I'm with you all the way, as I say, I'm thinking Lois' expression in that panel I reproed is a misunderstanding - she HAS to be teasing Clark, never mind that the idea doesn't fit Lois' character, it doesn't fit her interaction with Clark earlier in the boot.

      Lois is still here, she's in play, I'm holding onto my optimism - anyway, let's see what other people think ...hopefully Anj will be on the case later today.

  2. Lois Lane has always been a bitch before New 52 and after. Clark should just tell her to go to her boyfriend when she has problems - he already has a girlfriend and her name is Diana. If I was Diana, I'd tell that harpy Lois to back off or else suffer the consequences.

    1. Robert, Lois hasn't always been a bitch.

    2. Wow. There is so much sad language in this comment. It's particularly disheartening given the conversation taking place right now about the women's place in the genre and how both the fictional characters themselves---and the female fans----are treated. Unfortunatey, your choice of words and commentary is very problematic and contribute to that.

      All that said, I would really hope that you educate yourself about the ways in which strong, determined, aggressive women are often unfairly labeled "bitch" in our culture. This is a pretty serious cultural problem and one that has been written about extensively over the years by people much smarter than I. I would really encourage you to educate yourself on this going forward.

      The truth is that if Lois Lane were a man her strong and aggressive qualities, her drive for her job and the truth and her steel personality would be read as something positive. It's because she's a woman that she's labeled a bitch for being who she is. If she were male, the very traits that people use to insult her would no doubt be celebrated. It's sexism in it's most classic form.

      Greg Rucka has a rather brilliant interview from a few years ago addressing this kind of commentary about Lois head on and it'e extremely thoughtful, direct and dead on in terms of the sexism involved. It will come up with a simple google search. Check it out if you have time. I also encourage you to think on how it makes REAL women feel when you call feminist icons "harpy" or "bitch." These things are, unfortunately, all connected. Take care. ---Shades

    3. Thanks Shades, I couldn't even be bothered to get into 'Lois isn't a bitch' - the tone of Robert's comment made it seem there's little point.

      But let's have that link anyway:

  3. Hello1 I was really disappointed with this issue, finally we get some interaction between Clark & Lois in Superman books and I was hoping for a little bit more. Don't get me wrong the heart to heart conversation between them was very delightful. Clark seems to be more like himself when he is around LOIS.I agreed I did not like Lodbell trying to sell a betrayal coming from Lois revealing Clark's secret identity, which IS SO NOT her! That's one of the reasons I totally dislike Lodbell writing Lois Lane, sorry I don't trust the guy and his terrible writing.
    is just so confusing that in first panel we get a totally understanding Lois telling Clark that she saw in his heart and mind what he feels and then BOOM she is telling him she is going to reveal his secret to the world the second she wakes up from the coma?
    Wonder Woman telling them that she is leaving and then we found her in the bathroom adjusting her tiara, it was just ridiculous! Didn't she had work to do, like I don't know fighting The Horde? but it seems that the canon in this Nu52 is a Wonder Woman who only cares about her "boyfriend" and less of her role of heroine, at least that's what we get in Superman books. What pisses me more is that Diana is the only one invested in this "relationship" or whatever it is. The whole thing is forced and only makes Wonder Woman looks bad, and I have to disagree here, I didn't find any spark between Clark and Diana. She is the only one who wants things to move forward to another level. And we get to see that in Clark's and Jon conversation at the hospital, Clark's speech about why he thinks Lois chose him over everyone else (including him) only confirms his insecurities and his desire to be in Jon's "place".
    The good thing, Parasite appearance, maybe next issue we get more Clark fighting to save Lois from Parasite's hands and maybe, crossing all my fingers here, we get more interactions between Lois & Clark!

    1. If Scott Lobdell really intends Lois to be weirdly vengeful towards Superman for keeping the secret from her (and several billion other people) just minutes after a loving scene in which she accepted that he was going to tell her! then he really doesn't understand people. I could see a case being made that he doesn't like women, but I hope we don't end up there.

    2. Sadly, Martin, you don't have to go there as Lobdell's female colleagues have already done so: (though fair warning it was elsewhere that Lobdell's name was revealed).

      I have to say that reading the experiences of dealing with Lobdell that female comics creators have revealed have set me rethinking a lot of Lobdell's storytelling choices over the years - his portrayal of children's favorite Starfire over in Teen Titans has to be the most obvious flag right now - but for all that I think it's more to do with the ingrained attitude at DC, wanting their characters to be "gritty" and occasionally at odds with public expectations. Annoying middle class white kids who listen to too much hip-hop would probably say this was "flipping the script all up in your grill" making Lois a bit more flighty and unpredictable, but I recall they've tried this on many occasions to no avail (Silver Age Lois was notoriously catty, as was Byrne-era relaunched Lois and even mid-2000s Chuck Austen Lois) as it just doesn't seem to fly with readers. I think the simplest explanation is that it's quick and cheap drama that can be undone fairly easily.

    3. @Brigonos, I think Greg Rucka nailed this issue with Lois a few years ago in an interview he did when he was on the Superman books.

      Essentially, Greg talked about how there is this really serious cultural problem (we see this happen with a lot of successful career women and with our female politicians) where people do not know how to handle their assertive personalities without portraying them as a bitch. It's actually quite a relevant topic as this is still something that women deal with so much in our culture. So it's funny that it's something that has been happening to Lois since 1938's still an issue for so many of us!

      Greg essentially said that he thinks a lot of writers---particularly male writers----just really do not know how to approach a woman that strong that doesn't fight with her fists. It's a struggle. It requires not just having a woman punch someone out to "prove" strength but actually getting inside a woman's head in a way that they just either aren't comfortable doing or aren't able to do.

      Rucka and Simone have also pointed out that there are some writers who almost...take their own issues on women out on Lois because of all the women in the DCU....she's the most "real." She resembles more closely than probably any other female "real" women that some of these guys know. It's a very scary form of misogyny that sometimes plays out on the page.

      As a female fan and as someone who has always loved and identified with Lois, it makes me really sad. But it also sort of fascinates me and makes me admire the character more. Because she's 75 years old and her strength is still throwing people for a loop. It's still a mystery to some people how to handle a female who is that aggressive in their career and yet still that loving to the most powerful man in the world. 75 years and we are still fighting this. If it wasn't so infuriating it would be kind of amazing. :) ---Shades

  4. As the Vulcans say, Martin, we live to serve. Just don't eat the leaves. They're poisonous.

  5. That sounds 'orrible. Rhubarb is for crumble, or to be nibbled it's sugar on the end!


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