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.