The Parasite is draining the psychic energy from Brainiac-boosted Lois Lane. Superman is battling to save her life, while Lois's boyfriend, Jonathan Carroll, also dives into the fray. Along the way, Superman has a eureka moment, wondering if while defeating the Parasite, he came make a personal problem go away ...
... and if you've been reading Scott Lobdell's latest storyline, you'll know where this is going - let the bad guy suck the knowledge of Superman's Clark Kent identity out of Lois's head, while overloading him with super-psychic energy. Which makes sense in a superhero universe. What doesn't make sense is expecting us to believe Superman, supposedly first among heroes, would ever risk the life of any person - never mind his supposed 'best friend' - for selfish reasons.
But that's exactly what Lobdell asks us to accept here. And having Superman wonder himself, after the fact, if he deliberately risked Lois's life for his own peace of mind, doesn't cut it. Yeah, you did.
Someone else who is less than impressed with the Man of Steel is war correspondent Jon, who finally shows us why a person as amazing as Lois Lane would fall for him. He's brave, yes, but more than that, he's compassionate. And smart enough to see that the arrogant Superman is being deliberately evasive.
This issue also features a couple of subplots. In one, Cat Grant is besieged by fellow reporters, desperate to know how the news blog she runs with Clark (I can't bear to type the awful name one more time) nabbed a not-that-thrilling story about General Sam Lane being handed a Senate seat. After seeing them off, her old boss Morgan Edge makes her an offer she'd be ruddy stupid to refuse.
And then we see Lois's dad in his new Washington post, as some shadowy high muck-a-muck (probably DC secret agent King Faraday) raises the subject of criminal body the Tower.
I'm bored with Sam Lane being all over the Superman line - can't we meet Lois's mom for a change? -but I do like the idea of Morgan Edge trying to buy clarkcatropolis.com (drat!), giving Cat an interesting dilemma: should she accept millions, having told Edge's company to stuff their news values mere months previously? It should probably give Clark pause too, but he's never around ...
I like Lobdell's narrative captions, which are light without being too smartarse, and his dialogue is fine. He seems confused about the difference between mental powers and braininess, though, suddenly claiming Lois has an '8th-level intellect'; that, or he's moving the goalposts, but as the change doesn't impact the story, I'm guessing error. That's something editors Anthony Marques and Eddie Berganza should have picked up on, along with at least three lettering goofs, the most amusing of which is, well, see for yourself:
I do like that Lobdell remembers Superman has powers other than flight, invulnerability, strength and heat vision, though he should have our supposed hero use them a little more smartly ... when the Parasite himself is telling you that close-up fighting with a power leech is stupid, you realiy do need to get a clue. Yes, Superman is hoping some quick pummelling will do the job, but it's a high-risk, stupid strategy.
This Superman is movie-dumb, smashing a dozen hospital floors in the back and forth, rather than grabbing Parasite and taking him away from people (if you're going to get close, make it count). And it's not as if Lobdell forgets Superman's speed, as we see in this nice set of panels.
The artist is Ed Benes, pencilling and inking, and he brings a pleasing intensity to the pages. A few of the Superman faces are off-model - he's looking a tad Filipino, methinks - but Benes gets the job done with style. I especially like this page, showing the horror of the Parasite's MO, Jon's heroism and a bunch of ungrateful idiots.
I wish, though, that writers and artists would stop presenting red-eyed, angry Superman. It's no wonder people in the DC Universe are scared of him.
The colours by Pete Pantazis are as good as I've come to expect from him, fair blazing off the pages. And given that letterer Rob Leigh isn't known for mistakes, I'm assuming he was a bit rushed this time. I like his Golden Age-style caption upper-casing, and if Jon's icy word balloon is Leigh's doing, great work on that too. Ken Lashley's cover, coloured by Alex Sinclair, works well for the issue, but I can't see it becoming an homaged classic.
All in all, not the worst wrap-up to the Parasite storyline, but I severely dislike Superman's character being blackened for the sake of in-story angst. Superman is a hero, pure and simple. Fighting a supervillain, his only concerns should be saving innocents and ending the battle; of course the secret identity business is going to cross his mind for a second, but the thought should be quickly banished as unworthy. In Action Comics, Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder are balancing the 'super' with the 'hero' and giving us a classic Superman. With a little more thought, Lobdell could do this too. The Superman in this issue and the Superman in Action need to be the same guy; selfish, arrogant Superman is not someone I'm going to shell out money for.