Superman #42 review

Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and mystery woman Condesa are in the countryside outside Metropolis. They've escaped the gunmen who shot Clark at the end of last issue – he's beaten up, but his powers are returning and he's okay. Condesa says she's a whistleblower for an evil organisation known as Hordr. This secret group accesses information, steals secrets and blackmails people into doing their will. It's obvious they know Clark's secrets

The four are attacked by shadow zombies, giving Clark no option but to fight them off without changing to Superman. This confirms Lois's recent suspicions that they're the same person, but she rips his shirt off to make sure. She's hurt that Jimmy was told the secret and she wasn't.
There's no time to talk it all through - they need to get to Hordr HQ; Clark is thinking James Bond base, but Condesa says it's a ... campus?

So it's off to see Toymaster in Gotham City to get him to duplicate the masks which Condesa says is the only thing that can get them past Hordr security. That's when they learn Condesa has a power – she can speak to machines in binary code and make them do her will. They don the masks and catch a Hordr bus on the streets of Metropolis which flies into the air and takes them past a wall of illusion and onto Hordr_plex.

En route, Lois and Clark have a chance to talk. He's relieved she knows his secret, he now has someone besides Jimmy to talk to - but she's feeling betrayed. Before they can continue their awkward exchange, they arrive at the Hordr campus.

Jimmy likes it at first - hey, there's free coffee delivered by a flying van, but Condesa says the smiley masks hide the fact everyone working there has been blackmailed, they have a secret that Hordr's boss, Hordr_root, is holding against them. A giant projection of the boss appears, announcing that there are three intruders. Condesa slips away, leaving Clark and co to be confronted by security. Grabbing his friends, Clark speeds away, and finds a control centre. There, the boss appears, with the treacherous Condesa by his side. He offers Clark a chance to work with him, is refused, and sics killer robots on the trio. Clark reckons he can fend them off for ten minutes, but is then going to have to use his new solar flare power to explode everything. He tells Lois and Jimmy to clear the campus and stop the boss.

Jimmy finds Condesa, who claims she had no choice but to betray them, and he and Lois give her another chance after Clark goes nova, loses his powers and needs help getting away. As he uses his flare, a figure appears, locks onto him and apparently absorbs the energies he's losing...

All righty, I've gone into big detail there, but I need to in order to, like, discuss stuff. Ah well, I do say Spoilers at the top of this blog. Or maybe the side. Anyway, you'll have noticed that I immediately tired of typing 'Hordr_root', one of those techie names writers like the look of, but don't consider how to say out loud (see also Eighties Flash computer baddie Kilg%re). Who wants to interrupt their typing to change keyboard layout to access the underscore? 'Hordr' is annoying enough, in its zeitgeisty Tindr/Grindr way, but such are the risks of stories tearing from today's headlines; in years to come, this will seem as dated as Firestorm's battles with Bug & Byte, but as a story for July 2015, it's not too bad. OK, the Google/Facebook parallels are rather clunking, but it does tell us exactly what the story is worried about.

Writer Gene Yang (here, I'm not being lazy, the middle name's dropped with this issue's credits) gives us some nice moments, chief among them the private discussions between Clark and Lois. Lois revealing that she's been tracking Superman's movements doesn't come across as a betrayal so much as the professional curiosity of the investigative reporter. She wasn't necessarily going to go public with it. And her reaction to learning that she's right aren't over the top - there's hurt, incredulity, anger ... it plays true. As does Clark's inability to make her understand why he hides behind a pair of glasses.

The later scene builds well on the first confrontation. Take a look.
She says he's not her friend, but instinctively reaches for his hand. And Condesa feels they have a thing. Plus, the mask line is smart. 

Speaking of Condesa, I dislike her hugely for this exchange.
The betrayal to the boss I can understand, she's being blackmailed (well, so she says - she could easily be the boss herself), but making someone feel uncomfortable in this way is just dickish. I don't like Condesa - and it's not because she's brown or a woman. I don't know why Yang put this moment in, it's not cute; I'm all for challenging society's biases against anyone who isn't a white guy, but this feels very forced.

This also feels very off.
Yes, get Lois and Jimmy clearing the campus, but ask them to put themselves in danger to stop the boss? As it turns out, Lois, in her wonderful Lois way, meets the challenge with style, but it's not something Clark should have suggested ... his best friends could easily get killed.

And again with the solar flare. It's not a huge surprise, as it seemed the likely route to the depowered Superman of the rest of the line, but more imagination would have been nice. It's only been around six months or something, and seems to get used every issue.

Better is the hidden figure grabbing super-energy - maybe an update of the Sand Superman, the evil twin of the Seventies who stole a big lump of Superman's powers during an earlier round of 'he's too powerful, we're not imaginative enough to create stories for him'. I am intrigued.

And other positives are Clark being a lot more competent with his powers, and clear in his morality. Jimmy and Lois are great throughout, valuable partners to Clark, and there's an enjoyably telling exchange as regards who knows about the solar flare. And despite his stated admiration, look at the back of the fifth panel in Gotham - I think Toymaster cottoned onto Condesa's dodginess before the Daily Planet's finest.

So, Yang's script isn't a home run for me, but I liked it more than last month's, and the key Clark and Lois scenes were very good. The art by penciller John Romita Jr,  inker Klaus Janson and colourists Dean White, Wil Quintana and Tomeu Morey is eye-catching, dynamic and hits the appropriate story beats. The aforementioned post-reveal scenes are especially good - the drama is writ large on Lois and Clark's faces.

Romita and Janson's cover is pretty good, but boy, do I love Jorge Corona's Teen Titans Go! variant. 
We still haven't seen Lois reveal Clark's secret ID to the world, but it seems extremely likely it'll be to stop Hordr having a hold over Clark. That's something we can judge when it happens; for now, I'll embrace this month's good character moments and look forward to the defeat of Hordr, a group which feels more like a minx than a menace.


  1. There were some good moments in this, mostly surrounding Lois and Clark and Jimmy, Lois and Clark, It's been missing from the story for too long.

    I wasn't thrilled with how Condesa was written, too much slang for my taste. "Ain't" "Big Boy" "Red" etc. It was annoying.

    As for that clunky Jimmy and Condesa conversation where she asks if he's surprised if she's a geek because she's a woman and brown? Yes, it could have been fit in to the dialog better *but* that said? And I know I'm not telling you anything new, I'm a brown woman engineer in my 50s. I got a lot of that when I was younger. The STEM field is still sexist, so I understood her defensiveness.

    The final scene with Lois worried about Clark was really nice. Yes, she's upset but it's clear that's because he matters so much to her.

    I can't stand the name Hordr_Root. Annoying and yes, it will be very dated very fast.

    And finally I agree, I think Lois reveals the secret ID to stop the blackmail. I wonder if she reveals everyone's secret that Hordr has horded (I'm sorry, I just could NOT resist)? A wikileaks sort of situation?

  2. No need to resist, Maya, I don't actually think chopping off a leg so someone else can't threaten to chop it off is a great idea.

    And I can see being defensive, but it's 2015, they're in the City of Tomorroe, Jimmy is a contemporary and I just don't see why the first assumption she should land on is 'sexist racist'.

    1. It was a clunky piece of dialog which could have been worked in to the story better. But then I had a lot of problems with the way she was written in general, starting with the overuse of slang and silly nicknames.

    2. She did go a bit Red-happy. Hope she goes away after this.

  3. Hi Martin! Good review!

    Although I totally hate the premise for this arc and the way Lois has deliberately been fed to the wolves for shock value, I really liked this issue, mostly because of the Lois + Clark moments. Jimmy was a great addition to this issue as well. One could never know how much you miss a character(s) until they are not considered in the narratives anymore, just as it happened to Jimmy and specially Lois.

    I understand why some people could think the interactions between Lois and Clark were forced, DC hasn´t showed us many of the friendship that it was established since this reboot, we were just told that Lois and Clark are BFF but actually never got to see them as friends, at least not many times to give anyone the idea they really are what they say they are. That being said I don´t felt Yang forced that chemistry between them, maybe I feel it was a little rushed, suddenly they are having this bond and talking and all, but rushed or not I could really feel there were two people who really care for one another. I completely understand why Lois feel angry and somehow betrayed by Clark. As she told him: "Jimmy got the truth and I got the lie"... ouch!

    I liked Clark saying how much it means to him that Lois is now part of both halves! I love that line! That he never had anyone who he could talk about what is like to be Clark AND Superman, and now he has. I felt sorry for Wonder Woman here, but that's another topic for another review and blog :p

    The issue wasn't perfect, but it was enjoyable, I think Yang is trying and if it wasn't for Editorial's ridiculous mandates he could do a better job with Superman and his myth. I really hope next issue starts giving good reasons why Lois exposed Clark to the world, I definitely think she did it in order to free Clark/Superman from blackmail and start working for this HORDR stuff. I am intrigued too to find out who took Superman's powers after he superflared (ughhh I dislike that power and the way it has been used in Superman), this power was the caused he is going to lose them afterall, so my guess is it won't stick forever. Could it be Parasite who took the powers? Or could it be any other "villain" who will become the new "hero" in town according to September solicits?

    1. Thanks so much for the comments, Zoraida. I think we're on the same page, not fans of the story premise but enjoying some of the detail. It's true, Lois and Clark haven't really been seen as great friends in this run - too many changes of direction in the narrative ... she's his boss and she seems to know the secret, she's with Jon and doesn't seem to care, she's Brainiaced and knows, she's Brainiaced then doesn't, then does. He's keen on Lois but she's with Jon, he's with Wonder Woman but she seems keen on him ... gah, if they'd just pick a direction, commit, follow it through and see where it takes the characters.

      I really wish DC had one classic-style Superman book, in which the relationships between the characters are iconic, but with a heavy emphasis on Lois and Clark as partners and equals.

  4. Great review. I think you ended up liking this issue much more that I did. I found it a weird mix of high speed plot progression with little substance. The Lois moments, for me, are the best parts.

    The idea of Sand Superman is brilliant one. That is one of my favorite Superman stories.

    As for the Condesa moment, Jimmy is all smiles when he asks. I think he thinks it cool. The same way I might smile and ask Maya 'you're an engineer? Cool!!' or you might ask me 'you're a doctor? Cool!'

    I get that I come from a completely different viewpoint. But I don't think Jimmy was being malicious. And that may be why Condesa says she is joking. She has battled this fight and needs to be ready to defend. Maybe once she intuits where Jimmy is coming from she can relax.

    But I am saying all this from my white male perspective. So it all has be taken with a huge grain of salt.

    1. I agree, I don't think Jimmy was being malicious at all and like so much of the dialog in this issue, it was a heavy handed way to get the (in this case) "diversity in STEM" message across. I think a brief conversation between Lois and Condesa would have been a better way to do this in a sisterhood way instead of having Condesa come at Jimmy, oh forgive me, Red for no real reason.

      You bring up a great point Anj about battling the fight. If one spends an inordinate time and energy defending your "right" to be in a space (be it profession, fandom or whatever) because of gender and/or color, it does become emotionally exhausting. There is a danger in forgetting the community lessons my kids would bring home from elementary school which is "assume good intentions" when engaging with people (obviously unless proven otherwise).

    2. Great points, Anj and Maya, thank you. There's real food for thought here.

    3. I think Anj and Maya make great points. One point totally not in Jimmy's defense: She's a former employee on the run from EVIL GOOGLE. Just knowing that, if I were to guess her skillset, coding would be at the top of the list.

      And even worse, the story undermines the point with her codespeak power. Sure, I guess technically that's coding, if she's speaking the computers' language, but from an outsider POV, she's not coding at all, she's simply making weird noises and computers do what she asks.

    4. 111011010100110 100001011100

  5. "And again with the solar flare."

    Yeah, I sensed that was going to be trouble the minute Johns created it...

  6. It's become such a story crutch. Kara uses her version three times in three years, or something, but Superman? Once a day, it seems like. Can't we see some of the cool, underused abilities such as super-ventriloquism or freeze breath? Where's the imagination?

    1. With Jim Henson indisposed, Superman must use his super-ventriloquism and super-speed to ensure the latest episode of Sesame Street goes to air.

      Coincidently, I wonder if Kara will get to keep her solar flares? Or will it turn into a case of one-upmanship like how when one suburban dad gets a patio, his neighbour has to get a patio.

    2. Ha, love the idea of a super-Muppet, that would likely be terribly charming.


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