Superman #44 review

The secret is out and the villains are coming home to roost. Clark Kent's Clinton Street is where the latest version of the Royal Flush Gang ambushes him. They're gambling that he's strong enough to squeeze coal into diamonds for them, but weak enough to have to do as they say. 

As it turns out, he ain't that weak. Helped by a bit of infighting, he soon polishes off this decidedly dense new grouping. Before he can relax, news comes that there's a hostage situation at the Daily Planet. When he arrives, Steve Lombard is in the electric grip of Livewire. 
She's joined by Atomic Skull, Shockwave and Killers Frost and Croc. In terms of toughness, they should lick the underpowered Man of Steel, but they're at close quarters, not great at teamwork and facing a raging-mad Clark. He puts them down, then faces a threat that's a bit closer to home - or rather, the office. 

Eventually he rescues Perry, Cat, Jimmy, Ron and that new reporter who was introduced months ago but has yet to get a proper scene (I'm dithering because I can't remember her name... Jackee?) but not before Perry is hurt in the crossfire. The Planet editor is furious and subsequently fires Clark. Clark's response is to record a message aimed at deterring any other villainous opportunists. 
That's harsh, and Lois call him on it, but he's not having it. Clark checks into a motel, cuts his hair with a bit of Kryptonian glass and steels himself for what's next. 

Subplots see Lois trying to make her loony army dad realise she didn't betray Clark by revealing his ID to the world - she was trying to help, and would he please call off his war dogs? And IT annoyance Hordr has a new body, and, we learn, longstanding daddy issues. 

So, by the end of this one writer Gene Luen Yang has caught us up to where Clark was in the Sneak Peek preview story from five months back. We're still out of whack with the other Superman titles, as they tell their own tales of an angry, buzz-cutted guy in a Superman tee shirt, but hopefully next issue will drop the Before Truth branding and things will feel more immediate, more now. As it is, we've had months of waiting for things to happen that we know will happen and it's not made for the most riveting read. 

One thing that does help the overall storyline is seeing Perry and friends kidnapped by villains before they're lifted by the US Government over in the set-later Superman/Wonder Woman book. It's no wonder the veteran editor is so angry over in the also-set-later Batman/Superman book. But how much better would it be if DC had revived the Nineties triangle notion and simply had the story told in strict linear order, weekly. That would certainly annoy anyone buying S/WW for Diana or B/S for Batman, but it's not like the characters aren't already just shoehorned into a Superman story. 
But back to this issue's specifics. Superman #44 is Yang's best yet, as he shows he knows his DC lore by including the likes of JLA baddies the Royal Flush Gang and Blue Devil bad guy Shockwave. I still say Perry will come round but his anger makes huge sense - he's been locked in a cupboard with his staff, with a real risk of being murdered and when it seems he's safe, he gets shot. Would you want Clark showing up at your office after that?
The first Lois scene again shows that she's not the betrayer Clark sees her as, but a true friend; I could have done without General Lane, mind, he's so played out, always attacking Superman, never listening to the daughter he professes to respect. 

Her second appearance is even better, as she tries to remind Clark just who he is. We already know he's not that person right now, look at the way he talks about Steve. 
I realise the sportscaster is a sexist jerk, but he's a human being and justifiably terrified, Superman should be being his hero, not a creep. 
And Lois gets a nice moment with Perry, though I'm not sure she should be bringing him alcohol in hospital - or do people wrap juice these days?

Terrible IT scumbag Hordr showing up again is annoying, but not surprising as he or she is still around in the other books. I did enjoy this guy cameoing. 
Now that's a Superman villain. 

Penciller John Romita Jr does a decent job, we know he enjoys drawing energy blasts, but good grief, he needs to look again at that new Ace design - a loincloth is not something a serious villainess should be wearing. 
And the reveal of Livewire's partners is thrown away, that should be at least a two-thirds-of-a-page moment. 
He does do a fine job with the Royal Flush Gang's attack on Clark - just look at the attitude of the King at top left, and the power of Ten's punch. 
His weakest work is on the two pages of Superman in costume; he's been drawing this book for a year or something, and really should be able to make the hero look great by now. I can't deny I'm looking forward to the upcoming Howard Porter guest stint hugely. Klaus Janson finishes Romita's pencils with his trademark unapologetic style, while Dean White and Leonardo Olea pay commendable attention to lighting and environment (though I wonder if they're itching to burst out the primaries as much as I'm keen to see some). 

The best visual this month is the cover, a cracking mob scene from Action Comics artist Aaron Kuder, along with Janson and White. 

So, a more enjoyable issue than we've had for awhile. It's heartening to see Yang has a good handle on Superman's supporting cast and the wider world of the DCU, and I hope we get to see him given free reign outside the constraints of the Truth storyline.  I assume it's going to end eventually...


  1. I don't know about Lois's actions. Granted, surrending his power to Hordr may have been a terrible decision, but it was still his decision to make. He's an adult, and stealing away important life decisions feels horrible. I would understand it more of it was to stop Hordr from gaining power.
    That said, I am glad that Lois and the Daily Planet gang are getting more space in Superman stories. Their previous appearances felt contrived or obligatory. (Jimmy becoming a millionaire anyone?) Even if it's not in a way that feels ethical, I'm sort of pleased someone has found the will to make Lois vital to goings on.

    1. I find this reasoning curious because I've seen the same reasoning used against Lois for years on end.

      How many times have I seen people argue that Superman is justified in using the "danger" that the secret poses to Lois as justification for keeping her in the dark. For decades, Lois has been unfairly treated in stories bc it's assumed that Superman "knows best." I've seen it used a flimsy excuse to keep them apart bc it's just "too dangerous." Meanwhile, Lois owns her own life and if she chooses to commit her life to Clark and be his life partner (as she has many times over) that is HER choice to make as she owns he life choices and actions. So, it's interesting to see some people arguing that Lois made a choice for Clark here that wasn't hers to make when the reality of that Clark had been doing that for HER for decades. I can't help but feel that some people who I know had zero sympathy for the position that Clark put Lois in by taking choices about her own life away from her are now the ones trying to pass this argument that it wasn't her choice to make. It feels like hypocrisy to me. It seems people are fine with Superman having ownership over her choices but uncomfortable when she stands up and takes ownership of his in a time of peril.

    2. I hate what they do to Lois too. I hate that Post-Crisis Superman didn't reveal his identity to Lois until AFTER they got engaged. I hate that half the Pre-Crisis stories were about keeping Lois in the dark. I hate that New 52 Superman used the Parasite to erase Lois's memories. And I hate that they can't put a Lois in a Superman story without her resorting to the same mindset he's used against her for decades. I'm not angry that they're raising Lois to Superman's level, I'm mad that they're lowering her down to his.

      You made some excellent points about some of the people protesting this story. I'm glad to see other Lois fans out there. I hope we both get a Lois story we enjoy soon.

    3. Hmm, do we have two Anons, or three? I'm thinking two! Even a made-up name at the end would help, guys.

      Anon 1 - I won't repeat myself, see last month's review if you want to know why I think Lois did the right thing.

      Anon 2 - I wonder if Lois will be allowed to keep the knowledge after this story ends. Obviously, most of the world will forget, but might those close to him remember. Well, obviously they might, but will they? I'd be happy if everyone forgets, Lois among them. I'd like him to tell her eventually, but I want him to choose to do so. Jimmy can remember, and argue that Clark should yell Lois too.

      I am, though, OK if things return to the classic set-up, with no one knowing. Realistically, those close to him will know, because they ain't stupid, but the secret ID convention is a fun pathway to drama. Jimmy and Lois aren't real, no one is being hurt. Eventually, in the story, they must know, but if it takes a while, fine.

    4. Imagine I'm Superman, and Maxima has captured Lois. She tells me that unless I shag her, she'll kill Lois, who is my wife. There's nothing I can do to stop her, short of having a tumble, so I do it. No one will believe I couldn't find a way out, and even if Lois would have died, the betrayal supercedes whatever sacrifice was made.

      Now, later one, Maxima struts into the Daily Planet, pregnant with my child, and gives an exclusive interview to Clark Kent. Now, there is a living reminder of what happened, and as a reporter, I've benefitted from it to boot.

      What Yang did isn't that extreme, but it puts Lois in a situation where she's wrong either way. What's worse, revealing his identity didn't stop anything, it just made it worse. Hordr is still out there, anyone close to Clark (ha!) is still in jeoprady, and he can't be Clark anymore. Everything Hordr threatened, Lois effectively did for him.

      So while I don't disagree with you, that Lois was put in a bad situation, and Superman has been made into a spineless idiot, for he could have outed himself (or just traced the radio waves back to Hordr!), it's still betrayal, and one designed to be contentious even if not on the level of Brutus or Judas.

      Lastly, it doesn't help Lois Lane at all. That's the worst part of it. If the act helped define her for N52 or brought her and Superman closer, sound, but what has this done?

      Oh well, there's all ways, Superman: Lois and Clark to look forward to.

  2. I was reading the preview for this issue and thinking that it didn't make me want to blow steam out my ears or bang my head against the desk. That changed when I actually read the issue and the 2 horrible moments of General Lane praising what his daughter did and Superman actually making a video to threaten anyone who comes after his friends.

    Lois' actions are still not excused or justified in my eyes, she still acted out of line and for silly and emotionally compromised reasons. Her dad praising what she did should highlight how wrong Lois was to expose Superman's identity. This is the guy who's maintained a distrustful agenda against Superman in the New 52 and he's saying Lois did the right thing rings all of my alarm bells. And good grief I could do without Superman threatening villains in a vengeful TV broadcast. That's not the Superman I find inspiring or a good example. Yang is better than this, his indie work is much more engaging and interesting. It's a shame editorial have him on such a tight leash, or that for all his good words and niceties, he can't actually write Superman that well to be frank. Or understand the world/space in the DCU Superman operates under. But then again Yang isn't the only writer with that problem.


    1. Hello Louis, thanks for commenting. I reckon Lois did the exactly correct thing, she took a tough decision because Superman was either too stupid to make it, or too much in pain to make it; and she's ready to face his reaction. Not that he should stay angry with her - even if she did make a mistake, she did what she believes was right, because she cares. How can he not see that?

      Yes, her father think she did the right thing, but he's assuming motive that wasn't there.

    2. Thanks for the reply Mart, interesting to hear your reasons for not being totally against what Lois did. I don't deny that Superman was being stupid and dim witted in Superman #42, that much is the general agreement. However, I don't believe it was within Lois' rights to make that call or that Lois was depicted as possessing good judgement for exposing Superman's identity. Evidently it's not an extreme depiction where Lois is a heartless witch who doesn't care, but even what has happened makes Lois seem incompetent and emotionally compromised, which I thought was considered a negative stereotype of female characters. I don't disagree that Clark is being too aggressive and unfair towards Lois for what she did but I wouldn't be against Clark being angry with Lois for a brief time for betraying his trust and confidence.

      On another site I frequent, someone made a compelling point that General Lane praising Lois for what she did was more reminiscent of Judas receiving 30 pieces of silver for betraying Jesus. I figure such a comparison will get flak from the Lois fans who frequent yours and Anj's reviews but I feel this comparison holds some validity to it myself. I'd be interested to see if you can posit why it might not be the case.


    3. I've no problem with Lois being compared with Judss, I always figured he got a bad rep - surely he gave Jesus up to the Romans to force his hand, make the man-god he believed in reveal himself. OK! dumb move, but it's not like he wanted that silver. He did what he believed had to be done, so did Lois. Difference being, Lois was right!

  3. I think the panel where Clark talks about how he was drained he was and how he felt those powers were not coming back underlined that Lois made the best decision she could at the time. I've said this before, this isn't "right or wrong" these are people making snap decisions to save somebody's life. She saw a burnt out corpse, She heard his captors talking. She did what she did to save his life. There wasn't time to sit there and think "oh what will happen in x months" This was an immediate danger and she acted to save his life.

    Hindsight and Monday Morning Quaterbacking are all well and good. However it's impossible to prove that had she not done what she did he would have gotten out of this. He could have very well ended up like that corpse she saw just before she cam upon him draining.

    I couldn't agree more Martin, this non linear storytelling is hurting the story. I hope they all sync up soon. While I understand Perry's feelings I'm also tired of this whole "you betrayed me" theme that is going around. Everyone is mad at everyone else instead of acting like adults and understanding the other's point of view even if you don't agree with it.

    The very least all these friends should come to the table understanding that everyone had best intentions because all these choices (Clark's, Lois's, etc) were made from love not malice.

    Great Review!!

    1. Oh, wouldn't a round table issue be great? Everyone opens up with everyone else, and the Planet family gets fixed, and stronger. Lots of doors open to new relationships and drama. I'm good with the classic set-up, but something new could be amazing. After all, there's always another continuity wipe coming...

  4. Oh, my friend, we are at definite odds om this one. I thought this was the weakest effort from Yang yet. The horribly-designed Royal Flush Gang wasn't even up to the level of a joke.

    Romita's art, which I'm usually fine with elsewhere, deteriorates with each installment. Characters are only recognizable because others label them in dialogue.

    And Superman associates with the Planet staff, but they're now targets because he works with them as Clark? That makes no sense to me, never has (especially in earlier iterations of the series).

    I suppose Clark's out-of-character quips about Steve and his god of vengeance video are tied to the outside force egging on his anger, but there's no subtlety, no buildup; seems part for the post-Flashpoint Superman. Ugh.

    Another key point of the storyline, that Superman must be a threat to the government because he had a secret identity, also is forced and nonsensical. I just want this atrocity over.

    After this, I'm not even sure I want to see the rest of the set up/resolution.

    (I may have just awoken on the proverbial wrong side of the bed, but I really, really hated this issue.)

    1. I didn't care for this either, though not as viscerally as you seem to feel. I thought there were some moments. I agree about the art. I just want this to be over too. Hard reset, soft reset, I don't care.

    2. I reckon it's not the bed, Godzylla, it's the comics. I'd certainly embrace a total revamp at this point.

      I do, though, think we should bear in mind that this isn't 'our' Superman, a good friend to all at the Planet - he's been much more distant.

      You can't beat Mike Sekowsky's original designs for the Royal Flush Gang - perfection on the page.

  5. I thought the issue was horrible, overall. I cannot remove it from the totality of work that has come before, and too many occurrences are for another character, not Clark Kent or Superman. The stupidity on Clark's part is incredible. Why is he still trying to keep up the facade of being a mild-mannered whatever? Did the Royal Flush Gang really need to attack him for the notion to settle in that he's now a target in whatever form he chooses?

    So much this story is anathema to a Superman story, because he's the problem. No one else, him. Superman has all the power in the cosmos, but in service of the people. In "Truth", the whole tale is about his personal problems. The scene with him cutting his hair was risible, as if a haircut will change things. It's more self-centered malarkey, for pity's sake. He's down, he's out, he's unshaven, he's a haircut, he's the Punisher. Some lads will eat this up, and that's no strike at the reviewer either, as it's Superman in line with what pushes too many other heroes these days. However, it doesn't quite work for Superman, as we will eventually need him to save us once more, and he doesn't seem to be able to help himself in the slightest.

    In regards to Lois Lane, I don't have any issue with past renderings, as they are in the past. Lois being kept in the dark for as long as she was the status quo for a long period of time, and railing against it now doesn't make it better or worse, as it won't change that fact. However, this storyline uses her as the jump-off to Superman's angst, and that's just unforgivable. Lois is put in a position where any choice she makes is the wrong one. He lets Superman die, she's a heartless witch, and if she reveals his identity, she's still a heartless witch, which too many believe she is all ready. Lois, to often, is portrayed as an aggressive, compassionless heel. She was shown as such when she outed Captain Marvel when he subbed for Superman, and it's much worse for her with Superman. Much worse. There are many things that can be forgotten and excused, not betrayal, never that. Lois has been placed is the most horrific position possible with Superman, she's been made the villain.

    The Royal Flush gang was borderline racist in this potrayal, and I've no idea why.

    The biggest question is how is all of this resolved? Then again, DC has had no plan since 2011. Batman secret is known by Lex Luthor. Nightwing was outed and now runs around with Hypnos. Surely it was Superman's turn in DC's revisiting of the secret ID quandary that Marvel Comics had a go with decade ago. Perhaps Mephisto can pay a visit? ;)

  6. Mephisto, Myyzptlk, I'd even take old Mopee if a magical wipe were in the offing. And I have no fear people will think me a fan of Superman as portrayed over the past few months, I've said time and again how much of a knuckle-headed moron he's been.

    I see what you mean about the borderline racism - it's contextually unfortunate.

  7. I loved the triangle numbering system (didn't it originally get retired because Wizard writers didn't like it or something like that?), but implementing it again would require a cohesive Superman range that could be planned several months ahead.

    1. Fair point. DC needs to persuade Dan Jurgens to try editing, he has the sense of who Superman is, and the ability to hit deadlines. He could teach newer writers a thing or 12.

  8. I liked the triangle numbering, but at the same time, I'm very happy I didn't feel obligated to buy Superman/Wonder Woman. If they'd triangle-numbered this, I would likely have dropped all the titles rather than buying ones I didn't want.

    As for this issue, I'm glad they're catching up to the others, but the delay never bothered me as much as it did you. I'm in total agreement with you about Sam Lane, who I never need to see again. I'm okay with the Evil General trope now and then, but having it be Lois's dad is just too pat. It makes Superman's world far too small.

    1. Sam Lane should retire to Pittsville, General Eiling could fill the angry soldier role and Lois Lane could have some other conflicts. Maybe she could even remember Jonathan.

  9. Is there any better example of DC's problem than their inability to sync the Superman titles for months? No one wants to be a continuity Nazi, but they're just all over the place and at times spoiling each other. It's like there was little patience, planning or both.

    1. The sad thing is, it's deliberate. They seem to think there's something clever going on here.

      I know!


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