Something has happened in Smallville. Overnight, the citizens have fallen into a coma. In the Bahamas, a honeymooning couple are murdered by something nasty in the water. In Metropolis, Lois uses the Brainiac mental powers she'd supposedly lost to knock Perry out, before accepting her status as Bride of the Collector of Worlds. In the Fortress, Superman, as Clark, calls Cat Grant with his latest excuse as to why he won't be working on their website. JLA pal Cyborg and evil spirit the Eradicator - who has taken to spelling out secret messages to Superman via Kryptonian language crop circles - both tell Superman that DOOMSDAY IS COMING!
And PADDING IS HERE. Pages and pages of irrelevant stuff, and set-up for the Doomed crossover, or whatever it's called.
Take that young couple. Scott Lobdell writes their scene with skill and not a little wit. It's an enjoyable vignette - but in a 20pp comic I could do without four pages devoted to a pair we've never met previously, and will never see again. Yes, it makes the point that there's something nasty in the water - that'd be Kryptonian monster Doomsday in his 17th New 52 introduction this month - but we've seen this already in Action Comics and Superman/Wonder Woman. And even if we hadn't, I prefer a villain just arriving when they're needed, rather than spending months on an 'I'm coming' game. Is it a tribute to the original, Nineties Doomsday story, which saw him teased over several issues, pounding his way out of a bunker?
The next page sees a couple of soldiers in Smallville Library find a couple of sleeping people, an entirely unnecessary bit of set-up given the following 2pp spread tells us everything we need to know.
The idiocy that Is the Eradicator - 'Each planet, before it dies of natural causes, gives birth to its own Eradicator' - shows up sitting on a bale of hay simply to give Superman a very physical Boo!, poisoning and punching him before vanishing from the book.
Much as I like Cat, her page is a waste of space, never mind a very weird bit of 'oh Clark'.
In Smallville, Senator Sam Lane and a typically, boringly predictable anti-Superman colonel take up comic book real estate to tell us that everyone's asleep, and no one knows anything. Suddenly Superman hater-in-chief Lane is suggesting Superman uses his X-ray vision on everyone to find clues, when you'd expect him to fret about the Man of Steel irradiating folk.
Filler filler filler. Comics are relatively much more expensive than when Doomsday was originally coming, and we're all going to die one day - Lobdell need to get on with it, not waste space that could be used tying up his many other ongoing plots, such as that Lois nonsense, the mystery door in space, the secret of the Tower, the business with Hellspont and Blackstar ... it's a parade of ideas and big moments, with nothing ever sorted out, nothing ever resolved.
And while Lobdell's writing is generally decent, can anyone translate these captions?
Ed Benes and Norm Rapmund provide dynamic, slick art. The Eradicator sequence looks great. The Collector of Worlds - who seems to be someone other than Brainiac now - is awesome. The X-ray vision effect is splendid, with colourist Pete Pantazis deserving a shout-out. But it's a shame the artists aren't drawing something a little more worthy of the reader's time and money.
And in another example of making it up as he goes along, Lobdell claims the Daily Planet is the best-read paper in the world, when a regular subplot in current Superman books has concerned the falling readership.
Mind, I really love this Perry moment, before he's zapped by Lois for reasons that will likely never be given.
Lobdell is leaving this book any minute. There's no way he's going to be able to wrap up all the plots he's set in motion. I have no idea how the story conferences of editors Anthony Marques and Eddie Berganza go, but I suspect it's a case of, 'whatever, Scott'. I've been a defender of Lobdell on this blog - he's a good wordsmith with interesting ideas - but he really needs to be reined in, forced to focus.
And as for the cover by Andy Kubert, recalling the Smallville TV pilot, it's as irrelevant as it is ugly.
If you've not yet bought this issue, don't bother.