Superman #41 review

Clark gets a message from an unknown party on his phone telling him to put the TV news on. The report is about super-weapons falling into the hands of Metropolis criminals. The texter leads him and Jimmy to a warehouse where a smooth guy is telling a foreign leader he can 3D print terror technology. They're discovered, but Clark beats the horde of hi-tech hoods as Superman, with his new solar flare power sealing the deal. 

Back at the Daily Planet, Lois sees Jimmy's photo of the businessman, who fled during the fight. He looks familiar to Clark and Jimmy but they can't put a name to him. Sharp-as-a-tack Lois draws a moustache on Jimmy's photo, and voila! They recognise the guy at the warehouse as hirsute politician Leland Norvell - and he's swiftly arrested. 
Clark gets another tip from the stranger. A woman is on her way to the Daily Planet and she'll ask for him. She's delusional, says Anon, who then shows Clark a web page he or she has set up revealing Clark's identity. Presumably it isn't live, because the 'voice' says the secret is safe if Clark does what they say - hands her over to the 'proper authorities'. 

The woman shows up, and talks to Lois before Clark can reach her. FBI men follow and rather than run out another exit with Lois and the woman - who wants to be called Condesa - Clark gives her up. 

Soon, though, he's on the roof of the agents' car, in ginger ninja Jimmy's 'covert outfit', assaulting the G-Men in order to free Condesa. He takes her to an alley where Jimmy and Lois are waiting in a car. More Feds appear and things just get worse as the issue ends.

That's a lot of recap, but it's necessary so I can spell out a problem or two with this debut issue by new writer Gene Luen Yang. Firstly, take a look at the smooth weapons dealer as drawn by John Romita Jr and inker Klaus Janson...
... and Lois's moment of revelation. 
This all seems a bit ass-backwards. Surely the politician would be clean shaven normally, and wearing a fake 'tache for his dodgy dealings? Is Lois really asserting that all through his campaign Norvell wore pretend facial fur? Taking the dialogue alone, there's no way you'd read it as meaning anything other than that the guy was wearing a fake tache at the warehouse ... I wonder if a miscommunication meant Romita never drew it in the warehouse sequence, and editors Andrew Marino and Eddie Berganza decided to 'fix' it with the office sequence. Then again, it's all in one issue, it'd be as easy, and less confusing, to just draw the tache on earlier in the story. 

Am I just misreading things? I could accept that it's me being dumb, not the comic. Tell me!

My other problems are in-story. Firstly, Perry White prints the 'fact' that the senator is a bad guy with apparently no further research by Clark, Lois or Jimmy. This is a world filled with shapeshifters, mind control and, oh, I don't know, twins? 

Far worse, Clark gives into blackmail, putting a woman who's apparently come to him for help into the hands of (supposed) government agents without checking out the stories on either side. For all he knows, they could've shot her the second they hit the street. Or she could actually be the anonymous texter. Who knows? But he doesn't try to find out. 

Then - presumably in a lame bid to fool the mystery texter - he rescues her in disguise... by almost killing her captors. OK, having used that new solar flare power earlier, Clark's not at full strength, but with all his experience, that's the best he could come up with?

And why the heck use what should be a last-ditch power at the warehouse anyway? At that point he had all his dozen or so regular tricks, why employ a solar flare to take down a simple super-tank? Yes, he used the flare with more finesse than previously, but he still nearly fries Jimmy. 
Jimmy was one of the best things about this issue, showing drive, courage and - when Clark basically accuses him of giving up his secret identity - patience. Lois is great too, bringing the smarts and wit, observing Clark's pretty poor attempts to protect the secret ID she worked out last issue with a cool eye. I love how playful she is, even as she homes in on the truth. 

Clark, though, is pretty contemptible, first letting himself be manipulated, then acting extremely selfishly. There's only one moment of classic Superman in the entire book. 
There's skill in Yang's script, but it's hard to cheer for Superman when he's so unlikeable, so stupid. He's an investigative reporter with immense power. The minute he got the tip he should have been trying to find out who was communicating with him, not rushing off to some likely set-up, putting Jimmy in danger at the same time. And he's so sharp with Jimmy, and short with Lois - if this is indicative of the tone Yang will bring to the book, of how he sees Superman, then this isn't a run for me. I hope it's simply a trying-too-hard bid to add tension to the new Truth storyline, and that things will lighten up thereafter. 

Romita and Janson's visuals, coloured by Dean White, are spot on - the storytelling is clear and dynamic, the characters look good, and body language and action sequences great. I just love the updo Romita gifts Lois, and the intelligence in her gaze. Jimmy looks great too, but as an old timer, I was expecting his covert outfit to be drag... And it's ironic that just as the artists nail the look of Clark, he's getting a haircut and losing the specs. Ah well, these things don't last, once Truth is over he'll be back to mild-mannered reporter mode. 

And speaking of the current arc, this is the fourth Superman book of the month. Action Comics had the secret ID revealed, and referred us to this comic for 'more details'. Batman/Superman is also set after the world has learned Clark is Superman, as is Superman/Wonder Woman. And here's what is supposedly the main book of the line, and still we don't see how the secret gets out. I'd be more patient had this issue been the start of the storyline in terms of on-sale date, but with the events having gotten out of control elsewhere, the disparity is frustrating - it's not like DC Comics hasn't had months to get their super-ducks in a row. We're even teased with an opening page set some time after the events of this issue. 

I'm sounding grumpy. I'm feeling grumpy. It doesn't help that John Romita Jr's surprisingly unattractive cover - which has Superman not just with a new haircut, but an entire new head - is followed, digitally at least, by a beautiful illustration of classic Superman on Karl Kerschl's hilarious Joker variant. 
I'm simply tired of an inconsistent Superman. In Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder's Action Comics I can cheer for him, but he's unrecognisable as the same man in the rest of the line. When will DC realise that 'edgy' Superman doesn't work and do something really radical - build him up as the stand-up, friendly, smart hero the world loves. The Superman in most recent appearances is a person I'd cross the street to avoid. And that's the truth.


  1. Wow. What a strange strange issue with a lot of meta stuff going on, I thought at least.

    The Mustache business? I thought that was a dig at Clark's glasses disguise. He wears the glasses in his regular joe job and doesn't wear it as Superman. I thought they were trying to do a parallel where Norvell wore it in his regular job as a State Senator and doesn't wear it as a villain. Lois's comment to the guys "I can't believe you guys were thrown off by a fake mustache" was, I thought, a reference to all the times she (and others) have been mocked by being thrown off the glasses.

    Then there was Clark saving the informant and his "don't be afraid line" when she yelled "who the hell are you" which was a nod to Action 1.

    One good thing in all this? Lois "outing" him is starting to make a lot more sense. He's being blackmailed, my guess is she finally outs him to stop the blackmailer or gets in the way of the blackmailing which then causes him to be outed? Either way, it doesn't look like this has anything to do with Lois betraying him in the larger sense for any kind of personal gain.

    I didn't like it all that Clark let the informant get captured like that to appease the blackmailer. When he texted back that he did what this person asked, and the person responded they are only getting started? That is when he goes after the informant to save her.

    What was he going to do if the blackmailer texted back "okay, we're cool"! Sacrifice the informant?

    Clark is being written out of character and Jimmy instead of being hapless is written as obnoxious. I did like the old school Daily Planet vibe and Jimmy, Clark and Lois together working. That has been a huge gaping missing hole post Flashpoint. And seeing it on page makes you wonder why DC thought trying to get rid of that dynamic was a good idea.

    I agree with you, Lois was quintessential Lois in this and that was so nice to see.

    Clark on the other hand was, I thought, awful.

    1. Thanks for the brilliant commentary and insight, Maya, the Action Comics #1 nods went right by me.

      And that fake moustache business, I'm still most bemused!

    2. Thanks so much Martin. After today's interview in Comic book resources where John Romita Jr mocks Lois for being fooled by the glasses? I'm convinced this was a meta about the flimsy disguise trope. Never mind that Perry,Jimmy and Lex have all been fooled. Lex back in the Byrne era was told point blank by his Computer Scientist who programmed the data in to get an answer that Superman was Clark but he refused to accept he would masquerade as a human. Lex wasn't called names like "stupid" but instead it was a blind spot. I think that was the mustache stuff was trying to do, poke fun at Superman's disguise.

      Meanwhile, if this is the way they are going to write Clark and if Romita Jr feels as toxic towards Lois as the sentiments he expressed in that interview? I don't have high hopes for this run.

    3. Indeed, if Romita becomes a co-plotter and his horrible views on Lois seep through, I'm out.

  2. Clark's a complete dick in this issue, raising Silver Age "superdickery" to new levels.

    Between the cover and the end explosion *SPOILER!* and the next issue tag, I'm guessing that the incident with the kidnappers is what exposes him (to Lois, the informant, and the bad guys) and that Clark hides trying to figure out what to do next when Lois' report breaks. (Obviously I could be wrong and it's even more convoluted.) Still not her fault.

    Why in the world is he "playing" with his new power knowing that it leaves him weaker? The learning control is one thing, but not in the field. That's irresponsible, which this Superman is.

    The mustache bit is definitely weird. I agree with both you and Maya, I think it got reversed and was a meta joke about Clark's glasses, particularly in view that the secret's about to be exposed.

    So. We have Lois back, but we're still waiting on Superman. At least that's how it seems now. Still more to unfold.

    1. Ah Keith, you're likely right about the explosion - be exposed while riding with the FBI and you're buggered. I'm just upset he's apparently having his eyebrows burnt off.

  3. I'm glad for your review. It's confirmed my gut feeling and I will be sitting this whole thing out. You can only stretch a character so far before he stops being the character. There are also some stories that 'have never been done before' simply because they suck so hard they take paint off the walls...

    1. I think you're wiser than me. Steve. I must be a ruddy masochist, buying this stuff!

  4. I agree that mustache thing is a little off-kilter, and would make more sense for Norvell to wear it when he's a criminal. But doing it that way would screw up the proof scene. It's not like Lois could un-draw a mustache on a photo.

    I liked a lot of this, but I agree -- it's really bad form for Clark to just let Condesa go with those guys, even if he was planning on rescuing her right away. And really stupid of him to not save that nova power for anything but the largest threats.

    On the other hand, I'm really appreciating the pace (and order) of Truth so far. I liked being thrown in in medias res in the other issues, giving us glimpses of how much Clark's life is turned upside down, and hinting at what caused it. And then flashing back in Superman gives Yang complete control of the power loss and identity revelation storyline, while the other books can show us the ramifications of it (in stories that don't otherwise cross over, as far as I can tell, which is another plus of the structure for me!).

    1. I'm not a fan of in media res if it means we have to have long flashbacks to see how we got to the bit that's more interesting. Alias was a bugger for that! I'd much rather we started at the beginning and had the story weaving between the titles, like in the Triangle days.

    2. one thing is a non linear story telling, it can work very well. The problem is that action and the rest are ahead on time, and superman still not there. don't put the horses ahead of the car


      That's an extremely fair point, Veronica. DC needs a traffic manager like this lady, Virgina - Marvel's longtime TM and also mother of one John Romita Jr. She looks cool!

  5. "And why the heck use what should be a last-ditch power at the warehouse anyway?"

    Because he's got to use the new and highly publicized power. Ugh, what a thing for Johns to create and then just drop in the new writer's lap. I'm betting editorial pushed him to have Superman use it to acknowledge it after the heavy PR effort about it, at least Yang hopefully got it out of the way early. Superman needed a new power like he needs a hole in his head, his sometimes absurdly high number of powers has probably hurt his popularity over the years more than helped-see his success relative to Batman in the past few decades. So many of us grew up watching or reading about his Super-Invulnerability, his Super-Memory, his Super-Ventriloquism, being as fast as the Flash who had the one power, etc., and the subsequent smug 'step back Super-friends, this is a job for my Super-whatever,' it may be where eye-rolling originated ;)

  6. I rather like the old powers, it wasn't as if he'd use them all in the one story and beat a villain in ten seconds flat. Super-ventriloquism or ice breath or whatever would come out on special occasions, take a bow and go away again. I loved that Kurt Busiek would use such things as super-memory, or microscopic vision. These days it's basically flight, strength, heat vision and sodding solar flare. A bit monotonous, to say the least.

    1. Mart, as you sort of imply those powers were ginned up to solve problems Superman was written into, with no care about how much sense they made. I realize that all of the powers are incredible, but Superman is so much more appealing to me when he's not used as a constant 'oh, he's in a bind, but hey, he has this other power that gets him out of it!'' repository.

    2. Gotcha. I'm with you - while I like the more obscure powers, they shouldn't be just what is needed in any situation.

  7. We hit on many of the same points here Mart. This felt like bad characterization of Clark all the way around - from bringing Jimmy to a firefight, to using his mega-power to defeat a robot, to letting the feds take the informant.

    I was so optimistic after reading Pak/Kuder in Action. It has all gone away!

    1. It's all so maddening and saddening, Anj. While the idea of each book putting a different spin on the story sounds good, it means things are all over the place. The footnotes referring us to comics that haven't appeared, the difficulty of marrying timelines and storylines ... it's a mess. I'd far rather they did the old triangle thing, going from book to book and just getting the thing over with in a clear and compelling way. OK, that almost compels everyone to buy all the titles to get the full story, but it's not like buying individual titles is proving a marvellous time.


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