Superman #45 review

Clark Kent uses his skills as an investigative reporter to learn how computer crook Hordr_root fits into the apparent conspiracy against him. He's lost his secret identity, been attacked from every quarter - it's time to turn the tables, become the party with information, and the power. 

This issue a meeting with former Hordr worker Condesa leads him to Oakland, California, where he finds a way to get to Hordr_root. 

An encounter with the Quarmers who stole most of his super-powers, followed by a sand creature named Apolaki, allows Hordr to escape, so Clark tracks a new lead. He's soon at a superhuman fight club, eating tacos while he tries to work out what's going on. And what's going on is rather intriguing...

Now this is more like it. An issue of Clark using his brains in a bid to get the lay of the land; work out who's done what to him and why, in the hope of reclaiming his powers and his personal life. Clark does threaten to throttle Hordr_root at one point, but I can forgive that given that the rest of this chapter sees him treating his situation with more perspective and humour than we've seen in a long while. There's only one real bump along the way...

... but it's so out of kilter with how Clark acts on every other page that it reeks of editorial edict. Honestly, Clark trusts a woman who has already wilfully betrayed him over one who acted only to save his life? I strongly suspect writer Gene Luen Yang was told to serve the 'Superman doesn't trust Lois' idea, but apart from that, given free reign to actually have some fun with the character. 

And fun he has, with moments such as this:

And this:

Yang gets extra points for having Clark remember a bit of Pa Kent wisdom as he's sneaking into the fight club; I've moaned about how often today's writers go to the Jonathan Kent well, but here nostalgia leads to the best moment of Yang's tenure. 

Now that's a eureka! I dearly hope it informs Clark's actions going forward, that this is the tipping point that will get Clark back to being a Superman worthy of the name. 

In other developments, there's something meta around the metahuman fight club - Filipino deities our speciality. 

You'll notice that John Romita Jr isn't pencilling this issue. Justice League 3001 artist Howard Porter is filling in and the book just looks wonderful. The storytelling is exquisite, the acting superb and the backgrounds and bit players full of character. He even gives us the odd arrangement of panels that are inventive without being obtrusive, such an early keyhole arrangement when Clark is resolving to crack the mystery.   

I think Porter is around for a couple of issues, and I dearly wish he'd take on the assignment full-time. He brings a real injection of energy to the book, making the new-look Superman more like the classic. And not once does he default to the modern cliche that is Burning Eyes Man. Heck, he actually makes Clark adorable. 

The fighter-god designs are a treat, whether it's Mexican wrestler-inspired Haimosu, moon deity Mayari, MC Shahrazad or warrior sun god Apolaki. Hi-Fi Designs provide eye-catching colour schemes, typical of the work they do throughout. I'd like to see more of the Filipino pantheon, as their looks and backstory make them more interesting than the one-shot adversaries they might otherwise be. 

Romita provides the cover, with regular inking partner Klaus Janson and colourist Dean White, and it's a terrific summation of everything that's wrong with the current Superman direction. He's angry, tense, brooding, physically and mentally in a dark place. 

I'm not keen. 

All in all, this is a definite uptick in quality. If Yang keeps improving Clark's attitude, and Porter hangs around, we could be in for a good few issues. And after the last few months, I never thought I'd be saying that. 


  1. I didn't love this but that is because I don't like this arc. It's been going on and on and on and on with nothing really happening except angry people yelling at each other.

    That said? This was such an improvement on last week's that it's how I imagine it'd feel when you stop banging your head against a wall.

    I really appreciated the call back to Jonathan and how he thought the lessons learned from his dad and using his powers wisely. Powers that he doesn't have. I wish this powerless business would stop.

    As for the Lois business? It confounds me. I just can't wrap my head around what they are trying to do here.

    He *knows* why she revealed his identity. He knows it wasn't to betray him or hurt him. She was trying to save him. Okay. He disagrees with her and thinks he could have gotten away without drastic measures.

    Fine!! However he's not 10. He's a grown man. If you understand the motivations then acting like a petulant child who was denied isn't becoming.

    Also at this point Lois, give up. He doesn't want to listen to you. No amount of explanation will help because he *knows* you did this to save him.

    I do understand on a meta level why he'd give a stranger more leeway than Lois. Disagreements with people you care about and trust are a lot harder because of the emotional investment and connection. Usually the anger is proportional to the depth of caring. Maybe this is why he can't let this go. But come on. It's tedious. At least act like an adult and meet with her and say "look, I know you did this to save my life. I get it. I just can't deal with the fallout. I see you and I am reminded of what I've lost. Please give me time"

    I am intrigued by why everyone seems to have forgotten about Hordr except for him?

    I do understand why for a split second he wanted to believe Lois was taken over by hordr, because he would then be able to let the anger go and he'd have his best friend back. I'm so glad they didn't go that way because her motivations were understandable to me and I don't want it waved away.

    The fight club business lost me. I understand why he's there. To investigate. I even understand why he has to fight. He has no money and he doesn't want to steal. He also is too proud to ask for help from friends.

    All in all this was so much better than last week and didn't leave me wondering why I even bothered. So there is that!

    Now please please please end this arc DC.

    Thanks as always Martin for the review!

    1. Thanks for the great comments, especially as pertaining to why Superman might give more leeway to Condesa than Lois - me, I'd sling the woman into jail!

      Isn't it weird that we can come up with all these reasonable notes and yet the editors don't seem to bother.

  2. Thanks Martin for the review of this issue!

    After reading this I read the issue on internet. I don't know if I still have fauxmance PTSD from last week, but I couldn't find myself enjoying this issue enough. But to be fair in comparison with Superman 44 there are few improvements here. Though the whole arc has been nothing but a bad idea and the promotion of this has been at the expense of Lois Lane, and so I am really tired of her lack of perspective in this book and in others where she is flat out ignored or used as a punch bag.

    I agree with Maya, Lois just QUIT. This guy is not worth the effort anymore. His attitude towards Lois and others is frankly annoying. he is 30 years old in comics and he is acting like an irritating punk ass kid! He has showed no regards for the feelings of the people that he with intent is hurting in order to push away. He KNOWS why Lois revealed his identity, he even is trying to justify it by wondering if somehow HORDR possessed her, and STILL he is acting on anger and it is quite tiresome.

    I don't get why using Pa' Kent now, though it was good to know that deep down Clark remembers his advices, but I wish Clark could've remembered THAT SMWW 22 when brutalizing Parasite with the help of Wondy. Hopefully Yang will start giving Clark more common sense and tone down the edgy, angry and stupid characterization he so far has delivered since his run started.

    And as for Lois, geez someone needs to start giving her more panels where we read her POV, it is just unfair and cruel to keep blaming her for Clark's faults and decisions.

    1. I would love to see Clark finally realise what a doofus he's being, go to Lois' apartment and find she's buggered off to Europe with good old Jon. Lois Lane would not continue to be a doormat.

  3. We've been battered by the editorial mindset on Lois for so long and so hard on this particular arc that I actually thought his ducking out on Lois was the most rational approach he's taken so far. This issue was SO much better than last issue (and I won't even bring up the abomination of S/WW #22 - oops, too late!), but after 20-some installments so far I'm more than ready for this to be over. A really good issue, but I'm still pretty ambivalent.

    Even though the titles are now ostensibly all set at the same time now, they don't line up at all, continuity-wise. Not that I really expected that as each title has a completely different tone from the others.

    Porter made a nice change from Romita, "Hi-Fi" did a decent job of coloring, though some story details were lost in the flow and I had to back track a couple of times because I lost some of the visual details, and I simply canNOT parse what they did to the musculature of Superman's left arm on the splash page. Makes my head hurt just looking at it.

    Not sure what he accomplished with Hordr since he left after the myth turned to sand, but it's nice to see him thoughtfully investigating all leads. I'm not a sports fan of any sort (I only follow Quidditch), but I do understand the appeal... except for the gladiatorial beating of another person is concerned. I don't consider that to be a story flaw, however, given that boxing, wrestling, UFC, etc, exist and an underground meta fight club in Oakland makes sense, and I especially like the non-European pantheons exploration here.

    1. Oh good grief, now I won't be able to unsee that arm image - is he triple jointed? Ah well, I still love the art!

  4. A better instalment, but after all that's passed, it really feels like too little too late. I just don't have the confidence in Yang or any of the others to produce a good Superman story, which this still isn't.

    Hordr_Root is a lackluster villian, one who serves little purpose aside of making Superman look simple. How many times is going to jump bodies before Superman solves the obvious, and gets him to jump into a body he cannot escape?

    Superman sneaking into the 1,001 House (yes, the 1,001 Nights reference is overdone) being equated with Clark stealing into a movie theatre is misguided at best, and it shows that Yang doesn't understand how to display Superman has a fellow human being, without throwing a dash, dollop, or drowning him in negativity. Superman, of course, realizes what his gifts are for, after doing the wrong thing. . .and do we really believe that Clark couldn't afford a movie ticket?

    I like the attempt at mythology, but Mr Yang, please! It resonates more if you use mythological beings that readers will recognize without research. Fables and Once Upon a Time proved that a long time ago. It would have also been a nice touch to use some of the American mythology that could be juxtaposed with Superman, like Hiawatha, Paul Bunyan, Brer Rabbit, Stagger Lee, perhaps even Babe Ruth. No, what do we get, more Injustice: Gods Among Us, video game brawling, with more to come next issue.

    This is such a poor choice for Superman, and the last page reminds us that what Jon Kent taught Clark, just doesn't matter at the end of the day, because the ends justifies the means.

    He's a poseur, a pretender to the throne, and rather than get his powers back, I wish he'd gain some morality.

    1. Oh, I love your idea about more familiar American gods, though I'm going to have to go off and look up Stagger Lee. That would've made for a fascinating story. That said, I'm still open to the gods we're getting - and presumably Filipino readers will at least find some name recognition.

    2. Mart, there is a very good graphic novel about Stagger Lee.

      Keep up the excellent reviews!

    3. Thanks so much. Reading about the Stagger Lee case on Wiki, I can't see why it caught the imagination; but then, you can't always explain these things.

  5. Nice review, Mart --I'm glad to hear it's getting better. I decided to bail on this storyline, even though I started it a little higher on it than you did. I've no interest in superpowered fight clubs -- I've read enough comics with that cliche by now -- and am happily getting my Superman fix with the Lois and Clark book. So I'll be sitting the rest of this out, and hope there's a later jumping on point where I can read a better story by Yang and Co.

    There's an interview with Didio & Lee on ICV2 that implies that a number of New 52 storylines will be wrapping up around issue 50 -- hopefully this (and especially the Superman/Wonder Woman romance) is one of them.

  6. Don't worry, if the book gets brilliant I'll be sure to tell you. Now, I'm off to find that interview.

  7. Shoulda linked in the first place! Here you go:

    1. Cheers. All that talk of digital and no questions about why the computer copies are still as expensive as the hard ones!

  8. My understanding is that it's so they don't undercut the paper retailers. If they make digital comics cheaper than paper ones day-of-sale, they'll likely see more migration to digital... which might be the tipping point for stores, many of which have tight margins already. So it's a two-month wait to get cheaper comics from DC.

    1. I remember that as the justification at the start of digital sales but thought it had been agreed that the markets are pretty much separate. If that's the case, we should now be getting cheaper digital prices.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Damn, deleted my comment by accident... Reposting it:

      Hey, Martin, just think you (all) would like to know that there's some sort of proof out there that this contrived Lois betrayal was indeed totally editorial.

      Cullen Bunn's (Aquaman writer) commentary on CBR Forum:

      "That damn twin sister!

      A little background on that choice.

      When I took the book, editorial direction was that Aquaman was on the run from Atlantis and that Mera was hunting him down. My initial take on that was that there were reasons she was after him, but she hated it. But I was asked to make her more villainous. That she wanted him dead. So that's what I did (maybe I shouldn't have... maybe I should have pushed back on that note... but live and learn). Then, I discovered Mera was a hero in Justice League United. So I had her being villainous, JLU had her as a hero. Well... I felt like I couldn't let that slide. A lot of ideas were tossed around to "fix" it, all of them terrible. Then I remembered that Mera had an evil twin from YEARS ago. I believe my exact words to my editors were "I would never suggest an evil twin, but it is already established that she has one."

      So there you have it... the story of evil twin Mera."

      Now, my modest guess on it: Eddie Berganza & company told Yang that Lois must reveal the secret. Their suggestion was probably in the same vein of evil Mera, she did it because she is a journalist and then she'd be put in a "villain" role. Yang, like Bunn, tried to ease it with "she did it to save his life!". Then, to protect the editor, the writers came up with "we all gathered and came up with this idea together."

      All in all, I still don't think Yang is guiltless, but I'm way more disgusted at DC and its higher-ups. It isn't really unfair I hope for them to fail more and more, is it?

    2. Carlos, that is above and beyond, thank you! That's a fascinating insight into the process, and it seems Cullen Bunn is so frustrated he's happy to burn his bridges by pulling back the DC curtain. I wouldn't be at all surprised were your Lois scenario right on the mark. One way or another, it's time for some swapping of editorial assignments at DC.

  10. This character seems more like an older Conner Kent/ Superboy and how he'd be if he was Superman - I mean he even has his rough trade costume - than Clark Kent/ Superman. How much more would I be accepting of this storyline if it were only so. Kon's arrogance and cockiness still there but he remembers lessons from Pa Kent and Clark, and he's angry with Tana Moon because she revealed his identity which puts Lois and Clark and child in danger, causing them to take on the last name of "White" like a super hero Witness Protection Program. The other Superboy running around could be a clone of Kon, or of Clark, another "love child" by Luthor. Wonder Woman is a blood thirsty god of War because it's Cassie, Ares' half-sister embracing her role left by her brother, and thus the romance between WW and Superman (not unlike the Pre-Flashpoint future Titans storyline with Kon as Superman and Cass as Wonder Woman and acting how these characters act). The Wonder Girl in Teen Titans then fits with why there's no covers featuring WG and WW, as she is just a thief who stole from Cassie's mom's museum but Cass and Red Robin decide she's earned them after a while. *Sigh* I'd still dislike the DC Universe right now, but I'd totally be more accepting of it, and it would actually make sense to me, ha.

  11. That's an interesting story idea. I wouldn't put it past DC to pull something this convoluted as an out, when all they need to is say 'he wasn't himself, mind control etc' and just give him back his powers and personality and move on.

  12. Thanks, and that's hilarious, sad but true. Hmm ... DC's latest relaunch/ reboot. DCYou52? New18-36? DCWeLoveU?


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