Review: Superman: Lois and Clark trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

I'm an avowed fan of Dan Jurgens's Superman from way back. I'll also acknowledge that some of Jurgens's newer material, in the New 52 specifically, didn't pack the same punch for me, so I approached Superman: Lois and Clark warily. If Dan Jurgens was going to write the pre-Flashpoint Clark Kent and Lois Lane, he was really going to have to write them, and lines as in the beginning where Clark calls Lois "Lo" -- which I don't think this Clark ever did -- threaten that. For this trick to work, DC bringing back these pre-Flashpoint characters, it has to be flawless; otherwise these aren't the pre-Flashpoint characters, just more new versions of these characters now using old names and costumes.

But if Lois and Clark takes an issue to get going, it is charming wonderfulness by the end. I wish Jurgens would have gone for a deeper dive here -- what post-Crisis on Infinite Earths lore Jurgens uses is among the most recognizable, but maybe there's wisdom in that, too -- but to be sure he sells this Lois and Clark as characters we want to follow. And Lois shines here best of all; between her shelf of expose bestsellers and delightful banter with son Jon, it's through Jurgens's Lois that we see the greatest glimmers of these characters past. And unexpectedly Lois and Clark appears to serve as a pilot of sorts, introducing new supporting characters and villains that I assume will follow into Jurgens's Rebirth Action Comics.

I started this story unsure if my Lois and Clark were really back. I finished it very eager to read more.

[Review contains spoilers]

Though Superman: Lois and Clark mentions Superman checking up on his alternate-continuity foes over the years since he and Lois arrived in the New 52 universe, we don't for instance see Superman hunting Mr. Z or Thaddeus Killgrave. That's more what I was looking for; it's well and good for the book to claim to feature the pre-Flashpoint Superman, but a few throwaway lines about how "that Batman's not my Batman" doesn't cut it. The "old villain du jour" in the book is sometimes-Cyborg Superman Hank Henshaw, which given his role in the Death of Superman saga feels almost as on-the-nose as if Jurgens had used Doomsday himself -- and indeed he does that next.

At the same time, given that Jurgens created the character of Henshaw in one of his early Adventures of Superman issues (well before the Cyborg Superman, in a send-up of Mr. Fantastic that's actually a quite moving issue), perhaps writing Henshaw as his first "new" villain is fitting. And though not as deep a dive as seeing what Jose Delgado is up to, Lois and Jon do run afoul of Intergang's Bruno Mannheim here, a satisfactory enough blast from the "past." I found interesting Jurgens's concept that sometimes these characters might sound the same as their alternate selves but look differently and so on.

In the end I actually found myself more taken by the volume of new characters Jurgens creates here. There's Blanque, of course, who I found light in the motivations department besides "pure evil," but whom Jurgens proves as a legitimate threat to Superman. Also the new Henshaw, now in possession of a piece of the "Oblivion Stone"; Hyathis, seeking the same; a new Blackrock; Mr. Chambers, a government figure tracking Superman; even Dratania and Klon, peaceful aliens quarantined in Superman's new fortress, and Shel and Lynn Montgomery, Lois and Clark's friends. Jurgens leaves a surprising amount of Lois and Clark's stories open-ended, including whether Mannheim is arrested or not. This is not unwelcome in the least, but rather I found Lois and Clark an unexpectedly cogent pilot for Jurgens's Rebirth Action Comics to come, with allies and foes and unexplored history that I'm looking forward to seeing more of. A strength of the Triangle Titles was the strong supporting cast, so the same here is auspicious.

Throughout the story Jurgens teases the question of whether this Superman might kill his enemy Blanque; there's an implied contrast here, though not so much with the New 52 Superman -- who may be arguably a little more brusque but has never killed -- but probably just with the zeitgeist and the DC cinematic universe. Superman does not kill Blanque, of course, and though it's not explicit, perhaps we're supposed to recognize again the pre-Flashpoint Superman in that fact. Jurgens's most pointed remark, grafting essentially a Superman with 1990s sensibilities on to a modern canvas, is when Superman questions the lengths Blackrock will go to be on television and the concept of reality TV in general. (What grates about Jurgens's recent writing, the "whatchas" and "gottas," is less here, but I did think his choice to call Blackrock's show Bad Ass Nation, so the characters keep repeating "bad ass" across multiple pages, was tin-eared.) Though the theme of "my earth was better than this one" would get old fast in the regular series, the subtle comparison here made sense.

Where Superman: Lois and Clark works best is in its flashbacks to the couple's years in hiding, vignettes of Jon growing from baby to toddler to adolescent while Lois and Clark often do very normal things like fix their house and earn a living at workaday jobs. Again, Jurgens writes a very capable Lois, and Lois and Clark bolster one another admirably. Among best of the flashbacks is their visit to Metropolis, with the couple joking about Superman souvenirs and how Bibbo's been faring. I have said that I don't think being married with children is the best thing for the Superman comics character (no implications for real life), but even for a skeptic Jurgens sells this couple as likable and fun, unbending in the face of danger -- and if Jurgens can make them so engaging, surely Peter Tomasi can, too. The return of the post-Crisis Superman didn't have everything I was looking for, but it's a fine start for now.

[Includes original and variant covers, issue pencils]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Superman: Lois and Clark
Author Rating
4 (out of 5)
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8 comments:

  1. I just finished reading Jurgen's Death and Return of Superman and was really surprised at how good it was. And so, this is really tempting.

    I dropped out because of the new52 but have recently become intrigued because of "my" Supes coming back onto the scene. I am hearing some pretty rave reviews from old time fans about Tomasi's run on Superman and Jurgen's run on Action. However, this Rebirth thing still confuses me. I'm pretty hesistant about jumping in even though I know the pre-FP period very well. It just seems that a whole lot of water has went under the bridge with the new52. But from your review, it sounds like a proper mix of old and new.

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    1. I read this volume, then jumped into the first volumes of Action and Superman from Rebirth with no real issues. Didn't even read the New 52 Superman finale or anything (well, I also read the special that launched Rebirth). They do a good job of letting you know what you need to know. Having said that, solicitations imply things might get weird around Rebirth volume 4 for both titles, so we'll see

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    2. Thanks. I'm actually thinking about picking up Grant Morrison's Action Run and maybe even the rest of the Action run leading up to the current Action. I don't know about the Superman line though . . . probably just start with Rebirth on that one.

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    3. You really should read Grant Morrison's Action Comics run. It's the best Superman I've read since The New 52. I wanted to write about it, but because I don't want to spoil it let's just say Grant Morrison does in it what he does best.

      If you want to know what moves into Rebirth, you might want to read the 6th Superman Volume just because it's the first appearance Mr. Oz and the crossover at the end collected in: "Superman: The Final Days of Superman". And of course this one (this one flows out of Convergence).

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    4. Thanks. I've heard a both good and not so good about Morrison's Action run but I like the dude and so I figure I will enjoy it.
      Thanks for the recommendation to. I will be picking that up as well.

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  2. More than a little surprised to read that this apparently does not collect Convergence: Superman...? While I understand a reticence to drag in the bloated corpse that was Convergence, I did feel reading L&C that I was helped in having read the two-issue mini that introduced the concept.

    To your point about how many new faces appear in this book: I do wonder how much this was originally intended to be "The Continuing Adventures of Triangle Superman (on a new earth)" because it seemed like the book was setting up a new playground for this Superman up until the Rebirth swerve was heralded by "The Final Days of Superman." Had Rebirth not happened, would we have gone on with two Supermen, each with his own supporting cast? I can't imagine so, but Jurgens did set up quite a lot that has fallen away in the wake of a one true Superman. (It's not much of a spoiler to say, though, that many of these threads continue to crop up in his Action Comics run on Rebirth.)

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  3. I'll be curious what your thoughts are on this after youve read Superman Reborn.

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  4. Perhaps you can help me decide on the reading order.

    I haven't read Convergence: Superman or Lois & Clark yet, as I'm still catching up on the New52 Superman. Last night I started reading Savage Dawn, so I should be at the end of the New52 soon. I read elsewhere that I should read Lois & Clark before The Final Days. Can anyone confirm that?

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