In June, DC Comics kicked off the start of its Rebirth initiative. After a wave of criticism surrounding the way they have treated their characters’ rich histories since 2011’s New 52 relaunch, DC has decided to rebrand. They hope that by restoring their characters’ pasts, they will restore readers’ faith in them as well. Do they succeed? That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu and entertainment editor Kyle Pinion are here to discuss. Book by book. Panel by panel.
Welcome to month three of DC Reborn!
Note: the review below contains **spoilers**. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on this book, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Writer and Penciller: Phil Jimenez
Inker: Matt Santorelli
Colorist: Jeromy Cox
Kyle Pinion: Well, Mr. Jimenez, you fooled the heck out of me. I believe that Superwoman, based on concept and pedigree, was probably one of my most looked forward to titles with Rebirth. The former interest owing to my long-time love of the Bronze Age Superwoman Kristin Wells, as well as the moment in All-Star Superman when Lois is granted powers thanks to a dying Superman’s last birthday present for her. As for the latter, Jimenez has been one of my favorite go-to writer/artists stretching all the way back to Tempest, and I’m especially fond of his criminally underrated run on Wonder Woman. With Superwoman, we get a chance to zero-in on the after-effects of the death of Superman on the younger version of Lois Lane, who we learned from Peter Tomasi’s “The Last Days of Superman” storyline, has absorbed some of his powers due to the literal explosion of energy he experienced before passing away.
What at first glance is fairly surprising about this initial issue is that while its focus is squarely aimed at Lois Lane, the perspective and narration is all from Lana Lang, the other half of the receiving end of that outpouring of energy. There had been very little mention in the comics press about what exactly would happen with Lana, and just what her role might be, given that her best friend is gone and there’s an older Clark with a family out there that has a mostly non-existent relationship with her or much reason to play much of a role in her life. But as we learn from this issue, Lana received powers as well.
This densely packed comic spends time relaying the new status quo for both Lois and Lana, while also defining their relationship as it now exists after losing their common denominator. From there we’re treated to some beautifully constructed action based scenes that involve Lex Luthor in his Superman powersuit, a battle cruiser that is under attack by unknown forces, and not only Lois jumping into action as Superwoman, but Lana doing the same when Lois is in need of an assist. Seemingly, while Lois took on the more typical forms of Superman’s power-set, Lana has obtained the sort of Super-Flare and solar energy manipulation abilities. It’s such a great little twist that I think I audibly made a little “a-ha!”. Between all of these wonderfully fun, and gorgeous action beats (the set of panels where Lana and Lois lock arms to stop the cruiser from colliding into the bridge is one of the highlights of Rebirth so far for me), readers are treated to more intimate scenes between the book’s two leads. During the Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder Action Comics run, that was a team that had a real knack for breathing life into Lana and redefining her as a much more assertive and daring character. She quickly became, particularly given the scarcity of Lois and Jimmy appearances, the key supporting member of the Superman cast. Jimenez takes the time to give further definition to Ms. Lang, particularly elaborating on her struggles with anxiety and her methods of coping.
For about 99% of the issue, I began to think perhaps Issue 2 is where we’ll get to hear from Lois and then I hit the final page and once again exclaimed a level of surprise. Lois is dead! And now Lana is the only Superwoman! I’m rarely surprised by plot turns in a superhero comic, but this was a one-two punch that I really did not see coming. I have some thoughts about this development that I’d like to elaborate on further, but I’ll say that as a unit taken in a vacuum, I loved this comic. It’s beautiful, energetic in just the way I like my superhero adventures, Jimenez displays a knack for writing Lana that should have come as no shock to me at all, and this might actually be my favorite Lex Luthor appearance since the big relaunch. Alex, I’ll let you get your nickel’s worth, did you have as much fun with this as I did? Please say yes.
Alex Lu: Boy you’re putting me in a tough spot here, Kyle! Honestly, I….totally did enjoy Superwoman #1 as you did. While the book moving forward looks like it will squarely focus on Lana Lang’s reluctant journey as a superhero, the crux of this first issue’s success is the relationship between her and Lois. It’s a beautiful one. The two of them start off as rivals bonded together by a common tragedy, but quickly are united by their new strength. The differences between them are apparent throughout the story– Lois immediately embraces her role as a Superwoman while Lana is much more reticent to enter the fray– but the way they ultimately come together in the face of a major crisis is both well executed and admirable.
There’s a sense of grandiose scale to Jimenez’s artistic work here that’s very impressive. The opening spread on Lex Luthor’s defense cruiser is jawdroppingly high-detailed and gorgeous. When Lex loses control of said ship and the two Superwomen are forced to stop it before it rams into a major city bridge, Jimenez emphasizes how much the ship dwarfs them. However, in the moments where Lana and Lois team up in a last ditch effort to force the ship to stop, Jimenez zooms in on their foot and then their gritted faces, providing size and scale to them and proving that despite the difference in size between them and their problems, together they can overcome anything. Those small reaction shot panels are the highlight of this book. They’re a subtle touch but whenever they appear they add a great deal of emotional shading to the moment, making the reader pause on an important look or twitch of the mouth they may otherwise have glossed over.
My main gripe with this issue (of course I have one) is that I adore Lois’ and Lana’s relationship too much! While this issue, in a final analysis, provides a much stronger arc to Lana’s character than it does to Lois, watching the two competing journalists working together and simply riffing off one another in conversation is such an enjoyable element of this book that I don’t want to imagine Superwoman without it. Obviously DC has a universe to manage and it’s clear that they don’t want multiples of the same character running about for too long, but to give Lois such a clearly defined presence in this book only to immediately take her away seems a little cruel.
In addition, while I certainly agree that Lex’s turn as Superman here is the strongest he’s had in Rebirth, I’m a little sad he gets grounded yet again in Superwoman #1. I’m really interested to see how he would function given free reign with the moniker, but he’s almost forcibly placed back into the villain role by the superheroes that surround him. His existence as a character right now feels a little stunted despite the huge promise of his current status, so I hope someone takes advantage of it soon.
What do you think of Lois getting killed off so soon, Kyle? While it’s certainly a possibility that she’ll get brought back to life in a way only comics know how, if she stays dead do you feel like it’s a loss to the series? Lana’s certainly a great character in her own right, but what do you think the dynamic of the series becomes without the other half that’s been established over the course of this stellar debut?
Kyle: I don’t think Lois being killed off is a loss to THIS series per se, but I am of the belief that New 52 Lois has consistently gotten the short of the end of the stick throughout her 5 years of existence. While she got off to an okay start under Morrison’s pen in Action Comics, from there it was a line-up of affronts to her character: being replaced as Superman’s love interest by Wonder Woman, taken over by Brainiac for a time, and perhaps worst of all, revealing Superman’s identity to the world. And thanks to a constantly changing set of creative teams and editorial directions, readers never really got a sense of what this Lois was like and just what the actual relationship dynamic between she and Superman was. As it stands, this was, in a way, the final insult added to the injury, particularly when there’s a fanbase that was hoping this would be the title where this version of Lois would finally take the spotlight.
On the other hand, it’s a great book for Lana, and follows hand-in-hand with the character arc that’s been building for some time. And yes, there’s another Lois out there, so it’s likely that everyone involved wanted to minimize any confusion between the two. I know I’ve already found it difficult to explain this status quo to the uninitiated, so hopefully, despite my qualms with how New 52 Lois has been treated these past few years, this whole situation will come out a win for everyone with the older version of Lois and Lana as Superwoman.
To answer your question, in a way it’s a loss to the series, but at the same time, I’m perfectly happy to see this version of Lana, maybe my favorite version of the character ever, get more time in the spotlight. I firmly believe that she is the best legacy that Pak and Kuder left behind and Jimenez is the perfect creator to take her to the next level.
Editorial needs aside, this remains the best book I read this week. You?
Alex: On a metric of pure enjoyment, this was absolutely my favorite book this week as well. Superwoman #1 has everything I look for in a comic– great art that does innovative things to move the story forward, moving character interactions, a solid plot, and an intriguing cliffhanger to keep me on the edge of my seat. It’s a buy for me.
Final Verdict: Buy