Superman Annual #2 review

Superman Annual? Lois Lane Special, more like. And that’s fine by me, as we don’t see nearly enough of the First Lady of the DC Universe these days.

The book opens with the striking image of Lois somehow struck down, convinced she’s about to die. Her whole life doesn’t flash before her eyes, but Lois does think back to the last few days, and how her investigation into a five-year-old case of multiple missing persons spiralled out of control.

As readers of the monthly Superman series know, The Twenty are individuals who vanished during Brainiac’s attempts to kidnap Metropolis, and the HIVE Queen is one of them. Here Lois meets some more, but sadly they’re less hale and hearty than the villain, with their psionic powers backfiring against their bodies.

Superman’s around here and there, but this is Lois’s spotlight, showing us how she operates as an investigative reporter – click on image to enlarge – following leads with dogged determination and pleasing compassion. We also find out what she thinks about Clark personally and professionally – or at least what she thinks she thinks. Because when she’s skyping international hack boyfriend Jon Carroll, the second Clark phones, he’s gone – not even put on hold, he’s dismissed. And when she’s trying to put clues together, it’s Clark she reckons she should be talking to, with Jon an afterthought. Lois is smelling coffee, but she could be more awake.

(And something Jon says here has me a little suspicious that he’s seeing someone else, even after his apparent attempts to get Lois to, er, blow a kiss at him.)

Scott Lobdell’s script is simply splendid, capturing the Lois I love – independent, strong, kind and very, very smart, well able to carry a comic book. I like how the nature of the Twenty is gradually revealed, taking us towards the shocking opening of the issue. A new angle on Brainiac provides food for thought. And while the only real pyrotechnics come in a flashback to Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run, the issue is never less than absorbing. And there are plenty of arresting images, one favourite being a close look at a member of the Twenty.

Look, his head’s too big for the panel borders!

That those arresting images translate so well to the page is down to artists Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund. Their Lois is stunning, their Superman and Clark classic, their Metropolis full of delightful detail. And those psionics – did I mention they were touched by Brainiac? – are as freaky as something very freaky indeed. I’d love this team to be drawing a Superman series regularly; Jurgens may be thought of by many as a Nineties guy, but he’s a craftsman and a stylist, getting better by the year. And Rapmund’s masterful inks and Hi-Fi’s appropriate colours make for a truly winning combination.

Andy Kubert’s cover, with colourist Brad Anderson, is rather spiffy too, though it’s very much thematic rather than literal.

‘The Last Byline’ runs to 32 pages, but that’s not ‘all’ this issue has, as the World of Krypton serial continues here from Action Comics. I’m not delighted with that choice – I’d rather have a self-contained short, or Who’s Who pages. Maybe a recipe. And readers of Action only should be able to follow the whole story of Lara and Jor-El fighting to save Krypton there.

But still, it adds to the value of the book – $4.99 for 38pp, as opposed to last week’s Hawkeye Annual from Marvel, which gave us 28pp at the same price (and many of those pages didn’t deserve to see print). Writer Frank Hannah, artist Tom Derenick and the rest of the creative team acquit themselves well enough, providing a decent continuation of a story that’s not my cup of tea (the New 52 Jor-El and Lara are a shocking pair).

Overall, this is a terrific annual, one which should please the Lois fans out there who’ve been vocal in their disdain for her current minor role in the DC Universe. Now, how about a series, DC?

13 thoughts on “Superman Annual #2 review

  1. $4.99 for 38pp, as opposed to last week's Hawkeye Annual from Marvel, which gave us 28pp at the same price

    I still cannot for the life of me see how Marvel gets away with this…


  2. Nice review, Martin. Ok…I've been thinking for a few days about how to respond to this because I have mixed feelings on this entire thing.

    Let me start with the good:

    It was wonderful to see Lois have an active POV in the narrative and it was a pleasure to see her actively tracking leads again. It's bittersweet in a sense bc when we see this playing out on the page it's clear not only that LOIS has been missing from the Superman books (and the books have been suffering for it) but also that this entire dynamic—investigation on the streets/in the newsroom/in civilian clothes—has been missing from the Superman books for years now. Because this isn't only how we discover Lois Lane—it's also a way in which we used to discover Clark. This type of narrative and the idea of seeing Metropolis as a place full of PEOPLE as opposed to this removed, isolated alien world that Clark seems to revolve around now is refreshing bc it feels like the best of Superman again. I miss Lois like crazy. But I also miss this idea of truth on the ground being part of what drove the Superman franchise.

    I watch Aaron Sorkin's Newsroom. The show (like all of Sorkin's work) is pretentious at times and flawed. And Sorkin struggles with women now just as much as he ever did. But in the moments that that show gets things RIGHT—it reminds us of why the Superman mythos SHOULD be unique and why really good writers who GET it should never lose sight of this quest for truth on the ground. And it's such a compelling angle—Newsroom with superpowers!!!—that it's baffling that we didn't see more of it in Man of Steel this summer and it's baffling that it's so miniscule in the current books. So it was GREAT to see it here.

    Here is where I'm mixed:

    I adore Dan Jurgens. But that opening image of Lois was basically sexualized torture porn. Her skirt was way too short and the image of her bloodied and injured is a very insensitive image with a character who has unfortunately been killed off/murdered so many times in the last 18 months. This is a female character who has had a ridiculous amt. of violence directed at her over the years and I think writers and artists have to be really aware of how harmful this imagery can be and how hurtful it can be. I know people who love Lois who did NOT buy this book because they just cannot handle one more image of her bruised or bloodied. And you know…I don't blame them. I don't think it was a smart way to promote the book.

    As for the actual plot development: again I'm mixed. I agree with you that this is interesting. But Martin…I just can't shake the feeling or concern that the leadership at DC Comics just does not want this woman in the picture anymore in the Superman books. I think everything they do with this woman is calculated, in part, to remove her farther from Clark/Superman and get her out of the way. This isn't really even a guess on my part bc I've had it confirmed by sources. So what appears to be “interesting” on the surface is something that I think is only going to lead to her being pushed aside further or being farther away from Superman in months to come. Unfortunately, I think that's the goal right now with this character. So I'm mixed on the book. It was nice to see her get focus. I'm not sure I agree with the way she got focus and I'm not sure I think this is going to mean anything positive for the character going forward. To be frank, I don't think anything positive is going to happen with Lois in any real way until Dan Didio leaves DC Comics. —Shades


  3. Shades said: “that opening image of Lois was basically sexualized torture porn. Her skirt was way too short”

    “Sexualized torture porn”? Really? I just looked at the preview pages on CBR and the opening splash looks like a woman who's been knocked out in a comic book story to me. I'm not getting any “sexualized torture porn” vibe from the use of a female victim in an action-oriented medium.

    Having a young career woman showing a bit of leg is hardly “sexualized”. Should we not have any female victims in comics, or should Lois dress more modestly for when she's attacked?

    I'm not a fan of the “injure the hero's girlfriend” go-to plot to make the bad guy seem a threat, but I certainly don't want to see all female characters wrapped in cotton wool either.

    Lois has traditionally been the character most likely to be imperiled in Superman stories – because she's always had a can-do attitude and behaves as if she's invulnerable (and also because a hero needs someone to save, and making that a character the readers already have a relationship with rather than a faceless/nameless innocent heightens the tension in a story). If you feel DC should step away from those traditions, that's fine, but loaded phrases like “sexualized torture porn” come off as overreaction.


  4. Many thanks for the well-considered comments, Shades, I agree, it's good to have Lois around, and as a news guy I love to see actual reporting in the books. I'm glad you found some things in the annual to your taste.

    That first image of Lois, to me, it's a person I've known since I was a little kid in dire straits. Yeah, she happens to be a woman, but as Krusty says in response to you, Lois's position as Superman's number one supporting character makes her the go-to-gal when someone needs menacing. I don't know if we can talk of such things by degrees, but when you speak of Lois and torture porn in the same breath, I remember early Seventies images that felt far more exploitative, and them on the covers – #120 and #122 of the Lois Lane book.


    But it's your view based on your experience, so fair comment.

    As regards your sources, are you saying Dan DiDio hates the Lois/Superman match?


  5. @KlownCrusty, I find your response dismissive and condascending. Just so we are clear? I am a young female career woman. I'm 30 years old. I'm attractive. (Yes, I said it.) And I work in a competitive job where I wear attractive clothing and skirts clearly designed for young women on a regular basis.

    Your response upsets me (and Martin yours does a bit as well) because this is the kind of response that women get CONSTANTLY in the genre when we try to have a conversation about the way violence against women is depicted in comics and the kind of affect it has on us as women. This is an IMPORTANT conversation and one has severe effects. It's upsetting and wrong to see men perpetually brush off this conversation by downplaying real concerns.

    Please be aware: a lot of female fans were extremely upset when they saw this image in the preview. Some of them didn't even purchase the book because of it.

    Yes, Lois has traditionally been the woman closest to Superman. No one is arguing here that she can't be in peril. I AGREE with you that her bravery has often led her into trouble. But let's break this down here:

    Since the new 52 reboot, Lois Lane has been fridged in elseworld stories in brutal ways 5 times. Flashpoint:Project Superman. DCOnline Legends. Earth 2. Injustice Gods Among Us. Her death in Injustice was particularly brutal and, unfortunately, brought up disturbing images of domestic violence given that it was poor Clark who actually killed her and their unborn child. There were domestic violence victims who were actually so disturbed by what they saw in Injustice tied with the video game that they literally walked away from comics bc it broke their heart THAT much to see a female character they identified with in that kind of position. And that's just the past 2 years. Prior to that she was brutally raped in Superman: Kal and then killed. She was killed off in Kingdom Come, in Distant Fires and in JLA Created Equal. You are talking about a female character here with a HUGE fanbase who has been the victim of more violence and violent imagery than almost any other character in comics.

    Now, think about the new 52 and understand that on top of ALL this violence….there has been extreme insensitivity regarding this character from DC leadership. It's been more than a little rough to be her fan for the past 2 years. We had to hear her called a “trophy wife” by a DC editor. We saw her pushed aside and marginalized in a narrative in which she is supposed to be the female lead. And now we've seen her basically be treated like yesterday's garbage so that Superman can hook up with Wonder Woman.

    It's Lois Lane's 75th anniversary and DC had ignored her completely. Instead the Superman75 tagline is going on a book promoting Superman and Wonder Woman. Think about Jerry Siegel and his history and love for Lois Lane and really think about the impact of that. Celebrating 75 years and they refuse to acknowledge Superman/Lois. Siegel would roll over in his grave.

    Then imagine being a fan of Lois and seeing DC Comics tweet a “celebration” of Lois for the 75th anniversary where she will be “front and center” and clicking on the link and seeing the female character you identity with sprawled out on the ground…sprawled out in a short cocktail dress…seemingly dead. Now tell me if YOU, as a woman, would feel this was a “celebration” of a 75 year old icon.



  6. (cont)

    It's very easy for you to stand back as a male fan and say that this isn't “sexualized” or that “women should be able to be in peril.” OF COURSE they can be in peril. No one is asking for this woman to not be in peril.

    But the violent imagery that has been associated with this female character is THROUGH THE ROOF. It's lazy. At some point, it does become damaging. Women identify with this woman and it DOES affect personal self-worth to see her this way because it makes me think…geez…does DC think so little of ME—a real life career woman—that they just keep inflicting all this horrible violence on her?

    Lois Lane is arguably the closest thing in comics to a “real” woman. She's not superpowered. She's not in an overtly sexy costume. And this is what keeps happening to her. Really think about the psychological impact of that on actual women (with jobs much like Lois) who read these books. Think about how that makes US feel about how DC perceives our worth.

    I LOVE Dan Jurgens. I adore the man. I think he is one of the “good guys” so it pains me to have this conversation. It's a complex conversation bc I think there was a lot of good stuff in the book and it was great to see her get focus. But there is a sensitivity chip here missing from DC Comics with this woman and with many of their female characters. And I don't think it helps when male fans dismiss the concerns as opposed to taking the time to really listen an learn as to WHY this is repeatedly so upsetting.

    ::shrugs:: Instead, the reaction I saw here was the same reaction women ALWAYS get in comics when we try to have this conversation. “You're overreacting.” “I don't want women wrapped in cotton.” etc. It's just al very tiresome. I don't think you are actually understanding why this was upsetting to people and why it's unacceptable. Yes, my words were loaded and I believe it was deserved based on this character's history and her current treatment at DC Comics. It was a solid issue but I think it was an insensitive way to promote the book given the very valid and upsetting discussion that has transpired with this character in terms of violence inflicted upon her in the genre.



  7. Thanks Shades. As a chap of almost the next generation, perhaps I'm not best placed to put myself in the shoes of younger, female Lois readers, so I'll simply thank you for your comments.

    All those examples of Lois being mistreated, I wasn't even aware of most of them, as I don't generally bother with alt-versions and video game tie-ins. It's dismaying that so many writers apparently can think of nothing to do with Lois beyond killing her, of another way to motivate Superman. Lois needs champions at DC, and in the comics community. I'd certainly get behind any campaign to restore her to prominence.

    As regards promoting the Annual with the opening image of Lois, they almost always use the first few pages – maybe this is an occasion on which 'almost' should have come into play.

    I see there is at least one celebration of Lois due this year, a book in December going by Lois Lane: A Celebration of 75 Years … a glimmer of hope, perhaps?


  8. (Sorry – double posted)
    Re: Shades response

    This is the problem with trying to have a discussion on the internet. People misread your point and so feel condescended to or dismissed.

    I did not say you were wrong if you feel Lois should be treated differently. What I questioned very specifically was your use of the term “sexualized torture porn” in reference to a single image which, as far as I can see, featured a fully-clothed woman who had been knocked out. There's no “torture” in that image, and no suggestion of “torture porn” (which by my understanding would mean the torture would be sustained purely for the benefit of a voyeur or voyeurs). I also questioned the use of “sexualized” when, from what I can see, that's just Lois Lane dressed for an evening out. Sexualized would imply she was being treated specifically as a sex object for the image, and I can't see that here.

    The trouble with employing weighted phrases like “sexualized torture porn” is that unless they're used wisely they diminish an argument rather than progress it.

    With reference to your wider points, I'll state the two rules that always apply with regards to entertainment. 1. If you don't like it, vote with your wallet. 2. If you feel it is genuinely objectionable, speak to the law-makers to get it censored, restricted or banned.


  9. It's nice to see a story about Lois. And it's a good story. But the comparison with the Hawkeye annual falls down on one important point; the Hawkeye annual is a complete story, where the Lois one is essentially a prologue to another story in the regular comic.

    As such, the Hawkeye annual wins on satisfaction, if not on page-count. Of course the Lois story is only 3 pages longer than the Hawkeye story, so the gap isn't nearly as large as it appears, unless the back up middle chapter of a story happening in a different comic is actually worth something to you.


  10. Hi Marionette, thanks for the comments (and I love the name, it reminds me of the old Micronauts comic).

    And I'd definitely rather have had something other than that back-up to fill out the extra pages.


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