Superman has his own Joker, an adversary who doesn’t want to rule the world so much as watch him suffer. And how do you make an invulnerable man hurt? By attacking the people who matter to him. Not just friends, but those he’s saved over the years, folk who have gone on to make more of their lives because he inspired them.
Supergirl, Steel, Wonder Woman and Batman are helping Superman protect his closest friends, while Superman tries to figure out just who has the power, motive and opportunity to be toying with him.
As the latest chapter of Greg Pak’s story opens, Superman is at his Arctic fortress, hoping its databases can give him a clue. He’d rather be at the funeral of a kind ordinary guy in Metropolis who died solely because he wore a Superman costume to entertain sick kids. He’s angrily yelling at the ‘living crystal brain’ because it’s not responding – it’s undergoing a slow reboot after the end of Doomed.
Supergirl shows up and persuades cousin Kal to stand down – if he disturbs the Fortress’ inner workings it may not reboot properly, putting the lives of the bottled Kandorians at risk. A raging Superman zooms outside and cries into the wilderness, urging his unseen foe to make themselves known.
Batman calls. He tells Superman that he has a plan to draw the villain out, by drawing their fire. And the target?
Maybe … just maybe … there’s been a soft reboot when we weren’t looking, and Lois is back where she belongs, as the Man of Steel’s partner?
Well, no. It’s a feint. Batman is gambling on the villain not having seen the news of late, which has noted the JLA-mates’ courting, or perhaps he just realises that an apparent soft target will prove irresistible. Whatever the case, just to see Lois as if she were back where she belongs makes me smile.
Ah, the tenses… I’m hoping Pak is being a bit meta here, acknowledging that whatever the case now, Lois and Superman will be a pair once more. And while she’s not his girlfriend, even the most militant of the ‘Clois’ brigade would have to be pretty closed minded not to appreciate that this is Lois at the centre of the action, smart and funny and tough as hell. As for Diana, she’s absent bar a silent, background image.
What’s more, the Lois set-up makes for a nice moment between Kal and Kara, as the cousins, bit by bit, become better friends than they have been in the last couple of years.
So does Batman’s gamble work? Sort of. Someone gets shot, someone who is, in their opinion, the person to whom Superman is closest (as opposed to Clois-est). And it makes for a fun climax on the way to a surprising revelation as to who may be behind the current shenanigans.
This is a great issue. Pak concentrates on the characterisations while continuing to develop the twisty-turny plot. Kara is used well, a little spiky initially, but talking sense whereas it’s Superman who is losing his cool. Batman – it’s his comic too, after all – is smart and even a bit funny. And Superman? More of a hothead than usual, but innocents are at risk because someone hates him – I can accept the unusual mood. And his noticing Batman’s use of tenses is Clark’s experience as a writer showing through.
Letterer Rob Leigh has a less showy job than some but, as ever, acquits himself well. Splendid cover, too, from Syaf, Glapion and Arreola.
This is a fine serial, more angled towards Superman than Batman but with so much good stuff going on that I can’t see many complaints coming in. Pak and Syaf are shaping up to be a great team, and this book is only getting better.