It’s not the best time for Superman to have been outed to the world by Lois Lane. Bad guys want a piece of him, but his power levels are right down. He’s surviving frequent attacks by guys with weird energy weapons, but getting worn down. He assumes Lex Luthor is behind his troubles, but the super-scientist denies it. He tells Clark the attacks can be traced to Gotham, and Superman expects best super-friend Batman will have some ideas as to how to move forward. But there’s a new Batman in town and he tries to arrest Clark. After a brief fight, Clark disappears and heads for the Batcave under Wayne Manor
He hears the news. Bruce Wayne is gone. Dead. Alfred asks Clark to move on, not be dragged down by Bruce’s death. But Clark doesn’t believe a word of it; he assumes Batman is still out there, and Alfred is complicit in some greater-good deception. With no one else to turn to, he calls the one person he really doesn’t wish to talk to. Lois Lane.
New Batman Jim Gordon is an impressive presence on Ardian Syaf’s cover, but inside, not so much. He’s barely in the book, as writer Greg Pak shows how having his identity out there is upending Superman’s life. He’s become a fugitive, living on the downlow as he tries to understand what’s happened to him before someone kills him.
And as I predicted in my Whose Lois is it Anyway? piece over at Panels (SMUG) there really is more to Lois’s supposed betrayal than a reporter wanting a red-hot scoop. Via a brilliantly judged conversation between Lois and Clark, we find out that there’s a bigger picture we don’t yet know. Hopefully this revelation will calm down the shriller voices out in Lois fandom – perhaps they’ll stop declaring the end of the world and actually buy the comics.
If I had a Moment of the Week feature, this would be a serious contender. Yes, Lois has been sidelined by DC over the last few years, but time and again Pak makes it clear he knows the importance of Lois to Clark, and vice versa. And I think this inter-titles storyline is the rest of the Superman line catching up.
There’s also a taut exchange between Clark and Lex, with the bald one’s ego more impressive than any power suit he might don.
The only thing I really don’t like is how quickly Clark is learning to enjoy being a down and dirty brawler. He even kicks some guy in the crotch here. And what is with the wearing of bits of scraggy cape like gloves? Are they providing protection?
Oh, and I say this again and again, but that’s because it comes up again and again – could we please have a moratorium from DC writers on formative Smallville memories? The other week it was Stuart Moore giving us a decapitated chicken in Convergence Superboy & the Legion, here it’s a flattened bunny. Enough! Plenty of people develop superhero morality without having horrific farmyard flashbacks.
Ardian Syaf’s pencils are confident and to the point, and he deserves a medal for managing to produce so many images of moping, scowling Clark without the pages becoming monotonous. He makes a good fist of the frankly peculiar new Batman armour, gives Lex Luthor his All-Star Superman togs and endows Lois with an intriguing mix of regret and feistiness. Vicente Cifuentes applies a strong, gritty finish, while Ulises Arreola adds mood and nuance with his colour box.
The issue ends on a cliffhanger that’s a bit dull, but probably necessary – New Batman shows up again, ready for round two. Given the name of this book, Jim Gordon deserves some time in the spotlight – or rather, the Bat-Signal – next time.