The final page of this instalment of the Lois Lane maxi-series tells us that next issue is to be called ‘No answers, only questions’. Actually, that would apply to every issue so far, including this one.
We start where we left off last time, with a near-naked, very embarrassed Lois in the shower, where she expected to find her super-hubby waiting for a spot of nookie. Instead, it’s son Jon, having a scrub down after outer space adventures. They somehow manage not to curl up into balls of trauma, and go for a bite to eat, allowing Jon to share some typically mad news.
Also enjoying a meal and a catch-up are the two Questions, Renee Montoya and Vic Sage. She can’t get her head around him being there when she saw him die, years previously.
Over in the UK, an unnamed woman panics when a police officer comes calling to check that she’s OK.
Back in Chicago, Lois is coming to terms with the idea that Jon wishes to join the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Renee reminds Vic of the time, before he died, that he told her to be a butterfly, as in the story about the man dreaming he was a butterfly who, on waking up, couldn’t be sure he wasn’t actually a butterfly dreaming about being a man.
Their conversation is interrupted when Lois, who has hired Renee as her personal detective, calls her to her side, and it becomes apparent that the client knows more than the gumshoe.
Suddenly, this series has become very interesting. Previous issues had great characterisation, and enviable mood, but didn’t have me itching to see what came next. Corruption in Washington DC? Get away! Something shady happening in Russia? Same old, same old. But put the scene with the mystery woman alongside the Questions’ tete a tete and my comics-mad mind goes into overdrive.
Who is she? She’s familiar with spells and fearful of Leviathan, the organisation/person wiping out the DC Universe’s covert operations organisations, good and bad. The idea of being erased ‘like we never existed’ terrifies her. She wears purple nail varnish… purple is the primary costume colour of the superheroine Nightshade, a survivor of one of the five worlds which combined to form a new Earth after the Crisis On Infinite Earths. The other planets were erased. She worked as part of the Suicide Squad with Enchantress, so might have picked up a trick or two. ‘Leviathan’ appears in her (presumed) circle of safety, it seems likely she’s trying to protect herself from them. She may not know, but we do – from what we’ve seen of Leviathan’s organisation in Action Comics and the Event Leviathan series – know they’re not actually killing heroes, they’re removing them from the playing board, recruiting those they can win over.
Playing board… the chess references make me think in another direction. Checkmate, the DC covert ops operation of which Suicide Squad chief Amanda Waller was a big part. Then there was Maxwell Lord, another high-ranking Checkmate member who ultimately betrayed the good guys. A third member was Sacha Bordeaux, Bruce Wayne’s onetime bodyguard. Is this the mystery woman? She’s certainly one of the regular cast employed across the books written, like the one, by Greg Rucka.
In Jewish lore, a Leviathan is a colossal sea beast… a colossus. Wasn’t Colossus the name of the super-computer in sci-fi book and movie The Forbin Project? Maybe Leviathan is simply Brother Eye – another Max Lord connection – by another name. Questions, questions.
As for Questions, both Vic and Renee have mangled memories. Vic has no idea how he came back from the dead.
And Lois talks of a secret so big, only three people in the universe know it… to me, that says changed realities. Typically, after an event the size of a Crisis, a Zero Hour or a Flashpoint, there’s a buffer zone period when some people retain memories of the old and the new reality. Soon, only the new memories remain. Vic Sage died in the 52 series, between Zero Hour and Flashpoint; my best guess is that the recent reality changer, DC Rebirth, brought him back, but rather than a clean re-entrance to the superhero scene, he’s somehow come back with his old memories, and Renee, his ‘legacy’, has hers too, and it’s confusing the heck out of her.
I don’t know. I hope to find out, have some questions answered, if not next issue, soon. Meanwhile, I’m excited. I’m excited to find out why Lois hired Renee when she obviously doesn’t need her detective skills. I’m excited to get the story behind Mystery Woman and hear about this ‘other’ Battle of Hastings she mentions. And I’m very excited indeed to see if Lois insists on visiting Jon’s new accommodations before allowing him to move to the future. As a responsible parent, she really should.
Rucka does a bang-up job with the dialogue, his Kent family dynamic is as strong as Brian Michael Bendis’ in Action Comics and Superman. While she was created for Batman: The Animated Series, so far as comics is concerned, Renee Montoya is his baby, no one writes her better. He even does a decent job with the UK-set scene… usually US comic writers attempting British dialogue don’t quite manage it (and vice versa).
Illustrator Mike Perkins gives us a grimy take on the DCU that suits the script, leavened by the affection demonstrated by Lois and Jon, and the sweetness he gives Vic Sage, a character so associated by now with his homage, Rorschach, that I tend to forget he’s not a grunting psychopath. The colours of Paul Mounts add to the atmosphere, while the understated lettering of Simon Bowland nicely completes the visual package.
The cover’s another clever mood piece by Perkins, but I’m ready for a situation rather than an evocation of the chapter.
Still, this is the best issue yet. I look forward to seeing what comes next.