Lois Lane #12 review

Over the last few months I’ve moaned a bit about the freewheeling nature of this maxi-series; plotlines that seemed fundamental to the story vanished for months at a time. Well, they’re back: the reporter killed by Russians? Out in the open. The corruption in Washington? Exposed. The hotel cleaner threatened with deportation? Welcome after all.

So does that mean I’m happy? Sadly not. Everything feels unearned. Perhaps digging by Lois unearthed the keys to the exposés, but I’d like to have seen her investigating throughout this run, rather than sitting in her hotel room being ‘the man in the chair’ for Renee Montoya’s action heroine. I’d like to have heard the arguments put forward that persuade US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to allow Alejandra and her family to stay. We’re left to assume all is well because she grins as Renee and her magical mystery murderess girlfriend Elicia drive them away from the containment facility. Alejandra herself doesn’t get so much as a single line.

This issue is as baffling as previous ones. Montoya and Elicia have a shootout in Chechnya and a bit of a snog, but I have no idea why they’re there. I still don’t know what the deal is with Clarice the nun, who the heck she is and how she knows Lois. Ditto former Checkmate person Jessica Midnight.

The only thing linking them seems to be the fractured reality subplot that arrived about three issues back and distracted writer Greg Rucka from whatever he’d originally planned. That does lead to something intriguing – Lois and Clarice (a play on Lois and Clark? Probably not) setting up a project to deal with memories mangled by continual multiversal crises.

But does anyone believe we’ll ever hear of it again? It’ll likely fade away as quickly as did Tom King’s Heroes in Crisis robot farm for shocked superheroes. If it does reappear, it’ll be in 15 years’ time, in a maxi-series starring Renee Montoya entitled The Huntress, or Black Canary or, I don’t know, Ambush Bug… someone whose name will hook more readers than that of Renee Monoya, the less-popular Question.

This isn’t a subtle book, yet somehow it manages to be utterly opaque – it’s probably the most annoying series I’ve read for years, and I’m annoyed with myself for sticking with it. Issue after issue it frustrated and yet stupid, optimistic me kept coming back because I love Lois. Month after month I returned to a series titled ‘Lois Lane’ in which she barely appeared.

Lois is more prominent this time, though she comes across as weird, so focused on typing up her stories that she’s apparently in a fugue state, oblivious to everything around her.

The Black Queen? What? If you haven’t read every Greg Rucka DC book ever, forget it

She even ignores her cellphone, motivating a page that’s nothing but Jessica Midnight using her magic to answer the device. Another page is devoted to Lois walking through the Daily Planet newsroom to show how even people she works with every day are awed by her.

And as I’ve said previously, Rucka does not wear his research lightly.

‘Outside her Moscow apartment’ is not vague. It’s all you need. The Daily Planet is a US news platform, who the heck cares what floor someone thousands of miles away lived on? But Rucka wants you to know that he knows that while the first floor of a multi-storey building in the States you come to is termed the ‘first floor’, in the UK that’s the ‘ground floor’ – the first floor is up one flight of stairs. Fascinating? Well, it’s useful if you’re an international tourist looking for an hotel room, but it’s honestly not something a newspaper editor would care about. If the murder had happened in Metropolis, yes, Perry would want the floor, and he’d want the street – but the woman killed for reasons no reader can likely remember died in Russia. Attention spans are ever shortening, you don’t lengthen a report with irrelevant colour – it’s enough that Lois has all the details should authorities require them.

The standout scene is a moment that’s actually about Lois and her world; Clark is worried that she’s fighting a neverending battle. It’s a lovely scene showing the love between Comics’ number one couple, partners in the fight for truth. Like the rest of the issue, it’s appealingly presented by illustrator Mike Perkins, colourist Andy Troy and letterer Simon Bowland.

I like that this book isn’t afraid to take a position – he isn’t named but it’s obvious that the Washington business is all about Donald Trump and Rucka makes it apparent that Lois hates him and so should we. And the clashing of personal continuities is a super-powered metaphor for the fracturing of self any of us can feel, especially in times as weird as today.

But boy, do these story points not sit well together – street level injustice or cosmic quakes, choose one.

Sometimes, a serialised story that doesn’t work on first encounter reads brilliantly well when experienced as a whole. I’m not inclined to see if that’s true for this maxi-series because it’s still going to be a bait and switch – pay to see Lois Lane, get Renee Montoya. Be intrigued by the early plotlines, then wonder where they’ve gone. Meet strong women, but never find out enough about them to care.

Nope, this would still be unsatisfying. Rucka gives us many nice character moments – I’m with Clark on Lois’s spelling issues, and the love and trust between Lois and Clark is terrific – but they don’t serve the bigger narrative. They hint at rich relationships but if you don’t have a story detailed and compelling enough to fill a year’s worst of comics, just make it a four-parter.

There’s an old newspaper rule that the reporter shouldn’t become the story – but if you’re going to call a book ‘Lois Lane’, please, make sure it actually stars Lois Lane.

12 thoughts on “Lois Lane #12 review

  1. I had more patience than you with this story, but ultimately, I’ve gotta agree. This book was too scattered, and at the same time too deep in the weeds. When I think of all those pages of Renee following someone through every part of a hotel lobby, or a flag being folded at a funeral, or, like you point out in this issue, someone just answering the damn telephone, I feel like there’s a full comic book out there of stuff we could have seen.

    I wanted to reread the whole series before this issue came out, to see if it all held together…but I ultimately I just couldn’t manage to do it before 12 hit. And if there were any payoffs to earlier issues — not just conclusions to the plots, but actual payoffs, that build on prior action in fun and surprising ways — they were too subtle for me to see.

    Arrgh. This was frustrating. Gorgeous covers, though.

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    1. So many times over the years I’ve given Greg Rucka series a try, and I rarely wind up happy; I want to enjoy his stuff as a whole, there are often small scenes I enjoy, but more and more he seems only interested in the character moments, not a coherent action narrative. It’s novelistic pacing in the wrong medium.

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      1. Novelistic is a good word for it. And I’ve loved pretty much every novel of his that I’ve read. In that medium, the amount of detail he wants to put into something — as you say, he doesn’t wear his research lightly — doesn’t take up an inordinate amount of limited real estate.

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  2. The lesson here is Rene is less interesting to everyone but Rucka. She was the less interesting partner as a cop. She is less interesting than even Ditko’s Question. She’s less interesting than her romantic partners, even one uneviled last issue. She’s certainly less interesting than Lois. I’d even choose Shaffenberger era Lois as more interesting. BTW, THAT era Lois would be all in the sci fi aspects. What a deep dive it would have been to have a multiversal expert be one of the scientists who routinely roped Lois into wacky high jinx back then but Rucka only wanted Easter eggs to his own work…

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    1. Oh boy, I want to read this. Daft as the Kurt Schaffenberger-era Lois was, you could always bank on a compete story that adhered to its own internal continuity. Your notion would complement the current Jimmy Olsen series nicely!

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  3. Yeah, I have no idea what happened in this issue. Something about a levitating mobile phone and a daring escape in Chechnya. But when I re-read it maybe I will appreciate it more.

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      1. I did have one theory about a tangential element… which is probably wrong, as Rucka sure didn’t follow through. (But seriously, what idea in this maxi-series was not tangential?) But follow me along!

        My theory was that Sister Clarice was Earth Angel Supergirl.

        My evidence, such as it is:

        In issue #10, there’s the scene where Lois hypothesizes that some become aware of the multiverse because of “certain actions we performed or personas we became in those other realities.” That’s a very strange bit of dialog. Then when they turn to Sister Clarice, she says she had been an instrument of God’s mercy – another oblique thing to say. What does Rucka mean? She’s always been a nun? She was Christ?!

        I don’t remember how I came up with the idea that she was the Earth Angel, but I do tend to dwell on dialog and narrative I can’t make any sense of. Perhaps it happened the next time I looked at the splash panels featuring the multiverse, as it struck me the Supergirl holding the green car overhead was Matrix. It just looks like her costume, which has a significantly shorter red skirt than the others Supergirl has worn. Now I was convinced I was on to something. (Delusional, yes. But it was interesting.)

        A reason this MIGHT have been what Rucka was hinting at is because his book is part of the “Bendisverse” at DC, following so many threads from Bendis’s treatments. Bendis is totally into bringing back old continuities. And Earth Angel Supergirl interacted with Young Justice.

        I have to say, this helped kept up my flagging interest in the book as I kept an eye on Clarice, but I don’t think there were any further supporting clues.

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      2. Oh, I left out, about that thing Lois said: Matrix “performed an action” (merging with Linda) and “became a persona.” That’s when she became a person. And, a special one.

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  4. Oh, I do love theories. Wasn’t that image of Supergirl with the car a direct reference to Matrix-Supergirl (ie pre-Earth Angel) on the cover of Action Comics #685?

    https://www.comics.org/issue/52401/cover/4/

    Did you ever read the series Peter David did after his Supergirl run, Fallen Angel, a barely disguised continuation of his Supergirl run? Great stuff

    According to Wiki, Sister Clarice has the heroic alias of Radiant, that’s a pretty angelic idea. The ‘object of God’s mercy’ likely refers to her work with the Crispus (snicker) Allen Spectre. That doesn’t invalidate your theory that in some other reality she was someone else

    We need Anj in the room, I’m sure he’ll drop by once he’s finished his Lois Lane review… zee zee zee!

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    1. Ah, that’s more than a direct “reference.” It’s likely traced. Surely I spotted that at Anj’s blog (and forgot!) and that may be what led me to the theory about Clarice.

      It’s time for me to check out Radiant.

      Pre-Earth Angel Matrix is the goop who took the action and became a persona, so that’s who I thought it all referred to. But which one would Clarice have been? I guess I didn’t work out all the details. The goop-a-person stopped existing, sort of – she still leaked goop in some stories. I guess it’s — fiction!

      Fallen Angel was great. I own the whole series in various collections and single issues at the end. Read it long before I read Peter David’s Supergirl and probably missed a lot, though I did see his blog posts where he said yes, that was her, but that he’s not allowed to say that. Which was funny.

      I liked the IDW series much more than the earlier DC work – the artwork was so much more atmospheric. Plus, I read them in the wrong order!

      Lots of good stuff if one searches Peter David’s blog for Supergirl. This one stands out:

      https://www.peterdavid.net/2006/12/13/fallen-angel-14-and-15-supergirl-fans-please-note/

      Nice that his posts from 2006 haven’t disappeared.

      I’ll have to re-read those stories. Shouldn’t any “fallen angel” should be the other half, not Linda after they split, who was devoid of angelic nature? Although it’s true that it was Linda who said she needed to consign herself to a bad place because of her guilt… Anyway, he had both a Lin and a Lee so maybe they were both there. One of them could only leap, like Linda after the split.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Isn’t it great that a series gives us so much to think about. In the official DCU, post-Supergirl Linda wound up in Hell in Day of Judgment or somesuch…I never did get to the end of that one.

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