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.
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.