Superman #25 review

Hey, it’s an extra-length anniversary issue! They used to be quite the thing, so it’s nice to see DC reviving the tradition for the 25th chapter of Brian Michael Bendis’ Superman run.

And we get a new antagonist for the occasion. Not that Synmar and Superman meet this issue – what we see of the character is all set-up. Actually, ‘character’ is the wrong word, as ‘Synmar’ is the name of the planet from which their champion, The Synmar Utopica, comes.

‘Utopica’ – that’s annoying, it’s really difficult for the mind not to ‘correct’ it to ‘Utopia’. Or worse, ‘tapioca’. I’m all for new villains being tried, but they need catchy, memorable names. I had to check how to spell ‘Rogol Zaar’ for months before it stuck. I know it’s old fashioned and corny, but just go with ‘Something-Man’ or ‘Basher’ or whatever. He may have powers, but ‘the Synmar Utopica’ ain’t gonna fly. In fact, ‘the Synmar Utopica’ is a pain to type, and ugly to look at – let’s just call him TSU from now on, eh?

Which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy meeting Eisno Alkor and his bosses, the very chatty ruling council of Synmar. Think cosmic coffee klatch. Seriously, letterer Dave Sharpe deserves a bonus. We meet the council just as Krypton is exploding, watching events via their, er, space fireplace?

While they neither rescue nor destroy baby Kal-El, they do watch him grow up, and decide to create their own Superman, just in case an Earth-based Kryptonian becomes a threat. Soldier Eisno Alkor is trained and tweaked until he’s finally unveiled as TSU at what looks to be Synmar’s version of the Eurovision Song Contest.

In the present day, Daily Star science editor Lana Lang is visiting Clark Kent to talk about the recent revelation that he’s Superman.

While back on Synmar, something happens that looks set to send TSU on a collision course with the Man of Steel. It may be a misunderstanding, but it’s probably a stitch-up – I don’t trust President Dreti, who seems incapable of giving a straight answer.

While some of the exchanges are entertaining – we Earthlings really are a shocking bunch, apparently – there’s just too much dialogue. Do we really need eight named aliens, all near-identical bar the four-eyed president? And I’m not at all keen on the Ambush Bug-style facial markings that have most Synmars looking like a bunch of weeping Willies.

I do like the depth Bendis gives to teenage Lana Lang in a Smallville flashback, and that a modern day dialogue snippet reinserts Superman’s time as Superboy into what passes for canon. Plus, we see that Lana’s stint as Superwoman hasn’t been wiped out, and there are hints that her powers may return. And the Synmar set’s description of Superman as a ‘light god’ goes nicely with this story’s title, ‘Mythological’.

Ivan Reis pencils once more, and does an especially great job with the Earth scenes, bringing a real tenderness to the Clark and Lana conversation. The Synmar-set moments look suitably alien, thanks to sterling work by Reis, inkers Julio Ferreira and Danny Miki, and colourist Alex Sinclair. The latter earns his keep with the montage sequences alone (one of which features a chap who can’t stop cameoing, even though he’s dead), muting the colours with real skill.

The only time I can’t ‘read’ the art is when Lana, Clark having popped out to an emergency, looks at one of his old photo albums. What the heck is she thinking? Is she regretful that she never took up Clark’s offer of a date? Is she unimpressed with the binding? Has she got toothache?

And what’s with the intergalactic leeks?

Hopefully all will be revealed in time. I’d prefer a big anniversary issue to be a timeless done-in-one tale, but this is an entertaining issue with lots to like. That includes the film poster style cover from Reis, Sinclair and inker Joe Prado, which hints at trouble ahead for Jimmy Olsen.

So, how was it for you?

15 thoughts on “Superman #25 review

  1. Yeah, Bendis gets Clark like no other writer has in y ears but creating new villains for him has not gone as well. Leviathan is the one baddie I can see having any staying power beyond Bendis.

    And wow, Lana is fixed just like that! She no longer has pined for Clark since high school, she’s not the Lois stand in she was made when Didio wouldn’t allow Lois to be classic Lois, and the schizophrenic mess the Superwoman book was is even dealt with. I’m hoping she’s still with Steel and not given Pete Ross again. I always felt that was just done because writers back then had no clue what to do with either as adults and hey, they went to high school together so let’s marry them off!

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  2. I’m with you on Lana and Steel, the relationship with John Henry Irons was one of the things about the Superwoman book I really liked; I’d not be at all surprised we’re Brian Bendis to bring him back before he leaves.

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  3. I think the Synmar differ from each other in appearance as much or more than you’d expect when you consider the appearance of humans. In their case, Reis manages to maintain their distinctive facial bone structures, hairlines and hair styles, and yellow markings, and kudos to him for that, though the president is indeed the only one EASY to distinguish.

    I think Bendis is probably also distinguishing personalities – pacifist vs. more aggressive, for instance. But it’s too much work to try to keep track of all the players. They need Frichtman tags! But I expect it won’t be important.

    “This” version of Lana did know that Clark was Superman – and she got her powers when he died. So apparently she remembers she was Superwoman but not who she got her powers from? No one remembers that New 52 Superman existed or died.

    I wonder if Lana remembers the other Superwoman, Lois, who died in the first issue of that title. Surely she was in on the ruse when the older Convergence Superman and Lois took the places of the deceased New 52 couple? I can’t remember the details.

    Lana gave up her powers in the final issue of Superwoman, so… maybe there is a story to how they are leaking back in, but probably it’s just that DC continuity is springing leaks everywhere. Who out there even remembers much about Superwoman? It was selling around 14K when it was cancelled, and the final issue sold 11K.

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  4. I don’t doubt you’re right about there being subtle differences between the new aliens, but because their basic shape is so non-human, I’d have to study each one carefully each time they appear. I think I’d prefer a bunch of humanoids with the same basic face, but different hair colours, and lovely old-fashioned Kryptonian-style chest emblems.

    I deliberately haven’t tried to work out who remembers what as regards Superwoman, I’m OK with believing whatever they show on panel… trying to make everything work together will likely throw up migraine-inducing contradictions.

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  5. Someone posted somewhere, maybe bleedingcool, that the Superwoman book tried to come up with a new origin, so I’m looking back at Anj’s reviews during spring 2017, since he writes so much detail. He and the book are struggling with it, and Anj is perplexed with what did or did not happen and what the nature of the powers were post-Reborn. Her emotions power her suit? (I’m just skimming.) That was in the review of #10 from May 2017. Ah, even better is #9 where Anj asks “How do you remake a book that was just made? How do you reboot something which was just booted?” There is more of this in reviews for #8 and maybe #7.

    It’s something that can’t be made sense of – I was just looking back out of curiosity. Perhaps with the surprise appearance of Superwoman flashbacks here, Anj will have his own flashback to 2017 and come up with some interesting ideas.

    You’re right, we are no good at recognizing non-human faces. Do cats of a certain breed all look alike? To me they do. Do they look as different to each other as humans look to us? I hope so.

    What about turtles? Some of them have an orange streak on their faces, that helps.

    We should have a crossover team up of Superwoman, Batgirl and the Amazing Mary Jane – call them the Red Revengers or something.

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    1. Now, Youve sent me back to my own reviews to remind me of the storyline, and my best guess is that she still lost the powers around Rebirth, but never got the new emotional connection abilities with issue 10. Everything involving Superwoman after that never happened.

      Maybe that’s it… but yes, let’s see if Anj has ideas!

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  6. Asking me to explain Superwoman’s origins or what did/did not happen in that book is too much for me. And I don’t think I own enough tylenol to go back and revisit.

    As for Lana’s faces, here is what I think.
    She sees pics of her in the yearbook with Brad. She’s sort of disgusted … like ‘ugh, I spent time with him when I could have been with Clark.’
    Then she sees Clark, shy and unassuming, lingering in the background of the yearbook.
    Then she sees all the current pics of a smiling, confident Clark hugging Lana.
    And then she realizes that she really missed out.

    I’m glad to see Lana. I’m glad that she was Superwoman.
    In fact, the whole ‘I kind of feel my old powers’ makes me wonder if they are dormant and if Synmar (whose powers seem light based’) might not reignite.

    Great review as always!

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    1. Your hesitation to dive back into the Superwoman retcons is wise!

      Don’t know where else to mention this, but I’m watching some DC Fandome segments right now and came upon the “How I broke into DC Comics – with Artgerm” feature. He says Supergirl is his favorite character to draw. DC asked him what he wanted to do, and he proposed SG, and that’s when he was assigned the cover run. Then he pencils and inks a Supergirl drawing live. (He may color it too, but I only got 5 minutes through the 10 minute presentation.)

      I guess there’s still 20 hours left to watch this (and others). There’s so much it’s hard to know where nice little gems might be found.

      I watched Emanuella Lupcacchino’s segment too. She mentions getting her start in DC Comics around the same time as Mahmoud Asrar, referring to their work on (New 52) Supergirl.

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  7. Thanks Anj, I knew you’d give me something good, and the explanation of the photo album business is perfect. Had I known anything about this Brad I’d have had more chance of working it out… I understand he was in the Christopher Reeve films, but I don’t recall him at All. Mind, I’ve only seen the first two…

    You’re my hero!

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  8. A strange issue, but I liked it. Particularly the Lana/Clark parts.

    As for Synimar Utopica, well… that IS an awful name. I do like the alien-ness of it. The way I might handle it would be, once he comes to Earth, some reporter sees his powers and calls him “Lightshow” or something like that (preferably something better than Lightshow), and boom, we’ve got a memorable name to go with the alien title.

    But I’d also work like hell to get that name into his first appearance, even if it was just in an opening flash-forward.

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