[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers.]
“By a Thread: Superwoman Reborn?” (20 pages)
Writer: Phil Jimenez
Artists: Jack Herbert (p) and Stephen Segovia (i)
After being laid low last issue at the conclusion of her opening story arc, Superwoman Lana Lang spends this outing in a meta-textual dream state, in which she muses with dead relatives and friends on the ever-changing stutus quo of the DC Universe, all while her boyfriend STEEL tries to work out a way to restore her to consciousness.
Despite being touted as a tie-in to the “Superman Reborn” event going on over in the main S-books, this issue does stand pretty well on its own. It’s not necessary to put the main books to understand what is going on here, nor does that story require buying this book to understand that tale. So, kudos to DC there, and Clue One to Marvel on why its sales have been plummeting in recent years.
As it turns out, it’s also not absolutely required to have read any previous issue of this title. Although #8 acts as an epilogue to the events of #s 1-7, writer Phil Jimenez does a decent job of connecting all the dots, so that any new reader who does happen to sample this series thank to the tie-in label won’t feel completely adrift on the Sea of Past Continuity.
However, while the main theme of this issue is Lana coming to terms with her life to date, including the loss of so many people she’s loved, the real treat, especially for long-time comics fans, is the meta-commentary on her own ever-changing history. As Lana’s memory becomes “cloudy” in her dream state, she can “sense changes.” Somehow, she says, “the world seem[s] — different.” The reason, she concludes, is chaos — “a special kind of chaos that upends worlds.” An editorial crisis, as it were, that always seems to retain Superman and Lois Lane relatively unscathed, while throwing the dice on their supporting players.
“What is it about you two? What makes you so special?” Lana asks. “Why do universes live and die because of you?”
Fair question, albeit not one answered in this issue.
Although Jack Herbert and Stephen Segovia are new names to me, both do a good job here. Now, this issue is, at is essence, a lot of talking heads. In that sense, it fails the Stan Lee Test. The Mighty Marvel Man, you may or may not know, is famous for saying that in any successful comic book story, someone must punch someone else before Page 3. Still, Herbert does a nice job of adding enough dynamism to his figures, without going coo-coo go nuts on panel layout, that all the yakkity-yak is
While new readers can follow along pretty easily, for those who have bought into the seven previous issues, this outing can seem like waking circles on familiar ground. Steel is still the perfect boyfriend. His niece, Natasha, is still the smartest, most well-adjusted young hero in the DCU. Lex is still ambiguously evil. And Lana is still a hot mess. The meta-commentary aside, there’s really not much new to appreciate here. Even the fate of Lena Luthor is more-or-less what we would expect.
And, as noted above, this is an issue that’s mostly just folks standing around talking. It’s basically the comic book equivalent of an intervention. That would be okay, except, as noted, this is about as exciting as taking part in a real intervention, where the first few hours are all about rehashing the same slights and failings that have been argued about for years. But unlike an IRL intervention, there is no breakthrough moment. We end this issue without having really resolved anything.
Worse, because Lana spends so much time complaining about the fluidic state of the DCU, we leave this issue wondering if anything covered here will have mattered, supposing that, when we check in next under a new writer, following what may come of the Superman Reborn event, everything will be different.
Frankly, I had found the first arc of this series a bit tiring to wade through, especially the issues not also drawn by Jimenez. I recall when, not long after the New 52 era launched, being in my local comics shop praising the Superman relaunch by George Perez. Comics have, in recent decades, become so decompressed in their storytelling, I noted, that the average individual issue can be read in about eight minutes, or less. Perez’ Superman was more densly packed with plot, more like the Bronze Age DC Comics I grew up with. That’s when this young guy — young to me anyway, say, mid-twenties — who happened to be in the shop at the time, spoke up. He didn’t like the book. “Too many words,” he said. I about blanched at this assessment, but in reading Superwoman, I think I know something of how he felt. Each issue has been super script heavy. That would not be so bad, but the plot that spread out over seven issues, finally winding up here in the eighth, was a story that really could have been told in two, maybe three at the most. So, while Jimenez remains one of my favorite creators, and I’ll buy new project with his name on it, sight unseen, I’m not unhappy to see him leaving this series.
Of course, some of my ire is lingering annoyance at DC’s bait-and-switch on this title, right down to #FakeNews solicitation copy with altered cover images that made it appear the series would be about Lois. That, frankly, was the Superwoman I wanted to read about. Seeing how the Rebirth Universe Lois would carry on after Superman with all of his powers, given the kind of social justice warrior, ends-justifies-the-means, person she is — that I thought would offer an new and interesting take on the prototypical Super-scenario. Plus, having read comics for 45+ years, with Lois constantly (or so it seemed when I was a kid) teased as getting powers of her own, to see it finally happening was kind of exciting.
But then we got Lana. And, I’m sorry, maybe this is me being a crotchety old fanboy, but this Lana is not my Lana. My Lana is a clever girl to be sure, but she’s no a genius engineer and a rich and powerful CEO and a celebrity reported and cover girl beautiful besides. So, when this Lana needs pills to get though her day, I’m, like, “Bitch, please!” Plus, while a good person, my Lana would more likely attach herself to the biggest fish in her small pond, a deputy mayor, or B-list actor, not a dude like Steel, the black equivalent of Sensitive Ponytail Man house husband. No wonder Lana isn’t happy with him. I half want to punch him myself. Or would if he wasn’t so ripped. He is kind of a big dude. And don’t get me started on Natasha. If we are going to have true equality, why can’t we have a black person, or a lesbian, who’s even half the basketcase Lana is. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I endorse super-heroes who are heroic. I don’t advocate any kind of return to the grim ‘n’ gritty ’90s. But I got really tired of Lana waxing poetic every issue on how practically perfect in every way Natasha is. It came off feeling forced, as of Jimenez felt a need to somehow overcompensate for her duel minority status, and is actually had the reverse effect of making me hate her a little bit.
But, now Jimenez is gone, with future issues to be written by Kate Perkins. I assume the writer change is permanent. It might be interesting to see where this series goes from here, for however much longer it lasts, given its place near the bottom of the sales charts. I half wonder if Jimenez’ meta-textual commentary this issue might have been a parting shot. Are BIG changes in the wings for this series? We’ll have to wait and see, but with the coming prince increase to $3.99, something will have to change in order for me to stick around much longer.