Review: Superman #23

[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers.]

Writers: Peter J. Tomasi  & Patrick Gleason

Artists: Jaime Mendoza, Doug Mahnke, Keith Champagne

 

Summary

Last issue left off with Lois confronted by neighbour Branden Cobb, while Clark has discovered stasis tubes containing the unconscious bodies of Batman, Robin, Frankenstein, and others in an underground complex.

Lois attempts to use the Hellbat gauntlet to defend herself from Cobb, but it proves no match for his telekinetic abilities. Clark hears Lois cry out and comes to her rescue.

Meanwhile, Jon is being held captive, forced to watch as Superman and Cobb fight on an array of monitors. A shadowy figure tells him that what he is watching is “the failure of Superman.”

As they fight, more giant monsters attack the town. Superman breaks off the fight to save the town, but finds there three residents of Hamilton County already fighting the monsters – with super powers and in costume. They inform Superman that they call themselves the Super Elite.

One of the monsters severely injures Lois as Jon watches from his hidden location. The shadowy figure then reveals himself to Jon. It is Manchester Black.

 

Positives

Well, Manchester Black is back, and that always spells trouble for Superman. And Black is not just a formidable enemy, but one that always clashes with Superman on an ideological level as well. Superman is a character that has an optimistic outlook on life. He tries to see the good in everyone and never takes lives of even the most evil foes.

Manchester Black, on the other hand, is very black and white in his outlook. You are either good or evil, and if he feels you are evil, he has no problem hurting or even killing you. And he feels that Superman, by not taking a similar stance, is allowing evil to flourish.

So Black is putting Superman through the wringer again, but this time it seems his attention is mainly on Jon. It appears that Black is attempting to turn Superboy against his father. Given that Black is a telepath as well as a master manipulator, it is possible he might succeed. This could lead to some fascinating conflict within the Kent family.

Back in issue #1, I found it odd that Superman overreacted so strongly against Cobb, when he brought an injured Jon home to his parents. In this issue, Superman mentions that he always had a gut feeling that warned him not to trust Cobb. This goes a fair way towards explaining a reaction that seemed very uncharacteristic of Clark. I appreciate that the writers remembered and addressed this issue.

Negatives

Ouch. Lois doesn’t just get a some cuts and bruises, but actually loses a leg. Given the state of medical technology in the DCU and the fact that Superman has access to Kryptonian medicine, it is possible that she might be restored, but still – that is pretty severe. However, the severity of Lois’ injury and Superman’s helplessness to prevent it may provide Black some leverage in turning Jon against his father. I hope, however, that her leg can be restored.

Also, there is a lot of ambiguity about Black. With history having been altered in Superman Reborn, is this the same Manchester Black who clashed with the pre-Flashpoint Superman? And if so, does this negate his New 52 appearances in Teen Titans? Or is this an amalgamation of the pre-Flashpoint and New 52 versions? Hopefully, the next two installments will provide some clarification.

 

Verdict

This story is full of breakneck action as we hurtle towards the end of the Hamilton County era of the Kent family. I have no worries that they can overcome Black, but will they do so without lasting harm?

 

 

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Derek McNeil

I have been an avid reader of DC Comics since the early 70s. My earliest exposure was to Batman and Superman comics, Batman (Adam West) reruns, and watching the Super-Friends every Saturday morning.