Superman: Lois and Clark #4. Dan Jurgens- Writer, Neil Edwards- Penciller, Scott Hanna & Edwards- Inkers, Jeromy Cox- Colorist.
It should be obvious that a Batman cover on a Superman book might add a few readers that month. In the case of this month’s Superman: Lois and Clark, it certainly teases a different Worlds’ Finest team.
The element that’s been the strongest throughout this series has been the characterization, and that’s no different with this issue. Of course there’s that problem with Blanque that has yet to be dealt with as well, and what about the slow-burning sub-plot of the Oblivion Stone?
The cover tease pays off in the opening sequence as we see an almost meeting between the pre-Flashpoint Superman and this world’s Batman. Not surprisingly, it’s Clark’s thoughts and emotions that are triggered by this near-Bat encounter that make the issue worth the cover price. It all comes clear as he relates the incident to Lois and we see just how human Clark is and how difficult it is for him and Lois to maintain their secrets. They are doing what they have to do to keep their family safe, but it is eating them up on the inside. Cue Jon in Superman shirt at his birthday party.
The scene shifts to the present as we catch up on Superman’s battle with Blanque. Two things stand out about this sequence. One- it has a very Silver Age resolution, really quick and unexpected help from Hank Henshaw. Blanque is giving Superman about all he can handle physically and emotionally even obliquely suggesting that killing him may be an option. This is exacerbated by Blanuque as he continues to verbally threaten Lois and Jon to try and throw Clark off. After Blanque thinks he’s defeated Clark he allows Henshaw a little autonomy in order to pilot a spacecraft in which they will escape. Henshaw ends up blasting Blanque allowing Clark to recapture him. And two- another character moment for Clark. As he puts Blanque back in his cell another detainee expresses her desire to have wanted to help. As it turns out she’s not a prisoner, but rather being kept safe in an environment in which she can survive. Superman acknowledges another cell indicating a similar situation. This is some nice subtle work by Jurgens and Co., allowing the character to be the main focus of the story allow the story to be about the characters and not the conflict, showing how the Superman approaches the conflict and what it reveals about his character.
Finally, as the Oblivion Stone seekers arrive in Earth orbit, Lois fills Clark in on her run in with Manheim from last issue and the next super-threat is teased- a reality show called “Bad Ass Nation.” Lastly, Lois and Clark discuss the necessity of revealing the truth of their identities to Jon, and he seems like he’s on the trail to figuring it out on his own.
Character has been so prevalent in this series and this issue shows how it’s done. This Lois and Clark are familiar and each issue reminds the reader why they are familiar. If I could sum up the difference between this Superman and the New 52 Superman in one sentence it would be this: Pre-Flashpoint Clark knows how he fits into the world and New 52 Superman doesn’t know how he fits into the world. It may be a question of time and experience for New 52 Superman, but with Rebirth on the horizon, his time may be running out. This series has not done a villain of the month, but it is allowing for more than one challenge for Superman while at the same time setting up a bigger threat presumably with the Oblivion Stone. At first Blanque’s relatively quick end seemed like a misstep, but it actually just minimizes his threat and reminds the readers that this really is an experienced Superman.
This series seems directly targeted towards readers who miss the pre-Flashpoint DCU. As such, it could easily be a threat to the current Super-books as they deal with Clark’s revealed identity to the world at-large. Despite referencing these events in the story, this series could easily disenfranchise fans of the New 52 Superman, their differences are more than obvious here and this issue even in a meta-textual fashion shows how the Batmen are similar.
This series continues to be thoroughly entertaining. Perhaps, with Rebirth looming DC Comics sees the potential for a Superman series set in the pre-Flashpoint continuity. Anyway you slice it, the characterization is fantastic and the story compelling. It certainly adds some variety and diversity to the super-hero line, even if it feels familiar. In a good way.