“I Can’t Stand To Fly…”

Lana Lang, in flight as she appears in "Superwoman" No. 1, by DC Comics.

Lana Lang, in flight as she appears in “Superwoman” No. 1, by DC Comics.

That was a harder chore than you might think to draw. Those sorts of “energy fields” that are ubiquitous in comics art are so hard to get right. In addition, her in flight posture was very tough…she has to look graceful and feminine, yet also like she’s launching forth on a pillar of violent energy generated by her powers. The angle of her head, as a result, was an Epic Chore.

All told…I am very, very happy with the art, but I am NO Phil Jimenez, to be sure.

The internet kind of lost its mind a bit over “Superwoman” No. 1, which was surprising. The premise was sold in solicitations as a Lois lane book, where Lois somehow has Superman’s powers, and becomes Superwoman, as one does. The book takes the premise that both Lois and Lana are at Ground Zero when the New 52 Superman dies, and as a result of the energy explosion, gained superpowers from the event. Lois walks away with the very traditional powers of Superman, that we expect, and Lana has the more apocryphal powers from the “electric blue” era in the 1990’s, complete with a uniform that references that storyline.

Lois and Lana’s relationship and budding partnership forms the core of the book, alongside a typical Superman style action story. The two women don’t like each other very much, but learn to be grudging friends, which is the kind of endearing, positive tone that a Superman Family book needs. This makes the ending hit harder than possibly anyone was expecting as Lois Lane is killed in battle, leaving Lana the sole Superwoman.

There’s been a lot of talk on the internet about whether this was a good ending or not, and it is certainly shocking. Lois lane fans, which I didn’t really understand existed as such, were completely angered, taking to social media in Force. There was a pretty substantial backlash from them, as they felt they had been pitched a Lois Lane book, and at the end of it, it just does not seem that this will be the case.

Speaking personally, I loved it. I thought it was the kind of “last page reveal” that pulls the rug out form under the readers. That’s as common in comics as it is in Soap operas and Telenovellas, taking the entire premise and flipping it on its proverbial ear. It’s the kind of thing that makes someone like me come back for issue No. 2.

I think it would make the book suffer a bit, because the strength of issue No. 1 was in the Odd Couple style pairing of the two characters. Lois really wants to be Superwoman, and is enthusiastic about it, while Lana is very reluctant to do so, and has serious anxiety about the topic. Without Lois to play off of, the book still features a reluctant hero in Lana, but less of the clever dialogue and narrative between the characters…obviously.

Again though…even the “death” is a recoverable one…especially in comics terms. It is entirely possible that the entire story arc will be an attempt to bring Lois back from her current, petrified state.

What’s impressive here is that we got a surprise at all. Genuine shock moments are rare these days in comics as publishers like to spill their guts to mainstream media outlets to drive sales figures…so letting something be genuinely surprising is, quite frankly, a surprise in itself. Readers went in expecting a comic about Lois Lane, and got a comic about Lana Lang, and while Lois fans are understandably upset, it’s a risky move of a sort that we don’t see much anymore.

Still…it is an ignominious death for the “New 52” incarnation Lois Lane, being petrified by a Bizarro of some kind. The New 52 made her a pretty unlikable character. She was saddled with an uninteresting love interest at the beginning of the new continuity who never appeared again, and was later responsible for outing Superman’s secret identity to the entire world. In other words, she was kind of a @#$%$, and this issue did a whole lot to make her a sympathetic character again. That is…right before she gets killed off. By petrification.

It’s also hard not to think that she was killed off partly to resolve the “problem” of having two Lois Lanes at the same time. And yes, that’s a confusing sentence, which takes a long explanation of the “Rebirth” Superman that I don’t want to do right now, and you do not want to read. So let’s skip it.

Critics rightly point out that the comic establishes a theme of female friendship and then throws that idea out the window by the last page. There’s an audience that’s eager for more comics about women’s relationships, and those readers could be alienated by the issue’s ending and may not return. right now comics shops have about 40 to 60 percent female readership nationally…so that risky shift at the end could be a bad call. Sales figures on issue No. 2 will tell the tale, of course.

That said, the sheer chutzpah of killing off the title character in the first issue of their series is pretty incredible. As poorly-handled as Lois Lane was in The New 52, I didn’t feel all that put out by the ending. Granted, I also chalked it up to “me…comics do that, she’ll be back.” Lana Lang, on the other hand benefited greatly from the New 52 revamp, and furthermore from this single issue. She’s a likable, strong, intelligent character with problems and insecurities, giving her a Spider-Man like feel without “Marveling Up” the book.

Jimenez’ art is beautiful, but at times, the compositions are a bit busy. Hopefully, that’s just because there was an amazing amount of story to put in issue No. 1, and things will tone down a bit.

The pencils before the background merge.

The pencils before the background merge.

It’s also important to note here that Superwoman is a separate character from Supergirl, which DC just relaunched as well, attempting to align the book more closely with the successful TV show incarnation. Because of course, comics aren’t hard enough for new readers to get into, right?

Lois Lane fans should take a deep breath and be at ease. Since Lois still appears on the covers of issues No. 2 and 3 of the solicitations for upcoming books, the character is almost certainly still an active part of the book…lending credence to the theory that Lana will have to step up to the task of “saving” her friend from whatever is happening. Once again, I can only say, “comics, people.”

Artistically…I was starting off with a team up cover in mind…but Lana’s flight posture and power are such that I felt like our hero’s awkward flight would only hamper the image. As a result, she kind of took over the piece. The title, of course, is from the “five for Fighting” son, and speaks to Lana’s reluctance as a superhero.

I would recommend the book, actually, if any of you are headed to a comic shop, or downloading comics to Comixology or another app. Worth the time, and again, the art is gorgeous.

Until the next post…Excelsior!

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