Twists, Turns, and Burns in 'Superwoman #2'

by Jack Fisher

15 September 2016

Lois Lane's loss is not Lana Lang's gain.
 
cover art

Superwoman

Matt Santorelli

(DC Comics)
US: 14 Sep 2016

We don’t like to think about what happens to our beloved toys when they become outdated or obsolete. Most of the time, we’re content to forget about them and enjoy our new toys. This happens a lot with characters as well, most of which are clones, time travelers, or visitors from an alternate universe. We expect their presence to become obsolete or unnecessary in most cases. Our expectations with post-Flashpoint Lois Lane are a bit harder to discern.

As with Superman, DC: Rebirth went to great lengths to put a lot of genies back in multiple bottles with Lois Lane. In addition to having another Superman replace the one that died, we also get another version of Lois Lane. She’s the classic wife and baby mama of Superman and her story is now part of the overall Superman narrative. This leaves post-Flashpoint Lois Lane in a state of limbo, one she seems to fill by becoming Superwoman.

Unfortunately, her run as a superhero lasts for only one issue. It ends quite abruptly. There are chess matches between the Flash and Batman that last longer. Superwoman #1 ends in a way that makes the premise of the series feel like the fine print of a bad user agreement. It gives the impression that post-Flashpoint Lois Lane is obsolete and DC Comics just threw her away the first chance they got. Superwoman #2 attempts to create a story around this act, but it’s a story built on a shaky, overtly fraudulent foundation.

Post-Flashpoint Lois is basically turned into a catalyst for Lana Lang to become Superwoman. It’s not a classic act of “fridging” a female character. Lois Lane isn’t murdered or butchered as a means to push Lana’s story. She’s just cut out of the dynamic, ensuring there’s only one Superwoman. The fact that the Superwoman who doesn’t have a counterpart from an alternate universe survives is quite telling.

By taking Lois Lane out of the narrative, the tone of Superwoman #2 takes a dramatic shift. It’s either callous in that Lois’ death quickly becomes a side-note, or just flat in that Lana’s story fails to be that compelling. To his credit, Phil Jimenez makes a concerted effort to develop that story. It certainly helps that Matt Santorelli’s art creates the right tone and ambience. It just never comes off as anything more than a consolation prize.

That story still has elements of mystery and intrigue. Superwoman’s first major nemesis is revealed as Lena Luthor. It’s a fitting, if not overly standard dynamic. If there’s going to be a female Superman operating in the DC universe, then there should be a female Lex Luthor by default. In the spirit of gender equality, it’s only fair.

There’s also never a sense that Lena Luthor is just a female version of Lex, either. She goes out of her way to make that clear to Lex, albeit in a very uncomfortable manner. Then again, that only makes her more worthy of her role. If Superwoman #2 has a strength, it’s that it doesn’t try to just push female characters into male roles. It lets its female characters be female. It’s one of those concepts that shouldn’t feel so novel.

Even if Superwoman #2 checks all the boxes in terms of gender dynamics, it fails to check many more. The story quickly becomes choppy and bland. It’s less about Superwoman and more about Lana Lang reacting to Lois’ death. These reactions are lacking in emotional weight and only serve to put her in a position to fight more monsters. For a character as iconic as Lois Lane, this just comes off as crass.

Lana does get a good assist from her current lover, John “Steel” Irons. He plays the part of a supportive boyfriend, but not much else. He does little to move the story forward or add emotional depth to the situation. He may as well be Lana’s personal assistant, whom she just happens to be sleeping with. By and large, he just doesn’t do enough to make his presence feel relevant.

In principle, there’s no reason to doubt that Lana Lang can be a compelling Superwoman. She has the personal connections, the spirit, and the desire to do the job. Within the context of this story, however, her ability to be Superwoman is essentially tied to the fate of Lois Lane. She’s not being Superwoman because she feels inclined to use her new powers for the greater good, as Superman would. This story gives the impression that she’s embracing this role because of Lois. That excuse may work for Peter Parker, but it doesn’t work for Lana Lang.

A big part of Superman’s core is that he does the right thing simply because it’s the right thing. He doesn’t need any other reason. That’s the only real reason that matters. Superwoman #1 sets up all the right dynamics to continue that legacy, but Superwoman #2 just throws it away, trying to create other reasons that only undermine this ideal.

In the end, the intent of Superwoman #2 is commendable, trying to set Lana Lang up as Superwoman and establishing the necessary factors. The results, however, are shallow and stale. It also gives the impression that post-Flashpoint Lois Lane was a character that DC Comics couldn’t wait to get rid of. Now that there’s another Lois in place, who perfectly complies the decades-old traditions that dare not be broken, the concept of Lois Lane being Superwoman gets thrown away. It’s not just a missed opportunity. It feels downright petty.

The heart and soul of what makes a Superman comic what it is just isn’t here. It didn’t necessarily die with post-Flashpoint Lois Lane, but there isn’t much effort to salvage those elements, either. Lana Lang may still develop into a viable Superwoman. She just has a lot of forces working against her and even the strength of Superman may not be enough to overcome them.

Superwoman

Rating:

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