Comics

Tried and True?: "Superman #19"

Between importing iconic Green Lantern villain, Hector Hammond, and struggling through the fallout of the "H'el on Earth" it seems writer Scott Lobdell's unique style might be at odds with the modern comics landscape…


Comics: Superman #19
Publisher: DC
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Scott Lobdell, Kenneth Rocafort
Price: $3.99
Publication Date: 2013-06

Throughout the Golden and Silver Ages of comics, it was commonplace to find a complete story in a single issue. It made sense at the time, when the industry wasn’t the behemoth it is today, when publishers had to grab people’s attention without the advantage of decades of continuity and culture from which to draw inspiration. This was how the modern comic book universes were built; through fast-paced storytelling that laid a lot of groundwork quickly.

The downside to this narrative style is the lack of human relatablility. Golden and Silver age books focused on the fantastical instead of the emotional, which meant there wasn’t a need for long-form stories or expansive tales. Post-World War II, the United States needed fiction that inspired people and built up the idea that good would always triumph over evil.

Modern comicbooks are a different beast than in decades gone by. As the industry grew, so too did the way comic books were written. Writers and artists work together more closely today than ever before. Innovative page layouts and high-concept narrative styles have become the part of the norm instead of an experimental niche. Emotional ramifications are taken more seriously, and thus, given more importance. It would be difficult for a comic book reader in the 60s to wrap his or her head around the way comicbooks are written today.

All of this is preface to the problem with Superman #19: Scott Lobdell. Seemingly stuck on a technique from the Silver Age, and molded by the slipshod editorial practices of Marvel in the mid-1990s, Lobdell’s unique style is at odds with the modern comic landscape. While Lobdell has embraced the idea of the New 52 more literally than other writers, he’s done so in a way that weakens the Superman franchise instead of making it more interesting.

Lobdell’s handling of Superboy since the company-wide relaunch is a testament to this unfortunate truth. While the Boy of Steel is, indeed, completely new and different from his pre-New 52 counterpart, he’s a self-righteous blowhard who, for some reason, understands sarcasm and witty banter between colleagues, but not the concept of how a bank and money work. Lobdell’s new origin for Superboy had Kon-El grow up learning normal human characteristics and academic knowledge through a virtual computer simulation, so why doesn’t he understand the basic concepts of right and wrong?

But it’s not just limited to Superboy. Beyond these basic revisionary errors, Lobdell’s insistence on using internal monologue to convey key plot points is simply uninteresting. One of the most basic principles of storytelling is that one should always “show” more than “tell” the audience what is happening. Instead of saying “Jim was sick”, it’s far more effective to explain how, “Jim woke up barely able to breath, had a sore throat, and felt worse than he had in weeks.” Since Lobdell has taken over Superman, the series has fallen into a jumble of mismanaged ideas and poorly executed storylines.

After a five month-long debacle that was “H’el on Earth”, Lobdell seems to find himself at a loss for how to proceed. For some reason, Lobdell decided long-time Green Lantern villain Hector Hammond would be a good enemy for the Man of Steel. I say ‘for some reason’ because Hammond has been in a catatonic state for the two issues he’s been featured, and readers know as much about the giant-headed man’s motives at the beginning of Superman #18 as they do at the end of Superman #19: nothing.

Of course, this is to say nothing of the over-explanatory Sunturians, a race of aliens made up of red sun energy, which cancels out Superman’s powers. It’s unfortunate that Lobdell would create this new race of creatures simply as a distraction from the main storyline at hand. And a good alien race at that! It’s hard not to think about the potential of a Sunturian invasion as a Superman arc, but the red creatures are soon swept to the side to make way for no plot advancement on the Hector Hammond front.

It is truly unfortunate that a writer whose style is anything but bright and iconic is handling a character that embodies those characteristics. It’s when the internal monologue becomes more important than the story that Lobdell’s work starts to fall apart. Lois Lane’s dinner party was the best part of Superman #19, but that’s still like saying it’s the most intelligent mouse in a group—it’s still heavily steeped in frustrating thought balloons that do little to advance the story because anything that happens is processed internally, giving not context for a relationship between these characters. If Clark only says the most necessary things to Lois, how are they expected to have a real relationship? Sure, they can be friends. But under Lobdell’s hand, Clark feels disconnected from humanity, and not in a good way.

Superman #19 is another in a long list of examples of why not to read Scott Lobdell’s work. Unlike, say, Batman or Justice League Dark or…really most of the other titles throughout the New 52, Superman doesn’t feel like a cohesive series under Lobdell’s hand. It’s like there isn’t any plan. Each issue feels like a separate story that just so happens to have connecting factors, instead of reading like an ongoing narrative, which is what comic books are supposed to do.

3

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

9
Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.