Superman #20 review

It's a lovely spring day in Hamilton County. Jon Kent is seeing if he can fly. 
He can't. 

Clark Kent is causing people to,look up, up in the sky as Superman.  

And Lois Lane Kent White Smith (long story) is getting used to being plain old Lois Lane Kent once more. 
Back Indoors, the darkness brings visitors from Gotham City. Bats are attracted to barns, but Lois isn't having it and orders Batman and Son into the house. 
Pleasantries over, Batman gets down to business. He's analysed Jon's body chemistry in a bid to work out why Jon's recently arrived super powers have been cutting out. He doesn't have answers but Batman does have information. 
Now there's a surprise. I assumed that a child of Lois and Clark would at best gain half his father's power levels, but if Bruce is correct, that's rather exciting for Jon. 

And worrying. 

What could be stunting Jon's development? It has to be environmental factors, thinks Batman. 
I think we all saw that coming and I agree, homogenised milk is the work of the devil. Time for the Caped Crusader to meet creepy Cobb Brandon's Bovine Bruiser, Bessie... 

After the excitement of the Superman Reborn arc it's lovely to have a breather issue. Sure, there's action down on the Cobb Farm, but most of this issue is character work - small happenings and conversation. There's no infodump relating to the merging of two Supermen and two Loises - I expect that to come in Action Comics - just a day in the life of an almost-ordinary family and their weird 'relatives'. 

The usual writing credits are reversed this time, with Patrick Gleason listed before Peter J Tomasi, so I'm taking it he had more input into this issue; I can't tell and that's a compliment. The partnership between these two guys is seamless by now, as they produce one of the most consistently enjoyable, high quality comics around. The Kents - and how lovely to be able to write that again without a qualifier - are as delightful to be around as ever, while Bruce adds a touch of spikiness that only emphasises who Superman is. 
And Damian is the toned-down version I like best, not so much arrogant assassin as very smart smartarse ... which isn't to say he doesn't mind his manners around Clark and, especially, Lois. 

While I'm no fan of the Bat-God version of Batman, I do like being reminded that he trained in the sciences, so it's a small thrill to see him as Superman's go-to where the mysteries of Jon are concerned. And how cool is that machine he uses on Jon? I'm sure I had a projector toy that did that.   

That's the work of Gleason the ace penciller, with inks by Mick Gray, who sounds lovely. I can't remember where I first saw Gleason's work - probably Aquaman, about three relaunches back - but it's terrific to see how he's grown, building on his strengths while eliminating such weaknesses as occasionally awkward jawlines. Here there's consistently great storytelling, and every page has some little extra. It's tough to pick a favourite, given the strong linework of Gleason, wonderfully liquid inks of Gray and always appropriate colours of John Kalisz. Rarely has an art team been so equally accomplished at sunny and moody scenes. If pushed, it's a toss-up between dinner with the Kents and Batman's Brandon farm recce. 

Actually, it's this... I love seeing a chap so goofily in love with his wife. And is it an accident that Gleason's depiction of Superman's telescopic vision is more like 'binocular vision', giving the impression of hearts as he looks at his wife and son? I doubt it. 
Oh, and I smiled at the little red and blue birds accompanying Superman on his splash page flight. Maybe the souls of the extra Lois and Clark going to heaven?
Gleason and Kalisz gift us the gorgeously optimistic cover a new beginning deserves, while the variant by Jorge Jimenez and colourist Alejandro Sanchez is stupendous- look at how even Superman's 'shadow self' seems friendly as heck. And to think the spit curl was apparently banned in the New 52. 
If you know of an old Superman fan who isn't reading this series, grab them and put them onto it – they'll think it's all their birthdays at once. 


  1. This issue bugged me so much in how it portrayed Lois.

    Post crisis I didn't think she changed her last name, but if she did? That is fine, it's her choice. I've been married 25 years in June, I never changed mine so even back then it was an acceptable choice.

    The writing on the mailbox said Mr & Mrs C Kent. What? Where is her identity. If it said C&L Kent or Kents Or Lane/Kent? But this? This felt like a 1950s fevered dream.

    I thought Lois merged with her New 52 counterpart not Silver Age Lois Lane.

    Then there was her "Leave it Beaver"serving food to the guys at the table. This is Lois Lane. It'd be more believable to me to see both Clark and Lois doing host duties.

    Then the page after this scene, she is playing interference telling the boys to let their fathers talk. What?? I would expect her to be in the thick of the discussion.

    This felt really retro to me. I had to check the date to make sure it didn't say 1955.

    I don't think some writers understand how to write a woman like Lois Lane as a mother. I'd love to see how a Kurt Busiek, for example, would write her as a mom. He seems to grok Lois and her complexities.

    I thought she was written out of character.

    I also wish Clark and Lois noticed the fishy neighbor and investigated instead of bringing in Batman.

  2. Hi Maya, I totally agree about the Lois serving scene, I did think to mention that, then the thought went right out of my peabrained head.

    Ive no problem with the postbox scene, some people do address letters in that horribly patriarchal way, older folk especially, at least here in Merrie Old UK ... I read that and crossed my fingers it was a hint Ma Kent is alive and writing. Perhaps that's Lois looking cross rather than, as I took it, bemused as to what's changed in the world. And we do get a more conventionally addressed letter. I assume that, professionally at least, Lois keeps her own name, no 'Kent', otherwise she'd have to throw out all those lovely old logos she keeps in a box under the bed.

    And actually, head, investigative reporters, Lois particularly, should be investigating Creepy Cobb by now.

    1. I agree! I was talking about the Mailbox. The Mailbox says Mr & Mrs C Kent RR#1 Box 138. How it was addressed at least had Lois Lane Kent. The mailbox didn't have her on it at all. If it just said "Kents" even.

    2. I got that feeling to but the pensive way she looks at the mail makes me think they might be setting up something just for Lois. It would be a waste to have joining in the boy's adventure on the moon with that suit and then just be shunted into "Mrs Kent".

    3. I'm definitely ready for Lois to headline her own series. It's not like she doesn't have name recognition.

  3. Martin, you and I are just never going to agree on this series, are we? I really do not like the writing, at all. I agree with everything Maya said above, and then some.

    The peaceful opening started nicely, very relaxed, but then it became a bit sappy stretched out over the decompression, and kept. going. on. Then we got them playing out a right wing '50s TV fantasy of a nuclear family.

    Honestly, there could and should have been some interesting storytelling with the body language of the adults, Clark pouring coffee while Lois grabs the pie, but no, we got subservient Lois and Superman as stiff and uninteresting as Batman and his yellow bat outline.

    I confess I have not liked Batman's portrayal by anyone in comics for years. Besides, the ultra-compression of his story is ridiculous.

    The laconic psycho explained that while Jon has not yet hit puberty he should already be at full strength, and should be way more powerful than Clark, as a hybrid. (That doesn't bother me at all, even though most previous stories involving his offspring went the opposite direction if anything. But I digress.) However, when he stated that Jon should be a threat to the whole planet, without explaining, neither Clark nor Lois made the slightest protest.

    Hello, Skrull/Venom hybrid cow from Marvel.

    What I was interested in seeing now, and should be covered in Action Comics if your guess is correct, is how Author X (or whatever they called her) merges with Lois the reporter who is *not* hiding out. And how do they explain Clark and Lois living so far from Metropolis but commuting?

    How do you tear up a digital comic in utter frustration and rage?

    Sigh. Now that Reborn is over, it's time for me to drop this series again.

    1. Oh dear, it sounds like this is indeed not the comic for you. I can see your quibbles but not why they're cumulatively so awful as to make you really angry. As Anj says below, the series may just need time to explain itself.

      Of your issues, the one I most agree with is the fact Lois and Clark - heck, Jon himself - didn't pin Batman down in his assertion that the boy is a big threat to the world, but that's standard comics. Also, Batman is a well-known drama queen.

  4. Loved this issue too! I think the mailbox scene had Lois Kent intentionally. Did you see how melancholy she was? I took that as missing being the Whites and in their own little world untouched by the Super-life, not that her Lane identity was being submerged. And who stood up to Bats and forced the conversation into the light of the house out of the dark barn? Her forcing pie on the man was passive aggressive but that still counts as aggressive, maybe the only kind Bruce isn't immune to.

    My only complaint with Lois is that she hasn't been shown as more nurturing of Damien. Even before motherhood Lois had a soft spot for children in need (Chris, anyone?) so she'd be the one in Bruce's circle besides Zatanna most likely to see Damien needs a positive maternal influence and step up to the plate. I assume she knows Bruce and Damien's real identities. Bruce isn't stupid so he'd know Lois would deduce it if he insisted Clark lie by omission to her. I think Lois is a better detective than Bruce honestly. Being a detective is one part of what Bruce does but it's pretty much all Lois does professionally. Even if his native intelligence is greater than hers, constant practical use would elevate her...

    1. I'm kibbutzing here, but the mailBOX says "Mr & Mrs C Kent" - no Lois.

    2. I'm with you, Steve, Lois is Lois no matter what her surname. I don't know about her being sad that the White/Smith bubble is no more, she seemed to be itching to regain a bit of her old life on the Jurgens/Weeks series.

      That's a brilliant point about the possibility of Lois acting as an auntie to Damian - maybe when his dad isn't there, bringing the grimness, she'll give it a go.

      You have me really wanting to see Lois instigate a custard pie fight!

  5. Loved the issue, right down to the patriarchal mailbox. ;) I was more rubbed by Jon being said to be "off the charts". When is the last time we had an off the charts Superman? Writers do contortionist tricks to keep him in the pocket, fearing the Silver Age will rear it's evil, yet incredibly creative head once more, and comics will be for kids, and kids at heart.

    1. " I was more rubbed by Jon being said to be "off the charts". When is the last time we had an off the charts Superman? Writers do contortionist tricks to keep him in the pocket, fearing the Silver Age will rear it's evil, yet incredibly creative head once more, and comics will be for kids, and kids at heart."

      B-b-but if such a thing happens, comics will be funny and imaginative again instead of super-serious and allegedly realistic! We'll see Superman coming up with crazy schemes to protect his secret identity while Supergirl rescues kittens, moves moons and travels to the future to hang out with her young cousin and the Legion! Batman will be guarded, controlled and quiet rather than a paranoid jerkass! And the characters' backstories will remain constant and not be retconned every five years! We can not have that!

      Now, seriously. On the issue. I liked, although I'm still waiting for Superman to acknowledge Lois and John are not his only family. I know he'll make an appearance in the Supergirl's next issue, but I'm fed up with him never mentioning his cousin. If you only read Superman's core books, you'd never know of the existence of Kara.

      Talking about Lois, I agree with Anj. Miss Lane never was intimidated by THE BATMAN. She commanded and he obeyed.

    2. I'd certainly welcome a touch of Silver, guys. And yes, Supergirl should have been mentioned by now... I'm hoping she becomes the Babysitter of Steel!

  6. Batman doesn't eat pie? More pie for me.

    1. I wonder what his favourite meal is... must dig out my old DC Superhero Recipe Book.

    2. Well, he seems to like cake on the cover of DC's Greatest Imaginary Stories vol 1. ;)

    3. He only likes imaginary cake.

  7. I think there are still wrinkles that need to be ironed out in this new timeline and Lois is the one that recognizes it.

    Look at the letters in her hand. Mrs. Kent. Lois Kent. Lois Lane Kent. It's like the universe doesn't even know what she wants to be called. That look in the last panel as she holds the mail makes her realize that even she doesn't really know who she is now. She wants to talk to Clark about it but he simply says 'things are better'. So I am willing to give the mailbox a pass for now because it is clear Lois isn't smiling about the names she sees.

    As for the pie, I hope we see a reverse scene where Lois is hosting one of her friends and Clark is serving. I know when my friends are over, my wife will bring out the coffee so my friend and I can enjoy the time together. I know when her friends are over I clear the table and wash the dishes.

    Finally, the two pairs of World's Finests are poised in the barn acting all tough and it is Lois, undaunted, who walks in and tells them to get out of the cold. She isn't intimidated by them. In fact, she seemed to be in charge there.

    It's a reborn world. I think we need to give the creators a bit more time to settle in. And I am thrilled they are having the characters address this issue too.

    1. Yeah, I agree with you. And I'm fine with the people who might think different.

      My only complaint on this is the amount of aggressiveness on a subject that's mostly about opinions and perceptions.

    2. I like your thinking, Anj - it'll be interesting to see how things develop over time. I certainly don't see that Lois' personality has been reduced... heck, compare the Lois we're getting now to the ever-changing New 52 version. She really is an impressive person again.

      I look forward to your review at Supergirl Comic Box Commentary, tomorrow?

    3. Anon, I'm glad to say there's been no agressiveness here, passion, yeah, but civility reigns!

    4. Oh, i forgot to add "elsewhere." Yeah, the discussion here is fine.

      And just to clarify another thing, I mean both sides. Because those stuffs always involve both sides going back and forth.

  8. Sorry folks. I strongly disagree. This portrayal of Lois Lane felt very out of character to me. Her name actually does matter. Mr and Mrs Clark Kent. Who is that? Where is Lois Lane in this. Mrs. Clark Kent could be anybody. Our names are mean something.

    The barn scene, to me, was completely out of character for Lois. I could see her sitting down and immediately talking about the issue at hand while Clark would be the one suggesting everyone come inside as he's learned this from his mother, Martha. Lois is the General's daughter who, I don't think would think twice about where she was. She'd just want to get down to proverbial brass tacks.

    This is about who Lois Lane is as a character and this felt very out of character.

    I could see Clark and Lois working together to serve their guests. Jon placing the pie in front of Damian. A family unit welcoming their guests. And then the dialog with Lois telling the kids to run off and let their dads talk? That didn't ring true to her character either.

    Those scenes didn't evoke modern mother to me. And it certainly didn't feel in character to Lois Lane.

    1. Sorry. Should read "Our names mean something" They tell stories and connect us to our past. Our ancestors. Meanwhile, the Mr & Mrs C(lark) Kent was the mailbox not the letter. I just do not agree this is a trivial concern at all.

    2. I agree her name matters. I think that's why she has that look of consternation on her face when she sees the letters. This doesn't make sense to her but her life has just been rewritten by someone/something/randomly. I wouldn't be surprised if she changes it. She certainly doesn't look happy.

      As always, I'm interpreting the book as I saw it. I didn't see her jumping for joy by those names. I didn't see her wearing pearls and vacuuming like Mrs. Cleaver.

      Maybe since I'm not affected directly by "othering", I can't see it. But I certainly don't intend on being an apologist for boorish behavior, or a participant.

    3. It is hard to explain if you don't live this. I'll be 53 in July. I'm an electrical engineer. My dad had to come in to my Jr. High to insist I be able to take advance math and science classes because my guidance counselor wouldn't assign me. Why? I was taking the place for a boy and my purpose was husband hunting. What is lost in this conversation is historical perspective.

      Lois Lane standing there serving the men folk wouldn't be a problem if, as you point out, we see the flip side. Except? That is rarely there.

      There was a more modern way to write this. Have them all work together. Have a burnt pie. Batman saying no. Clark muttering he should have baked. Something more dynamic than this "Leave it to Beaver" tableau which is out of character for her.

      The mailbox with Mr & Mrs C Kent (not the mail) is a problem. Mrs C Kent is a generic term. Any woman fits that. Her identity is nowhere to be found.

      I don't know how to explain to people who never had to deal with the push back how difficult it can be.

      I don't want my daughter to have to deal with this. I don't want my daughter to have to listen to what I had to listen to in the 80s and 90s as an engineer the dismissive comments I had to hear.

      These panels were retro. I don't see Lois pulling her son's ear and saying let's go in to the warmth. I see Lois sitting there trying to get to the bottom of things while Clark pulls his son's ear and rolls his eyes at Lois saying 'let's go inside'. He is Martha's son. She's the General's daughter.

    4. I definitely can see your points, especially about the barn scene now. For me, the barn seemed like two guy super-heroes puffing out their chests in a silly macho way and Lois thought it was asinine. She defused the whole thing with a flashlight and a stern word. But I totally see your point about their upbringing also needing to be part of that.

      I still think the name thing is a plot point that will be addressed. If it isn't, I'll be right there with you. And, as you say, if my hope for a 'reverse pie' scene doesn't happen, I'll also be more apt to be upset.

      We are now 40 issues into Reborn and Lois has been treated pretty well up to now. Certainly much better than she was in the New 52. Maybe I am just hoping/anticipating/expecting that all this will make more sense once the aftermath of last issue settles. We'll see ...

    5. I'd like to say I see some of the points made, but they've become very personal, almost esoteric. Our favourite characters can't always be what we want them to, but that shouldn't vex us to any extreme. When we need them to be what we want, rather than what they are, it's time to take a pause, and remind ourselves why we are reading about their adventures in the first place.

    6. Anj, I like your interpretation of Lois with the letters. I'm skeptical in the treatment, but it's a good call. (I'd still have preferred the "C" left off the mailbox if that's the case.) Characterization still feels off in this issue. I'm looking forward to Action Comics.

    7. 'Mrs Clark Kent' is part of Lois's identity, but so, so is not the whole thing; it's one way one which people see her. Is this not something you have to grin and bear when you get married? I don't see 'Mrs C Kent' as saying she's Clark's chattel - it's a stupid historical relic that will vanish within a generation.

    8. I think Lois successfully asserts her independence and individuality while still being quite proud of being married to Clark Kent. Remember that in addition to being an ace reporter she is also a mother and I think she would balk at any assertion that it has to be an either/or proposition or that taking the name of her husband diminishes her.

      Besides we've been shown scenes before of Clark doing housework and such so far as I'm concerned we catch this scene on a night where she's taking it upon herself to do it rather than her suddenly morphing into a Donna Reed or June Cleaver.

      She's not serving food to serve her man, she's doing because it's her house and if she feels like having people sit and talk to each other instead of bark one-liners from the shadows of the barn then that's what's gonna happen.

      If anything I read it more as "Okay, let's cut the macho bullshit and talk inside like functioning adults already!"

      Also at least at the moment I have some basic trust that the writers will show Lois getting back in the game as a reporter and helping Superman where she can on his adventures. I really hope they don't give her back any super-powers because I think Superman doesn't need to have every important person around him being a superhero or super powered. There should be room for awesome mortals and Lois Lane should be the first and foremost awesome mortal in his life.

    9. Lois certainly seems to be respected and liked by the Superman and Action Comics team and the serving scene is likely a serving scene in the most literal sense - serving pie, not serving men. We know Lois isn't the only member of the house to serve food... she's dishing up coffee, perhaps Clark put the pie on the table before sitting down!

      Lois certainly isn't a shrinking Mombot here, she's the one who ordered Bruce and Damian into the house, she's the one who later tells Batman to get to this point; there's more to this series than this issue and there's more to this issue than a pie scene.

  9. I'll say it again for those in the back. It isn't about serving pie. It isn't about her last name. The mailbox is Mrs C. Kent. Who is that? There is a reason that was convention way back when. Because when the first wife died, the second wife plugged right in. It has it's history of property.

    Lois Lane can serve pie. However? Lois Lane isn't going to stand there while the boys sit at the table. She'd be asking Jon to help. Clark would be helping as well. In what universe is Lois Lane "traditional"? She never has been. She was written out of character.

    1. I'm not sure we need the 'for those in the back' comment - no one here is stupid; there are different opinions and different life experiences. I want people to feel free to post here without being judged. We disagree, we swap opinions, but we don't assume anyone is dumb, if you please.

  10. kinda bummed that Lois does not have powers after Superman Reborn but she still kicks ass without actually read an old issue of superman a few years ago they were on vacation clark lost his powers recently an he got kidnapped by some criminals an Lois busts in an saves him

    1. I'm fine with that, Lois doesn't need powers to be awesome.


Post a Comment