Written by Rebecca Henely
At this point a superhero’s friend or loved one taking up their mantle — particularly in the wake of the hero’s death — has become its own subgenre. When Superwoman debuted last month it seemed to give readers two for the price of one, with both Lois Lane and Lana Lang becoming a woman of steel after and as a result of the New-52 Superman’s death. Then came the last-page cliffhanger which left Lois a pile of goop/dust and Lana to pick up the pieces while worrying about both the enemy at large and her own mysterious headaches and nosebleeds.
The title of this issue is called “What Comes Next?” which feels apropos given it’s hard to see where writer/artist Phil Jimenz is going with this story, starting from the basic premise. Even when presumed dead, Lois, who wears a blue bodysuit and red cape reminiscent of Superman’s iconic look, is front and center on the cover of Superwoman #2. Meanwhile Lana, who resembles the Red Electric Superman from the ignominious Electric Superman period, is presented as the narrator and the main character. With that hook of two Superwomen done away with (or at least temporarily benched), Jimenz presents the reader with a series of smaller mysteries. Why does Lana get so sick from using her powers? Who is impersonating Lex Luthor’s right-hand woman Mercy Graves and for what purpose? What is Kryptonite Man’s role in this? And how about the last cliffhanger?
It’s enjoyable but not especially compelling, particularly compared to the first issue. The extent to which comic books keep repeating the Betty and Veronica “love rivals and best friends” dynamic among female characters sometimes feels less realistic than all the flying people. Yet Lois and Lana did have a good rapport and the scene in Superwoman #1 where they stopped Lex Luthor’s battleship from crashing into a bridge was fun. This issue I spent a bit too much time wondering what, exactly, I was supposed to be focusing on amid the questions. I don’t hate decompressed storytelling, but I can’t tell what I’m waiting for.
My ambivalence may be part of own bias as not a huge Superman fan. On the other hand, as a new book it’s certainly accessible to the casual reader. It not only utilizes well-known characters from the Superman mythos but establishes the relationships of the characters, like the friendship/rivalry of Lois and Lana in the first issue and the love relationship of Lana and John Henry “Steel” Irons in the second. Even when I wasn’t incredibly invested in what was going on I was never confused.
I also like that this is a book that’s establishing a cast in which the major players are women. Even ultra-baddie and new Superman Lex Luthor has mostly been made ineffective as Lana Lang verbally spars with Maggie Sawyer and faces off against female Bizarro-like beings. The most effective male character is Steel, who at one point apologizes for “mansplaining” to Lana to take care of her health. (This is one of a few nods to current events and discourse. There’s also a policeman who tries to say not all cops are bad to Steel when one of his fellow officers insults “you people.” Then there’s Lana complaining that her super-suit has no pockets — which seems strange given that I’d assume she’d make one if she didn’t want a Liefeld pouch.)
All in all, it’s admirable that two issues in, Superwoman is trying to keep the readers guessing, although I’m having trouble finding what the else to enjoy besides the twists. Jimenz’s writing and art is decent but I’m hoping that when the dust settles this book, like the Superwoman name itself — which has been used mostly for one shots, alternate universe gender swaps, and villainesses, has a stronger identity.