Collecting all eight issues of the series that brought the post-Crisis Superman into the current (New 52/Post-Flashpoint) DC universe, along with Lois Lane and their son, Jonathan, the Superman: Lois and Clark trade paperback is written by veteran Superman writer Dan Jurgens, with pencils (primarily) by Lee Weeks, inks (primarily) by Scott Hanna, colors (primarily) by Brad Anderson, and letters by A Larger World Studios’ Joshua Cozine and Troy Peteri.
Is it good?
Superman: Lois and Clark TPB (DC Comics)
Just for fun, I’ve recently attempted to explain to a number of my friends what the deal is with the current Superman books, because as of this writing, I’m all caught up on both the current Action Comics run by Dan Jurgens, Patrick Zircher, and Steven Segovia et al, as well as the current Superman title by Patrick Gleason, Peter J. Tomasi, and Doug Mahnke et al.
It’s quite simple, really. You see, current continuity (post-Flashpoint/New 52, introduced in 2011) Superman died, in a fight against an evil man claiming to be Superman, shortly after Lois Lane revealed the real Superman’s secret identity to the world. He was replaced by the Superman of the previous (post-Crisis, introduced in 1986) continuity, who had traveled to the current continuity with his wife, Lois, and their son, Jonathan, living in the countryside under assumed names, wit
Okay, it is ridiculously convoluted.
It’s gotten so absurd that I actually find it a bit delightful, but then again, I’m familiar enough with this universe to be able to keep up. For somebody that is just jumping into DC comics, though (which the “Rebirth” initiative could attract with its renumbering and promises of fresh jumping-on points for the publisher’s marquee characters), such a complicated backstory can easily be enough to turn them off to the franchise, and quite possibly to comics in general.
One might think that Superman: Lois and Clark, given the fact that it takes place before the events of “The Final Days of Superman” and DC Universe Rebirth Special #1, would help get perplexed readers up to speed, especially with the “Road to Rebirth” branding on the front cover. Unfortunately, this is not likely to be the case.
There are a few reasons for this. First of all, this is not the first time that Post-Crisis Lois and Clark interacted with the current DC Universe. That happened in the two issues of Convergence: Superman, which, despite also being written by Dan Jurgens and penciled by Lee Weeks, is frustratingly not included in this collection, even if its absence is understandable. After all, why would DC willingly devalue its Convergence trades? Still, that leaves out a crucial part of the story. Jurgens gives us quite a bit of exposition dumping at the beginning of this series, but ultimately it seems to do more to catch up returning readers than it does to explain to new readers just what the hell is going on.
Additionally, Superman: Lois and Clark isn’t so steeped in continuity as to be inaccessible, but it definitely does run under the assumption that you already know who these characters are and what their deals are. That it’s unlikely to be a problem for most readers, new or old, since Superman and (to a lesser degree) Lois are so iconic, but if you don’t know, for example, that Lois was once a big-shot reporter for the Daily Planet, you may not appreciate the significance of the fact that she now gets most of her writing done as a long-form nonfiction book writer under the pen name “Author X.” Everybody needs to start being a Superman reader somewhere, but this series is not the place (for what it’s worth, the best place to start with Superman is either Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu’s Superman: Birthright or Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman, at least in this writer’s opinion).
Unfortunately, though, the main reason that this book is unlikely to get new readers to hop aboard the speeding locomotive that is the Superman train is that it’s just not that compelling of a read.
That’s not to say that this is a bad comic. One of the bright spots of DC’s “Rebirth” initiative has been the prominence of Jonathan Samuel Kent, the 10-year-old son of Lois and Clark. I love the idea of a father figure like Superman literally being a father, and seeing him and Lois raising a child together is definitely something special. Easily, the most interesting parts of Superman: Lois and Clark are the ones that involve the Kent family – known publicly as the “White” family here – interacting like, well, a family. Jonathan hasn’t arrived fully formed; it still feels like there is work that needs to be done to develop him into a fully-realized character in the pages of Superman, Action Comics, and the upcoming Super Sons. Nonetheless, he’s the sweet, brave boy that you would hope for him to be, and his transition into becoming Superboy is an interesting one.
The art by Lee Weeks also helps carry this book. His characters have a real weight to them, his figures convey excellent body language, and his faces are expressive. It’s always important for a book like this to be able to handle the quieter moments as effectively as the explosive action scenes, and Weeks knows exactly what he is doing.
As for Dan Jurgens, there’s no doubt that he’ll go down in history as one of the most influential and definitive Superman writers of all time, especially when it comes to this particular version of Superman. Perhaps that can be said about any writer that has worked on the character for as many years as he did (his first run alone was over ten years), but he definitely seems to have a grasp on Superman’s essential goodness.
Unfortunately, while Jurgens’ work here is consistently serviceable, it’s never particularly impressive, either. He can probably plot out a reasonably exciting story with a reasonably entertaining script in his sleep, but this book never reaches greatness, even with all the potential that its characters and concepts present.
Take Blanque, for example, one of a few villains to threaten Superman, his family, and the world throughout the book. His whole deal, we’re meant to believe, is that he’s a powerful telekinetic killer with an artistic flair, desiring to kill people and destroy entire towns in dramatic, stylistic fashions. That’s a great idea, but Jurgens never really does anything with it. Blanque talks a good game about being an artist, but nowhere in the book does he seem to do anything more aesthetically or dramatically interesting than any other run-of-the-mill villain. At least he presents a legitimate physical threat to The Man of Tomorrow, to the point where more than once I thought to myself “man, how is Supes going to get himself out of this one?” Still, purely physical threats are perhaps the least interesting kind in a superhero comic, and ultimately Blanque turns out to be unmemorable. What was the point of giving him such a great gimmick if nothing is done with it?
Similarly, there’s a villain introduced later on named Blackrock, a small-time ex-con given the opportunity to be a big-time supervillain thanks to a reality show called “Badass Nation.” This could have been an interesting commentary on the nature of reality television and what it does to its viewers and participants, even if such an idea would have been more timely well over ten years ago. Yet again, nothing interesting is done with this idea, as Jurgens appears unable or unwilling to explore thematic territory outside beyond the places that superhero stories tend to go.
Is It Good?
If you’re already reading and enjoying one of the current ongoing Superman titles right now, and want to learn more about the new (old) Kent (White) family, there’s enough good stuff to be found in Superman: Lois and Clark to be worth a read. Yet if you’re a more casual reader and you just want to dip your toes into the Superman pool, this is not the place to do it.