There’s a bit of an Empire Strikes Back vibe in Superman #23, the fourth part of the “Black Dawn” arc. While Superman and Lois learn who’s really in control of Hamilton County, Jon is forced to watch his parents fight without his help. Writers Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason and artist Doug Mahnke get about as dark as a Superman book can get.
Writers: Patrick Gleason, Peter J. Tomasi
Artists: Jaime Mendoza, Doug Mahnke
Publisher: DC Comics
Here’s the official synopsis from DC Comics:
“BLACK DAWN” part four! The mysterious force behind Superman’s defeat reveals itself. Superboy wonders what is so great about Truth, Justice and the American way. Will Jon turn against his father?
In the story so far, we’ve learned that farmer Cobb, the Kents’ next-door neighbor, was not as innocent as Superman thought. He was to blame for Jonathan’s stunted superpowers. When Lois Lane got too close to the truth, the real puppetmasters of Hamilton took advantage of Superman going on his own path to find Batman, Robin and Jonathan.
They captured Lois, likely knowing that Superman would come right after her. That’s exactly what the Big Blue Boy Scout does in #23. Even though he is right on the doorstep of the main villain in all this, he still rushes to save Lois. After the rescue, there are even more monsters to fight in the town and things really start to fit together. Superman is fighting alongside a particular group of villains who think killing is OK.
Meanwhile, the real mastermind behind this is forcing Jon to watch everything, keeping him from helping his parents. The villain (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it) is revealed on the very last page, and it’s pretty obvious why Mahnke took over penciling for #22 and #23.
Speaking of Mahnke’s art, it’s great here and much better than last issue, which didn’t have as much action. In this issue, he takes full advantage of the dark tone of the story, bringing out the creepy world that Hamilton has become in “Black Dawn.” The optimistic, sunny world of previous Superman arcs since Rebirth is long forgotten here. I never thought I’d be freaked out by the sight of an old man in overalls.
As for the story itself, Superman is constantly pushed to weigh his morals. “Black Dawn” has become a story about Superman forced to chose between saving strangers and his family, and even between saving his wife and saving his son. Superman even has to test his vow not to kill. Tomasi and Gleason turn up the heat on Supes and it’s going to be exciting to see how this all ends.