Today, Shelby and Scott are discussing Superman 31, originally released May 28th, 2014.
Shelby: I hate being in the way. Like, to the point of anxiety: if I’m with people, trying to help, but just getting in the way, I have a really hard time with it. It’s frustrating on two levels; not only am I not helping like I want to be, I’m probably making things harder by being in the way. Apparently, I’m just like Superman; he’s infected with Doomsday spores, and while all he wants to do is, you know, help save the world over and over, he’s stuck being in the way. And by the way, I mean threatening everyone and everything around him. Heads up, I’m not reading Superman OR Doomed, so I am definitely approaching this from an outsider’s viewpoint.
Currently, Superman is locked in Lex Luthor’s old cell while Cyborg, Batman, Luthor, and a holographic projection of Shay Veritas try to figure out how to un-Doomsday their friend. Things are not going well; Superman keeps putting out a Doomsday effect aura…thing which threatens everyone’s life. Lois Lane shows up to talk to Superman, because he wants her to put out a story warning people to no longer trust him, maybe to never trust him again if they can’t undo what’s been done to him. Lois is actually some sort of Brainiac right now, and, frustrated with Superman’s concern for humanity when the entire Earth was going to be destroyed soon, gives him a mental image of the Teen Titans, who were having difficulty fighting a sentient body of armor in New Orleans. Superman, ever the Boy Scout, breaks out of Lex’s prison to save the day.
The Titans are actually horrified at Superman’s appearance, claiming, “Something is wrong with Superman!” and he flies away.
So, like I said, I’m not reading anything that has anything to do with this title right now, so I have to take this completely at face value. Unfortunately, like so many issues that are a part of an event, this issue suffers immensely from trying to cater to both current readers and new readers coming in just for the event. Writer Scott Lobdell spends the bulk of the issue reminding us how everything works. We are reminded twice that Veritas can only appear outside her lab as a holographic projection, most of Superman’s internal monologue is just talking about how he defeated Doomsday but is now becoming Doomsday, and there are three different editor’s notes referring to three different titles. It’s the classic problem of trying to make a title fit with an event; Lobdell is trying to appeal to too many camps, and the end result is a story that rings hollow and goes nowhere. At the beginning of the book, Superman worries about how he can no longer be trusted, and then goes out in public and is promptly not trusted. The worst part is, I don’t know what he feels about it. As he flies away, he’s got no emotion on his face; the only thing he’s thinking is, yep, everything is wrong with Superman, that’s correct.
What just happened? Nothing? Was that completely pointless?
I don’t want to blame the overly expository nature of the issue on the event, though; the whole thing doesn’t have any sort of voice to it. Lobdell drags everything out, telling us exactly what is happening as it’s happening. He doesn’t let the art speak for itself, which is maybe ok; the art isn’t particularly spectacular. Art duties are shared by Ed Benes and Jack Herbert, and Herbert’s take on Superman is strangely young. Like, I thought for a second he became Superboy.
Seriously, I had to ask my friends in the comic shop how old Superman is supposed to be here; he looks like a god-damn child. Even after he gets all Doomsday-spikey, he looks like a teen-ager. Plus, let’s look at those three panels again. Why do we have three panels of Superman listening to Lois come in? Worse, Lobdell includes Clark’s internal monologue, thinking about how she’s getting closer. There’s absolutely no need for a dialogue box telling us something will happen in mere moments, and then drawing those moments for us to experience again.
Maybe I’m totally off-base with my reading on this book. I’m missing a lot by not reading the title or event, I’m sure. Scott, what did you think? Are you reading this book on the regular? Is there more going on here that I’m just not getting? How long has Lois been Brainiac?
Scott: I’m not regularly reading this title either, so I can’t tell you what’s going on with Lois. I have been following the Doomed event, however, and I can say that this is it’s weakest issue so far. Frankly, it doesn’t seem to fit into the event. Lois turning into a Brainiac, Superman going to St. Louis to help the Teen Titans — it all feels a bit random. The other titles on this event have explored the Doomed scenario within the context of their worlds. This issue feels more like Lobdell got tired of the event halfway through and just started looking for ways to tie it into his other stories, without making much progress anywhere.
Even considering I haven’t read the past several issues of Superman, I’m surprised by how difficult it is for me to get into this issue. At times it feels like Lobdell is actively trying to prevent me from understanding what’s going on. It’s not enough that this is part of an event spanning several titles, we also apparently need to reference a different title to understand every minute detail of the story. Even though I do know what it’s referencing, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around how Lobdell felt OK about writing a line of dialogue like this one from Wonder Woman.
No thanks, Eddie. Seriously, has anybody ever talked like that? It’s like Wonder Woman knows there’s going to be an asterisk after that sentence, so she’s trying to be as cryptic as possible. The entire issue is like this, relying on the reader to have a great deal of knowledge or put forth a lot of effort in order to understand what’s going on. Throw in the fact that the pencilling duties are split between two artists, and you’re left with an issue that never has a chance to form any sense of identity.
It’s worth noting that this is Lobdell’s final issue on the title, and it’s possible that the moments I thought were “random” were actually setting the stage for Geoff Johns’ upcoming run. I’m grasping here, I really have no idea. It’s a rather perplexing sendoff.
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This is the first Lobdell book I’ve read in ages, and I can’t say I miss the guy; the dialogue in this is SO BAD. Ugh. Everything is amazingly on the nose and not a single line sounds like anything that would actually come out of somebody’s mouth.
With Titans over and this being Lobdell’s final Superman issue, does he finally have no more books he’s writing? I’m not one to cheer when a man loses a job, but, well…do I have an opportunity here?
I was BEYOND confused about the Lois Lane stuff. I’m assuming Lobdell had already planted the seeds for Lois being possessed by Brainiac, but he does an absolute shit job of communicating anything about it here. If it weren’t for the cover, I would have assumed this was the result of the “Doomsday Effect”. Actually, the fact that it’s something entirely separate makes the secret conversation they have make even less sense. Doomsday and Brainiac share some kind of extra-physical space where they can have conversations nobody else sees? Why would that be a thing for either character, let alone both of them? Shit is DUMB.
I’m in agreement – this was by far the weakest entry in Doomed. It was boring, confusing, strangely drawn (I was confused by super young Superman as well), and had absurd dialogue.
Only contribution to the event – Superman/Doomsday cannot be contained. Luthor thought he was secure, and Luthor was wrong. Funny thing is, as this wasn’t solicited as part of Doomed, and didn’t have Doomed on the cover, my comic guy said this thing was selling out all over and going to be the most in demand part of the story due to its scarcity. And it mostly stunk.
Superman: Doomed (to be poorly written)
The cashier at my LCS seemed to give me a bit of a stink eye when he got to this issue while he was ringing up my stack. Now I know why.
Actually, no, scratch that, I knew why even then. Buying an issue of Lobdell’s Superman was a stupid idea from the start, but I was REALLY enjoying Doomed otherwise, so I kinda felt like I needed to get it to keep up with the story. Damn completionist tendencies.