Today, Ryan M. and Taylor are discussing Superwoman 2, originally released September 14th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Ryan M.: If I read a novel in one sitting, I retain next to nothing. The plots, characters, and relationships all start to run together in my mind. I read an entire new adult series about college football players and the girls who love them in the past week and I couldn’t tell you any of the character’s names. I think one was Dallas? Too much story in a finite space leads to nothing making much of an impact. That’s how I feel about Superwoman 2, an issue with so much happening, that nothing has very much meaning.
The issue feels like it’s running in fast-forward. Here, Lana deals with grief over Lois’ death, discovers Mercy is a clone, reunites with and gets into an argument with John Henry, develops an ally in Maggie Sawyer. It’s a lot for a single issue to cover, and that’s not counting the revelations about prison experiments and Lena Luthor’s revenge.
By covering so much ground so quickly, there is little time for anything to be affecting. Consider the previous issue, as it built the relationship between Lois and Lana throughout, making Lois’ death heartbreaking. It’s only the second issue of the run and it feels as if elements such as character and relationship are purposefully pushed to the background. Because things are so harried, plot points that should have an impact are muted. For example, after hundreds of passive missiles are shot at the various LexCorp buildings on the first page, we see nothing of their affect. Instead, we get three images of the Metropolis citizenry with Superwoman’s narration.
While there needed to be follow up to the launching of the weapons, this reads like an epilogue to a story we didn’t get to see. The strange political point in the second panel doesn’t really follow either. Is the “go back to your own country” protest a response to the weapons fired by Lex’s ship? If the point is that the city carries on with kindness rather than panic, that’s something that could be shown more dynamically. This is just the first of several beats of this story that feel like they could be explored in an entire issue. The image of the hulking man in the Superman tank checking in on an old lady should have more resonance, instead it is just shorthand for Jimenez to take our focus away from the tensions he raised on the first page so that we can focus on Steel and Superwoman at the jail.
This is another story element that could’ve been more powerful if given room. We get hints of the police department’s conflicted feelings about the caped, but Maggie just immediately trusts Superwoman, even while both admit that they know she’s lying.
This scene functions as a meta-moment. The cops are just as confused as to Maggie’s motives and strategy as the reader. We also know that Lana can be trusted but it’s entirely unclear why Maggie would think so. She wants allies, but is that enough reason to trust a woman you know is lying to you? It was all the more confusing that Lana left the meeting feeling like she had a new friend. Had there been more room for Lana to demonstrate her honor, the result would have been satisfying. Instead, the meeting seemed like it just checked a few boxes on the plot chart.
There was one sequence that attempted the relationship and character-based conflict that can be more emotionally affecting. When John tries to forbid Lana from continuing to fight until her health is secured, we have the issue’s only instance of conflict rooted in information that we knew going into the scene.
In this sequence, the art helps underline the arguments volleyed between Lana and John. Even, Natasha’s “umm Guys?” in the center panel works to emphasize the growing tensions of the fight. Jimenez telegraphs John’s concerns and Lana’s defiance and frustration that she may not be physically well enough. It’s exactly the kind of conflict that I was dying to see throughout the rest of the book. Even if John does use the term “mansplaining” which really pulled me out of the moment.
Taylor, did the use of “mansplaining” work for you? On a more general note, how did you find the issue’s pacing in terms of both plot and character? We got more insight into the villains of the arc. What did you think of the way the information was presented?
Taylor: Ho boy. To come out with it, I didn’t enjoy this issue in the least. From beginning to end it’s a jumbled mess that at best disoriented me and at worst actively made me angry.
The “mansplaining” incident in this issue is actually a pretty good encapsulation of what I think is working against it. Mansplaining is a kind of a hot-button topic right now and if an author is going to address it in their comic they need to commit to actually discussing it rather than giving it a passing nod in one panel. Of course, in this issue it is only given the consideration of one panel which is indicative of the way Jimenez treats just about every subject in this issue. What bugs me even more about this broaching of mansplaining is that Jimenez not only fails to discuss the issue in any way, but basically trivializes it. At first John Henry apologizes for mansplaining but then he takes it back because it’s for Lana’s own good. In essence, Jimenez is saying that mansplaining is OK just as long as the man doing it out of good intentions. However, good intentions or not, John is failing to listen and consider Lana’s views, so even though he makes it aware that he knows what mansplaining is, he fails to correct the negative behavior. Jimenez, by failing to address this failing at all, is essentially giving his stamp of approval to mansplaining.
Normally this would lead me to question how “woke” Jimenez is but I honestly think this misstep is due more to his pacing issues than any moral failings on his part. Like Ryan said, there is so much crammed into this issue, making it highly confusing. At one point, Lana has a nightmare with the Atomic Skull. She wakes up from this dream, pops a pill, and then the dream picks up again.
Or at least I think it does. But then again, maybe it doesn’t. This confounding action sequence staring the Atomic Skull, John Henry, and Lex Luthor goes on until the end of the issue where it confusedly ends. I’ve gone back and reread this part of the issue several times and I still can’t fathom if this is supposed to be reality, a dream, or if Lana has some sort of prescient ability where she knows action is going down elsewhere in the city. Ultimately I find myself not caring whether it’s a dream or not because the whole damn thing makes little sense to me and it doesn’t seem worth investing time to figure it out.
Perhaps I’m just being dense and not willing to give this issue a fair shake in the example above. Even if that is the case it doesn’t forgive the mess that is this issue’s plot and layout. When Lana is taken into police custody (why?) I was bombarded by the following spread.
That’s eight panels (not even the full page!) with so much text and speech boxes that it makes my eyes cross. In six of these eight boxes Lana’s voice-over is paneled in a garish red that is anything but easy on the eyes. I understand that Jimenez chose this color to represent Lana’s fiery personality and literal body, but the affect is just too much. At some point, no matter the conceit being pursued, the aesthetic of a comic page has to be considered. All of this red is simply too much and too harsh for me to enjoy the page.
Of course the reason for all of this read is the copious amount of text which bogs down the page. I’ve never been one who enjoys too much text on the page so this one in pretty much a nightmare. It slows down the pace (what there is of it) of the issue and it’s unclear if that’s for any particular reason. Sure, we get some of Lana’s backstory, but is the best way to tell that story though a few token flashback panels and a voice-over? It’s a short cut to character development that falls flat because it’s just too much all at one time. It’s stilted and doesn’t feel like an organic way getting to know a character.
In general this speaks to the problems with this issue. For being on the second issue in the series, there is a lot going on here. Readers unfamiliar with the extended DC universe, and even those familiar with it, will have a hard time understanding what is happening with the multitude of plot points being discussed in this issue. This isn’t to say any of those points are bad, but when a series is just starting out it’s best to focus on one character at a time. If Jimenez wants that character to be Lana, then I can only hope the next issue is about her and not anyone or anything else. Otherwise someone will need to mansplain the whole damn thing to me.
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