Why Aren't You Reading Superwoman?

We're officially six months into DC's Rebirth project, a line-wide publishing initiative meant to restore the sense of legacy and the bonds between characters back to the DC Universe.   With a mission statement like that, one might almost think that the entire thing would be full of older characters from decades past, but Rebirth has come up with a nice mix of both new and old heroes (and villains!) to give the line the variety it needs.  And right now, for a couple reasons, there are few better new heroes (or comics) coming from DC right now than Superwoman.






#1 It's For Continuity Freaks: For a title focused on what's basically a new hero, Superwoman's jam-packed with ties to older DC Comics.   Lana Lang was once a seldomly used character--but writer Phil Jimenez takes the opportunity to populate her comic book with well-known characters from the Superman mythology.   Lana's love interest for Superwoman?  John Henry Irons, A.K.A. Steel.    From Steel we get his niece Natasha Irons, who's starts the series working alongside Lana and her uncle as a so-far unnamed armored hero.  And no hero's solo comic is complete without a connection to the police, and Superwoman features Science Police division head Maggie Sawyer, back in Metropolis after several years in Gotham.  Even the first issue before Lois dies and Lana Lang is forced to take her place is a neat little riff on the Superman Red and Blue costumes from the 90's.



Of course, the ties don't just stop at the heroes.   The first major villain of Superwoman's comic is Lena Luthor, driven mad by her boosted intelligence that's courtesy of a unique Mother Box left on Earth after the Darkseid War from Justice League.   Her legs completely healed, the first arc sees Lena take on the alter ego of "Ultrawoman", wearing a modified version of Lex's old power suit from the early 80's while using an army of lady Bizzaro's in an attempt to conquer Metropolis.  She also seems to have captured a vast number of Superman's old enemies for her army--from Atomic Skull to the Kryptonite Man.

There's even a reference to Lana's old identity as the "Insect Queen", with Natasha showing off an armor that's almost certainly going to play a part in the finish of this first arc.  (I hope.)  For all of the DC longtime fans that are looking for titles closer to what was coming out pre-Flashpoint, Superwoman is one of the closest to that level--it creates new bonds and reinforces many of the old ones that DC Universe: Rebirth claimed had vanished.



#2 Diversity: The biggest criticism I saw prior to the Rebirth initiative starting was that it was going to restore the DC Universe to a place where there was nothing but a bunch of white men running everything.  Though I always found that to be ridiculous (and working off patently incorrect information about the pre-Flashpoint universe), there's no denying that we're in an era where diversity is an important cornerstone of most of the major comics being published today.   And if that's a concern for you, Superwoman's kind of all about it.

Written by one of comics' premiere LGBT creators in Phil Jimenez, Superwoman is unique in that not only is the lead hero a woman, but it's first/lead villain is as well.  Lex is sidelined early by Ultrawoman for just generally being a self-centered dick, leaving Lena to get further in taking over Metropolis in five issues than Lex has since he became President back in '04.    Meanwhile, Superwoman might just be providing us with DC Comics' first major interracial relationship between Lana and John Henry in years, a union that actually strengthens both characters in terms of their place in the Superman mythology, their place in the DC Universe as a whole (I'm a sucker for superhero couples joining a team together), and the overall readability of the comic.  Steel's always been one of my favorite DC characters (I'm a sucker for armored heroes), so while I came here for Phil Jimenez and to see the secret of Superwoman, I'm staying for Steel and his niece.



Speaking of, while it came as a bit of a shock to see Natasha Irons suddenly revealed as a queer character, it's not an unwelcome change.  I'm just happy to have Natasha and Traci 13 back at all--Natasha was actually starting to develop a storyline unique to herself between 52 and Infinity Inc, and Traci is just a cool magical character, the kind DC has been sorely missing since they reduced the magic side of their world to just Justice League Dark and Constantine.  Ultimately, neither of the two had such established heterosexual relationships that it hurts anything to make them queer, but it does make Superwoman and the DCU feel more inclusive--something many find necessary, particularly after Flashpoint made Grace Choi and Anissa Pierce vanish.   (Plus it's not like I don't see where this could've come from.)


#3 It's Really Good: Of course, neither of the aforementioned reasons would matter if this comic wasn't good.  Except, Superwoman is frequently one of the best comics on the stands from month to month.  Featuring gorgeous artwork by Emanuela Luppachino, the action in Supergirl pops off the screen in beautiful, vibrant colors and reads almost like a Superman cartoon for a new era.


And Jimenez is doing all sorts of cool stuff with these characters. Everything begins with the mystery of how Lois died, and Lana Lang's subsequent struggle to live up to her (and Clark's) legacy of wanting to protect Metropolis while trying to understand why her powers are killing her.  Then there's Natasha's quest for an identity as a superhero--she's spent the past five issues working alongside her uncle and his girlfriend as a hero, but has yet to come up with a name for herself that would have meaning to her.  It sounds insignificant, but a hero's name can often color how you see them--and Natasha's never exactly had the strongest choices.

Next there's Atomic Skull--all too often we see heroes battle the villains only for them to return later, often stronger and more deadly than ever--making the fights themselves seem futile.  But after revealing that Luthor's prisons are abusing the powers of their superpowered inmates, Atomic Skull later helps save Metropolis and seems to feel good about the idea of helping other people.  A minor DCU villain dating back to the late 70's, seeing Superwoman have an affect on not just the people she saves, but the actual "bad guys" makes her seem truly heroic.

Lastly, and potentially the most cool part of Superwoman, is that it feels like it's as much about it's main hero Lana Lang as it is about Metropolis itself.  Putting other heroes besides Superman on display, reintroducing some of the elements of the Superman mythology that have fallen through the cracks--like the Ace o'Clubs bar or the Science Police division, the book has put a lot of work into fleshing out the city, and it's a welcome development.  I've always felt that Gotham has long been just as important a character to Batman as Robin or Alfred, but far too often Metropolis can just feel like a backdrop for Superman to punch things in.

The reason I wrote this at all is that I've seen the sales of Superwoman, and they kind of bum me out.  Superwoman #4 sold roughly 30k, and while that's not nearly cancellation numbers--sales trend downwards more often than not.   Though it doesn't feel like it--Superwoman is for all intents and purposes a new hero, featuring a talented team that's doing a lot of cool things with their little corner of the DCU, and they've barely even gotten started.   I spend a lot of time complaining about how DC only ever promotes Batman and Bat-related things, and here they've gone and done something REALLY cool in the area of the House of El, so I'd be remiss if I didn't ask: Why Aren't You Reading Superwoman?

Comments

  1. Why Wasn't there just another female kryptonian introduced seeing as Earth 2 got Val-el.

    ReplyDelete

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