Clark and Diana finally get some quiet time only to have it interrupted by a an astral embodiment of Lois Lane in Scott Lobdell and Ken Lashley’s “Superman” #26, and before anyone can say “awkward,” Clark is dealing with the ramifications of Lois’ rapidly advanced mental capabilities. These abilities were explored in the recent “Psi-War” storyline, and include the revelation that they enabled her to peek into Clark’s mind and discover who he actually is.
Clark doesn’t seem really sure how to handle this revelation, and neither does Lobdell. Lois’ ethereal form approaches Clark motivated by her genuine need for a friend, and casts her in a sympathetic light as she pours her heart out to him as he consoles her. All of that is believable enough, unlike Lois’ sudden and unexplained threat to expose Superman’s identity once her physical body emerges from its coma. The switch is illogical and jarring enough to make readers feel like they’re reading one of Mort Weisinger’s old issues of “Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane.”
In all fairness, “Psi-War” wasn’t Lobdell’s story, so his bungling of Lois’ changed character, while unacceptable, can’t be totally laid on him. In the space of a mere half issue, though, Lobdell has turned Lois into an ungrateful backstabber with her best friend and best hope of recovery now nervously pacing the floor at night. With any luck, Lobdell will whip up some of kind of Weisinger-esque undo for this whole scenario before this current storyline is over, because Lois’ character now needs the redemption.
Lois causes other problems for both Lobdell and Lashley, as despite repeated reminders by Lobdell that Lois is appearing in a non-physical form, she and Clark first embrace before she is carried by Superman as he flies her astral self back to the hospital; it’s as though Lashley forgot this key point when rendering the pages and Lobdell had to cover with some quick re-scripting.
Lashley does a nice job otherwise, though; his look for The Parasite is one of the better designs the character has seen in recent years, and his interpretations of both Clark and Superman are nicely done. Wonder Woman doesn’t look bad either. And speaking of Wonder Woman, Lobdell goes a long way towards making her and Clark seem like not only a couple, but a surprisingly normal couple, all within the span of the issue’s opening page. Diana’s understanding of Clark’s relationship with Lois is a nice touch, also.
“Superman” #26 is sunk by Lobdell and Lashley’s mishandling of Lois Lane, but is redeemed somewhat by everything else. The cliffhanger ending just might provide the mechanism for backpedaling on the poor characterization in this issue, providing some hope for improvement in future ones.