SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for “Superwoman” #8, on sale now.
While the latest development in the big story of the “Superman Reborn” arc was the true identity of the mysterious non-super Clark Kent over in “Action Comics” #975, “Superwoman” #8, a tie-in issue by Phil Jimenez, Jack Herbert and Stephen Segovia, also offered significant clues as to what this latest “rebirth” will mean for the Superman Family. Lana Lang has now been visited not only by the ghost of New 52 Lois Lane, but also that universe’s Superman and more.
Throughout the series, readers have seen Lana deteriorate both mentally and physically as the energy powers she gained as the New 52 Superman died have taken their toll. She’s had regular conversations with the spirit — or some other form of ethereal manifestation — of New 52 Lois Lane, who acquired more traditional Kryptonian powers at the same time but who died on the two Superwomen’s first mission. Lana, quite understandably, believes these conversations to be all in her head, but one of Lena Luthor’s Bizarress clones seems to be able to perceive Lois, as well. Last issue, though, and continuing through “Action Comics” #973-4, Lana finally succumbed to her own deadly powers, and her boyfriend Steel rushed her to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude for live-saving treatment.
“We’re So Disappointed in You”
In a state near death, Lana’s hallucinations/visitations are ratcheted up to 11, and she finds herself confronted with her dead brother, parents and the New 52 Lois and Clark. Her brother’s first statement, “We’re so disappointed in you,” speaks to a lot of Lana’s conflict over the course of the series: her debilitating self-doubt. She had to be coaxed into being a Superwoman, and acutely felt the failure of living up to the model of an ideal hero.
But soon her family softens the blow by clarifying that they are only disappointed that Lana has forgotten her own strength.
“Why Can’t I Focus?”
Things get more interesting, however, when Lana reveals that her memory of the very meeting where Lois convinced her to become Superwoman is “hazy.” As her family fades away, Lana is left with her old friends Lois and Clark, along with the sense that something is changing in the very fabric of reality — something centered on this pair.
In case there was any doubt, a caption directs readers to check out the “Superman Reborn” arc for the full story. But the thing is, even with this week’s big reveal, the stuff Lana is going through hasn’t really been the central focus of that arc — readers who pay close attention to the story around comics, who consider the reasons behind their favorite stories and debate about things like the New 52 and Rebirth, may have a good sense of what’s to come, but that’s all somewhat external to the story currently being told in “Superman” and “Action.” Right now, it’s looking at the mystery of the false Clark Kent and the peril he represents to the real Clark, Lois and their son Jon. But those characters — the bedrock of the DC Universe — are currently carrying the narrative albatross of being refugees from another universe, the pre-Flashpoint reality, which complicates the concept of a character who should be universally accessible. “Superman Reborn” will likely address this. But “Superwoman” #8 starts to suggest how.
After a bit more railing about how Lois and Clark are apparently the most important people in the universe, Lois tells Lana that the “universe chose her” to “be a bridge,” to “protect the past and connect it to the present.”
Then, the pieces start to fall into place.
“I Understand Now”
Lana is either way smarter than I am, or else overstating her case. But at any rate the direction is pretty clear: The universe is reconfiguring to incorporate the pre-Flashpoint Lois and Clark so that they have always been a part of the current continuity. It also suggests that Jon, who is currently being held captive outside reality by “Superman Reborn’s” villain, represents more than simply the first child born to comics’ classic couple.
Lana’s role, her purpose as a “bridge,” is now to expend the “red energy” to get N52 Lois and Clark “back to where we came from. To make us whole.” Which she does, knowing that she will no longer remember their time together and believing that she will no longer have powers.
The last two panels of the issue present two final, vitally important questions. First, does Lana retain some form of Superwoman powers? She imagines herself waking up after the extended visitation, donning her familiar costume and rushing off with John Henry, Natasha and Traci 13, but without her own energy crackle. But then, the issue ends with an image of Lana still hibernating within the Kryptonian battle armor that brought Kal-El back to life following the “Death of Superman” arc, with Steel pleading with her to “please come back.”
It’s pretty clear that Lana remains comatose. How, then, do we interpret the events of this issue? The structure of the series and the nature of her conversations with Lois suggest all of these things “happened,” within the context of developing Lana’s narrative — Lois assures us “this wasn’t for nothing.” And that means we can accept the insinuations about the conclusion of “Superman Reborn” at face value, opaque as they are. But if she’s still in the battle armor, we don’t know what kind of Superwoman she’ll be when she comes out. This may be by design, as new writer K. Perkins takes over from Phil Jimenez next issue; Jimenez has concluded his chapter in the “Superwoman” saga by notably drawing his characters back to their roots (the meeting on the farm where Lois convinced Lana to suit up) while also resolving their inter-dimensional conundrum and crisis of faith.
The solicitation text for Perkins’ first issue suggests that Lana and Lois will once again fight over the mantle of Superwoman.
“SUPER WOMEN” part one! In this story tying in to “Superman Reborn Aftermath,” Lois Lane and Lana Lang find themselves reunited at last! Along with the Man of Steel, their reunion is cut short by the return of Cannon and Saber, who arrive to wreak havoc on the newly restored Metropolis. The mantle of Superwoman will be decided in this debut chapter of “Super Women”!
Does this mean Lana will come out of her coma? She does not necessarily need to be conscious for a “reunion,” though an ongoing series in which the lead is incapacitated for several issues at a time would be difficult to sustain. Or does this suggest that Lois will come out of “Reborn” with powers, and potentially take over the series? After the unexpected switcheroo back in issue #1 where Lois, who had been billed as the titular hero, expired prematurely, some might see such a development as vindication, while others would cry shenanigans.
“Superwoman” has been at its best, though, when it’s unpredictable, and when it uses its conflicted heroes to explore the grey areas of super-heroism, such as the potential for redemption in the Atomic Skull’s contribution to saving Metropolis despite his indisputable crimes. It has been less good in its endless litigation, both through caption narration and “Conversations with Lois,” of Lana’s self-doubt. Whatever path the new writer takes, Perkins may do well to let its central heroine stand on her own and embrace those aspects of Truth and Justice often ignored by the superhero set.