SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for "Superwoman" #4, on sale now.
The winding path of Phil Jimenez and Emanuela Lupacchino's "Superwoman" takes another interesting twist this month, as Lana Lang contends with a strange visitor -- Lois Lane, New 52 version, briefly Superwoman. In fact, before its debut this Lois was billed as the star of the series, only to die at the hands of Lena Luthor's Bizarro clones in issue #1.
But is this Lois a ghost, or is her spirit bonded to the other woman who gained powers when the New 52 Superman died? Or, is this another manifestation of Lana's deteriorating physical and mental health?
"Get Out of My House"
Upon seeing her old friend, Lana reasonably assumes this is the pre-"Flashpoint" Lois, who recently took up her doppelganger's job at the Daily Planet. The truth becomes clear when Lana frustratedly tries to shove Lois, and her hand passes straight through the ether. (But not before Ghost Lois notes how weird it is that none of the crack investigative journalists at the Planet notice she's suddenly five years older…)
After a bit more shouting, and Ghost Lois revealing a few pieces of information only she would know (except if she were a product of Lana's mind), things take a turn for the even more troubling, as Lana suddenly finds herself not on her Kansas farm arguing with her dead friend, but instead mid-conversation with her boyfriend John Henry Irons and his niece Natasha at a Metropolis restaurant. Is Lana starting to lose her hold on reality?
What's Going On With Lana Lang
Worthy discussion about the portrayal of mental illness in superhero comics notwithstanding, there are some decent clues to suggest that Lana is not, in fact, going crazy.
What we know is that, as shown in the last few issues, Lana's body is breaking down as a result of or at least correlated with the event that granted her her super powers. We also know that she's prone to anxiety attacks, and is taking some manner of prescription medication that she is pointedly keeping a secret from her friends and family. Finally, there's the matter of the powers themselves. Fans may recognize Superwoman's suit from 1998's "Electric Superman" saga, during which time Kal El lost his physical abilities but acquired energy-based powers. Folks may also recall that, during this storyline, Superman split into two distinct characters, Superman Red and Superman Blue, playing on a classic Silver Age theme.
It's possible, then, that Lana was bickering with Lois down on the farm and simultaneous chowing down at the Ace o' Clubs with John and Nat. Her powerset just might include the ability to split herself off, though her mind hasn't caught up with how to manage conflicting sensory data. Taking this a bit further, it's entirely credible that Lois, too, is caught up in this matrix, making Superwoman a bit more akin to Firestorm than the Man of Steel from whom she takes her name. Having Lois as an invisible advisor would slot her nicely into the Martin Stein role, and Lois seems ready to help, as she does (or tries to do) when Superwoman asks Maggie Sawyer about the Atomic Skull's accusations regarding LexCorp prison contractors.
Jimenez and Lupacchino have gone out of their way in these early issues to give classic Superman concepts new life in Superwoman's world -- Lena Luthor becoming Ultrawoman, complete with battlesuit; Lena's army of Bizarro clones; the electric costume; and hey, even Lana getting superpowers, as she did so often in the Silver Age. It would be very much in keeping with their mission to introduce Superwoman Red and Superwoman Blue. Whether that is, in fact, the plan remains to be seen.