In Review: Superwoman #9

Lana's journey would have been more satisfactory had she not had to rely on Superman.

The covers: The Regular cover by Billy Tan and Hi-Fi is a really odd duck. Superman is in a raging downpour, complete with lightning, as he etches some words into a tombstone with his heat vision: “Hero Here Lies Superwoman”. This is a good idea for this cover, given last issue’s events, but the layout is odd. Superman is too far over to the left, leaving him with only enough room for a profile and his protruding chest. The tombstone he’s writing on is too far to the right, leaving much dead space between him and the marker. Above the gravestone is a knotty tree, lost in the logo and subtitle. The colors are fine, but somewhat surprising that they come from Hi-Fi. Superman is rosy, because of his heat vision, but it’s like a blanket red on him, the heat vision, and the words carved into the stone. Even the glow below the words looks rushed. The graveyard is murky, which is understandable from the rain, but the colors look just tossed on. A rare misfire from two comics giants. The Variant cover is by Renato Guedes. This has the Woman of Steel straining to hold a truck above her. Bolts of energy fly about her as she tries to raise the vehicle. A good image, with the coloring fine, though I would have preferred to see brighter colors, especially in her costume. Overall grades: Regular D and Variant B+

The story: “Steel Resolve” with script by K. Perkins opens in dramatic fashion with Superwoman awakening in some type of yellow liquid. She’s frightened not knowing where she is and begins to thrash about. The bottom of the tank opens and she falls to the floor of the Fortress of Solitude. Superman warns Lois and Steel to give Lana some space as she gets her bearings. She was inside Kryptonian armor in an effort to save her life. Kelex, one of the robots within in the fortress, comes forward to tell them that the resuscitation of Lana is presenting an “interesting anomaly…one of potentially devastating consequences.” Her last use of a red flare, from the previous issue, has resulted in no solar signatures coming from her. In other words, the armor may have saved Lana but left her powerless. This shocking news is momentarily left for Metropolis’s Special Crimes Unit where the Atomic Skull is running a meeting. He and Maggie Sawyer have a conversation where one needs to be reminded of his place in the unit. Lana’s story is returned to in Kansas where she’s working on her family farm. The remainder of the issue deals with her coping with the loss of her powers. John Henry tries to give her words of comfort, but Clark arrives as his alter ego to show her what she’s done and can still do. The story goes through all the expected notes, with the final three pages placing her in a predicament where she has to make a decision without any special abilities. Without powers, Lana does need time, like a twenty paged comic, to work out what she’s going to do with her life, but Superman arrived just too quickly to make everything okay. This lessened Lana’s ability to cope on her own, instead relying on the iconic hero to show her the path to her own wellness. If Lana had been able to come to her own conclusions without her super powered friend, she would have been a much stronger character. Overall grade: C- 

The art: The book begins with a terrific splash of Lana awakening within the armor. The look on her face is one of panic and the swirling liquid around her is great. Stephen Segovia on pencils and Art Thibert on inks make a great pairing. The partial double-paged splash of 2 and 3 is a great introduction to what is actually going on: it establishes the setting and the supporting class clearly in one image — well done! The six tiny panels on 3 easily convey the title character’s movement and Kelex’s arrival. The emotions on both Lana and Superman at the bottom of Page 4 has both showing how shocked they are at the robot’s conclusions. Maggie receives the focus on both of her pages, but the Atomic Skull should have been shown a little more clearly. He’s never shown in a close up, nor from a normal angle; he was, after all, a villain that could fight the Man of Steel, and having him shown as such an average character, save a flaming purple skull, diminishes his power. The setting of the Lang farm looks outstanding, and Lana’s scenes with John are awesome. They are emoting so well, the dialogue isn’t necessary for the reader to understand what each is feeling, though the dialogue is well written. Superman’s arrival “Later” is good, and his scene with Lana on 9, with her reaction in the final panel, perfection. The characters that return on 11 look good, with the Atomic Skull getting his visual due. The full paged splash on 12 is great, capturing the chaos of the moment with both sides using their abilities. My favorite panel of the book is the top of 13, which features terrific character work and the cape work being incredible. The partial double-paged splash of 14 and 15 is beautiful, with the angle of the characters and the setting wonderful. The battle that comes later is also well done, but the blur that’s used to show the motion of an object Superman has thrown is awful. I know that colorists do this sometimes with their work, and if that’s the case, it should not have been done. The final page nicely shows the characters reaching some resolution, giving the book an upbeat feeling. This is a well illustrated book, even with one or two nits. Overall grade: B+

The colors: Hi-Fi is the colorist for this book and it looks good. I want my Superman comics to be brightly colored, and I was not disappointed. The opening page uses sickly oranges and yellows to show the surprising environment around Lana. A beautiful cool blue is used for the interiors of the Fortress of Solitude to remind readers of its cold location. This blue allows the characters to stand out on the page, with Lana being the focus in her red and white costume. The violet used for the Skull’s flames was very mild; it was an instant visual clue to differentiate him from others, but a brighter shade would have made him a stronger character. Sunrise on the Lang farm is beautiful, as are the highlights on Lana’s hair throughout. Page 12 has really cool colors to show Remnant’s powers against others. The top of 13 shows why a brighter violet would have better for the Skull, as the the colors of the villain and the background have the protagonist melding in too easily with them, creating a lack of focus. 14 and 15 are a feast for the eyes, due in no small part to Hi-Fi. The coloring in the first panel on 16 and the large panel on 17 and 18 is outstanding — there are the bright colors I want in a Super-title. A good job by Hi-Fi. Overall grade: B+

The letters: Narration, the story’s title, the book’s credits, scene settings, dialogue, Kelex’s speech, an editorial note, yells, transmissions, sounds, and the tease for next issue spring to life from Josh Reed. The scene settings are very dramatic looking, making each transition easily seen and strong. Kelex’s speech looks just as robot’s should, the story’s title is powerful, and the sounds are flat out awesome. Reed does much on this book and it all looks good. Overall grade: A

The final line: Lana’s journey would have been more satisfactory had she not had to rely on Superman. The visuals have a few speed bumps, but they look better than most books. This is a decent read, but really could have been something with a stronger, more independent lead. Overall grade: C+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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