Intersections, Reviews

Review–Superman: Lois Lane One Shot

ll-coverSuperman: Lois Lane

Marguerite Bennet

Emanuela Lupachina, Megan Ketrick, Ig Guara, Diogenes Neves

The first thing I noticed about this one shot was the majority female storytelling team.

The second thing I noticed was the shining filament of connectivity with previous versions of Lois Lane. Even though this is The New 52! (complete with exclamation mark), there are indications that this Lois is still part of the Lois we knew from Superman: The Movie and Superman The Animated Series; from Lois & Clark and Smallville.  Lois Lane is the prize-winning, fiercely determined, unrelentingly inquisitive reporter–thank God that DC Editorial hasn’t seen fit to change that. She’s also a terrible speller, who somehow knows the roots of the words she can’t spell, a devoted to and protective older sister to Lucy and most importantly, she still wears purple. Purple for passion. Because finding the story–the truth–and making the bad guys pay are the burning passions that make her a spitfire. ll-loiscantspell These nuances are the things we love about Lois Lane, and those nuances are vital to who she is as a character, and to telling any story from her point of view. The story is told in a clever way with little bookends and interludes  of Lois and Lucy’s childhoods that carry over a year. The art for these is done by one artist, while the present day art is done by another.

In the present day, Lois is recovering from a coma, and would rather work than sleep, but Perry won’t allow it. Her sister comes stumbling into her apartment, babbling in that child-code they haven’t used in decades, begging Lois to help Lucy find her missing roommate, Amanda.

We learn from those interludes of youth that Lois had to keep a stiff upper lip to please their military father.  Their mother, once as vibrant, lively, energetic and unrelenting as Lois herself, is slowly wasting away from an unnamed malaise.  Lois was forced to pretty much single-handedly raise flighty younger sister Lucy since they were tweens.  There’s a clear contrast between elder and younger sister — Lucy insisting she can fly if she tries hard enough, and Lois terying to tell her that she really cant.  So when Lucy’s first words to Lois, before explaining about her roommate are, “I fell”, Lois recalls all those failed attempts to fly and is immediately brought back to protective big sister mode and primed to help.  It also shows that Lucy, despite Lois’ best (and admittedly insufficient) efforts at mothering, didn’t really grow all the way up.

What ensues is Lois Lane doing what Lois Lane does best — going over Metropolis with the fine toothed comb of her intellect, and working contacts from every aspect of life in Superman’s city.  She spends time thinking how to make herself look like a strung-out junkie so she can get closer to the source of the mystery drug that has gotten Amanda in so much trouble.  Along the way she displays some impressive-for-a-human feats of strength — literally, she is a strong female character.

What Lois finds is really almost an afterthought to the greater story.  That experimental drug, originally given to a sickly Amanda, induces euphoria, heals, and gives its user feelings of invincibility.  Unfortunately, it turns out to be more than expected. Whether those rounding up its victims are really good guys, despite their insistence to Lois that they are, remains to be seen.  The line that ties together past and present is something Lois’ mother, Ella Lane, said before dying: “passing for something else comes with its own set of troubles.” It’s echoed in Amanda’s bitter reply to Lois: “It’s deadly, to pass for something else.”  The phrase strikes me as a strong metaphor for trans people, which makes the drug story a lot more poignant and powerful.

ll-roommates

We learn from those interludes of youth that Lois had to keep a stiff upper lip to please their military father. That their mother, once as vibrant, lively, energetic and indefatigable as Lois herself, is slowly wasting away from an unnamed malaise that’s stealing her youth and making her bleed from her eyes. Lois was forced to pretty much single-handedly raise flighty, younger sister Lucy, since they were tweens. There’s a clear contrast between elder and younger sister–Lucy insisting she can fly if ll-ifellshe tries hard enough, and Lois trying to tell her that she really can’t. So when Lucy’s first words to Lois, before explaining about her roommate, are “I fell,” Lois is immediately brought back to protective big sister mode, recalling all those failed attempts to fly, and primed to help. It also shows that Lucy, despite Lois’ best (and admittedly insufficient) efforts at mothering, didn’t really grow all the way up. She still uses the word “tattle” when talking to her older sister. What ensues is Lois Lane doing what Lois Lane does best–going over Metropolis with the fine toothed comb of her intellect, and working contacts from every aspect of life in Superman’s city. Her outfits and hairstyles change depending on who she’s with, what she’s doing, and where she’s hanging out. She spends time thinking of how to make herself look like a jonesing junkie, so she can get closer to the source of the mystery drug that has gotten the roommate in so much trouble. She displays some impressive-for-a-mere-human feats of strength–literally a strong female character. ll-loislegs What Lois finds is really almost an afterthought to the greater story.  That experimental drug, originally given to a sickly Amanda, induces euphoria, heals, and gives its user feelings of invincibility. Unfortunately, it turns out to be more than expected. Whether those rounding up its victims are really good guys, despite their insistence to Lois that they are, remains to be seen. The line that ties together past and present is something Lois’ mother, Ella Lane said before dying: “passing for something else comes with its own set of troubles.” It’s echoed in Amanda’s bitter reply to Lois: “It’s deadly, to pass for something else.” The phrase strikes me as a strong metaphor for trans people, which makes the drug story a lot more poignant and powerful.

The story ends on an ambiguous note. Lois keeps her word to Lucy and saves Amanda. But the Agent is still out there with his spooky black outfit and freemason sigil mask. What of Amanda and the other victims of the drug? The question hangs; answer unknown. But the sisterly connection is still strong, and Lucy’s dream of flying is reflected in a new light in Lois’ eyes.

ll-amanda I was pleasantly surprised that although this is Superman’s  section of the DC Universe, this is unquestionably Lois’ story and he is very nearly an extra in it.

What I found more interesting was the term used to describe Amanda. Roommate. That’s the word used. After a pause. But photographs of the two girls together, and images of their cozy snuggling, and candlelit apartment strongly implies more than that to my eyes. Unfortunately, given DC’s more homophobic tilt of late, I’m not surprised. Batwoman’s marriage having been moved off panel immediately springs to mind. So are they or aren’t they? Only Lucy and Amanda know for sure.

ll-salmonellaA little more solidity in the genderqueer aspects of the story really would’ve been nice. I guess I should be grateful, though, that Amanda was one of a scant few nonwhite characters, and a victim. The bad guys and lowlifes of Metropolis were not portrayed as People of Color. Score one for the sensitivity of a mostly-female creative team.

Also, Lois’ parents names are Sam and Ella. Sam and Ella? I know the names probably have to be preserved for copyright reasons, but really? The other thing that surprised me happily is that Sam and Ella appear to be an interracial couple, which again adds poignancy to Ella’s remark about passing for something else.   4/5

  1. Wltr Jvn

    March 23, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    I really love this review, and never thought of that line you quoted as a metaphor for trans-folk. Could you go a little more in-depth with the genderqueer aspects of the story? I am always so thankful to read reviews from this site. Also, some one missed the repeated paragraph in your review.

    1. Jamie Kingston

      March 28, 2014 at 1:04 pm

      I’ll have to tweak that — we had some technical issues when the post was being edited.

      As for the genderqueer aspects of the story: it really looked to me like Lucy and Amanda were lovers, and that she was skittish about telling her sister about that. So they called her “roommate”, as it is often used as a codeword for a same sex partner. Amanda never said one way or the other that she was trans, but the phrasing struck me just the same.

      Unfortunately, DC has become not only misogynist lately but LGBTQ hostile too, so all we’re able to get even from creative teams who want to explore genderqueer issues, is hints. Unless they’re big names like Gail Simone.

      1. Wltr Jvn

        March 29, 2014 at 1:53 am

        Cool, i also totally read Lucy and Amanda’s relationship as something more than just “roommates.” But, at least with DC and it approach to feminist and queer characters and issues, I can only trust Gail Simone, IMO.on

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