Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Ivan Reis, Brandon Peterson, and Jason Fabok
Inks by: Oclair Albert
Colors by: Alex Sinclair
Letters by: Josh Reed and Carlos M. Mangual
Cover by: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Alex Sinclair
Variant Cover by: Adam Hughes
The last issue ended with a cliffhanger in which Jon Kent returned, seemingly aged since the last time we saw him, pleading with his father not to freak out. This issue picks up right from that moment. Clark hugs Jon and demands to know if he’s alright, to which Jon responds that he’s “really okay” but somehow seventeen years old now.
Clark throws out a few theories—various shades of kryptonite or Brainiac cloning—but Jon doesn’t even seem to know what exactly happened to him. He says that he has been gone for seven years, but Clark insists that it was only three weeks. He and Jor-El were aboard the ship when they were tossed into a black hole. Clark wants to get him checked out by the League, but Jon keeps insisting he’s okay (not sure how aging seven years constitutes ‘okay’) and asks if Lois made it back alright.
Lois Lane, intrepid journalist, is no longer in the business of investigative reporting, but tucked away in a hotel room writing a tell-all book. The only thing that I found ‘Lois Lane’ about this picture was her continual struggle with spelling, but nonetheless, Clark shows up and Lois starts opening her shirt. The panels of Clark covering now teenaged Jon’s eyes and Lois immediately covering her chest are supposed to be funny, but I guess I’m not into the idea of their sex life constantly being a punchline on both titles. The dialogue between Lois and Clark in the next panel is genuinely funny and in-character for Lois: “Is this one of those (expletive) kryptonites again?”
Lois and Jon have a tearful reunion, which would have been touching if not for the arbitrary reasons for their separation. Lois laments that she’s missed everything—the remainder of her son’s childhood—and demands, “What did your maniac grandfather do to you?” That’s right—what did the maniac grandfather that she agreed to send him to space with do to him? To be fair, I don’t blame Lois for their predicament, but rather the writing.
Over the next several pages via flashback, Jon explains what went down when he and Lois went to space with Jor-El. Bendis seems to admit that the reasons for their departure were feeble:
“I remember I was really upset about something and I desperately needed to get off Earth.”
“You didn’t make the Teen Titans roster.”
“Oh yeah, ha!”
Starting from the end of The Man of Steel miniseries, Jor-El whisks Lois and Jon away in his shuttle to his spacecraft. Almost immediately after their arrival, they’re attacked by Dominators. Lois realizes that coming along was a mistake, to which Jon replies, “I just remember you being a kickass mama bear.” After grandfather and grandson dispatch of the invaders, Lois emerges wearing Clark’s Rebirth suit. Jon finds this inexplicably hilarious, and Jor-El suggests that they stop for food.
When the group arrives at the intergalactic watering hole, many of its patrons stare at Lois, to her surprise. Jor-El explains that this is because she wears the symbol of the House of El, and that her being married to Superman makes her royalty. There is a nice scene where an old woman walks up to her and touches the symbol on her chest, which I thought really drove home the fact that that symbol means hope.
Lobo makes an appearance, verbally sparring with Jon and telling him, “Yer a man when you decide ta be.” However, a moment I found far more compelling was a group of aliens reaching out to Lois and begging for her help. My initial thoughts were that it could have been a great moment for her to reflect on what her husband experiences every day—people crying out for his help. This was marred by Lois’s protest that she was only an observer, that she didn’t have powers, and Jor-El insisting that these beings tell him their plight instead. The problem with this situation is that it minimizes Lois Lane’s achievements and her inherent power—her thirst for justice and determination to get to the truth. Her lack of superpowers has never deterred her before. The Lois Lane I know would have asked to hear these people’s stories, and insisted that they all go help free them from the slaver they spoke of. Child trafficking is a very real issue that real journalists do fight against—why should it be any different here?
Instead, we got Jon and Jor-El rushing in eyes blazing and shutting down the operation. Lois reveals that watching them made her realize that she was “not really needed here.” I found that to be preposterous. Lois Lane is and always has been living proof that fighting for justice isn’t only done with one’s fists. This run is a direct repudiation of that long-held truth, through her continual sidelining. This issue doubled down on that mistaken assertion, which was extremely disappointing. Jon has the audacity to agree with Lois’s statement, saying that she wasn’t really needed. In what universe does a ten-year-old boy not need his mother? What’s even more disconcerting is that on the very same page, Jon admits that the moment after she left, he got the “first hint” that his grandpa was “completely insane.” First hint? Mind you, this was the same Jor-El that killed a bunch of people on Earth (during Jurgens’s run) and then decided to force his grandson to come on a space odyssey with him (in The Man of Steel). Of course, no one realized that he may not be the best chaperone until after Lois left.
The art was excellent as usual, but I still continue to grapple with my concerns about the writing. I’ve said before that there are merits to Bendis’s writing—he seems to have an understanding of Clark—but my belief is that one needs to understand more than the titular character to write a good Superman book. Lois Lane is equally important. While Superman is the hero that we often wish we had, Lois Lane is the hero that actually exists, and that we as humanity can be. Bendis’s failure to truly understand that and write a Lois Lane that is more than the zingers, more than a mere caricature of what editorial thinks Lois is, takes a tremendous toll on his storytelling.