Comic book fans everywhere may be reveling in the powerful stories and top talent making up DC’s Rebirth, but as fans of the big, blue Boy Scout know, it came at a price. The death of Superman may be best remembered as a storyline from the 1990s, hinging on Supes succumbing to Doomsday, but in the final issue of the pre-Rebirth Man of Steel, the hero took on a battle that cost him his life – but it was only the beginning of a much larger mystery.
In the days leading up to his death, a mystery figure was shown to be watching Superman in secret, and the “DC Universe: Rebirth” doubled down, revealing that the fallen hero’s death – and his existence, in general – was more than it seemed. Now, a new face has joined the parade of ‘Super’ characters lining up to fill the void left. And not just any face, either: DC’s new “Superwoman” has arrived, and her name is Lois Lane.
Yes, that Lois Lane. But no matter what anyone expected from the first issue, those assumptions were blown to bits in the first few pages. Not only is Lois Lane not alone in her new superheroine role, but her career as a crimefighter meets a shocking twist in her first outing – and in a fashion implying “Superwoman” is the comic book Superman fans will need to read to unravel the real mystery of the fallen Superman, the returned Clark Kent, and who knows how many other mysteries yet to be revealed.
It’s only right that we begin at the beginning for those readers who may have joined DC as the Rebirth launched, and weren’t privy to the lead-up to Superman’s death. To make a long story short, Superman was dying for more than one reason. But when a villain bearing the Superman symbol threatened to burn the world whole, Superman saved the day (with help from the pre-New 52 Supes). With the foe vanquished and world saved, Superman surrounded himself with his closest friends, and breathed his last (turning to ash in an explosion of energy). The former Superman from a parallel, pre-New 52 universe witnessed it too, recognizing that the time had come for him to emerge from hiding and take his rightful place in this new DC Universe (and catalogue).
But that’s not the entire story. The actual moment that Superman “died” showed more than just a death. Remember that explosion of energy we mentioned? It was less and “explosion” than it was a number of bolts of lightning that fired out from his body. One connected straight into Lois Lane’s chest, one firing into Lana Lang, and another disappearing out of the panel to an unknown location (or figure…). At the time, we assumed it would help explain the emergence of new superpowers; an assumption proven true in the first issue of “Superwoman,” but as readers may now expect, Lois Lane was only half the story.
Lois Lane, Superwoman
Half the story is still enough to mark an important shift in the DC Universe, with the intrepid reporter Lois Lane graduating from a supporting character to a full-blown superpowered crimefighter. And as her story begins, Lois does what any intelligent person suddenly blessed with the powers of Superman would do: well… does what he did to begin with. In short: seek out a friend, and learn to control his gifts and find his purpose alongside her. But it quickly becomes clear that Lana Lang was never looking to help train more than one superhero.
Nevertheless, train Lois she did, as the issue jumps back and forth between her pleading with Lana and her actual professional heroics. But as Lex Luthor rolls out the brand new, cutting-edge military machine programmed to protect Metropolis (stop us if you’ve heard this one before), disaster strike. The man who has proclaimed himself the new Superman sees his machine hijacked, his powerful Apokoliptian armor somehow depowered, and thousands of citizens staring down the business end of a killing machine.
For the reader, the twist is even more tantalizing, since a mystery figure is shown to be pulling the strings behind the entire crisis. Could this be the same figure who has monitored Superman (both of them), testing Lois Lane and Lex Luthor as he once tested Clark? That answer will have to wait, since a bigger surprise drops once Lois decides the threat is too large for her to tackle herself – and she’ll need more than Lana Lang’s advice to save the day.
Lana Lang… Superwoman?
That’s right, no sooner than Lois calls for aid then Lana erupts into a charged Supersuit of her own, taking to the skies to show that the fateful beam of lightning that struck her at Superman’s side imparted the same super abilities. But not the exact same ones, as she soon explains that while Lois got access to all of Clark’s powers – flight, super strength, durability, freeze breath, etc. – Lana got powers of her own (which may or may not bear as much of a resemblance to the much maligned ‘Electric Superman’ power set as her own costume).
Able to take in the sun’s radiation and convert it to energy attacks or manipulation, Lana shows herself to be the brains of the operation early on, directing Lois in the field (after years of seeing Clark fail and succeed). Surprisingly, it isn’t fancy powers or energy attacks that eventually save an entire bridge full of bystanders from the looming ship, but good old-fashioned stubbornness. The solution? Lois and Lana brace against the other, and push. The plan works, but it’s not the only fight they’ll have to tackle in the issue – and the real threat comes once they go digging in Lex’s ship.
What they find can only be described as a ‘Bizarro Superwoman,’ a twisted, zombie-like version of Lois Lane that is obviously like no foe she has faced yet. Lana jumps to the rescue, but is moments too late to prevent the last shocking twist of the issue…
The Death of Lois Lane
That’s right, as quickly as Lois adopted the title of Superwoman, she has given it up. Now, to those hoping to see Lois receive a lengthy run in a book of her own, we would warn that taking things at their appearances may be unwise (there’s obviously more going on here than directly stated). But there are two things to take away from the death that may hold the key to unlocking the secret of Superman’s death, and his apparent return as a depowered Clark Kent in the pages of “Action Comics.” First, that Lois inexplicably dies in the exact same manner as Clark, turning to ash in an instant. But more importantly, the fact that Lois appears to see Clark, and finally “understand” before meeting her end.
Now, understand what is the real question. The obvious and most likely answer is that she somehow understood what had truly taken place when Superman was believed to have perished, approaching the same event herself. So, will Lois return as Clark did, minus her powers? Will she recall the revelation even after it consumes her? And finally, has the mystery of Superman’s death been solved already (even if the reader is not yet in the loop)?
We’ll have to wait and see if Issue #2 is a follow-up clarification, or if Lana Lang will be taking over the series solo for the time being. But one thing’s for sure: the Man of Steel fans determined to follow every step of this strange, complicated, and intentionally secretive new case will now have to add “Superwoman” to their homework – but if the first issue is what we can expect from artist/writer Phil Jimenez going forward, that’s not really a bad thing.
“Superwoman” #1 is available now.