Spotlight Sunday 7.7.18

Spotlight Sundays

The return of a certain Ace reporter to her own title after a too-long absence means that there is a temporary return of the Spotlight and spoilers ahead for…

Lois Lane #1 (Of 12)
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Mike Perkins
Cover: Mike Perkins
Variant Cover: Jenny Frison
Rated Teen

“Espionage and investigative journalism have a lot in common. More than just the hours.”

I remain annoyed that last year DC didn’t do anything to acknowledge the fact that in addition to being Superman’s 80th birthday it was also the 80th birthday of Lois Lane, who, unlike every other LL in the life of the Man of Steel, has been there right from the beginning.

For anyone who’s been paying attention, it’s no secret that I have a special fondness for The Daily Planet’s prize-winning journalist, one that may even exceed the fondness I have for her super-powered husband. It’s also no secret that Lois hasn’t always gotten the best treatment in her 81-year history, as is evidenced by the fact that this is her first solo ongoing book since 1974. (Even if it is only a maxi-series.)

That series itself – Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane – ran for 137 issues before being cancelled, at which point Lois became a featured story in the Superman Family anthology book (which took over the numbering of the also-cancelled Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen), and when that book was cancelled, Lois went on to be a back-up feature in Supergirl for a time, before ultimately losing that feature as well.

There have been the occasional specials and minis since that time, but for the most part, Lois has been relegated to the status of supporting character for nearly 40 years, and even when she did have her own series, the focus was largely on the “Superman’s Girlfriend” part.

Most of my early exposure to the solo exploits of Ms. Lane were in Superman Family, which did, thankfully, shift the focus a bit, aligning with the general zeitgeist of the then-current “Women’s Liberation” movement. While the stories featured in that book were often clumsy attempts at presenting a modern, liberated woman, that Lois was a sister who was doing it for herself, and was a far cry from the marriage-obsessed damsel-in-distress (or damsel-in-need-of-being-taught-a-lesson-via-some-Superdickery), and served as the basis for the sort of metatextual Lois who exists primarily in my own mind and whom I adore.

There are some great Lois stories that have been told over the years, and she is often handled well, but too frequently the character is an afterthought with inconsistent characterization, and she rarely lives up to the potential that I know the character has.

The point is, I was very excited to see that Lois would finally be getting (some of) her due, and I was especially pleased to see that her solo story would be written by Greg Rucka, who would have been at the top of my list if someone had asked me (Though no one did, and what is up with that, honestly? I’m a smart guy and I have good ideas!) who should write a solo Lois book.

It’s unclear where in the current timeline this story fits – it falls sometime after Lois returned from to Earth after cutting short her journey into space with her son and father-in-law, but presumably sometime before the current “Leviathan” event that’s happening in the super-books.

As mentioned, after departing with Jon and Jor-El to keep an eye on her super-son – and, more importantly, on her super-father-in-law – Lois returned to Earth ahead of schedule, having decided that her non-super-powered presence was a liability, and that Jon appeared to be in good hands. (She was wrong about that part, but that’s another story entirely.)

However, after returning to Earth, she opted to take advantage of the opportunity to have a little time to herself, deciding not to inform Clark that she was back. He wasn’t expecting to see her any time soon anyway, and this was a perfect opportunity to work on her book in a distraction-free environment.

Ultimately, Clark found out that she had returned and tracked her down, and while he missed her, he was willing to give her the time and space she needed. And naturally the place where she’s staying has a balcony, so it’s not like he can’t pop in and see her whenever he’d like.

Yeah, the “relentlessly honest with each other” ship sailed long, long ago.

However, when he first tracked her down, as Superman, Clark impulsively kissed her, and people took pictures. Given that there had already been rumors that Lois and Clark had separated – word got out that Lois was around when she started sharing a draft of her book – no one is making the obvious deduction, and instead people are assuming that Lois is stepping out on Clark with Superman.

So that brings us up to the current state of things, in which we find Lois working on a story about government corruption that connects to real-world events, having determined that members of the administration and their cronies are personally profiting from a family separation policy and the detention of refugees.

Concurrently, a Russian colleague was recently found dead, and Lois knows that this colleague – who was not a friend, but was a respected rival – was killed because she was on to something, and it’s a “something” that Lois herself had already been digging into. Undeterred by the other reporter’s murder, Lois decides to accelerate her efforts, and reaches out to The Question, whom she hopes will find her some answers.

Meanwhile, Lois heads to the White House to ask some questions of her own about her recently-published government corruption story. It doesn’t go well…for the press secretary.

Sure, Lois gets stonewalled, kicked out, and has her White House credentials revoked, but that’s all in a day’s work for Lois Lane, and it doesn’t work out so well for the administration, because, whether they like her or not, her colleagues know that if Lois says there’s a story, there’s a story, and so everyone follows Ms. Lane’s lead and puts the pressure on the White House.

And that’s where the first issue ends, leaving plenty of questions – including what The Question is investigating for Lois – to be answered over the course of the next eleven issues.

Any time is the perfect time for Lois Lane to get her own book, but this moment feels especially perfect. The world we’re living in right now could use a Superman, but what we need most is a Lois Lane.

That’s why I’m glad that the book is taking a topical approach, though it would be difficult to do a book about a reporter right now that doesn’t at least touch on issues of government corruption and attacks on a free press.

I’m also glad that it’s Rucka handling it, as he excels not only at writing characters like Lois, but also in folding current events into the narrative he’s telling. (That said, I still would have liked for a woman to write the book, but that’s mostly because I just wish that there were more women writing comics, period.)

If you follow political Twitter at all, you’ll see a common refrain decrying the fact that too many people seem to think that the real world works like The West Wing, and that a stirring speech can inspire people from both sides of the aisle to set aside their difference and do the right thing. One could argue that there’s a bit of that sort of naivete in the bit about all of the other reporters refusing to let the unanswered questions drop after Lois is kicked out. Certainly, we’ve seen people wishing that would happen with the press and the current administration, but there have been no significant real-world examples of it, unfortunately.

Still, here, it works, and not just because it’s a piece of fiction, but because it’s Lois Lane. No concerns about “access” or maintaining a good personal relationship with the comms office is going to keep even the laziest reporter from following her lead.

I have to admit that I’m not fully on-board with the art. I’m not familiar with Perkins, but his style is, to me, somewhat reminiscent of Alex Maleev, though not quite so stylish, and somewhat inconsistent.

Still, I’m glad that Lois is back in her own book, even if it is only for a year, but my excitement was sufficient to rouse me from my torpor and turn on the Spotlight for a bit, and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next. (I’m hoping that we reach a point at which we can see Jon’s return and tackle some of the challenges she faces in her role not only as a mother, but as a super-mother.)

That does it for this special Spotlight post. I remain undecided about the future of this feature, but I will, as always, keep you posted. If you would like to see it return as a regular feature, or see OpenDoor Comics achieve its potential, I would advise you to consider the fact that…

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