Monday, September 19, 2016

Action Comics #597 (1988)

Action Comics #597 (February, 1988)
Writer/Penciller - John Byrne
Inkers - Leonard Starr & Keith Williams
Letterer - John Costanza
Editor - Mike Carlin
Cover Price: $0.75

Superman, Meet (your brother) Clark Kent?  Wait, what?  Let's get to the bottom of this!


We open with Lois passing the Welcome to Smallville sign in her rental car.  As she drives, she reflects on recent events and thinks to herself that she's entering her colleague, Clark Kent's hometown.  She tosses out a few Kentsian factoids, including how she knows he doesn't have any brothers or sisters... hold that thought, Ms. Lane.  She arrives at the Smallville Motel and checks in... and asks the bellhop for information on recent "Millennial" Lana Lang.

She is told that there's a flying saucer on her property... like, a real one.  Which, in the DC Universe isn't quite as senses-shattering as you'd figure.  Lois scopes out the site, and questions why this hasn't yet made national/global news.

She decides to dig a bit deeper by going to Lana's house... Lois, being who she is makes some snotty comments about the condition of the home, and then sneaks around back to find...


Superman's got some 'splainin' to do... he reveals that he'd known Lana for "quite some time"... the women give each other the once over, with Lois questioning whether or not Superman loves Lana... while Lana laments that Superman is in love with Lois.  It's really a powerful panel... and shows the striking difference between the disparate LL's.

The threesome heads inside and has some coffee (and cookies).  We actually see Superman eating a cookie, which is pretty cute.  Lois is kind of talking with them... and kind of just thinking out loud.  She appears to be getting dangerously close to the secret.  She mentions that she came up with his name, and that's just what he'd become.  Superman, rather than changing the subject, kind of eggs her on... and keeps the mental-wheels turning, until she finally just comes out with it...

Luckily (?) for Superman, Ma and Pa Kent are standing in the doorway.  They were there to deliver a pie to Lana after her Millennial event.  Now... get this, Pa Kent tells Lois that... they were the ones that found the rocket that delivered Superman to Earth.  Wait, what?  He continues, claiming that he and Martha raised Clark and Kal as though they were brothers.  Oh, gag me!

Lois' reaction is... not what Superman expects... I mean, look at that smirk on his mug!

Lois' mind immediately goes to the "story of the century" that Clark Kent scooped her on... the exclusive Superman story!  Her Superman story!  She now realizes that Superman and Clark were in cahoots the whole time.  Clark's integrity as a reporter immediately falls under suspicion here.  She grabs her bag and (rightly?) storms out.

Later that night at the motel Lois is writing a story of her own... with the subject of betrayal.  Speak of the devil, a very block-headed Clark Kent knocks of her door.  The pair argue for awhile, and we are treated to a bit of a Lane-family flashback, wherein it is made clear that Sam Lane wanted a son rather than a Lois.  Clark almost gathers the guts to tell Lois how he really feels about her, but leaves it at one of those cop-out "more than you'll ever know" type'a things.  Lois eventually tells Clark to beat it, but not before telling him that she will never be able to look at him or Superman the same again.

The next morning Lois checks out... outside the motel, she finds Lana Lang waiting for her.  The two go out to breakfast.  At the diner, Lois is approached by a fan of her novel Shadows on the Grass... Lois asks if the fan wants her to sign it, but alas it's a library book.  The fan offers to go buy a copy to get an autograph, and Lois just dismisses her.  That's not cool, Lo.

The LL's conversation finally comes around to Clark... and Lana tells Lois that Clark is in love with her.  Lois writes it off as him being "interested" in her.  We then move into some Millennium talk which makes me glaze over at the first sight of the word "Manhunter".

Twelve-hours later, Lois arrives home in Metropolis.  Once inside her apartment she checks her phone messages... and finds one from Jose "Gangbuster" Delgado.  She decides to pay him a visit... at the hospital where he is convalescing after having his body destroyed by the Combattor.

Jose makes a few off-color jokes about thinking up creative ways to take his own life when Superman enters the room.  He tells Jose that he's a lucky man for having survived the battle.  Moments pass, and Lois and Superman decide to leave.  Superman offers Lois a ride... which she declines, stating from now on, she'd much rather walk. 


Hmm... where to start with this one?

On one hand, I can't help but to enjoy a post-Crisis downtime Smallville issue.  Having Lois as our point of view character was certainly fun as well.  Seeing her in "the sticks" after only having seen her in Metropolis was neat and novel.  Having her interact with the Kents and even Lana was cool as well.

Now... let's go a bit deeper.  This issue lands in the fallout from... Millennium. I haven't read that event-series in probably ten years, but I remember thinking it was pretty ill-advised... but, hell... whattayagonnado?  Anyhoo, during the event it was revealed that Lana Lang was... and I'm admittedly a bit muddy here, delivered by a Doctor (along with most of the town) who implanted her with a "sleeper personality"... and would be under the control of the Manhunters.  It's confusing, weird, and was pretty quickly forgotten, at least in as far as I can recall.

Speaking of things that were quickly forgotten... Superman and Clark Kent were sorta-kinda step-brothers.  Wha--?  I mean really now, I thought this was stupid the first time I read it... to the point that I was expecting this issue to be revealed as a dream... and I still think it's stupid now.  The elder Kents were just so quick to spill the phony beans... when a simple "No, Lois... Clark isn't Superman." probably would have sufficed.  I get the feeling that Byrne wanted to write about Lois distrusting Clark, and this may have just been a means to an end.

... and Lois is pretty distrusting at the end of this... to the point where she second guesses so many of Clark's scoops, as well as the intentions of the Smallville cast.  She even turns a cold shoulder to Superman to close out the issue.  I kind of dig the tension when Lois and Clark were kind of cold toward each other... especially with the revelation that Clark is, in fact, in love with Lois.  I just really wish there was a way to put the players in place without the dopey "We raised Superman and Clark together" spiel.

The art in this issue is kinda spotty.  Some pages look like classic Byrne, while others are... off.  Characters go from having normal faces to like block heads.  I notice there were a couple of inkers on this issue, and I suppose it would be easy to attribute the inconsistency on that.  Either way, it wasn't the best.

Overall, an issue worthy of giving a read.  


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