Some comic creators have an undeniable, textbook wheelhouse they work from. For Jack Kirby, it’s out-of-this-universe cosmic tales. For Ed Brubaker, it’s crime noir. For Grant Morrison, it’s, uh, whatever Morrison comes up with after an acid trip. This can be said for Greg Rucka as well, as he’s spent the last two decades writing about strong-willed, grounded female characters with legitimate agency, a rare sight in the comics world.
Spinning out of the Brian Michael Bendis-led Superman corner of the DC Universe, there are few writers out there better to tackle a gritty, post-2016 election Lois Lane than Rucka. Finishing up with the 12th issue of his maxi-series with artist Mike Perkins, the duo can take pride in crafting a story that gets at the heart of the dysfunction of today’s American politics.
The 1950s Superman mantra of “Truth, Justice and the American Way” means something very different in 2020 than it did at its inception in the post-war boom. Even then, that idea of American exceptionalism was faulty in a pre-Integration era. In the greatest period of civil unrest in 21st-century American history though, that Big Blue Boy Scout idealism falls completely flat. Perkins knows that remarkably well too, drawing a quintessentially stoic Lois Lane throughout that remains unfazed by the harm coming her way and cautiously optimistic about the promise of the future. Rucka and Perkins succeed at making Lois the embodiment of the averaged dejected American.
Towards the close of this issue, Lois remarks to Renee Montoya, “If they tell us we’re making trouble for speaking the truth… well, it won’t be the first time we’ve been each been called an enemy of the people,” highlighting the threats that face any journalist trying to investigate the presidency or the criminal justice system. Lois is certainly not the lone person to get their White House press pass revoked under the current administration.
Attacks on the press, both physical and verbal in the case of Lois after surviving an assassination attempt, are at the root of a contemporary media climate ruled by “Fake News” and your distant aunt’s Facebook posts linking to freedompatrioteagle.net or some other right-wing blog bleeding with thinly veiled fascism. On-the-street reporters are handcuffed, arrested and detained for covering protests against police brutality. Putting aside Clark Kent’s day job, even a superhero would find bringing truth to the American public a Herculean task in the hell that is 2020.
A man in an oval-shaped office launches Twitter grenades at empirical facts and the concept of basic human decency with his messages reaching millions of people within seconds. A guy who’s faster than a speeding bullet would still have trouble stopping that in time.
Rucka and Perkins closes their story with their protagonist “winning.” Lois ultimately publishes hard-hitting articles that lead to arrests, White House Press Secretary rebuttals and the like. That momentary joy readers feel for Lois, as truly great as it is, however, is far too brief, leaving them despondent the next time they check the news on social media. I guess that’s just the American Way.