In 1938, the world met Superman and Lois Lane in Action Comics, and entertainment would change forever. Fans of all sorts have been able to experience adventures with the couple in movies, television, games, and radio, but the best adventures have always come from the pages of comics where they started. This year, to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the two characters, writer Christopher Priest and artist Carlo Pagulayan reunite to test Superman and Lois’s relationship by having Superman lost on an adventure for the past 20 years. Well, that’s as far as Superman’s concerned – from Lois’s perspective, the twist on that situation is that he has only been gone for a few hours. Fans get ready to see a different side of Lois and Clark.
Christopher Priest and Carlo Pagulayan were nominated for an Eisner with their work on Deathstroke, and I think they will get it this time. The idea of Superman experiencing another life away from the one he knows is wild, especially when you put that up against Lois being in the here and now without that extra time. I know some fans will point out that in Action Comics #761, there was a story of Superman being gone for a thousand years and returning to Lois for a happy ending. Yet I feel that this maxi-series has more freedom to totally explore what that does to Superman, Lois, and their relationship. Priest and Pagulayan have more room to examine this situation more deeply with other aspects of the couple’s lives.
With this story, a massive sell for me is seeing Superman’s thousand-yard stare. Over the decades of Superman’s adventures, we’ve seen him suffer loss or be deep in anger, but this look of detachment is incredible. We are fortunate to be treated to variant covers by Lee Weeks that help showcase the loss Superman is feeling. The art that Carlo Pagulayan is crafting here does a great job of showing a Superman who is ready to go into battle with the JLA, just like a routine mission, and then a lost Superman who has just found his way home. Look at the interactions of Lois and Clark before the JLA mission and then at that entire page of Superman being home. The eyes that Pagulayan draws on Superman are perfect for emoting that detachment he feels by returning.
And just wait until you see Pagulayan’s Bruce Wayne, which captures a character who has suffered many traumas – this is not a Bruce who attends galas. The amount of character chiseled on those faces is fantastic art that elevates the script. Kudos to Jason Paz’s inks and Jeromy Cox’s colors for the enhancement. The art team will make you want a Justice League comic from them as they have a great time crafting the scene that removes Superman from our time. While it is just a device to help create the overall story, it looks done with a passion that will leave readers wanting more. Even with that battle, the biggest one is between Superman, Lois, and Batman.
Their interaction is where Priest’s script brings in more for a time lost Superman’s situation. I like that Priest creates a Lois who is very angry about going from being told of her loss to now being in a position where the man she loves is a stranger. Her anger is justified; like most people, they’ll want to blame someone. That is where the Batman and Lois struggle comes in perfectly, but Priest shows us a Superman who recognizes what is happening and owns the moment. Priest respects all the characters he is writing about in this issue and gives them such a fitting voice, from the JLA vocally working together, Lois’s anger, and Batman’s guilt. It all comes together perfectly in this first issue to hook you for more.
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