Review: Lois Lane: Enemy of the People trade paperback (DC Comics)

December 9, 2020

 ·  4 comments

Some of my favorite characters and titles over the past 10-20 years are referenced in Greg Rucka and Mike Perkins' collected Lois Lane: Enemy of the People miniseries, so it's with a great amount of affection that I note what a weird, weird flex this book is. There's little more that I want to see than Lois Lane teamed with the Question Renee Montoya, especially with Rucka writing, but the central conflict here is exceptionally meta. The fact that a whole miniseries (or even a cottage industry) can be made about the troubles with DC Comics continuity is problematic in and if itself.

Once upon a time, the impetus for Crisis on Infinite Earths was that DC's continuity was so complex and with so much built up history that it begged to be streamlined. Nowadays, we see something of the opposite problem, so little established, invented history that characters lack the strengths of their connections, and entire stories are spent simply on reestablishing what should never have been swept away in the first place. Glad to visit with old friends in Lois Lane, but all too often I'm wishing DC writers could concentrate on writing new stories and not wasting good events, miniseries, and runs rehashing and repairing broken old ones.

[Review contains spoilers]

Lois Lane's got a couple of scoops — corruption at the White House, abuse of immigrants, the murder of a foreign journalist — but unfortunately, the one that rises to the top is this: the DC Universe sits atop a multiverse, and select people are beginning to remember their alt-continuity lives. The problem presents itself right there: of all the interesting things Rucka could send Lois up against, all the real-world problems he could storytell through the guise of Metropolis' most intrepid reporter, the one he chooses essentially is that Flashpoint and the New 52 happened, that the original Question Vic Sage returned from the dead, and that Rucka's new Question Renee Montoya was no longer the Question, had died, had actually been undercover, and then was suddenly, inexplicably, the Question again. Rucka's got 12 issues to write Lois Lane and he spends most of it reversing DC's poor decision 10-ish years ago to usher Renee Montoya off to limbo.

I can't fault Rucka for putting the band back together, such as it is. The headlining returning character is Renee-as-Question, and that Renee and Vic Sage now both exist as Questions in the same continuity (all of this alluded to in Brian Michael Bendis' Event Leviathan but fleshed out here). Second is Jessica Midnight, a minor-ish character in Rucka's Checkmate; I'd have preferred Sasha Bordeaux, briefly seen in Rucka's Rebirth Wonder Woman Vol. 1: The Lies, but I'll take whatever Checkmate reference I can get. After that are Sister Clarice and Elicia Sanchez, even more minor figures from Rucka's decades-ago Question work. But, in its time, Rucka's Checkmate was my top-rated book, and his Question miniseries were can't-miss, so I know I'm the target audience and if there was more coming (which I don't think there is), I'd have reason to be very excited.

But I also recognize it's ironic that Rucka's original tale of Renee Montoya becoming the Question was about parting ways with the old and letting the new take its place, and now we have a miniseries where Rucka drags all the old back out into the sunlight. Here, Renee and Vic (re-)meet, but there's no sense they'll stay in touch or work together; for Sanchez, Rucka gives a bit of backstory, but Clarice I had to look up, so vague Rucka is on her identity and why she's important.

That is, the sense of something new being built from the old is very minimal, as opposed to just pointing to the old and saying, "It's such a shame this went away." (It is, but that's beside the point.) As I've said before, "multiverse revelation" has become a cheap applause line — in James Tynion's Detective Comics, in Bendis' Young Justice, here in Lois Lane — not for the purpose of doing much with that old continuity but rather just trading on the readers' nostalgia for the past (I rather doubt Lois' new book about the multiverse will turn the DCU on its head). While I too like those old stories, that hardly seems as compelling as a brand new story might be, just like Rucka's original stories were compelling the first time around.

It's all the more unfortunate because again, there's plenty important real-world issues that Rucka is batting around in Enemy of the People, largely under the heading of the plight of journalists during the U.S. administration when these issues were released. Further, perhaps most interesting is the development that Lois has been photographed kissing Superman (pre-identity reveal) and rather than try to explain it away, Lois allows for people to believe she's cheating on husband Clark Kent (taking the blame as a "loose woman" while Superman's reputation unremarkably remains unsullied).

There's no actual funny business going on, but to an extent the lie is a better approximation of the truth — that Lois does love Superman and doesn't necessarily want to sneak around about it. As it is, Lois and Clark do have a "nontraditional" relationship where they don't necessarily cohabitate and often keep secrets from one another in their jobs as reporters even as they trust each other unconditionally. With Rucka and Bendis, we're a far cry from the Kent farmhouse of Peter Tomasi's Superman run, but this is an intimation of the Kent/Lane marriage that I find modern and much more convincing than what's come before.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Lois Lane: Enemy of the People

4.0

Rating

Again, among my top series is Greg Rucka's Checkmate, so if he wants to spend 12 issues reminding the audience it existed and injecting some characters who remember it into the Rebirth DCU, so be it. And, especially after Jeff Lemire's great The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage, if Rucka wants to write a "Questions" title starring Vic and Renee, I'm ready for that too — and a Checkmate series by Brian Michael Bendis and a new Manhunter miniseries by Marc Andreyko. But right now, as we await news of DC Comics' post-"Future State" solicitations, all we know is Bendis is leaving the Super-titles and books like Checkmate and Manhunter seem to have fallen off the schedule. So while I enjoyed Lois Lane: Enemy of the People and I'm always happy to see Rucka writing the Question(s), I recognize this as a lot of navel-gazing and that worries me — while so much time is spent on this, what other, world-building stories aren't being told?

[Includes original and variant covers]

Comments ( 4 )

  1. This really makes me want to read this even more, now. You certainly make great points about continuity. DC just seems to lack a coherent vision for the past two decades.

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  2. I can't really refute or rebut any of your criticisms, but I still loved the heck out of this. I had been in a bit of a reading rut, but having Greg Rucka back in the to-read pile really got momentum back on my side!

    Like everything else DC is doing, the multiversal aspects of this were interesting on their own but utter nonsense in connection with everything else they're putting on the page. I'd really like to see Rucka come back to this idea and do some more "multiversal therapy" based stories while Renee kicks butt for . . . well, whatever reason.

    On the Lois side of things, I liked how much of a nice companion this was to Bendis's books without it being too "make sure you read this first or you won't understand anything." This is my kind of continuity - we mention something happened and address how it affects our main character(s), then move on.

    While I'm here, I'm starting the drive for a DC Universe by Greg Rucka Omnibus right here and right now. Huntress: Cry for Blood, Death and the Maidens, the Renee/Kate parts of 52, Batwoman in 'Tec, Five Books, FC: Revelation, Pipeline, and Lois Lane. It'd sell at least two copies (our host and me)!

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  3. While less regarded I’d like to see his Superman(which I really liked) recollected as well, ala Checkmate, Batman, Wonder Woman.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, Rucka's Adventures run is really underrated. It's still one of my favorite Superman runs of the 21st Century.

      Given how DC's been re-collecting his past stuff, I'm actually surprised they haven't reprinted Adventures yet.

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