Review: Superwoman Vol. 3: The Midnight Hour (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

K. Perkins' Superwoman Vol. 3: The Midnight Hour brings a swift and not particularly satisfying end to this hard luck Lana Lang series. Whatever were the original plans for this book, between continuity shifts and creative team changes, they never did manifest, and the level of drama in the book was just not high enough by the end to compete with other titles on the stands. At the end of Superwoman Vol. 2: Rediscovery, it seemed Perkins had an interesting direction in mind but that’s abandoned here, though equally the stories in volume 3 also feel unfinished. In all the cancellation of this title seems justified.

[Review contains spoilers]

Midnight Hour starts in the middle of things, with Superwoman Lana Lang possessed by Red Kryptonite alongside the Red Kryptonite-powered “Red Sun,” who happens to be one of her childhood friends. Perkins has some enjoyable scenes of Lana, Clark Kent, and Lex Luthor as teenagers in Smallville, in the style of Birthright or Superman: Secret Origin, but the broad strokes are nigh incomprehensible. Because apparently Lana wore a Red Kryptonite necklace when she was younger — something Perkins has invented and grafted on just for the purposes of this story — Lana speculates it might be the source of her Superwoman powers, even though that’s been previously established as exposure to one of Superman’s solar flares.

She seeks out old friend Amos Aimes because of his exposure to Red Kryptonite in the form of an earring, though this reason is really subtle on the page. And then it turns out Aimes has been experimenting with Red Kryptonite for “years” and turned himself into a monstrosity specifically to compete with Superman for Lana’s affections. What “experimenting” means, where Aimes (not a scientist) learned to manipulate Kryptonite and how he does so in his barn, even where he’s gotten access to so much Red Kryptonite all remaining unexplained, as well as the fact that Aimes says he’s been following Lana’s career as Superwoman even though Lana’s identity (if not also Clark’s) has been a secret.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

This idea of Lana even having a “career” as Superwoman is problematic. This isn’t the first time Perkins has mussed with the timeline we’ve seen in the comics — Lana and Steel John Henry Irons' relationship is relatively new, but in Rediscovery Perkins apropos of nothing extended it to when John Henry’s niece Natasha was a child. Among the major tenets of Perkins and Phil Jimenez’s Superwoman series is that Lana is fairly new on the scene, still learning her way, and now contradictorily Perkins suggests that Lana has at least been Superwoman long enough for Aimes to have been following her for a while. Again, it all smacks of bending what’s been established previously to the whims of what’s immediately being told (same as when Perkins suddenly introduced a nephew for John Henry who’d been kidnapped) and that feels haphazard to me.

The stories within Midnight Hour flow into one another in the sense that Supergirl gets involved in the Red Sun business, Supergirl introduces Superwoman to Maxima (from Perkins' and Mike Johnson’s New 52 Supergirl Vol. 6: Crucible), and Maxima sticks around to help Superwoman fight the robotic threat of Midnight. But Aimes is never mentioned again, nor is there but the briefest mention of Superwoman’s plan in Rediscovery to go find John Henry’s nephew Zeke. In this way too Midnight Hour doesn’t feel particularly purposeful; some of this jumping around might very well have been caused by the book’s impending cancellation, but at the same time the fact that nothing quite seems to stick contributes to the sense of the book lacking “oomph.”

The four-part “Midnight Hour” sees Lana and her friends attacked by a sentient failsafe program trying to free from imprisonment Lena Luthor, Superwoman’s first foe. Why exactly the robot is called “Midnight” is never explained, another example of the needs of the moment overriding what might otherwise have been best for the story. The story is fine and Lana’s conflict with Midnight (eventually teaching the robot to “feel”) is fine, if a smidgen treacly. Given that Lana Lang being Clark Kent’s permanently powered friend in some ways defeats the character’s purpose, that Lana loses her powers in the end is fine too (though there’s probably room for a Superwoman of some sort in the DC Universe). Small, but bothersome, are again the small details that Perkins gets wrong about which she should know better, like that Natasha, a robotics scientist, should need her girlfriend Traci 13, a magician, to explain to her what binary code is, as if Natasha had never heard of it herself.

As mentioned before, seeing Steel as a supporting character here whets my appetite for a new Steel series. I have liked this “electrical engineer” Lana Lang since she was introduced by Greg Pak in the New 52 and in all I think that a more confident Lana (less confident in Superwoman Vol. 3: The Midnight Hour) was a good look for the sometimes-maligned character. As Superwoman I’m not so sure, though again I think that’s a name worthy of a character in the DCU, but I’d be happy to see Steel and Lana integrated back into the Superman titles proper.

[Includes original and variant covers, character design]


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