Review: Superman vs. Lobo hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)


DC Black Label titles so far have (entertainingly) used their mature allowances to make the bad worse — more disturbing horror stories, more dystopian situations for our heroes or versions thereof. What Black Label hasn’t done much, however, is use that maturity for comedy, and of course the choice for that is obvious: Lobo1.

And so, Tim Seeley, Sarah Beattie, and Mirka Andolfo’s Superman vs. Lobo. It is not, getting right down to it, laugh-out-loud funny, though it is entertaining, and I’d be happy to see Black Label go this route again. I wouldn’t mind another Lobo book sans Superman, or Harley Quinn (or Harley Quinn and Lobo), or Ambush Bug, and so on.

[Review contains spoilers for Superman vs. Lobo and Suicide Squad: Get Joker!]

What Seeley and Beattie do particularly well here is pair Superman and Lobo in the style of, for instance, Dave Gibbons and Steve Rude’s Superman/Batman team-up World’s Finest and others of that genre. They put Lobo with Superman’s allies, stick Superman in Lobo’s origins, make Lobo the hero and Superman the villain — basically mash them up and rearrange them enough that it really feels like a crossover writ large. The point has already been made (in a DC Universe: Last Sons novel by Alan Grant, among other places) that Superman and Lobo are each the last of their civilizations, with all that implies, but Seeley and Beattie make the point again and with fervor.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

I’m pleased on the rare occasions DC puts all the covers in the back of a book and treats a collection like a graphic novel. Of course, they choose to do so with Superman vs. Lobo and it might have been better if they hadn’t. In a classic-feeling three-issue Prestige Format-kind of way, the three parts of Superman/Lobo are episodic — the characters get out of a scrape in each issue and start a new, related scrape in the next. It makes for what feels like a long book — plots that might have been shorter expand to fill a whole issue — and separations of the chapters might at least have signaled where to take a break.

Superman vs. Lobo and Brian Azzarello’s Suicide Squad: Get Joker! — both Black Label, both published around the same time — each deal with similar tensions in the zeitgeist. For Get Joker!, it’s a political insurrectionist and the Joker hired by a foreign government to sow chaos. Superman/Lobo’s targets are social media and cancel culture, but also disinformation — Lex Luthor runs his own social platform to rival the mainstream media, and Lobo uses a hashtag campaign and a populist “LexTube” channel to make trouble for the Man of Steel.

In this, Superman vs. Lobo is heavy handed — Lobo runs his video channel from what looks like an auto shop basement with a tattered American flag as his backdrop. Nor surprisingly does Superman/Lobo deign to equivocate in its end — though Lobo has the requisite, cosmically induced change-of-heart in the finale, the story ultimately labels him a “bad guy” and Superman “good” — no subtleties there. But this improves at least over Get Joker!, which can’t seem to make any use of its observances except just to observe them.

You can kind of guess what you’re in for when a series published in 2021–2022 kicks off with a Seinfeld joke, and at that, more of a Seinfeld callout than anything that actually manifests as a joke. Fortunately, that’s the last time Superman vs. Lobo busies itself with the 1990s. Again, the book is rarely laugh-out-loud funny, but it is often clever, as in an outrageous couple scenes that elbow John Byrne’s Man of Steel while suggesting Superman’s Kryptonian mother has intimate knowledge of Lobo.

There is the irrepressible Dr. Flik’s attraction to Lobo despite the “casual sexism … and the murder … and the, y’know, genocide.” There is the return of long-time Lobo character Miss Tribb, a significant amount of butt humor, and there is Lobo using the phrase “crotch nuggets.” Superman/Lobo plays brief homage to Superman II, and who knew it would be so satisfying to see Lobo beat General Zod to a pulp? Bizarrely, a couple of Wildstorm characters play a big role in the book’s middle, which is a weird choice but, who knows, maybe that’s the cannon fodder DC had available.

Mirka Andolfo’s boisterous art works perfectly here. If I’d thought about it before, I might have wondered how Andolfo’s friendly, open style might work in a violent Lobo tale, but the answer is that it’s fine — Lobo is hairy and spiky and disheveled, while Andolfo’s Superman is perhaps too squeaky clean and innocent-looking; that’d be a problem in a Superman story proper, but doesn’t hurt when working in contrasts. Certainly Andolfo meets her quota of gloopy bloody faces and dangling eyeballs in this one.



As mentioned, Superman vs. Lobo reads a little long, and it’s best in the middle, when Superman and Lobo each run afoul of conspiracies on the other’s home planet, than in its “evil dictator Superman” ending that we’ve seen too many times before. But again, Black Label Superman vs. Lobo has “Black Label” and “Lobo” in it, and those are words that I hope are echoing around the DC bullpen. Just imagine.

[Includes original and variant covers]

  1. Harley Quinn got her turn in Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti's Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey.  ↩

Comments ( 2 )

  1. Spot on review. I have to say that I sort of enjoyed this. The story was uneven but the overall plot was an interesting one. Funny at moments and interesting to see the flipping of the Superman and Lobo planetary origins. The artwork was interesting and fit the story, though a bit too cartoony for my tastes. Not sure if it is an evergreen title that I would reread but was fun for passing time.

    1. "Not evergreen" is a good way to put it. I wanted more from what could have been the definitive Superman/Lobo match-up.


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