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“Every woman loves a fascist”

As soon as I’d finished All-Star Superman #2, “Superman’s Forbidden Room,” I had pretty much the same eh, fine I guess reaction I’d had to the first issue. Yet the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became.

First of all, when people were talking about this as a return to the Silver Age for Superman (a character I’ve never really felt compelled to follow anyway) I hadn’t really thought about how this meant that the “Superman is a dick” factor would be at the forefront. But wow, what an awful hero he is! It’s really kind of fun to watch him shrug off Lois’s complaint that it’s unfair that he lied to her for years and years because he’s too busy trying to micromanage her birthday dinner on his personal recreation (by which I’m not sure I mean “replica” or actual “whole object remade from the broken parts”) of The Titanic. I mean, even when she’s apparently crazy, she’s more reasonable than he is anywhere in the story.

Then there’s the Bluebeard aspect, both in Superman’s secret room and his magical key that only he can use. It makes me more sure that the first issue was an Icarus allusion, since in both cases flying into the sun can kill you but also lets you star in your own story as the guy who tried. I was going to say jokingly that issue 3 is going to feature Superman realizing that he has brothers but they’ve been turned into swans, except that this might not end up being far from the truth. After all, he’s pressuring Lois to slip into a supersuit and I can’t imagine that story’s going to end well! I sort of hope it doesn’t. I like how the cheery covers here are cloaking something darker. I said to Steven that I was going to laugh and laugh if Superman ended up dying, which is probably a lie, at least a little. I wouldn’t mind a Death of Superman done well, but DC has made a world (our world, I mean) where the Death of Superman is necessarily something ludicrous.

It sounds awful to say that I’m enjoying the story because Superman is, if not quite abusive, at least a real creep. It’s not that I want to see the mighty fall or insist on the infamous darkening of superhero universes, but it’s nice to see that as a man he’s not all that super at all. He’s got a world of fa├žades — a giant, empty mecha suit and his recreation of the space shuttle Columbia — to complement an emotional world in which he can’t love the woman he loves enough to let her know who he is. His fortress is staffed by robot simulacra of himself, it features a portal where he can converse with Supermen of the future, but how is Lois ever supposed to find a home here? She does realize that the problem is not just that she’ll someday be saggy and worn but that Superman has lied to her and deliberately undermined her self-image by taking joy in keeping this star reporter from ever proving her suspicions about his secret identity. But, he says, “Aren’t you happy your suspicions were right all along?” Aren’t you glad at least that you’ve still got your womanly intuition, Lois, not to mention your looks??

What she doesn’t know, or doesn’t know for sure, is that he’s still lying to her, not just by refusing to tell her he’s dying but by actively telling her that nothing’s wrong when she asks about repercussions from his jaunt into the sun. Oh, sure, he’s got the excuse of not wanting to spoil her birthday, but conveniently that means he doesn’t have to spoil his own control of every situation. I’m looking forward to finding out down the line whether there really was a mysterious gas making Lois overly suspicious or whether that’s just another in this string of convenient lies. Either way, it’s one of those “just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean no one’s following you” situations, and I can’t wait to see whether Lois is more perceptive than she realizes or whether she, like her man, will be willing to accept a life of lies because of the way it easily makes sense of a messy universe. At least we as readers get plenty of glimpses of the mess underneath, and that’s going to keep me coming back. That and a bastardy yet tragic dying Superman!

Comments

  1. Nate A. says:

    That’s one hell of a reading. I like it.

    — 30 January 2006 at 8:22 pm (Permalink)

  2. Teresa says:

    That sounds really disturbed. I can’t decide if that makes me want to read the comic or not though–maybe I just want to read more of you reviewing the title.

    — 5 February 2006 at 12:11 pm (Permalink)

  3. Rose says:

    I haven’t responded because I don’t know what to say. To me, it’s a book worth reading in part because of the somewhat hysterical fan reaction that surrounds it, but it has many merits of its own. I’m really interested in the story of Superman as arrogant and manipulative and I wouldn’t be if he were just punching people, so I appreciate that at least there’s plenty going on, even if that doesn’t always add up to something I’d like on its own. I liked this second issue much better than the first and look forward to finding out what the third is like, but it’s also quite possible it will eventually turn out that this isn’t a book for me. It may not be one for you either, but it might be worth the $3 it would take to find out.

    — 15 February 2006 at 9:35 pm (Permalink)

  4. Rob Miller says:

    Sounds very disturbed ;)

    — 20 March 2006 at 10:52 pm (Permalink)