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Friday, 11 February 2011

Valentines reviews - Superman: Unconventional Warfare

Writer: Greg Rucka
Penciller: Matthew Clark, Renato Guedes, Paul Pelletier
Inker: Nelson, Edde Wagner, Andy Lanning, Rick Magyar
Colours: The Hories
Letters: Comicraft, Rob Leigh, Jared K Fletcher, Nick J. Napolitano
Publisher: DC 

What’s it about?
This book really focuses on Lois and Clark/Superman’s careers and the way in which their careers impact on their relationship.  It’s a love story between people who have the deepest respect for and devotion to each other, but who also have lives outside of each other.
For some background – by this point in time Lois and Clark have been married for a long time and are both working at the daily planet.  Clark has been demoted to the basement whilst Lois is on the top floor chasing the big stories.  Superman has just returned after an enforced leave of absence and is settling back into crimefighting in metropolis.

Whilst Clark is busy blending in as a mild mannered journalist or saving the city as Superman, Lois has got herself to a war zone and is trying to find the story.  The villains in Metropolis become more complicated, as Lois’s previously peaceful war zone turns violent.  She has to decide whether to stay down or risk her life.
What’s good about it?
The scenarios that Lois and Clark find themselves in aren’t really important in themselves.  They are window dressing for what’s really going on, which is a love story between two powerful (in their own ways) people and a narrative about respect and duty.  From discussions on how Lois can keep herself safe, to comments on how others see them, to the way they resist advances from others, from the trust they have for each other, to the public face they show the outside world and the heroism that is innate within them.  This book is a case study for why they are the premier couple in comics.
It also has one of my absolute favourite depictions of Lois in it, however I can’t show you it for that would ruin the story.  It is however linked to a nomination that this book got in a 'most memorable moment' competition, recently run by a fellow blogger. you can view the moment here, but be warned, there be spoilers.  In a non spoiler filled summary - this book shows Lois as a world class human being and an excellent role model.
Lastly, it's got two absolutely wonderful female characters in it, who also happen to be characters of colour.  This is good, the DCU needs some diversifying.
What’s bad about it?
There’s a lot of blurb at the start about how this book fits in the rest of the superman mythos – i.e., what happened directly before it.  But to be honest, if you’re reading it for Lois and Clark’s story, you don’t need this info.   Particularly as it doesn’t explain key facts, like the background to the villains Replikon or Mr Mzyzxptlk.  You know, stuff that would be actually useful..  So the casual reader doesn’t get the significance.  On the plus side, at the back of the book there is more blurb about some of the supporting characters.  Unfortunately, if you read this before you read the main story you'll get some minor spoilers...

Having said all that, Mr Mzyzxptlk is a fun, if nonsensical addition to this.  He’s an imp from the 5th dimension who turns up every 90 days to play tricks on Superman.  In this book he takes supes to the world of Warner Brothers cartoons (a homage to Animal Man perhaps?) and constantly breaks the fourth wall.

I also heartily dislike the cover – it screams old fashioned and dull to me and is absolutely not representative of what is inside the book.

What's the art like?
As you can see from the scans already posted the art varies according tot he mood and theme of the scene.  Sometimes quite cartoony, sometimes business like, but always with a sense of power.  The art carries a lot of this story and really helps to highlight the emotions in the plot.

In a rare example for superhero comics, the women are dressed appropriately for the occasion and quite often comfortably!  Lois looks like a woman comfortable in herself and in her work.

You will notice from the art credits that a lot of people were involved with the art on this book.  You will notice a difference reading through out, but the overall effect is not too jarring.
Other information
This  is now out of print but you would be able to find it on Amazon and Ebay.  As for further reading in the Superman stories, sadly I cannot advise you on that as I dip in and out of the Superman books.  However, you can probably check out what comes next at Trade Reading Order.

For more Greg Rucka books, click here to see what else we've reviewed.


  1. I've seen this book quite some times at the local store but never knew what it was about with that pop art cover :/

    Now I know! And it looks like a fun read^^

  2. It is fun. A bit sad in places, but fun. There's quite a lot going on in it so i find it best to read it as a Clark/Lois love story.