It’s not often that Superman really loses, so when he does, it feels like a big deal. In this issue, pretty much everything that could go wrong for Supes does go wrong, and I’m very excited to see where Greg Pak goes with this, and how well he manages to write Superman under such pressure without going all Zack Snyder on us.
Superman starts out the issue from a losing position, as he’s been stabbed in the gut by Ghost Soldier, with a bunch of those freaky underground monkeys turning into monsters at the same time. Baka tries to help him, but that only brings in Lana Lang’s fellow scientists and excavators, who start firing at him. Superman gets up, to try and help these monkey-monsters and protect Lana and Baka at the same time, but before he can get very far, Ghost Soldier just straight up kills all of the monkeys, chopping them into bits, and causing them to revert to their formerly cute appearances. Ghost Soldier tells Superman that this was the only option, and that surely he couldn’t believe he could have helped everyone? But of course, this is Superman, he never gives up, he always believes, he always wants to save everyone. I love that Pak has brought back that aspect of the character to prominence, yes, it is a bit naïve and old-fashioned for the modern world, but Superman should stand for something better than the modern world, and seeing his anguish and outrage over what happened to the monkeys was very powerful.
Superman and Ghost Soldier fight, which is harder than it would seem for Supes, because of course, Ghost Soldier can become intangible. But even when intangible, he’s still made of particles, and those particles can freeze, which allows Superman to use his ice-breath and stop him in his tracks. There’s one small line here that really stands out to me, and it’s Superman calling Ghost Soldier out for his belief that, because he’s a soldier who has to follow orders, that excuses his actions. Superman doesn’t hold with that one bit. Superman takes off Ghost Soldier’s helmet and looks through it, which allows him to see the location of his bosses, but before that, there’s more trouble to come. A fleet of unmarked military aircraft are on their way with bombs, and Ukur The Beastmaster has returned to take Baka back underground. It turns out Baka is the Prince Of Subterranea, and so even though Superman promised to protect him, and desperately wants to, he can’t let him stay on the surface as he won’t be safe. So Baka is taken home, crying all the way, we haven’t seen the last of him or Subterranea I’m sure.
A pissed-off Superman takes on the planes, but to make things even worse, when he gets back to Lana, it turns out that the Orb she took from Subterranea, that could very well be used to revolutionise energy and save the planet… it’s cracked and broken. So, as I said, nothing has gone right for Superman this issue, except for maybe the fact that Lana didn’t die. I liked the moment of bonding between the two, and Greg Pak continues to write their contrasting inner monologues really well. It’s just great to have a supporting character around again who really knows Clark Kent and Superman, because in the New 52, the likes of Lois and Jimmy don’t seem as close.
The issue closes with a vengeful Superman flying off with Ghost Soldier towards ‘The Tower’, where he’ll come face to face with the commander, a woman named Harrow, who from the artwork, looks to be permanently phased and half-way transparent. Pak has just started to scratch the surface with both this organization and the underground kingdom, I’m very excited for what’s next. Aaron Kuder’s artwork also continues to be fantastic. He does have a cartoonish style, but he can convey serious moments too, he just gets better and better, and is perfect for Superman.