Thursday Comics Hangover: Girlfriend no more

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, DC Comics published a comic with an unfortunate title: Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane. Pretty much every story in SGFLL featured Lois Lane trying to trick Superman into falling in love with her, either by making him jealous or by bewitching him through some ancient spell or some other unnatural mechanism that would invariably backfire. In retrospect, these stories read either as dunderheaded commentary on gender relations in the middle of the 20th century or a kind of misplaced camp that's wrongheadedly hilarious.

Last week's relaunch of the Lois Lane comic, this time smartly titled just Lois Lane, actually gets to the core of what's interesting about the character. Lois Lane's superpower is journalism. She's the best reporter on the planet: dogged, resourceful, willing to do anything to tell a story that brings a bully to their knees. That's a lot more interesting than the story of a lovelorn obsessive who keeps trying to manipulate a man into loving her.

Written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Mike Perkins, Lois Lane's first issue revolves around a conflict between Lois Lane and the White House on the topic of privatized family separations. I can't imagine a monthly comic feeling any more relevant than this one does right now.

Rucka has proven to be incredibly gifted at creating elaborate plots and condensing all that nuance down until it fits inside a word balloon. Ten pages of a Rucka script contains something like forty pages of your standard monthly comic, and it never feels overstuffed or poorly paced. And Perkins keeps up with Rucka here, capturing (somewhat) normal people in (somewhat) normal situations.

Lois Lane is a comic for the Trump era, a comic for the collapse of local journalism, a comic for people who love smart comics. It's everything a Lois Lane comic should be.

Meanwhile, over in Batman's part of the universe, the first few issues of a series featuring recent Bat-love interest Catwoman has been collected in paperback form. Catwoman: Copycats shares some of the smarts and the serious consideration of the character with Lois Lane, only in a more classic superheroic frame.

Written and drawn by Joƫlle Jones, this Catwoman is chic and pensive and more than a little haunted. The book picks up just after the character's wedding to Batman fell apart in the main Batman title, and it finds Selina Kyle deep in a quest for reinvention. The fact that her first antagonist is funding an army of Catwoman lookalikes only makes that internal quest more compelling.

This is good superhero noir, and Jones keeps it stylish and compelling the whole way through. Jones is only at the beginning of what I hope will be a long career in the comics industry. This Catwoman is kinetic and clever, and it suggests that Jones might have an aptitude for a slick espionage series in her near future.

In the meantime, I would love to read a crossover between Rucka and Perkins's Lois Lane and Jones's Catwoman. I expect these two incarnations of these two characters would hate each other even as they developed a deep and abiding respect for the others' expertise. I would devour that super-team up in a second.