DC Comics’ Lois Lane #11 is the penultimate chapter in a stellar series. Written by Greg Rucka, with art by Mike Perkins, Colors by Andy Troy, and letters by Simon Bowland, this issue delves back into its influences. The hardboiled crime fiction tone that this creative team has worked so hard to create isn’t just a choice of style. We see here that Lois Lane follows the story beats of old mysteries, as much as it follows its looks.
Rucka begins the denouement with this chapter. With one issue to go, it’s natural for the story to be winding down. But it all feels chaotic and slightly out of step. Until you remember, this story has been a hardboiled mystery from page one. Lois, our wise-cracking investigator, has been two steps ahead of the plot the whole time. She knows far more than she’s letting on. And so, as shit hits the fan and everything begins to crumble, we’re met with a smiling Lois Lane who isn’t surprised by any of it. It’s all going as planned. Rucka, very briefly, employs a Deux Ex Machina to continue the story along. Rucka introduces rules as quickly as they help the characters. But that’s the price of writing a story that leaves readers so brilliantly in the dark. It’s a small price to achieve this level of mystery and intrigue.
Perkins’ art in this chapter is all over the place. And I mean that in the best way possible. As we reach the series’ climax, the drama is intense. Perkins captures looks of anxiety, fear, and anger so perfectly; he manages to put them on the face of a skull. It’s incredible to reach such a degree of dramatic flair that you can see a skull is worried. And yet the drama’s landing is cushioned by Perkins’ trademark subtlety. Lois sits on the edge of her bed, worried that things may have finally gotten out of hand. Her anxiety, her fear, her sadness is intense. But then she brushes her hair out of her face and looks serene. “There’s nothing you can say. She trusted me.” It’s one thing to see Lois in pain. But to see her fight back her guilt and put on a brave face, we feel it so much deeper.
You don’t need to read this issue to know what’s going on. A simple flip through the pages, and you can figure it out the tone of each scene, every beat. That’s because Troy’s coloring is so vividly connected to the story. Troy uses his coloring thematically and consistently. We see the splashes of purple, so common in this series, that represent mystery and the unknown. Characters like the Kiss of Death and Lois Lane are surrounded by purple on the page. Each knows more than they let on. And as we peak into the multiverse again, the purple hues cover each part of the page. The climax of the series is framed in the fires of hell. Yellow and red mingle together to create a sense of danger. And finally, the last few pages see a warming up of the color palette—a return to safety. For the cherry on top, Troy keeps Lois framed in purple. She still has more to let us in on.
Bowland’s lettering helps show the readers how phased characters are about events coming to a head. The Kiss of Death says, in big bold letters, “I am the Rock.” She is the instigator of chaos, and she’s happy about it. But as new things come to light, her dialogue shrinks. Soon, she’s rambling in a font that’s half the size of everyone else. Lois is cool as a cucumber for much of the issue. After all, she is Lois Lane. Yet when she starts piecing together that she could have made a miscalculation, the font of her dialogue shrinks too. Later, when things seem to be okay, Lois’ font briefly shrinks down again. Like her words are being let out with a sigh. Through this constant shifting of the font, Bowland lets us peek behind the curtain. Which characters are confident things will work out, and which of them are scared?
Lois Lane #11 is one of the most potent titles to come out of DC Comics. It establishes tone and imbues characters with a three-dimensionality that is sorely missing in their portrayals on other titles. As this creative team steps into the home stretch, we see the plot begin to wind down. But even so, much of the mystery remains intact for the final chapter. Lois Lane #11 is out from DC Comics this week!