It's no secret that Superman's rogue's gallery kind of sucks, especially for his prestige as a superhero. By my count, only Wonder Woman has a worse importance to amount of notable villains ratio, with four (Ares, Dr. Psycho, Cheetah, and Circe). Superman's already paltry rogues' gallery has the added difficulty of being mined for villains for other heroes and the DC Universe at large (Lex Luthor, Mongul, arguably Darkseid). So, I applaud most attempts to expand Superman's villain library.
But I applaud doubly when the new villain works, especially as well as the new Insect Queen.
Kurt Busiek recently hatched the new villain over in "Superman." Nominally, she's based on Lana Lang's Silver Age superheroic identity. Because, you know, everyone was a superhero in the Silver Age. I expected, for some reason, to really dislike the three-part Insect Queen storyline, (perhaps because the covers and whatnot reminded me of Marv Wolfman's terrible 2001 storyline, "Infestation") but it turned out to be pretty darn good.
Making Lana Lang the new CEO of LexCorp was a bold move, but it has really allowed her character to develop and gain distinction apart from Clark and Pete. This story showcased that growth, managing to integrate "wife/mother Lana" with "Clark's ex-girlfriend Lana" and somehow come up with "strong-but-troubled independent woman Lana who is seeking to bring closure to her past and move forward as a person."
But this post isn't about Lana, it's about Insect Queen. There's a lot to like about her. First, she's got a body based on Lana's, which even she comments gives her some curious stirrings with regard to the Man of Steel. This puts her in a bit of the old Maxima position, the villainess with a crush on our Man of Steel. In fact, the love/hate relationship this sets up is one of the more intriguing things about neo-Insect Queen; sure, we've seen similar relationships before, but in this case it's essentially an exaggerated version of Lana's own feelings. On one hand, the flame's never quite died down for Lana, and she's spent her whole life chasing after him. On the other hand, she's upset--with him and herself--that there's no way to get him out of her life and jump-start the closure process, and there's no way with him around that she can seem to progress past high school.
Granted, Insect Queen's version is a bit more simplistic--"He's in my way" vs. "He makes me tingly in my thorax"--but it has a similar root and it bears exploration.
Besides that, there's the thematic parallel: Clark was rocketed from his homeworld as the last survivor, the only hope for the continued existence of some shred of Krypton. Insect Queen was rocketed from her homeworld for being one too many (only one queen allowed at a time) and was one of many hopes to expand her people's hive-empire.
Plus, there's the plain old cool factor: a villain with her own private army of bug-Borg, and the capacity to make more from infected civilians, and to clone more besides. Between her and the wide variety of soldier-types among her drones (limitless possibilities, culled from your local Entomology textbook), they've already shown themselves able to hurt Superman and create superpowered insectoid clones of him. And she's got four arms!
At the very least, there's at least two good stories with her clash against Queen Bee and her team-up with Hellgrammite. I'm pretty sure there's more than that yet, and I for one can't wait to see them.
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