Review: Lois Lane: Double Down

Double-Down-Cover

Lois Lane: Double Down Plot Summary

When Lois finds her friend Maddy’s twins sister Melody in a bad part of town, the Scoop‘s star reporter finds herself drawn into a nefarious plot involving doppelgängers, a mad scientist, crime bosses and a political scandal. Meanwhile, as her relationship with SmallvilleGuy deepens, the pair are forced to try to help the mysterious “flying man” when it becomes clear the government is hunting him.

Fallout, the first installment in Gwenda Bond’s YA series about teenaged Lois Lane was a pleasant surprise. It was fun and clever and filled with characters that felt grounded and real in a world that was slightly off. The follow-up, Double Down, has all of its predecessor’s good qualities. However, it’s also proof that you can have too much of a good thing.

In essence, Bond has the same problem as her protagonist: she’s too clever for her own good. Part of what made Fallout such an excellent start to the series is the way it set up so many plot threads for future installments to explore. Yet, for some reason, Bond has stuffed them all into this one. There’s a plot thread about why the ex-mayor (who also happens to be the father of one of Lois’s Scoop colleagues, James) went to jail. There’s one about Lois’s other colleague Maddy and her strained relationship with her twin sister, Melody. There’s even a bit about Maddy’s unrequited crush on James. It’s all tied together here, with added bonuses of a local crime boss, a mad scientist and evil clones.

On one hand, it’s incredibly impressive that Bond manages to tie all these seemingly disparate elements together. However, it also makes the beginning of the book feel unfocused and scattered. Add the ongoing story of Lois’s flirtation with the mysterious SmallvilleGuy and her constant attempts to thwart her Army general father’s authority and the book feels overwhelming. That’s also the reason the ending feels not only rushed, but a little unsatisfying. Bond has to service so many plot threads that none of them feel like they’re getting their due.

Unfortunately, that’s especially true of Lois and SmallvilleGuy, a Kansas boy who is most definitely Clark Kent. You really have to admire the level of fan fiction Bond is writing here. By keeping their relationship strictly online and now VR video game-based, she’s essentially writing a Lois and Clark love story without ever having to put them in the same room. They can fall in love and support each other all while preserving the future dueling journalist dynamic that is so integral to their romance. Granted, this alternate history is going to be a problem should Bond some day get to that point. It would be completely unbelievable if Lois didn’t figure out that her bespectacled coworker from Smallville is the same guy she’s been talking to online for years. In fact, that’s already kind of a problem.

Considering what a smart and intuitive journalist Lois is supposed to be here, it’s very difficult to believe that she can’t figure out that he’s the “flying man” who saved her life years before. Not even after a threatening post on the conspiracy message boards they both follow prompts Clark to show her he can fly in the fantasy video game they play together does she figure it out. Still, Bond can’t be blamed entirely. This has always been the fundamental problem of the Lois and Clark relationship and she’s inevitably limited by having to stick to it.

It may seem a little silly to talk about shipping when there’s so much going on in Double Down, but this is a book aimed at young adult readers–particularly girls–and they definitely care about Lois’s love life. While there’s something swooningly romantic about the idea that Lois and Clark have only ever loved each other, there’s also something lost to Lois and readers in not letting her fall in love with someone who can actually be in the room with her. In the first book, fellow Scoop writer and tech wiz Devin was interested, but backed off when he realized there was another guy in the picture. But the second book offers an even more intriguing possibility: James.

From the beginning, he and Lois have had a somewhat adversarial relationship. She disliked his moneyed superiority and he disliked her take-charge condescension and rule-bending. However, that changes during the course of Double Down. As James becomes more open about his feelings and his family history with Lois, she comes to trust and care about him. It’s classic romance setup. He even catches her hero-style after she falls from a great height at one point. Yet all that potential and tension is wasted because James is too busy realizing Maddy exists just as she finds a dreamy muralist to date. And perhaps pairing James and Lois would be trading one cliché for another, but it’s a shame Lois and Clark’s destiny precludes it from being explored at all.

Exploration is what being a teenager is about. You’re constantly learning who you are and what you want—including who you want. This Lois doesn’t get to make the romantic mistakes her character often does in other Superman stories and she’s a little less complex and realistic as a result. Bond is still a really enjoyable writer and her version of Lois Lane is one of the best characters in DC media across all platforms. Period. But if–God willing–there’s another book after Double Down, Bond has to trust the characters to keep readers interested without having to throw a million plots their way. Insane, improbable, comic book-y plots are fun, but Lois and her gang are the real draw.

Rating: 6.5/10

By day, Marisa Carpico stresses over America’s election system. By night, she becomes a pop culture obsessive. Whether it’s movies, TV or music, she watches and listens to it all so you don’t have to.