Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review: Superman/Wonder Woman #2

As I said a couple of days ago, it is ironic that DC released Superman/WonderWoman #2 in the same week that Smallville #19 was released. Both books have Superman and Wonder Woman, both have them fighting major threats. But they are so different in tone and characterization. And these differences were all the more jarring when these issues were read back to back.

Most know that I am more of a Clark/Lois fan and don't necessarily agree with this romance. It doesn't make much sense to me and my ingrained (and possibly antiquated) understanding of these characters. And seeing a more classic camaraderie in Smallville, complete with intact Superman ethics and Wonder Woman ideals made this a tougher read.

So I am trying to be open-minded as I read this book. I don't agree with the direction of the romance. But if the story is good, if the romance seems real in the book, maybe I can move past it. But so far, there are things that stick out in this book that continue to make me cringe a little, that make me remain steadfast that these two shouldn't be together.

Now there are some good things about this book. For one, Tony Daniel's art on the book is really spectacular. I have really enjoyed his stuff and story-telling here. If only Diana wasn't wearing high heel boots!

And I think Soule's characterization of the Greek Gods was very good, showcasing how they feel above everybody.

But Superman and Wonder Woman's interactions seem off, as they did a bit last issue, and that makes this a tough read.

Last issue ended with Doomsday appearing in the middle of an off-shore storm. With Superman out for the count, Diana faced off against him.

The opening page of this issue is horizontally oriented and just shows Wonder Woman being thrashed. I thought this was a very good opening page, bringing us immediately back into the action and showing us the power of Doomsday. Daniel gives us the 'feel' of this shot, Diana's head bent back, her body appearing limp.

I usually like this sort of action panel oriented differently, with the 'attacker' in the panel, and maybe the victim more at an angle. But I thought this really worked here. Maybe the giant 'Kathooom' added to the feel.

Just as Diana, arms broken, is about to accept the killing blow from Doomsday, Superman returns lifting the ship out of the water.

Unfortunately the next panel is this. We learn a couple of panels later that Doomsday disappeared. But in reading the book, I wondered what happened to Doomsday. I thought I must have missed a page, going back trying to separate a single sheet to see what happened.

And there is no closure of the 'military attacking' portion of last issue's plot. Did they just fly off? Or did they explain what was happening to the Navy? One little panel showing the two sides come together would have been nice. But that is coming from someone sick of seeing nations' armies attacking super-heroes in books.

Diana's description let's Clark know that this was Doomsday she was fighting. They head to the Fortress so they can confirm it by looking into the Phantom Zone.

Superman is rightly afraid of Doomsday who he says is simply 'death'. But Wonder Woman doesn't know Doomsday.

Does this mean 'The Death of Superman' didn't happen in the New 52? Does Morrison's 'Super-doom' from Action take the actual Doomsday's place in history? Did Superman die? Or is that coming up ... as part of this new weekly? I thought there were references to it already in the New 52 (although with no Eradicator, clone SB, and Henshaw Cyborg, the official story is impossible now).

Anyways, as much as I sort of like the dialogue here, Diana telling Clark he doesn't fight alone, the panels here don't work for me. I'd rather see the characters faces to add some emotional context.

To help, Diana takes Superman to Hephaestus to see if the Smith can make Clark something to help him in battle. Initially, Diana asks him for a 'weapon' which seems odd for Clark. But later they say it would be armor.

Here, Hephaestus attack Superman, I guess to prove that Superman is worthy of being there. And Clark easily parries it. Clark is even nice, calling Hephaestus 'sir' and saying 'Thank You'. But it is a little off that Superman can so easily face off against a god. And it gets worse.

Here is the part of Superman's characterization I really didn't like.

So Apollo and Strife show up, after all a mortal has come to Olympus. And Apollo, very appropriately, acts like a condescending jerk, even questioning Diana's choice in love.

This is the first time that Superman has met Diana's family (I think). So his first words to Apollo is how he is going to hit Apollo as hard as he can.

Doesn't sound like the Kansas farm-boy who knew manners. Even if Apollo is being a smug irritating ass, I want Superman to rise above. This hyper-masculine posturing seems beneath the inspiration I want Superman to be. You think he would ignore or be polite. No need to puff up and get into an alpha male moment.

And what an odd relationship. Last issue, Diana brandished a sword on Clark. Here, on first meeting, Clark threatens to throttle Diana's older brother. Does that sound healthy? Or right?

Apollo backhands Superman into Hephaestus' forge.

I like Strife's response. Yes, it is a riff on the famous 'one punch' Guy Gardner moment. So that is amusing. But Strife is out and out giddy during this scene. She should be. She loves discord and that is flowing. As I said, the characterization of the Greek pantheon is spot on.

Diana threatens Apollo but Superman arises from the fires to fight.

It is a moment that is similar to that opening panel. But the art execution is wonderful and different. We get too above shots, the second from Apollo's viewpoint, as Superman throws him through the mountain. And then we get a wide angle shot of the mountain itself, Apollo's tiny form flying into the sky.

So it is a very dramatic moment and is the sort of stuff that with other characters I might applaud. The art is fantastic, nicely capturing the action as the reader wheels through this. It is fun in form.

But really ... Superman, threatening a first punch, then dispatching the current ruler of the Greek Gods in the New 52 this easily.

And then this panel.

I don't know if I want Diana preening about this display like this. And, even if she has issues with her family, is this going to help matters? To have her significant other attack her brother?

I don't know. Am I being too stodgy?

I did however love Strife practically squeeing over Superman taking out Apollo like yesterday's trash. Her schoolgirl OMG is a perfect response. (Although the god word carrying over to the next panel and sitting near (defining?) Superman was worrisome. I want Superman to be a but more humble and in control than this.

At least he again thanks Hephaestus.

Of all the scenes in the book, I would love to hear people's reactions to this one. Because I worry I am out of touch.

Superman's concerns are that the dimensional barriers between the Phantom Zone and the universe are weakening since Doomsday temporarily escaped. And that worry seems valid as the issue ends with Zod appearing in the desert, bringing with him shards of the Zone. Of course, this being the dark violent DCU, he happens to manifest at a point of the desert where a caravan just happens to be, the crystals perforating the locals and their camels, killing them.

I don't know if I needed these deaths. Zod's entrance alone is dramatic enough.

So there was a lot that to me seemed wrong in this book and most of it focused on the characterization of our titular heroes. The art and the supporting players of the Gods (and Cat Grant who gets a page) all were very good. And I suppose that those things as well as wanting to be on the ground for the re-introduction of Zod and the Zone villains, makes me think I will be in for the first arc.

The question is what I do after. And does this make me more worried about how Kara will be treated by Soule.

Overall grade: C


Anonymous said...

Anj, you are not out of touch. I'm a young female fan. I'm part of DC's supposed 18-34 demo---I'm just female and not male. I was part of the demo that WB marketed Smallville towards. I watched Smallville for 10 years. I say that bc....I am not opposed to "new" takes on this character. I can even enjoy new things if they feel like they are still respecting the core of the myth. This is not doing that. This is wrong.

I'm actually more angry about Wonder Woman's characterization which is just pathetic here. Wonder Womam is impressed by a patriarchal display of male posturing? That's....terrible. That's so far off the mark that I don't even know where to start.

This entire issue read like a male power fantasy from start to finish. I'm stunner that Soule put Superman in a position to conquer Diana's worldview like this and I'm appalled that it's presented as romantic.

It's not just "old" fans who are insulted by this. And it's not "antiquated" to believe that there are certain core tenants of 75 year old myths that should be held just a little bit sacred. That's the whole point of myth. Yes---they evolve. Shows like Smallville are proof of that. That was targeted to a younger demographic. But this is a different level of taking two mythos, diluting them together and then spitting all over the point.

It insults me as a Superman fan. It enrages me as a Wonder Woman fan.


AndNowInStereo said...

"Family is tough"....?

Yeah, because he's always concerned about and always ready to stick his neck out for his own flesh and blood.

Or perhaps I'm thinking of some other character. One who didn't let his cousin and his clone wander off into danger after they'd all been through some horrible stuff.


I do wonder if this takes place before the current Superman/Supergirl/Superboy crossover or after it... it's getting a bit hard to put this all in the correct context now!

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Anj: I've always thought that Morrison addressed the "Death of..." storyline in Action. If the nu52 is a re-imagining, big events from the old DC should be covered in similar ways.

Wonder why Daniels has WW with her thigh strap and sword, it's gone in the Justice League. From what I've read, WW can now create swords from her bracelets. Because nu52.

Dave Mullen said...

I don't know. Am I being too stodgy?

In this case yes.
Superman stood silent and dignified as Apollo hurled insult after painful insult at him, it's only when Apollo then turns on Diana that he steps up and *asks* Apollo to cut it out...
I think that level of restraint and patience is entirely in line with Superman's traditional characterisation, it takes a lot to provoke him. I like Scott Snyder's Superman for the same reasons I like Scott Lobdell's - both are writing to capture the traditional elements of Superman's character and cast it in a contemporary setting, if you want a surly short-tempered brute of a Superman then it is the likes of Geoff Johns' version you should be tearing into. But Snyder & Lobdell get my respect as like Grant Morrison they refuse to cast that introverted loner as their preferred version of the character.

I was impressed at how well Snyder & Daniel captured the Gods, Stryfe's reaction to Superman's power and confidence was not much different to her reaction to Diana's new 'boyfriend' Orion in WW#17, for a god she is very immature and her relationship with Wonder Woman is very much one of a jealous sister.

Regards. :)

Jay said...

I think Superman was more than justified to warn Apollo in the manner he did. Manners go out the window when you call a loved one a slut. I'd imagine that Jonathan would have had a similar reaction if anyone insulted Martha in such a crass way. This is far from a situation in which I think the Kents would be disappointed in their son.

Anonymous said...

Apparently watching a woman you love get insulted and standing up to it is patriarchy now. Yeah that's BS. Sometimes there is a genuine concern re gender equality and then there is walking around with a chip on one's shoulder or a determination to be offended. No woman I know would call it that. Nor would I let anyone speak about a woman I love that way and not say a word and I would hope she would stand up for me too if the position was reversed. And WW has defended Superman many a time in the past so let's not be hypocrites now.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

I will freely admit that despite having read the book twice in preparation for the review, I glossed over the word 'slut' in Apollo's rant both times. In my head he was kind of an aloof jackass but that word does indeed cross some type of line in my head. So maybe the 'don't talk to her like that again' line makes much more sense.

I will also admit that I am trying to understand this relationship and as a result I am scrutinizing it closely (ironic since I missed a key word). I mean, it would take something major for me to threaten by girlfriend's brother the first time I met him ... even if he was a bit of a jerk. I suppose sullying her reputation might be one of them.

The Pa Kent analogy is a good one. I doubt he'd let Martha be besmirched.

I still don't know if I agree with a lot of the characterization here but that scene reads a little easier now that I see the insult.

Anyways, as always, its the dialogue and conversation that I love here. Thanks for having me look again.

Anonymous said...

Well, one thing is stad up against a insult and other is go straight for threats. Wonder Woman is strong enough to deal with it, without Superman. They had bigger problems like Doomsday to deal.

Anonymous said...

Wait, didn't Superman meet Eros, god of love and Wonder Woman's cousin, back in Young Romance?
The one where Clark and Diana are on a date, but Superman gets mind-controlled by sirens and backhands
Wonder Woman, and the story ends with Eros shooting Superman with a magic bullet (?), but he
catches in his hand. Whatever happened afterwards?

Hopefully later this book will balance both elements of Superman's Phantom Zone criminals and Wonder
Woman's Greek Pantheon family.

Martin Gray said...

The issue was competent, with the odd nice bit, but I think this is my last issue - I'm not a fan of the current Wonder Woman and as I've likely said previously, I'm rather sick of Zod, even before we get to the inevitable 'kneel' reference.