Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Review: Superman/Wonder Woman #3

From the beginning, I have felt that the Superman/Wonder Woman romance was wrong for both characters. I didn't think it suited either of them or was consistent with more classic interpretations of either Clark or Diana. I wasn't 100% closed to the idea but I knew it would take something spectacular, something new, to make me think this was right for either of them.

With that in mind and knowing that the first arc was going to redefine the Phantom Zone villains, I decided to add Superman/Wonder Woman to my pull list. I would give the book a shot to see if writer Charles Soule could sway me. Besides, I knew already that I enjoyed Tony Daniel's art. At the very least, it would be a beautiful book to look at.

Superman/Wonder Woman #3 came out this week and like the first two issues, the characterization of the characters seems just a bit off. They don't seem comfortable with each other. This relationship feels somewhat forced. And the characterization of the two doesn't jibe with me. Now don't get me wrong, there are a couple of nice moments in the book. And the art is stunning. But this Diana is a far cry from the God of War in her solo title. And this Superman seems to eager to distance himself from humanity. And then they seem to pick the oddest time to get amorous and frisky. Maybe this is the early stage of any relationship, where passion seems stronger than love?

Anyways, unless things change, I don't know if there is going to be a second arc in my collection.

The book opens with Cat Grant finally opening up the flash drive that was sent to ClarkCatropolis. On the stuck are pictures of Superman and Wonder Woman kissing.

This is exactly the sort of publicity that the small start up blog needs. So it will be interesting to see how Clark (who wants the relationship to remain a secret) responds. Will he try to bury the story, make it a non-story, or spin it in a way he wants?

This is one of those times that having a dual identity is troublesome.

Let's start the guesses on who sent the drive. Who would be able to even get those pics? Luthor? It would give him pleasure to put Clark against Superman in a news war. That's all about I got.

One of my complaints about this book is the sort of uneven characterization Soule puts into the book. I also question how healthy this relationship is.

First the good part. Overpowered by the Apollo sunburst, Superman can barely control himself. He huddles down on the moon trying to burn off some of his energy. He talks to Batman during the process. One thing I liked about this was Batman's assessment of Superman here. Okay, calling him a dumb farmboy might be over the top. But the idea that it is the 'man' and not the 'Super' that defines Superman is how I think of the character. He is considers himself someone who can help more than the average person can. I like that.

But the bad part is that Soule thinks that Diana feels above everyone on the planet. She has 'no connection' to the world of everyday folks and that is problematic. Frankly, that just reads completely wrong to me. I wonder if Diana fans feel even more irritated by that than me.

Lastly, Superman tells Batman that he doesn't want Diana to know about his problem with the sun energy. Not exactly the openness I might want in a relationship. Isn't early to hide things from each other?

So the strong men talk about the ways of the world.

Diana gets to stroll around town talking about what gift she should get Clark for Christmas.

This also seemed off. I suppose if the prior scene was Clark and Bruce doing the same I might be able to deal with it more, contrasting the 'ordinariness' of it. But having Diana stress over buying her boyfriend a gift seems to denigrate her.

Now last issue ended with Zod breaking through onto Earth, in the desert.

Here is seems insane at first, screaming insensibly, trying to fly, and then cruelly stomping a passerby into a bloody pulp and smearing the man's blood on his face.

I talk about the over the top nature of comics these days and this is a good example. We know Zod is a bad guy. I don't know if this scene added anything to my understanding of his character. That is the definition of gratuitous.

The Justice League of America shows up to investigate the incursion onto our world. It was nice to see Vibe and Hawkman try their best against him. I also think that the 'breach' idea tied in nicely with Vibe's title.

And sorry to all the Martian Manhunter fans out there as he is used as a measuring stick character again. Zod is already powerful enough to lay J'Onn out.

Then Superman and Wonder Woman arrive together and Zod is trapped within the coils of the magic lasso.

But, in my mind, things start to unravel a bit. Zod suddenly starts to speak calmly and claims that he was confused by his surroundings.

Of course, the blood he smeared on his face isn't there any more. Because that might be tough to explain.

And what about the place of his actual incursion ... remember the spikes perforating and slaughtering the caravan? And how about that poor nomad stomped to death? Did the JLA track him from his entrance onto Earth or did they just stumble onto him?

The point is all the evidence of him being a brutally violent man is simply erased or ignored. If Superman saw the pulped man in the desert, he might have a different attitude towards Zod.

And then these panels, probably my least favorite ones in the issue. Just pages after Soule reminds us that Superman is more man than Super, Superman decides that he wants to distance himself from mankind. When the JLA asks to take Zod in, Superman says he remembers what 'the government does to his people', a reference to Action Comics #2, an event that happened 5 years ago in continuity. He is worried what Earth will do to Zod! Daniel cloaks him in shadows and silhouettes kicking up the darkness in Superman.

Is this really Superman? Is this the Superman DC wants? Someone who distrusts mankind to the point of flaring up with anger at other heroes? What happened to Batman's 'dumb farmboy'??? This whole thing is completely wrong.

So Wonder Woman's characterization is off. And now Superman's characterization is off.

Superman brings Zod to the Fortress and puts him in a zoo cage until things can get sorted out. Superman tells Wonder Woman that the cage cannot be broken out of, even by someone of Kal's power levels.

Let's say that Soule needed Zod in the Fortress as a plot point.Couldn't he have had Superman say in the last scene that he would take Zod because he had something strong enough to hold him as opposed to isolating himself from humanity?

And doesn't this seem like a recipe for disaster, taking someone to your top secret headquarters filled with your secrets?

And then the most awkward bizarre ending. Wonder Woman decides that now is the right time to give Clark his Christmas gift ... the gift of time, a time where they can just be with each other and not worry about the world. It leads to some in air passionate kisses.

But ... really? Is it the right time for 'time'? The script could have read like this.

Diana: Hey Clark, I know you just got into a heated argument with the Justice League, discovered there is a third survivor from your doomed world, and have imprisoned him in your sanctuary, but ... let's go french kiss!

Clark: Perfect timing!

I can't believe that she thinks it is the right time for this tryst. And I can't believe that he agrees with her!

What would the really life equivalent be?

Normal Diana: Hey Clark, I know your long lost thought dead relative just showed up and is staying in your house. And I know you just got into an argument with your friends. But let's go make out!

Normal Clark: Perfect timing!

It just felt like a forced element to show the two embracing again. Luckily we don't gaze on their snogging too long. The news of their relationship has broken and Clark hears the world debating it!

So there is a lot of stuff in this issue that I simply have a hard time with. The odd characterization of the main two characters is the biggest. But the lack of investigation on Zod's appearance on Earth also was glossed over.

I will again say, I am loving the art of Tony Daniel here. Beautiful.

Overall grade: C/C-


AndNowInStereo said...

I haven't read #1 and #2 yet, but indeed, I was very mixed on this one, as I said to you before. I wouldn't say I disliked it, but something is wrong when the character I think I liked the most in this issue is Batman! He felt like he should do. I'm really starting to dislike New52 Superman. Lobdell writes him badly, true, but even though Soule writes him better, he's just not someone I can either look up to or sympathise with, he's far too self-centred.

Hey look, Superman's going to be in Red Lanterns #29. That should be fun. Likeable but still an asshole Red Lantern Guy Gardner, self-centred drip Superman, and Kara in the middle. Yay! I'll get the popcorn. (I am actually sort of looking forward to that because I think it'll be ridiculous if Superman gets called out on being a douche by Guy Gardner, of all the people in the galaxy)

In other news, Soule is now writing all the books everywhere. Come April, he'll be on this, Red Lanterns, Swamp Thing, She-Hulk, Thunderbolts, Inhuman and his creator-owned book. I don't know how he'll cope with all that!

AndNowInStereo said...

I should add to my previous comment that I hope Kara's not just a prop in that story in order to create conflict with Superman. If she is, I'll be very annoyed indeed. But if it gives the two Kryptonians any chance to actually clear the air a little, maybe that'll be good.

Green said...

"I wonder if Diana fans feel even more irritated by that than me."

Yes, at least me.I know others feel that way too.
For me one of the weirdest parts is when Diana say "It's not personal". Of course it's very personal for Superman. It was dumb.

I'm worried about red lanterns, two men deciding who has to deal with angry teenager girl. Hope it will be better than smww#2.
I still think Guy has the right to call out superman, supergirl is his cousin. and Superman didn't helped her all this time

Anonymous said...

The characterization is "off" because this relationship does not suit these characters. You have to manipulate and twist them into characters that they are not in order to force them into boxes that they aren't suited for to make it work. It feels forced because it IS forced.

As for the totally "off" designs of Diana's character---yes, it bothers me. Soule only has it half right. It's absolutely true that Clark and Diana have distinctly different worldviews and relationships with humanity and, to take it further, I think these different worldviews make it nearly impossible for them to really understand each other. But Soule doesn't get WHY.

Diana doesn't think she's "above" mankind nor does she have "no connection" to humanity. On the contrary, she's from a nation of powerful WOMEN where institutionalized misogyny was not a part of their worldview. If we actually got a chance to see Diana's story play out on page we would see that she saves Steve Trevor and through this act is forced to challenge her perceptions of humanity. We would also see this if the books would develop her relationship with her mother (oh wait! can't do that!) and understand why she was sent to the world of man and why she left home. But to do that would require anyone giving a crap about actually expoloring Wonder Woman as HER OWN CHARACTER with her own cast of humans (Steve, Etta etc.) outside of freaking Superman. It makes zero sense and is detrimental to Wonder Woman that the only "man" that appears to be worthy of her time is a literal alien. It's so in contrast wtih her entire mission and raison d;etre that it blows my mind.

I agree that the ending with Wonder woman giving Clark "time" away from his life as Superman is bizarre. But it's also an exmaple of DC wanting to have it both ways with Superman and continuing to steal from Lois Lane's legacy. CLARK KENT is Superman's life away from Superman. Clark Kent is a real person with a real job and REAL friends and real relationships. But because DC is so intensely focused on him being Superman all the darn time....this entire side of the dual identity has been lost.

It's also just another thing that Soule and DC has slowly ripped away from Lois and Clark's history and tried to re-purpose. Lois Lane's relationship with Clark Kent---both their working relationship/professional/friendship and eventual love story WAS the answer to Clark's search for some "time" where he could just be. That was the whole point. The point where Clark and Superman met. But because DC has reduced this human side of Clark so much and exiled his human cast out of the picture...we now get this stupid scene where all of a sudden Wonder Woman is this magical savior of "time" for Superman.

The book took a huge hit in sales for issue #2. Here's hoping the decline continues. I understand Mr. Soule is trying very hard with this book and I commend him for trying. But there is only so shiny you can polish a turd.

(Also? The blatant stealing of the Lois imagery with the red cape post lovemaking from the varient cover is obvious and gross. If they insist on pushing this relationship on everyone, they could at least be original and not just openly lift from the better relationship that came before.)--Shades

Anonymous said...

You know, I was hoping that this book would have less romance-drama, and more super-awesome-action adventure.
But nope, just as I feared.
Please more "Sci-Fi Superhero and Mythical Superheroine Team-Up to Kick-Ass",
and less "Secret Closet Love between an Alien and an Amazon".

Also, Steve mentions H'El, so this is probably after the H'El on Earth storyline, right?
Shouldn't Superman suspect that maybe Zod a "bad guy" like H'El?
I know they are your people Kal, but didn't Kara punched you to China when you first met?
And Superman places Zod inside the Menagerie?
What if he beaks out and locks Kal out of the Fortress, again?
Or worse kills one of the animals?
(Although since this is a Zod that "always loved monsters" he'll hopefully just settle for just looking at them.
Zod, if you ever kill any of the animals, I hope Superman breaks your neck. Kidding~)

Lastly, I hope in the next issue that Wonder Woman and her mythos are more included.
In the 1st issue it was Doomsday (SM),
in the 2nd issue it was the Greek Pantheon (WW),
and in the 3rd issue it was Zod (SM).
So, even though the 4th issue has Faora (SM) on the cover,
hopefully Wonder Woman or her friends/foes will have a bigger role squeezed in there.
Or maybe have her fight a villain, showcase her strength.
It's called Superman/Wonder Woman, you know.

Jay said...

I think the only mistake Soule made with the Zod situation was that neither Superman nor the JLA investigated the original point of entry for Zod. I mean, I imagine they could pinpoint that if they found him in the first place. There you have the dead bodies, and there you have some 'splainin.

I'm a little confused as to why Superman is said to be off here though. If anything this is just a continuation of the character Morrison created for the New 52. This Superman distrusts the government. Period. He's been anti-establishment for two years running now. So its actually rather right on.

Anj said...

Thank you all for the great comments! It is interesting to read everyone else's ideas about this book.

Thomas and Green - I doubt that Superman and Supergirl will be patching anything up soon. I think Soule/Bedard are going to raze all of Kara's relationships before (hopefully) reigniting them.

Shades - I have collected WW on and off for the last 20 yrs but I don't feel like an 'expert' enough to comment. I only know when things feel off. Thanks so much for putting my feelings into words. I will say, I find the Azzarello WW comic interesting but when I read it, it is an Elseworlds in my mind.

Jay - While Superman might be anti-'bad or corrupt' establishment, I don't think he would ever be rude or paranoid like he was here. But more importantly, it contradicts the whole tenor of the Batman scene earlier where Superman is trumpeted as being 'one of us'.

Thanks again. I noted to drop off in sales on the title. It is still a healthy book but it is worth following.

Jay said...

Well, when I think back to what was done to him in Action #2, frankly I do think he's warranted to hold some feelings of ill will toward the government, and be paranoid that Zod would be subject to the same type of treatment. I mean, if the shoe fits and all that.

I don't think its a contradiction to the tenor of his conversation with Batman because this isn't a Superman whose angry and paranoid of people in general. There's a disconnect with him between the average American and the political and military machine. Which I think is very relatable.