Monday, February 17, 2014

Review: Superman/Wonder Woman #5

Superman/Wonder Woman #5 came out this week and for the most part was a rollicking, high intensity, slugfest. And for that, it was a success. This was a good, old fashioned, super-powered brawl and I don't mind those every so often. And this was the biggest of the bigs fighting: three Kryptonians and Wonder Woman trading blows and bloodying knuckles.

Because of the action, there was very littleon the Clark/Diana relationship, the part of this book which has been the weakest for me. There has been nothing about that part of the book that has made me believe in the relationship or think it makes sense. Even the tiny bits of the relationship talk in this book were rough. I wonder when the plug will be pulled on the romance? Maybe with the upcoming 'death of Superman' arc?

It might be damning with faint praise, but this is my favorite issue of this title. And I think the main reason is the art by Tony Daniel. I have praised Daniel's work on this book while thrashing the plot since the premiere issue. Daniel just shines here, putting together a book that is simply gorgeous. After reading the issue the first time last night, I actually thumbed through it a second time without reading the words, just looking at the art. That might be the highest praise I can give an artist. I don't know of I need this butt-shot of Faora to sell me.

I still think the premise of this book - that Superman and Wonder Woman are a couple - is completely wrong. But this pulse-pounding issue was something of a guilty treat.

Last issue, Diana seemed confused about her relationship with Superman and his devotion to the Clark identity. Looking for some distance to mull things over as well as checking in on the Amazons, she heads to Themiscyra.

Over in Wonder Woman, Hippolyta has been petrified and the Amazons transformed into snakes. So it isn't like Diana's mother and sisters are going to impart wisdom to her. But the idea of visiting home, taking a breath, and maybe 'feeling' her sisters and their knowledge makes sense.

But look at this near splash page, showing the grandeur of the place, Wonder Woman and Hippolyta small elements on the page, as if the place is more important, grander ... that just works. Beautiful.

But it is odd to hear Diana so unsure of herself. How she doesn't understand why Superman would want to be Clark. And why she feels so offput by it.

I suppose it shows some vulnerability in Diana when it comes to matters of the heart (emphasized by Daniel's showing her from behind).

I come from a background where the Amazons weren't just warriors but were ambassadors of love and knew how to handle a sword. Guess that's gone.

But I also think this Diana wouldn't waste her time mulling this thing over. I would think she would realize that this much hand-wringing would indicate maybe it wasn't meant to be so and simply end it. To see her pining about Clark and her lack of understanding him and wondering if she should change seems off.

Meanwhile, General Zod has pulled Faora out of the Phantom Zone, and like Zod, she is temporarily mad from the extraction. Zod is strong enough to corral her and distract Superman within the Fortress to escape.

So two evil Kryptonians are now flying around the Earth. Superman decides it would be best to handle this quietly. So rather than call in the cavalry (which might be prudent) he tries to call Diana who apparently isn't answering. I assume it is because she is on Paradise Island, cut off.

Superman call Batman and asks him to track her down. Batman immediately presumes that Diana is ignoring Superman's calls because they got into a tiff. Not exactly the highest opinion of Wonder Woman is it? He think she is so immature that would mute her phone?

Sad. It is this characterization that bothers me about this book.

On Themyscira, Diana discovers that the Gates of Tartarus have been torn open, allowing beasts of the underworld to escape. So we get a brief side adventure of Wonder Woman tracking down and killing this demon. With little alternative, she uses her magic lasso to lash the Gates together.

But really I include this to reiterate that Daniel's art is stunning. This whole sequence has a nice kineticism to it, as you feel Diana straining to slow this thing down.

After that brief insanity, Faora gets her wits back. Zod gives her a quick rundown of the situation including their newfound powers and the presence of an old enemy, Kal from the house of El.

Soule has the two villains fight in concert against Superman, basically trashing him. And while I understand that they have military training and have fought together, Superman has 5+ years of using his powers under his belt. He should be able to fly better, maneuver better, use the adjunct powers better. This seemed too one-sided.

It doesn't help that Faora uses her heat vision to try and immolate a nearby village. I would love to see some riff on the classic dialogue from Superman II.

Zod: I have found his weakness. He cares for these people.
Ursa: Like pets?
Zod: I suppose so.

Luckily, Diana decides to leave Themyscira and immediately gets a call on the comm-link about Superman fighting. And she rushes to his side.

I still don't like the high-heeled boots. But this is a glorious picture of Diana - stern, powerful, beautiful.

And, maybe because of her training, she absolutely brings it. She is able to fight the two of them at once while Superman gathers himself. Even in pure tests of strength she seems to be the equal of Zod and Faora.

In one particularly brutal moment, she presses the red hot blade of her sword (sizzling from Zod's heat vision) to Faora's face. I mean ... that is vicious!

As I said, the action here is crazy, ferocious, incredible. I love seeing Wonder Woman dominating a battle like this.

I don't mind seeing the warrior Diana when it is called for. What I don't like is that this has become her default personality. It limits her.

That effect of training may be just a little bit overdone here. Yes, Superman probably doesn't have true, intense, combat training. But he has been fighting the never-ending battle for five years. He shouldn't be such a novice in a fight. That seems to limit him too.

And another beautiful panel here with the two pairs of combatants and the Earth itself all with a different x-axis. This highlighted the three-dimensional issue of super-fighting.  And again, Diana looks great.

With the fight at an impasse, Zod grabs Superman and threatens to kill him. He will allow Superman to live if Diana allows them to leave alive as well. Diana agrees ... leading to a strategic retreat (the same words she used when rationalizing her trip to Paradise Island).

So I don't know what to think of this.

If Zod and Faora go and raze New York City, or sink Europe, killing billions, will Diana be happy about this decision? Why not call in the troops? Couldn't the rest of the Justice League help out? Or any other super-heroes? And am I happy that Superman just got wrecked by these two, even when in one-on-one combat?

So, there are a couple of wonky character moments - as usual regarding the relationship. And the ending seems just a smidge unrealistic.

But that doesn't take away from a breath-taking issue of unbelievable action. And that's sometimes what I read comics to see. And the art is so fantastic that you could erase the words it would still be worth the price. Let me put it to you another way, if this issue Superman called his ally Wonder Woman to help him, I would have been thrilled.

Overall grade: B


Anonymous said...

This is nothing of the sort.

Supertorresmo said...

Anyone noticed that there is no explanation for Zod and Faora's powers?

I mean, Superman took decades to learn to fly, Supergirl was orbiting the Sun for 5 years. I wish they at least commented on this in the issue...

project 13 said...

I agree that the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship feels forced, but then I realized something:

Wonder Woman needs Superman (or more importantly Clark Kent)

Diana needs someone to ground her, someone who has a link to Man's World/humanity. Superman (with his farm boy roots and charm) is that person to show the wonder of the real world.

Anonymous said...

that's usually what steve trevor is for

Martin Gray said...

Great review Anj, and yes, the art is beyond gorgeous. The colourists also deserves credit for some excellent work.

I was surprised that Soule had Superman be so careless with Batman's secret ID, calling him Bruce 'in front of' a crook. I suppose we're meant to assume the conversation couldn't be heard, but that's not how it looks.

Wasn't Wonder Wonder a drag, such a misery guts, just quit the so-called-relationship already! Things brightened up with the monster fight - is this the first time the Potter/Perez Doom's Doorway has appeared in this continuity? - but she should have used the tiara as a doorhold, rather than the more useful lasso.

It was indeed great to see Diana fighting so hard, but sheesh, Soule really did undersell Superman's fighting skills in order to make Diana look good. And the 'I'll handle this alone' bit was stupid and reckless on Superman's part.

Overall, it's a pretty good issue, it just needs tighter editing.

Jay said...

There has never been an explanation for other Kryptonian's powers. Its always a situation where they're charged up to the max almost immediately. I wish there was an explanation but there usually never is. If one were so inclined though you could use the Zone's effect on their bodies to explain a massive sun charge or something. I don't know if Soule will but its an idea.

As for the first comment, Superman is plenty Super. That he had trouble going two-on-one against beings of his own race with his own powers and who are trained expert soldiers/fighters and of whom he's to date never fought before does not make him less Super. It just means he has a couple of villains in his rogues gallery whom are a match for him, and that's never a bad thing.

All that aside, love that Diana finally got her time to shine, and that her brilliant performance here confirmed what I felt about that earlier Doomsday encounter all along: her defeat at his hands was not an indictment of Wonder Woman but a testament to Doomsday's freakish strength.

Supertorresmo said...

Jay, there never was explanation before because there was no need for one.

In the Silver and Bronze ages any Kryptonian had instant powers under a yellow sun.
In the Byrne version there was only Superman, and the various iterations of Zod were not Kryptonian, or were from a parallel universe.
The phantom zone criminals only returned by the hand of Geoff Johns after he remade Superman origin bringing it closer to Silver Age concepts.
So this is the first time we see Phanton Zone criminals in a reality where kryptonians doesn't have instant powers under a yellow sun.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

Jay, I think my beefs in the fight are two-fold. Superman has fought many villains over his 5 years of heroing, seems way too overmatched. He fought against Darkseid. In Morrison, he fought Superdoom and the Multitude. He just seems perplexed.

But more importantly, Zod and Faora seem too adept at their powers for having had them for such a short time. They are flying in precision, making tight turns, etc. It would be like getting your driver's license and then entering the Indy 500 that day. The fight should have been just a bit closer.

I don't mind the ending, or even Diana saving Kal's bacon. But to seem him thrashed was just a bit too much for me.

Anonymous said...

this issue read like the story might have gotten changed during the citing process. probably to appease people who were criticizing the treatment of diana in the book. the cover definitely got changed, there was one where diana was tko on the ground.

Jay said...

Highly doubt that's the case. Right after that particular cover art was released, in response to the backlash to it Soule had said that the issue in question would actually be WW's best showing yet. So he was already teasing this.