Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review: Superman/Wonder Woman Futures End #1

Superman/Wonder Woman Futures End #1 came out last week. It is written by Charles Soule. It has strong art by veteran artist Bart Sears. It looks five years into the future at a desperate Wonder Woman trying to save the world.

I can't remember ever being this torn about how I feel about a comic.

You see, I have read the Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang Wonder Woman since the New 52 started. And while there are aspects of that Diana and her story that I don't particularly like (daughter of Zeus not animated clay, Amazons killing men and male offspring, Diana as War), I have liked the book. It has internal consistency. It is written well with a flair for mythological politics. That Diana has passion and integrity and love for her family and other. But ... and it is a big but ... she is also not animate clay, the product of a murdering society, and War.

In the end, I have decided to read Wonder Woman as if it were on ongoing Elseworlds book. The problem is that Diana also exists in mainstream books like ...well like Superman/Wonder Woman. And as it is, even in the mainstream books, Wonder Woman has been much too bloodthirsty, much too sword happy, much less interested in being an ambassador of peace lately. I want to go back to a more classic interpretation of Diana.

But I also like the Azzarello book ... even if its days are numbered.

With that conflict of Wonder Woman characterization in mind, lets look at this book.

This issue is the second part of a story that started in Wonder Woman Futures End #1.

In that book, the Greek deity Nemesis has raised an army to try to take over the world. Wonder Woman, as War, has raised an army of dead warriors (with the help of Hades) to try to keep Nemesis at bay. But she is losing ground.

Suddenly Superman appears to help.

At first Wonder Woman thinks he has joined Nemesis' army. But Superman sets her straight. If anyone is fallen it's Diana.

And if you take a step back and think about Diana's character and its history, he is right. Do we want a Diana wearing a horned helmet, so quick to slit a throat, so eager to slaughter her enemies?

Do we?

The speech by Superman snaps Diana back to reality. It turns out the entire first part of this story was an illusion Nemesis put into Wonder Woman's mind. While she thought she was fighting Nemesis' armies, she was really fighting demons in Tartarus. Superman went into Tartarus to get her out.

I have never been a big fan of the Diana/Clark romance. But this panel worked. The exhausted Diana ruing what she has done and Clark supporting her saying they can repair things. Even the way they are holding each other. That is support and feels like love more than the raised eyebrows and make out sessions we have seen in this book in the past.

And then this scene. Diana wonders why Superman would risk everything by entering a labyrinth like Tartarus to save her.

"Isn't it obvious?" Because he loves her.

Even that feels more real than the 'romance' we have seen in this book before this. (Indeed, the romance part of this title has always been the weakest part.)

But wait ... isn't Superman brooding in the desert in Futures' End? How can he be here?

It turns out he is a Superman from one year in the future (not five) pulled forward in time by Amazons so he can help Diana.

I love that this Superman hasn't lost hope yet and wants to talk to this Superman in hiding.

Superman shouldn't hide from humanity.

While Diana was lost in Tartarus, Nemesis' army has taken over the world. Only Themyscira stands free. (Is this the threat Batman fought in the future in Batman/Superman? Or are there multiple world threats five years from now?)

Soule does a good job at explaining Diana's life as God of War here. She tried to reward the noble warriors. She didn't help those on the wrong side of a conflict.

But it turns out she couldn't change war even as its avatar. If anything war changed her.

Nice panel here, defeated appearing Diana without background, making her seem as isolated and alone and defeated as she sounds.

Superman and Wonder Woman leave for Olympus, asking the Amazons to buy them some time why Diana tries one last stratagem.

It turns out Nemesis killed the Eirene Goddess of Peace early on in the conflict. By making Earth only a planet of war, without an avatar of peace, Nemesis could succeed more easily.

I thought this was a nice little plot wrinkle.

And then we get into my problem.

Diana enters Eirene's tomb. While Superman tries to hold off Nemesis' army, we hear Diana's voice.

We hear her say words that ring true to her character historically.

War is terrible. You can be a warrior but not embrace war. War is death. Diana loves life.

As Superman says, it is wonderful to hear her say that.

Because historically, Diana was an ambassador of peace, sent to our world to teach us the error of violence and oppression.

And just like that, in the future, Diana is the new Goddess of Peace.

So ...

I like Diana turning away from war, realizing she has fallen away from her ideals, and embracing ... becoming (!!) peace.

But it also seems like a bit of a slap in the face to Azzarello and Chiang's work. And, as I have said, while I don't agree with all of it, it has been a tight and entertaining story of a possible Wonder Woman.

But Azzarello's Diana isn't what I think Diana should be in continuity.

But Azzarello's book was quality for the story it was telling.

I guess since this is as much an Elseworlds as anything I can enjoy it for what it is. And that is a story that finally shows me who Wonder Woman should be. Not the sword wielding, stab first, 'kill your enemies' person. But a hero who is looking to move away from war and death.

Overall grade: B/B+


Anonymous said...

For once I'm gonna have to disagree with you Anj. Azzarello's Wonder Woman has easily been the best part of the New 52's retconning as it's provided an actual compelling, intriguing and well written take on the Wonder Woman mythos. Name me runs outside of Perez, Simone and Rucka that do Pre New 52 Wonder Woman well because I haven't seen many Pre New 52 writers do WW well.

As for her origin change, making her a demi-god is much more interesting than the clay origin. With clay, that's it, she was formed from clay. As a demigod, there's a whole load of potential stories, topics and themes to discuss. And Azzarello has sold me on everything he's done in his run. The only thing I don't like is the Amazons being rapists but that's at least mythologically accurate tbh.

This really does seem like a slap in the face to Azz's near perfect run because of how poorly Diana is written by Soule, how cliched the battle with Nemesis is and how the SM/WW romance still doesn't work. Her being the God of War made for an interesting contrast in how she viewed the role in her ideology but here Soule just has her be a stabby war Goddess. That's far worse than what Azz has done.

Sorry for the rant, I'll end things here. Still a nice review Anj. Louis

Jay said...

As someone reading Futures End proper, what really hurt this tale for me is how it really doesn't fit, at all, into the 5 years later future of that world. The world is not being taken over by Nemesis in this story, that's not even a thing. So it makes it really hard to get just where this is supposed to take place. In the end it doesn't really matter that much, as these are all essentially one shot tales, but it still took me out of the story all the same. Just read rather rushed and sloppy, which hopefully for fans of the books Soule is still on, is just a symptom of the gimmick month, and not a symptom of just not caring that much till his Marvel contract kicks in.

Anywho, bring on SM/WW #12 then Tomasi with #13! Can't wait. And hope Wonderstar ends up being their time-displaced son.

CaptainMarvel4Ever said...

I absolutely hated this issue, along with Wonder Woman. I can't believe Charles Soule wrote these.

CaptainMarvel4Ever said...

Also I want to say I think Azzarello's Wonder Woman series has been the best book in the New 52. Part of the reason I don't read Superman/Wonder Woman is because I don't feel like Soule dose a good enough job with the character. Still, to each his or her own.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

I want to reiterate that I am a fan of the Azzarello WW and have read it eagerly since the New 52. It isn't a traditional Diana, I don't agree with all of it, but is has been consistent and of high quality such that I continue on.

I do have a hard time jibing that Diana with this universe and that is why I am torn.

As for some specific points -

If Diana is a demi-god, a daughter of Zeus, then she is like every other demigod out there. The clay origin made her unique.

And I like Diana to be someone trying to make peace in the world, not be the avatar of war.

If only they made the Azz Wondy be from some other Earth, I would have no issues. Because his stuff (and Cliff Chiang's) have been very good for the different tone.

Johnn Morales said...

I agree with your sentiments about this story sort of being an effort to correct the worst excesses of Azz's run of which there were many in my view.

That he decided the absolute worst mythological version (there are several) of their origins and their society was just one thing.

Throughout his writing he has randomly changed characters powers without explanation.

Worst example is the minotor which WW bested as a little girl. In the modern day he's able to kill gods hmmm.

The First Born's powers, abilities have increased without a single explanation. That he claimed Olympus doesn't even cut it, because in the context of Azz's own random storytelling, not even Zuez had so many fantastic powers or abilities. Zues certainly couldn't have ground up Hades into living hamburger to be fed to both of their fathers.

Then there is Posiden. What happened to him? Why isn't he involved in the war especially since 1st born broke his vow by attacking Hades.

The worst though was the last issue where instead of the battle between WW and 1st. born promised at the end of the last issue we are treated to First Born rather respectfully laying out the reasons why she is his chosen.

As for Wonder Woman she is portrayed in a style only a sexist could think appropriate, on her knees tied from head to toe.

She practically embraces her abject humiliation by asking the 1st. born to free her legs so she wouldn't have to be on her knees when she goes down him, er I mean so she could stand.

Such utter disregard for a comic book hero is truly without precedent in comic books.

The final insult was for her to be dispatched by the first born with a simple knife in the back. I guess Azz realized he couldn't write a WW getting raped scene so he just portrayed it symbolically with the knife in the back.

So much for the hero that could stand toe to toe with Superman.

Can anyone recall Superman being treated with such total contempt and dealing with it so submissively or batman or any comic book hero?

So I have to agree that the ending of this comic was a breath of fresh air in regard to how to properly portray wonder woman.

Greek myth is full stories telling the same story a different way.

The ending goes a long way towards rectifying Azz's making a mess of the WW mythos.

If it is meant to be a slap in the face to his portrayal, he deserved it LOL

And considering he is still in a position at DC to prevent such a story twist if he opposed it, it seems that he too realizes on at least one point his WW story arch went too far and needed some fixing.