Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Review: Superman/Wonder Woman #13

Superman/Wonder Woman #13 came out last week, the first issue by new creative team of writer Peter Tomasi and artist Doug Mahnke. This has been an interesting title on my pull list under the pen of Charles Soule. Soule was never able to convince me why Clark and Diana would be together. The 'romance' scenes always made me cringe a bit. The book was always 'the next book I am going to drop', saved by pencils of Tony Daniel and then the crossover Doomed. (Saved by Doomed ... words I never thought I would write.)

Anyways, I have liked Tomasi's writing in the past. And I really love Mahnke's visuals. So I was a bit optimistic about this new team. Would they be able to make this relationship feel real? Would they elevate the book out of the cellar?

There are some good things about the issue, no doubt. Superman is written like Superman should be written. Indeed, he has the best moments. And, no surprise, Mahnke's art is fantastic - detailed, expressive, and stylish.

I applaud that Tomasi devotes a large portion of the book to the romance, showing Superman and Wonder Woman trying to enjoy each other's company and a quiet date night. But like Soule, there isn't much here to show why these two love each other, why they are together. And while Superman is written well, Diana suffers a bit in this issue. She seems to vacillate between extremes and that just doesn't feel natural.

Tomasi starts out by giving us a flashback of the first meeting between the two heroes, back when Darkseid tried to invade and the Justice League formed to repel him. This scene seems to be there to contrast the characters.

Superman is all noble here. Wonder Woman is all blood and guts warrior.

So we start by seeing Superman trying to construct some sort of wall to keep parademons away from civilians. He tells Wonder Woman he was 'trained' in combat by his father.

She tells him he is thinking about too much on the battlefield, that a wall won't protect anyone, and that he should be fighting more.

It is a problem in the New 52 DCU. The warrior aspect of Diana is all we see these days. There is no ambassador of peace in her at all. And not protecting people? Seems off.

Here she sounds almost Spartan. Not strong? You would be culled from her culture. And why should she bother protecting us?

Superman has to chastise her. He considers himself one of us and he doesn't want her around. And she knows he isn't 'one of them' and seems surprised he would want to be associated with humanity.

For me, this is horrible characterization of Diana.

Then she is all smiles, trying to glad hand Superman. Until he yells at her that she can't simply stand around and let people die.

It silences her initially. Then she denies his allegation that she would let innocents die.

Again, this is pretty terrible for Diana.

And having them meet like this, having Superman put in such an obvious position of moral high ground seems like a rough foundation for a relationship.

We flash forward to now.

It is date night, but Clark is stopping them from getting out the door because he is busy writing an article, a human interest story about one of the families affected by Doomed.

I empathized with this panel. I have called myself far worse things than pinhead as I try to get my thoughts down.

As for Diana, she can't understand why he can't write the article at super-speed (his writing doesn't work that way). Nor does she understand why Clark is writing these stories.

All this does is further cement her not understanding Clark. Why would she be with him? And why would he want to be with her if she doesn't understand everything he does?

But then things get a little weird for me. That first panel looks like something out of the Stepford Wives. "Does typing make you happy Clark? Then I am happy. Are we late for our date? I am still happy." Maybe if I got the relationship, this would feel more loving than lobotomy.

Meanwhile, Major Disaster and Atomic Skull are about to attack a nuclear power plant.

But they are doing it based on orders they have been given. So there is a bigger bad than these guys.

Hmmm ...

Date night, on the other side of town, isn't going too well.

Again, Tomasi shows us what a good guy Clark is, as he keeps giving their taxi away to other people. As a result of not having a cab, they'll be late for the show.

This irks Diana leading to the 'crossed arms, icy stare' panel above. Where is the 'if it makes you happy, I'm happy' Diana from a couple of pages ago (not that I liked that). Instead we have a 'stop annoying me Clark with your country manners' Diana.

I don't like either. But to have them both in one issue seems extreme. Tomasi has a handle on Clark. But I don't think he has a feel for Diana ... at least not yet.

Before they can get into a cab, they see a purple explosion in the direction of the power plant.

Date night over.

I really liked this panel from Mahnke. The point of view. The use of shadow. Nice stuff.

The two heroes head to the power plant and battle the villains.

We are talking about Wonder Woman and Superman fighting Major Disaster and the Atomic Skull. Somehow, not only is this a fight, it is one the villains win!

Wonder Woman is taken out by enormous hail and a gas main explosion?

Again, the art is just fantastic. But this seemed like a fight that shouldn't have been so one-sided with the villains having the upper hand.

But as Disaster and the Skull try to leave the scene, they are stopped, easily defeated by this newcomer Wonderstar.

So this new creative team picked up the vibe I got had with the old team. I still don't understand why these two are together as a couple. I still don't feel it. These scenes showing how much they love each other come off a little stilted and awkward.

Wonder Woman is really all over the map in this issue. There was very little of her that felt right.

All that said, Superman is written great. This Superman sounds like Classic Clark.

And the art is just fantastic. Like Daniel before him, Mahnke's art might keep this book on my pull list longer than it would otherwise. I'll probably read this first arc and give Tomasi some time to get his feet under him. But then .... we'll have to see.

Overall grade: B-


Martin Gray said...

Well, the review was better than the book. I could see the 'five years ago' business if it showed how she'd moved on in her attitudes since then - even though I still believe 'angry, cold warrior' should never have been Diana's default - but today's Wonder Woman seemed every bit as unikably dense.

I lost liked the super-stain removal but it was a bit sexist - couldn't his 'parents' have taught him both protection AND stain, rather than Dad the heroic and Mom the domestic? And weather manipulation is a bit of a dull use for Major Disaster's power - and he still had they daft costume from his JLA days.

I did, though, love Atomic Skull being mistaken for a Star Sapphire.

What happened to Superman's face on the cover, it looks Doug Mahnke and Tomeau Morey were evoking a death mask?

Jay said...

So...Wonderstar. My guess is still that he's Superman and Wonder Woman's son from the future, and his original intention for being here was to stop an also time-traveling Magog from killing them. But he loses most of his memories somehow.

AndNowInStereo said...

I read all three Superbooks last week, hoping that with the creative changes to the line there wouldn't be a bad one left. And I obviously loved Supergirl, and I thought Batman/Superman was excellent. But this one, I really didn't like, at all. I thought Mahnke was good, as usual Tomeu Morey did a great colouring job. And Tomasi, like Soule, is bringing his style to the book, you can sort of feel it as you read. But he's written a terrible Wonder Woman, and that basically breaks the book no matter what he does with anything else in it. I'm not even a Wonder Woman 'fan' but this representation of her was laugh-out-loud awful. It's made worse by the fact Tomasi has softened up Johns' highly aggressive Superman in the '5 years ago' sequence but left Johns' Wonder Woman as an uncaring, battle-hungry barbarian. oule at least was even-handed, by making them both mopey teenagers, but Tomasi's 'now' Superman is just close enough to the classic Superman to come across as smug when compared to his still-selfish 'now' Diana, and that's really irritating.

Greg Pak writes a really good dynamic between Clark and Bruce without having to write either of them out of character, especially in last week's Batman/Superman. If only THIS book was free to do the same and not get bogged down by superficial relationship rubbish, it might actually be worth reading.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments all!

I hope Tomasi will find his voice for Diana because I thought this wasn't flattering. I don't mind 'romance' scenes if it helps build up this romance. But when those scenes don't (like this issue), it does seem wasteful.

And your guess about Wonderstar is a good one Jay!

Jay said...

I really liked Diana's characterization by Tomasi in Batman and Robin (Wonder Woman) #30. I really think he just went too far here trying to contrast the two characters, as a result making Wonder Woman look more cold than she should, and Superman frankly a bit vapid when it came to treating his girlfriend with a nice night out. Tone that down and I think his voice for both will be pretty good.

Anonymous said...

You know, writers don't have to try so overly hard to create false contrast between characters when they are ::actually:: created and designed to contrast and compliment each other.

When written in character, Superman and WW have zero romantic chemistry and are actually quite similar in personality. One of them has to be significantly changed in order to create contrast/foil and that person is almost always Wonder Woman as her characterization is on much less solid ground. This has been happening since the start of this relationship. It's forced.

On the contrary, Lois and Clark are designed as foils. Created to be a perfect compliment. Hard where the other one is soft. You don't have to change either one of them to create banter and chemistry bc it's just...there. By design. And that's why it will always, always be superior to...whatever this is.

Great review as always, Anj.
Happy thanksgiving!


Jay said...

Chemistry is subjective. What one feels is good chemistry another may not feel at all. That's the whole reason why dramas have always used love triangles and quadrangles. Because they know it reels people in because different people will feel different pairings because of the subjectiveness of the concept of chemistry. Case in point, I feel Superman and Wonder Woman have had chemistry for all their existence, in all their characterizations and incarnations, whether it was intended or not (most times it was intended), way before they actually decided to do something with it in proper continuity. Many feel the same way. Many others don't.

Anonymous said...

And guess who falls in the "don't" column?

The people who created Superman and Wonder Woman.

And yup. There are tons of different kinds of "ships." And taste is subjective. Just like bad TV is subjective. And movies. And food. But some movies win oscars and endure for decades bc the themes transcend time and space. And some movies are....Transformers.

Lois and Clark have proven they can endure for. 75 years. Through world wars. Through feminist movements. Through TV. Through film. Through reboots. Through animation. Through the Great Depression. Through the 3rd wave of feminism. They are cemented among the greatest love stories in history. They no longer have to "prove" their chemistry to anyone bc their success speaks for itself. They are not "subjective" even if you don't like them anymore than "the Philadelphia Story" is "subjective." They are what they are.

Superman and Wonder Woman? They are not there. They aren't even close. They are still very much driven and owned by the very subjectivity that you tout. Will they endure for 75 years? Go down in history as Supes/ Lois will? I highly doubt it. But either way they are always living in the shadow of the love story that Superman's creators envisioned for their hero---the love story that was the most important aspect of the story to him. And for that reason---no matter what comes--they are and will remain behind the finish line of a race that Superman and Lois already won years ago. But I'm sure they can shoot for a nice participation ribbon or maybe the Bronze.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Jay said...

Frankly I'm not interested in all that. I find them to be an intriguing couple and I'm enjoying it now. Just as I enjoyed Lois and Clark when they got engaged then married in the comics. I knew that wasn't going to last 75 years either but didn't really care. I don't really concern myself with what's going to be around that far into the future. I'm in it for the stories today.

But to each their own of course, and a Happy Thanksgiving to you and all other Super fans here.