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.
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.