Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review: Superman/Wonder Woman #16

Superman/Wonder Woman #16 came out last week. This book has always been teetering on being dropped off my pull list. And this issue took it one baby step closer to the axe. I have been trying to give the new team of writer Peter Tomasi and artist Doug Mahnke time to get settled and a feel for the two stars. I have been trying to see if they can make sense of this relationship. But so far, this first arc with Clark and Diana fighting Circe and Magog has been a bit of a mess. The super-villain plot seems even more inane than most super-villain plots. And the relationship seems even odder than it did before. It makes even less sense here than it did under Soule.

While the relationship remains an enigma, Tomasi has a decent handle on the characters when they act solo. His Superman reads true, almost too immaculate. His Wonder Woman is in synch with the Azzarello continuity and acts like a God here.

The art is split between Doug Mahnke and Ed Benes. Mahnke's stuff is strong throughout with the usual flair of action and expressiveness. But the art win for this issue is the Francis Manapul Harley Quinn variant cover. Just beautiful.

My biggest issue with this arc has been the inclusion of Magog.

It just feels forced.

First off we have his origin as a young boy whose family got killed in the Apokolips invasion from Justice League #1. We saw much of this last issue. So to devote 3 more pages to it seems like a bit of wasted space. I don't think this added much more to his backstory than last issue's piece.

Second, how young is this David. He looks about 8 here. That would make him 13 now. But he seemed more like 18 when he was Wonderstar. And as Magog he looks full grown.

Am I being nit-picky about trying to wrap my head around his origin/age?

Remember, last issue ended with Superman stuck holding a bridge's cables to keep it intact while Wonder Woman faces off with Circe. 

But the inclusion of Magog here, first as Wonderstar, is hard to comprehend. Circe talks about how she uses a complicate spell to make David into Wonderstar so he could get close to Superman and Diana. Then she could drop the glamour to make him Magog.

Why the complicated spell and subterfuge? He was Wonderstar for a nanosecond! Circe isn't exactly stealthy in her appearance or attack. Why not just make David into Magog and show up to battle?

This overly complex origin and insertion into the story seems too weighty for the story. Maybe if Wonderstar was in the book for half a year before the reveal I might feel like Circe was biding her time. But this seems off to me.

Wonder Woman is encased in stone and teleported away by Circe so the sorceress can have her revenge. Meanwhile Magog just hammers away on Superman who has to take it because he is in the iron cross position holding up the bridge by the severed cables.

Here was the one panel that made me interested in Magog. He looks at Superman as the villain of his story. Magog is the hero in his own story. That reversal of perspective (mixed with the great scowl by Mahnke) is interesting.

We then get a hint of what has to be the next arc after this one.

Whoever loosed the Atomic Skull and Major Disaster wants them sprung. Behind his wall of screens, he sends Multiplex (I think) to free them.

It has to be the Calculator. But why is he gunning for Superman and Wonder Woman.

Hmmm ... will this keep me buying this title?

After spending the first half of the book being pounded on while holding up the bridge, Magog finally gets close enough to get kicked and heat visioned. This let's Superman fix the bridge and become more than scenery.

Nice display of power here by Mahnke. And the 'stay down' command works here.

We have no history with this Circe so it is up the Tomasi to fill us in with a bit of villain monologuing exposition.

Remember the controversial aspect of Azzarello's Wonder Woman? That part where Amazons get pregnant by seducing sailors, then kill the sailors? That part where if the baby is a male they would kill them until Hephaestus made a deal to use the baby boys as workers in his forge in exchange for weapons?

Yeah. Not a high point of that series.

Anyways, Circe offered a similar deal. She'd give weapons to the Amazons and then use the male babies as part of her ani-men army. Hippolyta actually agreed to that! But then squelched on the deal and went with the Hephaestus one instead.

Boy, that paints Hippolyta in an even worse light than before! I thought that would be impossible!

But this slight has angered Circe forever! Is it a strong enough reason to harbor an infinite axe to grind?

I will say that I collected the Azzarello Wonder Woman and liked it. I read it as an Elseworlds Diana and found it tight and consistent. I don't know if I want that Diana as the main DCU one. But here we are.

At least Tomasi acknowledges that history. Wonder Woman shatters her bonds and stands there unbowed before Circe. She is the God of War. She is above the Circe/Hippolyta feud. She is part of Olympus now.

That is a great panel.

So does it make sense for Circe to take on the God of War? Wouldn't she be worried about the wrath of the rest of the Gods?

In his fight with Magog, Superman snapped Magog's staff in half. That teleports Superman to Circe's stronghold. And since he is a man and vulnerable to magic, he quickly succumbs to her magic. Circe decides what better way to test Diana than to have her battle someone she loves.

I'll give Mahnke his proper respect. This is a great splash page.

I highlighted to panels and parts of the book I liked. But overall I continue to have some problems with this issue and arc. The pages devoted to Magog's origin, the almost unnecessary Wonderstar subplot, Circe's motivation, the idea that Circe would attack the pantheon, and even Superman literally hanging around for some of the issue ... it just puzzled me.

Oveall grade: C/C-


Unknown said...

"Maybe if Wonderstar was in the book for half a year before the reveal I might feel like Circe was biding her time."

I tend to agree with you here. However it takes a special writer working for a patient company (ex: Bendis + Marvel) to pull off a successful 'slow burn' like you're suggesting. I don't know that anyone at DC, other than Scott Snyder, has been working the same title long enough to do this.

"But this slight has angered Circe forever! Is it a strong enough reason to harbor an infinite axe to grind?"

I would say the answer is 'yes'. We don't know much about Circe, but this story tells us she holds grudges and doesn't let things go easily.

Overall, I really enjoyed the issue. Tomasi's first arc hasn't been spectacular but it's been serviceable enough to get his feet wet, before diving into any serious relationship beats.

I would've liked to see a bit more of a fight between Magog and Superman. However, if we're dealing with a kid that's had his age advanced...he'll lack the experience to really make full use of his powers. A flaw that perhaps Circe may have overlooked.

Using her magic against Superman to turn him against Wonder Woman is a nice little twist and I can't wait to see how it plays out. Does Wonder Woman try to reach him through her words? Or does she attempt to keep him at bay long enough to go after Circe in hopes of breaking her spell?

Nice review, always an enjoyable read to see someone else perspective on the books I love.

Anonymous said...

Yet another Mind Controlled Superman vs Wonder Woman fight. At least try and vary things up by having Wonder Woman be the mind controlled/misguided character DC. That's not a creative stroke of genius there, just a fresh idea for these kinds of hero vs hero fights.

Louis Seymour

Anonymous said...

Somebody give the man a power of immunity to mind control. He seems to get controlled lot and thats dangerous seeing that he is sipermsn

Anonymous said...

You'll never get a good relationship with Tomasi, he does not seem to understand hey to write natural chemistry between characters, his writing makes this relationship feel so forced and not at all natural

Jay said...

I thought this was the best issue of Tomasi's run. Really liked Circe, a great improvement over her first appearance in Men of War. The budding conflict between her and Diana is really easily felt. Magog is still entirely one-note, but Circe as the true villain makes up for it for me. Maybe they have more planned for the guy though, I'll still give him a chance.

That Superman scene was awesome too, with him looking completely worn out holding the bridge together while taking a beating, then he pours on the heat vision and kicks Magog aside. Look Ma, no hands, haha.

I guess I could be upset that Superman is mind-controlled again but regardless my feelings on him being so susceptible to magic, it is what it is. That's the status quo so I can't fault Tomasi for using it even if I'm not crazy over the idea.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

I did like how Superman looks completely battered as Magog pounds on him.

And I suppose Greek Mythology is filled with stories of minor slights leading to massive combat. So maybe I should look at Circe's motives closer.

It will be interesting to see just how strained the relationship gets after this.

Martin Gray said...

Oh, how I miss the Silver Age Circe, friend to the Superman Family. This thing is just going on and on. Just have Swampy show up in Moly form already.

I want to see the kind of great connection between characters Tomasi gives us in Barman and Robin.