Superman/Wonder Woman #17 came out this week and I am having a hard time wrapping my head around this issue. Because, in some ways, this was the strongest issue of the run ... until an utterly ridiculous ending complete undoes any good will that happened.
This title has always teetered on being dropped by me. Part of the problem has been my complete lack of comprehension about the romance between the characters. It just has never been presented in a way that makes me understand what these two would see in each other romantically. And, on top of that, Diana has never really been shown in a positive manner either. In particular, under current writer Peter Tomasi, she has been a weird mix of shrew and Stepford wife. But people told me that Tomasi often takes some time to warm up to characters and I should be patient.
Finally, in this issue, we get a smart, strong Diana who is shown in a very positive light. This is Diana's story, not Superman's. And, as I was reading this, the riff of Etta James' 'At last' was going through my brain. At last ... at last ... a Wonder Woman I could read!
But then, just as I was about the belt out 'You are miiiinnnnneeee ... at last!', this terrible ending was tacked on, an ending that reminded me of one of my issues with this New DC, it's complete lack of Lois. And suddenly, the mood of the book was broken. And I was back to thinking "is this the issue that makes me finally drop this book".
The art on the issue is very good this issue. Ed Benes and Doug Mahnke split duties but the whole book looks sharp especially the action sequences.
Last issue, Superman and Wonder Woman were whisked away to Circe's stronghold. There Diana was set upon by Circe's ani-men. Superman was then bewitched by Circe, becoming her slave and changing the game.
But things aren't completely settled on Earth. Magog, who had been depowered last issue, is being taken to an ARGUS lab to be vivisected. This new DCU is so grim.
So in some ways, I was happy to see him repowered. At least he isn't carved up! But that does mean he is on the loose running amok again.
All of this is a set-up by Circe to force Diana to make a difficult choice.
If she truly cares for the people of Earth, Diana should fly through an open portal back to Earth to stop Magog from trashing a city and killing people.
If she truly loves Superman, Diana will stay here and fight Circe before her control over Superman becomes complete.
Remember, Circe holds a grudge against the Amazons for a slight by Hippolyta. Maybe Circe feels that making Diana make this difficult choice will force her to compromise her Amazon ideals and ethics, showing that Hippolyta and the Amazons aren't superior? But this seems a bit cerebral.
And yet, this decision leads to a great Diana moment!
Wonder Woman doesn't delay a second in deciding. There is nothing difficult. She knows that her duty lies in protecting the people of Earth. Without delay, she flies to Earth to battle Magog.
Given prior missteps with Diana, I worried that there would be some weird inner dialogue about how her love for Superman is so powerful that she can't bear to leave him. I wondered if Diana might even beg Circe to stop this plan. I worried ...
So to see this play out in this manner was fantastic. Perfect.
Now I know this is going to sound silly. But I love the image of super-heroes battering supervillains using a bus as a bludgeoning weapon. It is absolutely one of my favorite image motifs in comics.
So to see Diana force feed this tourist bus to Magog, it made me smile.
Is it weird that I like this visual so much?
It turns out that Diana didn't just abandon Superman. In prior continuity, holding on to Diana's lasso has helped Superman focus. We saw this in the Doomed storyline.
So before she left Circe's realm, she dropped her lasso onto the ground. Superman is doing his best to fight off Circe's spell. And luckily, during the time Circe is trying to completely entrance him, Superman's fingers touch the lasso. It's magic allows him to break the spell and get control of himself.
Now this is a comic book, so you have to take this with a grain of salt. Superman might not ever touch it. Circe might have noticed Diana dropping it. There are all sorts of ways this plan wouldn't work. But you can't think too hard about these things.
I focused on the simple fact that Diana used the wisdom of Athena to solve an insolvable problem, helping both the people of Earth and the man she loves.
Free of her control, Superman begins to fight Circe's forces and then flies through the portal to head back to Earth.
Circe ultimately has to admit defeat. This psychological attack against the combined Diana/Clark duo won't work. She has underestimated them.
I don't know if I understand why Circe would plot in this way to gain her revenge. But I do like that she has to admit that Diana is made of stronger stuff.
Now throughout the issue we see Diana beating the snot out of Magog. It really is a beautifully drawn and choreographed fight. I really would have loved for her to defeat him on her own.
Still, I suppose that part of this arc was to show that Superman and Wonder Woman are stronger together than they are individually. That their love is powerful. So this synchronized finishing blow is a nice panel.
Now I will say again that I don't understand the attraction between these two. And this action-heavy issue doesn't have the time to show us why.
But at least ... at least ... we got to see them working together. And we got a Diana who was written in a decent way. At this point of the issue, I was actually happy. I wondered if maybe this was some turning point for the book. That maybe finally Tomasi felt comfortable enough with Diana to write her properly.
Maybe I wouldn't drop the book ...
But then we get the end scene.
Diana has decided to become a writer ... a reporter ... to better connect to people.
After all, it makes sense for Superman to be in love with a dark-haired reporter. Right??
I have tried to tolerate the whole 'Lois in the background' aspect of Superman comics these days. I have tried. But this seems silly. It seems like a kick to the gut for Lois fans. It's like DC is trying to force people to accept this romance so they are shoving into a form people are more comfortable with. And Diana becoming a sort of Lois is too obvious. It even undermines this relationship. If they want this Kal/Diana relationship to be the new norm, they should try to make it feel fresh.
By the way, I don't know if her schedule as Amazon, hero, and God of War can accommodate even a freelance job.
And so this tacked on 2 page scene just undid everything that happened before it. The good will I was feeling about Diana and the title evaporated. I'll say it again, this seems silly.
Maybe Convergence is the perfect 'jump-off point'.