Friday, June 19, 2015

Review: Superman/Wonder Woman #18

Superman/Wonder Woman ... we meet again ... old friend ...

Superman/Wonder Woman #18 came out this week and I felt somewhat compelled to purchase the book. As those who frequent this blog know, this book has been walking a fine line for me, always just on the edge of being dropped from my pull list. And making Diana a writer last issue as well as the Convergence break seemed like the perfect jumping off point.

And then they slapped The Truth on the cover and I felt like I needed to come back for a bit more.

I don't necessarily know if this issue has changed my mind about this book. I feel a bit confused, something which feels like part of the M.O. of The Truth. I think writer Peter Tomasi is bending over backwards to make Diana be the ultimate understanding partner, accepting everything Superman has to say. But that unfortunately makes her feel a bit empty. And Superman seems like something of an absentee significant other. He keeps revealing things to Diana that you think would have come up in conversation at some point in their relationship already.

I also have to realize that I am coming into this relationship thinking that it is all wrong. As a result, I don't know if I will ever be happy with how these two are presented. Perhaps my lens is too focused to look for things that seem awkward. All I can do is point out the things that made me react this way.

Doug Mahnke is a favorite of mine and his art does shine here. But there are several splash pages and one double splash page. While the big art is beautiful, I also felt like some of these moments didn't deserve such a massive representation. As a result, this felt like a quick read.

Now I mentioned that I was a bit confused with this issue. That mostly is due to the non-linear storytelling that we have seen in the Truth so far. It feels like each super-title is dealing with an aspect of the fallout of the reveal of the secret identity. But where does this fit in? We have seen action in Metropolis in Action. We have seen a mission in Gotham. And now we have this.

But more importantly, we open up this book with a 3 page brief review of this relationship from Diana's viewpoint. And, in what appears to be post-coital bliss, Diana calls herself Clark's sentinel, his protector given all that has happened over this short time of  depowering and unveiling.

And yet, the last time we saw these two together was in the free DCYou Superman/Wonder Woman preview in which Superman says he no longer loves Diana. Did that happen? Before this? After this?

That sort of dynamic, Diana being the more powerful of the two, is an interesting one that I hope is explored more.

But I don't think I can get behind this Lois-like image of Diana wearing his shirt. And would she wear it?

There peaceful repose is interrupted by a panicked call from Lana at 3AM. Her house has been invaded. Something has happened to Steel. Then the line goes dead.

Superman knows he needs to investigate and Diana says 'if one of us can fly, we both can fly' carrying him in a splash page.

En route, Superman talks to Diana about Smallville and Lana. He tells her that Lana knew about his powers and helped him in his youth. And Diana says Lana sounds important and she looks forward to meeting her.

It is hard to know how long these two have been together. But you would think Lana, who has been smack in the middle of many of Clark's adventures, would have been mentioned to Diana by now. Right?

Lana has been living in her parents' home. When Superman and Wonder Woman arrive, the house is in pristine condition but both Lana and John Henry Irons are gone.

Looking through the house, Diana is struck by the calmness and 'aw shucks' smalltown America feel to the place. She talks about how Clark is comfortable here. Again, you would think that she would know how much Smallville means to Clark by now, although maybe being there is a different experience.

Meanwhile, Superman is still recovering from 'failing' Lana. Her parents died in the Doomday story. His emotions are raw, smashing the wall. Maybe too raw? Would Superman really smash someone else's wall out of frustration.

There are no clues to point to where Lana was taken so Clark decides to ask some of the town busybodies what they know. He and Diana throw on farming clothes and head into town.

It turns out that many people in the town have up and disappeared. Finally, these representatives of Smallville lay it out on the line. They know Superman means well but between Doomsday and Ultra-Humanite and this, the town is sick of him and the trouble he brings.

So now even Smallville is taken from Clark.

Another thing that felt a bit wrong about this was Superman tossing aside the civilian clothes by saying he had had enough of the 'under-the-radar crap'.

It is as if this depowered Superman is becoming coarser, bashing walls, etc.

And another splash page. Warned that dirt seemed to rain on Smallville, Superman heads to the Kent farmland and sees that the buildings themselves have been removed.

Of all the splash pages, I thought this moment warranted one. The scope here, seeing the footprints of the buildings, the lack of foundations, almost surgically precise was hammered home here.

Even the other Kent farmland in Smallville, Jonathan's parents, has been stripped of their buildings.

Luckily, the Kent bomb shelter, Clark's secret hideaway, was missed. Surrounded by the toys and posters of his youth, Clark tells Diana how he came to this place for some quiet. But Lana also helped him here, allowing him to be a 'normal kid'.

Is this the first we have heard about Clark's grandparents being in Smallville?

And maybe I am being too critical or looking for a fault but Diana just seems two-dimensional here, almost too perfect of a supportive partner. Doting on Superman while he sleeps, eagerly waiting to meet Lana, talking about how she loves how he is in Smallville, holding his shoulder in this room. It all makes sense that she would do that for someone she loves. But the dialogue just seems a bit too cliche, too saccharine pitch perfect to feel real.

I wish I could articulate it better.

But things get worse for Clark.

His family's bodies have been exhumed.

It is, as if, his entire life in Smallville has been erased.

Yet another great panel from Mahnke. We need to see the number of empty graves to get a scope of the problem. 

Calling out that his enemies show themselves, Superman is surprised by the Suicide Squad showing up.

Now we get a two page spread by Mahnke of the villains.

I will say again, I love Mahnke's art. His Harley, in particular, looks insane and beautiful and scary.

Did this warrant a 2 page spread?

This much I do know, Superman is unhappy. And, accordingly, Wonder Woman is unhappy.

And these Squad members are a convenient way to have these two work out some frustration. I do like the look of determination on their faces. But do I want a Superman saying 'you guys are in the wrong place at the wrong time'? Do I want a Superman looking forward to or relishing laying a beatdown on someone.

I'll also ask again, did this warrant a splash?

So once more I am stuck questioning why I am reading this book. I don't think Diana is presented as a three-dimensional character here. In past issues, I have wondered what Superman might see in Diana. In this issue, I am wondering what she might see in him. I find it odd that she knows so little about his life and childhood considering I (still) think that is the foundation on which Superman's ethics is built on. And I don't know if this occurs before Superman tells Diana he doesn't love her or if it is afterwards.

I also find it hard to reconcile the different tones of all the Truth books. The Action Comics book was optimistic, almost joyous. Batman/Superman was grimmer. And this issue shows a Superman who seems almost darker, smashing walls and looking to thrash some villains.

While I can deal with nonlinear storytelling, there needs to be some sense of flow and some sense of continuity for me to ride the waves. How can this angry Superman be the same one who was laughing as kids dangled from his arms in Action?

I can only hope that at some point the different aspects of the story intersect in a worthwhile conclusion.

And while I love Doug Mahnke's art and thought every splash was beautiful, I wonder if I could have got more story for my dollar if there were less of them.

Overall grade: C+


AndNowInStereo said...

I'm probably said this before, but I still think DC, by which I mean the people in charge as well as the writers handling the books, Johns, Lobdell, Pak, Yang, Soule, Tomasi, whoever - haven't really got a story to tell with the Superman & Wonder Woman relationship. It's a 'feature' of all the stories they've been telling with them in these books, but it serves no purpose. There's no message, no point to it, it isn't even there just to show the two of them having a good time. What conflict there has been between them hasn't been that interesting and has served more to make me question why they are together than to make me think that these two characters are the right ones to explore it with. I don't think it's by accident that Johns has featured it as little as possible in recent Justice League and his Superman run, even if he was the one tasked with starting it off in 2012.

None of these creators have anything to say using the pair of characters in this way, and that's why to me at least it always feels out of place and it's very limiting for the two characters to be stuck in this rut for so long. This book is going to continue to drag on until either someone works out a story to tell with the relationship, or DC decide to move on and ditch it.

Godzylla said...

I agree. There's been no direction for the pointless story they insist on reeling with the fauxmance. I could accept it of there was a plan other than "this is how it is, but it will eventually end badly."

Godzylla said...

Solid review as always. I concur, I don't know why you keep reading this book, either, ha ha, just kidding. But DC needs to follow Steve Martin's advice: "And by the way, you know, when you're telling these little stories? Here's a good idea - have a POINT. It makes it SO much more interesting for the [reader]!"

Martin Gray said...

I agree, there are too many splashes. And call me old fashioned, but I don't want to see Superman and Wonder Woman in bed together. Yeah, they're not in their classical form these days, but I think they should always be seen acting in a way that wouldn't make parents uncomfortable.

Then again, you're a parent, and I'm not, so, er...

I wondered if the grandparents were a callback to John Ostrander's The Kents, which I never read, but apparently that focused throughout on just one generation of Kents, in the 19th century. I've never heard of of them; it seems weird to think of Clark having
grandparents close by - and what's with all his relatives dying in car crashes?

Plus, I hate the idea that Clark needed a refuge, a literal hideaway. Sure. He would've felt different, odd - but 'scream at my fears'? He could fly! He was becoming super strong. He was learning he could achieve almost anything he could set his mind to. What kind of weird kid would dwell on the tiny matter of feeling different? We're all different, but his different made him amazing!

Smashing Lana's wall is bad, but I'll give his anger a pass - he's got so many emotions around Lana, and at the moment he's in a much tougher position than usual so far as being able to help her is concerned. So he's frustrated. Still, the sooner DC give us a classic Superman, the better - let other heroes have over-the-top emotions - Superman should be the ideal to which others aspire. Yes, he can be complicated, but he should be in control.

Much as I dislike the (non-)relationship, I really liked Diana here, she seemed like a good person rather than the Ms Hacky Slash she's so often portrayed as these days. But what the heck is she wearing?

Anonymous said...

My opinion? This is what happens when you have an editorially forced storyline. There is no point because the characters don't have any reason to be with each other except for 'the publishers said so', so the writers try to find a way to make it work and it's been all over the map. Sometimes it reads as if they can barely stand each other, other times, like this, it's written like a hallmark greeting card vision of love.

I agree with Keith, if they showed why this isn't healthy for either of them, which is actually how it was framed in the beginning with Diana distancing herself from Steve Trevor because she wanted to protect him, I think there would be an interesting story to tell.

Meanwhile, (broken record time) I still think this pairing hurts Diana the most. She's written as the supportive girlfriend to the most powerful man in the universe. This dilutes her story in my opinion. When she's with Steve Trevor she's the physical alpha in the relationship and that offers some fascinating stories to tell around gender dynamics. How would a military man like Steve feel being raised in an environment where men are the front line having to stand down while the woman he loves protects him.

Thanks for the review Anj!

PRgirl1294 said...

I think that the stuff in this issue happens before he tells her that he doesn't love her anymore. Anyway, good review.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

I agree Mart that this Diana is better than the killing machine we have seen elsewhere. My Diana is an ambassador of Love so seeing her support her partner is great. But I have to agree with Maya ... and congratulate her for voicing what I was trying to say. This love here reads like a Hallmark card; it feels too simple to be real.

I didn't mind the 'Bomb Shelter of Solitude' too much. But you think there would be joy in his youth and not this angst.

And lastly, as many have said, this relationship has never felt right because I haven't felt exactly why they are together!

Thanks again!

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Last year a friend of mine posted on FB about why it seemed so difficult to make a Wonder Woman film. She had a few dumb comments from guys and some perplexing ones from women who don't read the comics. My friend tended to then agree with me when I described to her the many versions we've seen over the decades. Finding that she was unfamiliar with the comics, either, I suggested she pick up the Greg Rucka GN that featured WW against Batman.

If the same discussion was being brought up as to why there is a Superman/WW monthly, I would have no answer. This book shouldn't exist because the relationships is only acknowledged in this book itself. Maybe there would be more meaning to how WW is portrayed if this was a maxi-series or a GN.

Anonymous said...

Diana's lines in this issue are all monotonous, just like this relationship.

Veronica said...

while WW is not violent here, she is a girlfriend with zero personality and completely devoted to sueprman. very wrong. Superman barely knowledges she is there, she takes off her t-shirt and he doesn't even seems excited or in marvel. This story could be have told without her.
the whole relationship is forced, only exists so they can pair the strongest male hero and the strongest female hero and made fan service like superman and wonder woman on bed

Anonymous said...

I'm just waiting for the inevitable tasteless "Wonder Woman is Pregnant" storyline and the tasteless soft retcon that will follow it. Down these dead ends is where you go when you are dedicated to short term "sugar high" storytelling.


Teresa said...

Great review, comments and analysis by everyone. Thank you. Love the comment "Bomb Shelter of Solitude"

Anonymous said...

Definitely agreed on how awkward and stuffy the romance was in this issue as always, it still confuses me how there's a needlessly defensive fanbase supporting this terrible romance. It damages both characters (though Diana gets worse than Clark), stagnates their respective growth as characters and is a purposeful tactic to delay the inevitable Clark and Lois romance. Heck even Clark and Lois' friendship scenes have more chemistry than any one of the 'Fauxmance's' scenes.

And oh man I'm really hating how on top of everything else Superman has taken away from him; his secret identity, his humanity, his ability to walk among us without anyone realising it and have some downtime, his Daily Planet job, his friends/supporting cast, his powers and to top it all off, Smallville gets taken away from him too. Everything from his home to his parents' very graves serves as a prime example of why I hate Truth for stripping everything away from Superman on the grounds of being edgy and reflecting the Edward Snowdon age of information and technology. And it's the nail in the coffin as to why I won't spend a penny on this awfully derivative crossover.


Craig said...

I don't understand why you buy this book? You're not happy with it. You don't support the relationship. Your money is simply going toward bad fanfiction and telling DC with that money you want more of their fanfiction. With all the money spent on the atrocious treatment of Superman, Lois Lane, and Wonder Woman, why not use that toward a back issue of something you don't have, put it toward some cool merch of Kara or Kal, or even use the money to support a book on Kickstarter, for example, where the creator acknowledges the need for their customer, in general treat them better.

Anonymous said...


I think Anj explained in his review, he wants to read the "truth" arc in its entirety.

Meanwhile, I'm lucky, I have a 25 year relationship with my LCS, and in fact I started my pull when I was engaged to my husband (tomorrow is our 23rd wedding anniversary). After the reboot I dropped all my DC main universe books but I was given a free pass to read anything I wanted. So I read all this. And I cringe.

I don't think it's fair for any of us to ask somebody else why or how. Maybe he reads at the rack or maybe he buys. Does it matter? It clearly doesn't to DC because sales have been miserable for awhile now and *nothing* is changing.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.
The question of 'why buy' is sorta valid. We should be voting with dollars. If unhappy with the direction, the way to effect change is sales. And as I say each month, this is always on the cusp.

But I feel I need to ride Truth out. Plus that Mahnke art.

But this stripping of everything Superman is seems to reinforce the idea that DC doesn't seem to know what to do with him.

PRgirl1294 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.