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.