Friday, July 17, 2015

Review: Superman/Wonder Woman #19

Superman/Wonder Woman #19 came out this week, a part of The Truth, and labeled with the word Justice (as all the chapters have been this month). And I have to say it, right here, I liked this issue.

People who come to this blog and have read my Superman/Wonder Woman reviews know that I have struggled with this series. Almost every review ends with my saying 'maybe this is my last issue.' I have never cared for the Clark/Diana relationship, thinking it was a forced pairing. And, in this book which focuses on their relationship, I have never felt why these two would be together. Their interactions and their dialogue in this series haven't helped matters. The dialogue has been odd or off-putting. Most interactions are cringe-worthy. I have been waiting for someone to make me understand why these two are in love and together.

And I have to say that finally ... finally ... this issue made me feel like these two actually care for each other. Their dialogue feels natural and personal. I might not want these two together but at least here writer Peter Tomasi writes them as a couple.

As I have said in prior reviews as well, the art by Doug Mahnke has been spectacular in this book and maybe has been one of the main reasons why I am still here. Mahnke gets to completely shine in this issue. The first half is an incredible battle sequence with palpable action. The back half is a quiet interaction between Clark and Diana and allows Mahnke to use more subtle body language and expressions.

The cover is a fun look at Harley Quinn skipping rope with Diana's lasso. In this Harley-obsessed world I suppose this might be a money grab. We barely see Superman (his hand) and Wonder Woman (her unconscious body) on the cover. One minor quibble is the Superman shirt Harley is wearing. It just looks like a Cobra symbol from GI Joe. She looks like Harley cosplaying The Baroness.

Last issue we learned that the bodies of the Kents in the Smallville cemetery have been removed. With Clark and Diana mulling over what to do next, the Suicide Squad arrives. And all hell breaks loose.

Now looking at this crew, Diana alone should be able to wipe them out. This could be written with the fight being over in two panels. But the depowered Superman is effected by the bullets and laser blasts here. I think one of the reasons we see this fight is to show that if Clark was alone he might have lost to this group of (predominantly) street level fighters.

But I also think that Tomasi does a good job of prolonging the fight by showing that Diana isn't purely on the attack here. She is acting as a defender of Superman, here being a literal human shield for Clark.

Even Deadshot notices that she is acting as Clark's angel. By concentrating on defending Superman rather than wiping out these guys, the fight may have dragged out a bit more.

I have to say that I don't like this new Finch-costume on Diana. And I would have loved at least a little 'bullets and bracelets' action here.

 Initially it looks like the fight is over so Superman has takes the time to try to interrogate Black Manta (the one villain still conscious).

One of the plot threads weaving its way through the otherwise divergent Superman books has this new cruder, brasher, angrier Superman. This Clark seems to revel in using his powers and seems a bit darker than usual.

Here he is threatening to crush Black Manta's head in the metal helmet unless Manta talks. Grimacing and 'very unhappy', this isn't the Superman I am used to or want to read long term. Do we want a Superman threatening to crush a guy's head to beat information out of him? Brrrrr ...

 Deadshot turns out to be faking. A mini-skirmish breaks out again.

When the fight finally really ends, Clark and Diana regroup and recover.

Before they leave the cemetery, we get this wonderful moment by Diana. She picks up the Kent's mailbox to remind Clark what he is fighting for.

Diana has mostly been a two-note song in this series. She is either blood-thirsty warrior or doe-eyed passionate Stepford wife. I don't know if I have felt her be heroic or compassionate. So this tiny moment was wonderful. This felt like Diana.

Back in Clark's safe house root cellar, Diana acts as a medic for the battered Superman. Mahnke and colorist Wil Quintana do a great job showing how depowered Clark is. His body is a bruised, burned, battered landscape. If Deadshot can do this to Superman, what would a tank do? A missile?

But I love the body language her by Diana. She looks like someone caring for someone who she loves, someone horribly injured. And I liked hearing her say how terrifying it is to see Superman like this. This felt real. This looked and sounded like what real people would in a similar situation. In other words, it felt natural.

Again, look at how awful Superman looks. Talk about trauma!

Superman tells Wonder Woman that he can't worry about her worrying about him in combat. If she is thinking about him, she might get hurt and he can't have that. He cares too much about her. This also felt very natural.

That said, Superman might say he can pull his own weight but those words ring hollow when you see how battered he is. 

And then even Diana says something I have been thinking. What if Superman gets weaker? And she says outright that she doesn't want to lose Superman. Mahnke gives us a lot to chew on even in this tiny panel. Superman isn't looking her in the eyes. I don't think Clark wants to think about this and maybe can't bear to look Diana in the face.

But now the reader complaint.

We are almost two months into this arc. We don't know why Superman's powers are off. We don't know the order of these different titles. We don't know how or why his identity was revealed. As readers we have been sort of floating along here, waiting for the foundation of this story to be revealed. I don't know need everything ... just something.

Superman decides how to deal with all this Smallville mess and the Squad attack. He hints about how this isn't above board and as a result he needs Wonder Woman not to get involved. He doesn't want her hurt in battle. He doesn't want her sullied. He wants her 'staying in the light'.

Wonder Woman doesn't want to hear it but Superman is firm. There is 'no discussion'. He loves her and is going alone.

Now I am sure that people might say this is Superman being sexist. But I have to say this whole scene read completely natural. He cares for her and doesn't want her being hurt or vilified. That is being caring.

Again, this scene was the first time in this series that I felt like these two loved each other and would be in a loving relationship.

If only the issue ended there!

During the issue, we see officials behind screens talking about how their plan for Superman is proceeding. Here Superman decides to head to the top to ask the person behind these attacks why they are happening.

That person? The President of the United States. Just what I want, a red-eyed angry Superman threatening the President.

So what can I say? I don't like Clark being with Diana. I don't think I like this angry Superman direction I am seeing in his books. I don't know enough about the foundation of  The Truth to think I am on stable ground. And I certainly don't like a comic where Superman is threatening the President.

But ...

For once, it felt like Clark and Diana cared for each other and loved each other in a real sort of way. As I was reading that scene, I could see how these two might be in a relationship. And I have never ever felt that way before.

Add the fun fight scene and the wonderful art and I have to admit I enjoyed this issue.

Overall grade: B


Anonymous said...

I guess this is where we have to disagree. It does read like Superman and Wonder Woman care about each other but that's not news! They were the best of friends prior to the new 52 and would have acted the exact same way.

The romance is still forced and manipulative here. These two characters do not have to be in a romantic relationship to care for each other like this and they never did. This issue could have easily taken place years ago without the forced romance and they would have acted the same. That's what grates about this: what Superman and Wonder Woman had before this stunt was very special as it was a reminder that two powerful, beautiful people could care about each other as family without it needing to be a romance.

I don't think there is ever a question that Superman and Wonder Woman care about each other because they always have. So this issue changes nothing in terms of why we have to keep sitting through this forced relationship because there is nothing new going on here and nothing that challenges anything.

Also, while its nice to see Diana protecting Clark it just feels patronizing to me. It's a cheat. He's still Superman. It's just a reminder of how much better this would be if Diana was in a relationship with Steve Trevor or another depowered guy who truly relied on her for protection and who truly had to confront that. Instead, this doesn't really challenge a thing. Diana still exists in this book solely to tell his story and to talk about his problems and how his struggles affect her. She's powerful and loving but she's nothing more than a prop.

Sales in this book didn't experience any growth last month and I'm glad they didn't. This book is patronizing to the hilt and the day it's cancelled will be a good day for Wonder Woman. I'm neither impressed nor convinced by one thing here.

Libby said...

Concern and overprotectiveness has never been my kink, so to speak, when it comes to showing love, so this arc and this title's repetitive focus on these two superheroes worrying about each other's safety doesn't move me or make me feel any spark between them. Worsening matters is how it's played out. This title has frequently been imbalanced toward Superman, making it feel like Wonder Woman is a supporting player who dotes on Superman while he acts cold and controlling with her. That imbalance reads to me as a lack of reciprocity and thus general intimacy between them. The art does little for me too. Mahnke's faces are too blank and his characters don't behave as affectionate couples do. There is little face touching, eye contact, kissing, hugging, etc. to show relief, comfort, joy, or even to say farewell. It all feels so inert.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be great if Wonder Woman "bolted" this title?


Wayne Allen Sallee said...

I've never bought this title, but have read the issues when a friend and I switch books. There's never been a reason for this romance. Superman Wonder Woman could easily be Superman Batman, a decent story without the romance shoe-horned in, though I wouldn't mind seeing a Batman Wonder Woman title.

Anj said...

Thanks for great comments.

I was interested in hearing what others thought to see if I was seeing things. I agree that this still isn't the couple I want to be reading. But this still, for me, read better than many issues of this book.

Veronica said...

the comments are very good to hit the problem with superman and wonder woman: they always cared for each other and this is a thing that friends and often co-workers feel. There isn't nothing special for them. ,
What I often like on relationships are guys being puppies for the women, here superman is just there. he is cold, never smile and treat WW like a one night stand. Humphries writing star-lord and kitty convinve me of the relationship, it's mutual never one-sided. weird that when Bendis write it, quality fell down a bit. here we only see a WW completely devoted to superman, without her own life. and then superman said: I will go alone and she just do as a abedient girlfriend. Really awful characterization for WW.
also why WW doesn't ask to hephaestus do another armor for him like she did on #2?
why she didn't use the lasso of truth?
and how superman enters so easy on white house? also how he discovers he had to hit white house?
too many plot holes

Martin Gray said...

You're so right, finally Diana and Superman seem not just comfortable, but pleased to be in one another's company. And they made a great team on one of the best-written and artistically choreographed fight scenes I can recall. The timing of the Deadshot splash, and execution, shows Mahnke's understandable confidence in his ability.

The lack of a bullets and bracelets scene, Diana and Deadshot vying for supremacy, is a real loss, though

As for your other sentiments, about the way Superman is acting, right on.

And Anonymous, how does Clark not need Diana's protection here? He's lost most of his powers, certainly his invulnerability and super-speed, and has to contend with the world's greatest gunman and a super-speedster? Either could kill him right now. It's as if you're letting your dislike for the romance - and it's not like I'm a fan of the concept - blind you to the details of the story.

Veronica, you just know that Diana isn't going to be sitting in Clark's Smallville bunker, waiting for him to return - she'll be right outside in the invisible plane or something! (Or better still, getting Paul,Gambi to sew up a classic costume to replace the current monstrosity).

Veronica said...

"Veronica, you just know that Diana isn't going to be sitting in Clark's Smallville bunker, waiting for him to return - she'll be right outside in the invisible plane or something! (Or better still, getting Paul,Gambi to sew up a classic costume to replace the current monstrosity)."

she already on the role of a girlfriend, one thing that WW should never ever be is in a role that let her be commanded by her love interest.
I see nothing romantic on the scene, I read better scenes between friends than smww as a couple. they barely touch, the body language is off. we are reading same scene?

"And Anonymous, how does Clark not need Diana's protection here? He's lost most of his powers, certainly his invulnerability and super-speed, and has to contend with the world's greatest gunman and a super-speedster? Either could kill him right now. It's as if you're letting your dislike for the romance - and it's not like I'm a fan of the concept - blind you to the details of the story.

Anon mean it is cheat, because superman is very well powered most of time. WW dumped steve because he was weak and she couldn't protect him.
so let's distract that superman is more powerful than WW with this gimmick