Friday, August 21, 2015

Review: Superman/Wonder Woman #20

Superman/Wonder Woman #20 came out this week, another chapter in The Truth, another book labeled with the cover dress 'Alienation', another book with a couple of decent moments. But it also is another issue of this new direction of Superman that overall just doesn't make much sense to me.

I have had a hard time with the overall direction of The Truth, the depowered Superman revealed to the world. I have tried to reconcile the divergent paths that each super-book has been taking. And I have continued to wrestle with the lack of Lois, the lack of a supportive supporting cast, and the romantic relationship with Diana.

Last issue of this book was an improvement overall. Writer Peter Tomasi actually had me feeling like Clark and Diana had feelings for each other. They felt like a couple. And the story was decent with excellent art.

This issue seemed to undo all that momentum. The issue is basically two stories. One is Clark talking to Steve Trevor and the President, discussing his life decisions, to be Clark and Superman. The other is Diana, rescuing Clark's friends from being held by the government. But then Diana does something I simply can't explain or get behind. The dialogue is also a bit on the nose, with the word truth in a bunch of lines, to remind us of this arc's theme.

The art remains top notch. There is a lot of tension in the air of these conversations and Mahnke brings that aura to the scenes. There is also a sort of unneeded fight with the Parasite in the middle of the book but Mahnke's art shines there.

As I said, the issue flip-flops between the two settings. One is the White House. The other is a prison setting outside DC in Virginia.

That wasn't the President that Superman confronted at the end of last issue. It was an ARGUS officer. And after dispatching that agent, Trevor shows up to tell Superman that this revelation that he is Clark has shaken things up. The government isn't sure what to do.

Meanwhile, we see 9 of Superman's closest friends captured and placed in a prison that looks like the old setting of Hollywood Squares. ("I'll take Lois Lane in the corner for the block." - I know, I just dated myself).

What gets me are the reactions of these citizens who have been arrested. Lois fumes. Perry sleeps. Lana does push-ups.

When did Lana go from fun-loving action scientist in Pak's Action to a parody of Sarah Conner in Terminator 2?

The initial conversation between Superman and Trevor is decent. Superman simply lays the simple truths of his life.

He has dedicated his life to saving people. He has helped people. This revelation shouldn't overshadow a life of service.

I am trying to decide if this panel showing the FDR quote is just a little too heavy? Or just right.

Trevor doesn't buy that simple explanation. Having a secret identity must mean that Superman/Clark is hiding something. That not wearing a mask as a hero but as a citizen is more disingenuous that folks like Batman who wear a mask. Where is THE TRUTH?

The sad thing here is that Trevor's argument doesn't hold water. He was open as Superman and as Clark. The government can backtrack Clark's movements more easily than the unknown half of Batman. They know the truth.

And Trevor also says he would have no qualms in doing something bad if it meant protecting a greater good. I wonder if the bolded  no qualms is a nudge at Quarmm, the dimension the power-sucking sand superman came from in a similar arc in the 70s. (Maybe I am looking for something not there.)

Again, Clark tries to lay out the simplicity of the situation.

He grew up in Kansas. He led a simple life. He waited for the right time to use his powers. Then he used them.

Why does that story make people nervous?

As for 'needing' the secret identity, Clark reminds Steve that even Trevor has some downtime. He takes off his uniform and leads a 'normal life' at some point.

Sadly, Superman doesn't even have that luxury because he always hears the disasters around him.

This explanation seems to be a pretty straightforward look at Clark's life, one that has been an open book on both sides.

So why would the government take the Kent house, exhume the bodies, kidnap Clark's friends? And why is anti-government paranoia so rampant in comic these days?

Maybe this plain speak by Clark does mean something because finally the President walks into the room. It is time for a Rose Garden summit. The President admits to grabbing Superman's friends but just to question them. He promises they won't be hurt. And he wants Superman to understand the predicament the government is in.

Sorry ... I don't understand it.

Clark again lays some simple truth down. After all these years and battles, didn't he deserve the benefit of the doubt.

I will say, this scene was pretty good. But in some ways it pointed out why I think parts of this overall arc, and the plot of this book in particular, is kind of ludicrous.

Meanwhile, Diana has smacked around some army soldiers and has freed Clark's friends.

But then she says she is there to help Clark. But she distorts that into interrogating Clark's friends to get to THE TRUTH. She is going to hear what they have to say to then help alleviate fears.


Diana ... is going to interrogate Clark's friends ... using the magic lasso ... to help him.

I simply can't follow that reasoning.

I also don't like a lot of the things his friends say.

Perry again remains bitter, feeling betrayed. and staring angry. Seems off. Don't you think he has used unnamed sources, received anonymous tips, understands the occasional need for secrecy. Doesn't he trust what he knows about Clark and Superman apart to reconcile them together?

I loved Lana when we first met her at the beginning of the Pak/Kuder run on Action Comics. But that character is long gone.

She helped Clark when he was a boy. But she is still angry that he didn't save her parents.

I miss the other Lana.

The other interviews are interesting and sometimes fun. We hear that Jimmy beat Clark in video games. We learn that John Henry now understands the need for a secret identity. Cat thought Clark was hotter than Superman.

The President seems content with this conversation. He tells Superman where is friends are being held.

Still, The President has to ask Superman if he will still fight on the side of angels. Still.

By the way, I totally skipped the fight with the Parasite, a villain released under the Task Force X initiative to 'protect' the President. Beautifully rendered but essentially unnecessary for what this issue was trying to do.

And then the ending note.

Diana has one more detainee to question. Lois.
I just don't understand it. I don't want my Wonder Woman to be doing this. This just feels wrong. And as a result, this was a bad way to end the issue.

Again, I am trying to wrap my head around this whole arc and this title. I liked the Clark conversation at the beginning. But the fact he needed to have this conversation with Steve Trevor shows the underlying problem with this arc.

And the Diana part ... yeesh.

And while the art continues to be a draw, the dialogue seemed a little ponderous here.

Overall grade: C


Martin Gray said...

Qualm/quaarm - love it. It's funny that we liked the same bits, and both picked up on the Linda Hamilton nod, but have such different opinions overall. Maybe I'm straining too hard to put a positive spin on things. I really don't see Diana as helping the government here, so much as facilitating Clark's friends being left in peace.

And I liked the Parasite fight, it gave Clark a chance to let off some steam - because much as I hate angry Superman, if someone dug my loved ones up I'd be ripping the White House apart myself.

And is Diana winking at Lois in that final page?

Zoraida said...

Though I haven't been following this book because I am not a fan of this relationship at all, I picked up this issue and #19 and so far this relationship is going nowhere, and if it does is going nowhere good. I really didn't like Perry and Diana on this one. It's sad to read so much resentment coming from a good man like Perry White is, I don't understand why DC chose him to be the resentful guy on this story, it wasn't long ago that he was giving Clark some wisdom and trying to help him return to journalism and to his friends during Geoff Johns's run, only to be depicted like this? Makes me sad, he is Editor in Chief of the Daily Planet, he knows the deal about secret identity to protect people, to protect sources, he has to know how difficult is for Clark. I am not enjoying this Perry and I hope this arc is soon over so we can leave these characterizations behind.

I have to agree at some extend about Lana, Pak gave us a new version of her that was quite likable if we compared her characterization before New 52 arrived, but the Lana that we saw on this issue was more recognizable to me, that is Lana Lang. I think it was refreshing what Pak tried to do with her, he really tried to make the character more enjoyable, he gave her a profession, she was not damsel in distress and she wasn't fawning for her former boyfriend which was good for her character. Unfortunately everything that Pak did with her is long forgotten and now we are back with the old Lana, the selfish version who thinks Clark is omnipresent and can and should save everyone. I don't really understand why she can't move on from that, I thought she understood Clark can't save everyone and that she doesn't have any preferences when coming for Superman to save lives. The way she was written on this issue really annoyed me, she hasn't been sincere with her so called best friend.

As for Wonder Woman, I don't understand either the interrogation with Clark's friends, if she is trying to "help" them get free from the government I don't think using the lasso and interrogating them in a military facility could really help, those kind of places usually are wired with cameras and security stuff, making them talk everything they know about Clark should be recorded and people maybe be listening to what's happening there, wouldn't that put in more danger Clark than help him? Truth arc has been about information and what would happen if it goes into the wrong hands, yet we see Diana making these people spit their beans about Clark?

The cliffhanger is another way from DC to milk Lois' role in this story, honestly I didn't like Wonder Woman putting the lasso on any of Clark's friends, specially not on Lois. But I guess this comes from the idea that this isn't a version of Wonder Woman when she knows who she is asking to give her the truth, if we were reading a book with a more likable Wonder Woman she would know that Lois doesn't need a lasso to answer her questions with honesty and speaking the truth. I long for the days when DC finally stop this fauxmance between Superman and Wonder Woman and start showing more respect for Lois and Diana as the great characters they are.

Jay said...

Diana is interviewing the detainees with the lasso so that the government can get their precious info, know for a fact that its the truth, and then leave these people alone. Pretty sure that's Diana's aim here. There's some narrative missing, perhaps by design, but the fact everyone is more than willing to undergo the interview led me immediately to this conclusion. I mean, if Diana had just escorted them out and back home, nothing saying they couldn't just be kidnapped again. This way the fact that these people have absolutely nothing to hide and no deep dark secrets about Superman or his past is known and now they'll, ideally, be left alone.

Anj said...

Thanks for great comments.

Jay, you are so right! With one panel of dialogue, with Diana saying 'these guys will hound you unless they here the truth. I trust you as his friends to say the right things. Let's get this over in a way they will believe..' Something that simple explains the motivations and let's me at least get a smidge behind Diana's actions.

Without that it seems weird to me.

Will need to retread with that imaginary panel inserted in my brain.

Jay said...

Yeah I see where you're coming from. Right now I'm wondering what the point of leaving the narrative incomplete was, whether its inherent to some sort of later reveal next issue or something, or if it was just simply part of enforcing the rather minimal dialogue of the Wonder Woman panels as juxtaposed with the word-y Superman stuff.

Anonymous said...


Lana is not selfish; her parents died, recently. Grief led her to blame Clark, but she has since apologized and have also acknowledged that he was not to blame, but that doesn't mean that a part of her doesn't wish he had (the two people she lose weren't friends, they were her mom and dad). I would also like to point out that Lana look's sad in the panel, not angry. Her still thinking that he should of saved her parents is very human.

Nobile said...

I always liked the concept (mainly introduced by Byrne in MoS mini) that there is no reason for aybody to think Superman has a secret identity. It's clever, and basically doesn't make Clark a liar, since he didn't say he's Superman because, well, "nobody asked", and frankly, I think that if anybody, among his friends had ever bother to ask, he probably would have answered "Yes, I am." We may say, at most, that Clark has been unprofessional, and selling himself as a reporter with a self-interview is not the best move, he should have shown his skills in other ways and have kept away from any Superman story (which he basically did, in the New52). On the other hand, the silver age Superman, WAS a liar, beacuse of the huge effort he put in denying what everybody was thinking, but he was a superdick, you know.
So, what is good, in this "Truth" series is that it shows the reason why Superman must have a secret identity, in order to prevent all this bitter mess to spread, what I DON'T like, is the way they are turning everything and everybody dark.
All Superman's friends reactions are pretty understandable, we all have some bitter thoughts for our loved ones, but we bury it deep, because love outweights them. Magic lassoing any relationship is not the smartest way to strengthen them, Diana, and I'm pretty sure Lois' confession is going to open a Pandora's box that's quickly burying your love story with Clark.
My point is, it's very easy to turn everything dark, Alan Moore egregiously showed it in his "Whatever happened...": a simple idea, and everything get's so screwed up beyond recovery so fast that there's no place for a shiny sliver/bronze-age Superman anymore, exit, stage left. But the purpose, at the time, was to bid farewell to a character. I wonder, is what DC is going to do here? Say goodbye to a Superman (and related universe) nobody really loved that much? Because, unless it resets all back with a reconvergence of sort, or the dark is darn going to stay.