Friday, September 18, 2015

Review: Superman/Wonder Woman #21

Superman/Wonder Woman #21 came out this week, another chapter in 'The Truth', another issue where I again try to understand why these two are in a relationship. Things have been awkward in the past. Things have been tense in the past. In this issue, things are outright volatile.

Since 'The Truth' started, I have had problems with Superman's personality. His reliance on the solar flare power, knowing it would weaken him, seemed misguided. He has been downright stupid dragging Jimmy into danger and blaming Lois for his problems. And he has been overly angry in almost all his books.

This issue seemed to showcase many of the flaws in Superman's character these days. Diana and Lois come across much more caring and rational here. It is even mirrored on the cover with Superman, bathed in fire, brow furrowed, glares off the cover. Meanwhile, Diana looks calm and collected.

Peter Tomasi advances the story, introducing another of the big villains and driving a wedge deeper between Clark and Diana. We also reach the point in the story for the 8-page post-Convergence preview for this story. But we also have a similar path as last issue, lots of talking punctuated with a semi-needless brawl at the end.

Thank goodness for penciler Doug Mahnke. Aided by a bevy of inkers, Mahnke continues to bring sharp art to this book. In particular, a new element of the villains attacks, energy sucking black hole creatures, look monstrous.

 The issue starts with a look at Mr. Bend. He has to run off to a meeting with the President. But before heading off, he heads to what looks like a classic villain's headquarters, complete with a wall of monitors. Bend has located Firestorm and sends the hero's coordinates off with the order to 'ingest'.

Who is Mr. Bend?

Well, my guess he is Angelo Bend, the Angle Man. I usually think of Angle Man as a Wonder Woman villain, making his presence here appropriate. But he has been more of a D-lister in the past. Here he feels more like the Calculator in the pre-New 52 universe.

 And his orders are carried out.

We see Firestorm lured into a rescue mission that is a trap. The 'victims' morph into these black hole looking creatures, beings that turn into a huge mouth and glom onto the nuclear man.

Just like that, he's gone.

Now I think of Firestorm as a pretty powerful character. So defeating him like this, draining him and then 'ingesting' him, sets the stage that these things are powerful.

After that opening scene, we head back to the government prison where Diana is interrogating Clark's friends.

Lois has the best moments here. She might be forced to answer the questions because of the Lasso of Truth, but she doesn't have to do it nicely. She talks about how she is a reporter. It is her job to report the news, like Superman.

And yes, she understood the backlash her story of Superman's identity would bring. She answered that question truthfully. What they didn't ask her is why she did it.

But when it gets to questions about her relationship with Clark, it is getting personal. Even Diana knows they are going off the ranch.

I have to say, Lois shines here with her righteous indignation. 

Now one of my problems with last issue was Diana's decision to interrogate Clark's friends. I assumed it was Diana's way of trying to ferret out people who were going to betray or try to hurt Clark. Others assumed it was to help speed up this process. The truth would come out, satisfying the government, and freeing the people.

Tomasi lets people like me off the hook. Diana was doing this to help free Lois and everyone else. Now it is a blunt way of doing it. It isn't foolproof. Someone might say something she wasn't anticipating.

But I feel like, in her way, Diana's heart was in the right place.

 The Superman arrives. And he isn't happy.

We then get a couple of pages of Superman chastising Diana for not listening to him, for using the lasso, for not understanding his feelings. Even when she explains her thoughts ... how she asked everyone if they would allow it, how she wanted to get this over with, how she wanted to free these friends to help Superman.

But boy, this is an angry Superman. He could say 'I understand why you thought this would be good but I don't agree with you.' Instead he just berates Wonder Woman.

 He frees all his friends and we get to see Jimmy, Lana, and Lois all hug Superman and thank him for coming. It seemed too warm a response from Lana given her recent unhappiness with Clark. And we get a great moment where Cat Grant tries to get a little too close.

But it is Perry's response that stuck with me. He stops Clark from talking. Perry is still ticked off. Remember when Geoff Johns seemed to be setting up Perry as the confidante? Was making Perry a source of wisdom? Now we have a grumpy old man.

Deeper in this place, we see that the government has a bunch of super-villains in stasis pods. Why would they bring Superman's friends here? With all these villains? It seems like putting a blowtorch near explosives.

 Sure enough, the black hole beings blip in. They free all the villains and begin 'ingesting' all those that have energy powers (like Livewire). Mahnke really shines in this battle, showing the beings shift into a shape that is mostly mouth. Brrr ...

Again, Superman wants to protect everyone so he asks Steel to shepherd everyone out. But Superman isn't the old Superman. He can't fight these things on his own these days. They kick him around a bit, almost swallowing him whole.

And, as before, Diana feels like she needs to be with Clark to protect him. She is angry that Steel would let this depowered Clark try to win this fight alone.

 Everyone ends up returning to the fight to save Superman. This includes a ridiculous panel of the Planet staff lined up shooting giant energy rifles at the monsters. Are they trained? I don't know if I think the quaint Smallville folks would know how to operate these things.

Anyways, this is Diana trying to protect the man she loves. This is Superman's friends trying to protect him.

But throughout this story we have seen Superman still trying to be a self-sufficient hero. He doesn't want anyone to put themselves in danger for him. And looking around, he sees everyone he cares about in danger.

Here is the rub. Did he think about this when he kept flaring like mad? Did he think about how he was making himself weak every time he used it instead of his other powers>

Plus, this seems a little selfish. He doesn't thank them for saving him. Instead, he gets angry ... at himself as well as them.

Frankly, I am a bit sick of it.

And then, the last straw for me.

He tells Lois she betrayed him by telling the world his identity.
He tells Diana she betrayed him by going to this place to help his friends.


That is a powerful word. It leaves no wiggle room for understanding why they did what he did. It carries a weight of disappointment and anger.

And it is wrong.

We know that by heading to the JLA satellite, he is flying that ship near the sun to try to recharge. This is the lead-up to the 8 page preview where he tells Diana he doesn't love her any more.

The issue ends with Mr. Bend joining Vandal Savage and Wrath in that interdimensional room.

Whew ...

So I don't think I quite agree with Diana's methods here. While fraught with danger, it was effective. And her intentions were good.

I loved Lois' attitude during the interrogation.

And the addition of Angle Man and these energy leeches is a nice wrinkle to this big villain plot.

But the character of Superman here just felt off to me. This is a far cry from the Superman in Action Comics. It is closer to the less than rational guy in Superman. And I suppose a lot of this stems from self-loathing. He knows he did this to himself. And now everyone else is paying the price.

More than ever, I am wondering why these two were together to begin with. This has never felt like love.

Overall grade: C+


Martin Gray said...

Nice review, Anj. Wasn't that panel of the gun-toting Planet staff and Smallvillians hilarious?

Apparently, December's Annual will show the big moments as Diana and Clark got together. Have DC listened to, like, everyone and given in, realised that we need to know what this romance is based upon? Seems too little, too late, if the thing is drawing to a close. I suspect, though, that this means the relationship is sticking around. Dang.

Anonymous said...

Great review Anj.

This issue reminded me of Star Trek (the original series) where everyone is exposed to a rage inducing drug of some sort. I could hear the ST:TOS fight music in my head.

Everyone's reaction to each other seemed dialed to 11. Clark being the worst offender. Along with super flares he seems to have developed a super temper.

I couldn't agree more with your take on betrayal. Nobody betrayed anybody. They made choices they believed were in his best interest. Be it to save his life or free his friends.

Diana and Lois made the decisions they did out of love not malice. However, Clark can't seem to see the difference. He doesn't understand nuance.

Even teenagers at their worst have this cognitive ability. He reminded me of an overtired toddler. Clark dear, maybe take a nap and things will look better when you wake up.

I also agree that so far on page I haven't seen anything (SUBJECTIVE opinion ahoy) to help me understand why these two are together beyond "The Publishers said so".

Finally, I think Martin's right, I don't know if this is drawing to a close and the Annual will be the "greatest hits" good-bye or if it signals a less contentious chapter in their relationship as they repair damage? I suspect the latter.

Thanks for the review!

Veronica said...

I have been noticing that variant covers aren't from romantic nature and smww romance wasn't on DCYou encore video. with DC solicit and CBR calling lois & clark the original power couple, I can see DC endingsmww. Now if this is another smww will reconciled and be even stronger, DC will commit another big mistake.

the crossover that isn't a crossover sucks.
I think wonder owman was wrong, but what she did wasn't close to betrayal. superman could be uoset, but being mad and call it betrayal is stupid;
superman on team up books is really bad, i don't even know why.
superbroman has even less reasons to call what lois did betrayal

Tejna said...

Great review. Fantastic questions about Superman's characterisation and why these two are together. And yes, Lois is kick ass in this!

Zoraida said...

Great review!
I pretty much agree with everything that has been exposed on this review. I felt disgusted reading this issue, this is definitely not the Superman fans need to be reading, is just a shame. The more this Truth arc continues, it feels like DC is mocking on every fan who once believed in the good old boy scout that Clark Kent used to be once, it is sad that this new version is nothing more than a caricature of the superb Superman.
I was never a fan of the SMWW relationship, the book has only proved why they shouidn't be together, despite the opinions of fans of the couple. It has damaged Superman, it has damaged Wonder Woman and above all them, has damaged Lois, who has not only been sidelined from narrative for so long but now it is called the betrayer when she absolutely did not betrayed anyone!
I've have commented in Martin's review for this issue, that Clark has been acting like a child who has been deprived from his candy, he is acting stupid, irresponsible and primary a total jerk to almost everyone! And he question why people have turned their backs on him? He is now pointing fingers at Lois and Diana, accusing them of betraying him, why he is so unable to understand their motives? They both have done nothing but try and help this idiot (though I wonder why they even bother) and seems he can only be sympathetic to his OWN feelings, no giving the minimum importance to the woman he said he loved and to his so called Best friend Lois? Seriously? I think this is when Jon Carroll should enter the picture (if Lois hasn't erased his memories) and remind him what he did to Lois with Parasite.... karma is a ......
This relationship has always been a bad idea, every time DC tried to make them a couple it always has been in the worst of scenarios: Lois dies, Superman and WW are both evil, the world is ending and in chaos, now Superman since New52 has been deponent while Diana is an emotional coward who dumped Steve because he is a human being. Great scenario to start a relationship.
I don't know neither I am sure DC will be ending this horrible couple, as I have been burned with this relationship since it started I have no faith in DC Comics neither on current Editors and writers they will end this for good. If any indication is that DC will keep this, is that they chose Lois to be marketed and labeled in the books as the one who did wrong, I am afraid in order to put more distance between Clark and her and making WW his "soulmate".
My money is on Jurgens Superman: Lois and Clark, that's the real, original and ultimate Power Couple of all times!
Thanks for the review!

Anonymous said...

Eh I wouldn't call Lois righteous in this at all, she sounds catty, rude and outright stuck up. Personality traits that are supposed to be part of the old depiction of Lois Lane, not the modern female pop culture icon women have looked up to and idolised before. I remain unconvinced myself that Lois is benefitting from Truth if this is how she's depicted. Something still seems off about her.

As for Superman, you're absolutely right about how out of line Clark is being. Throwing accusations at Diana, shrugging off his friends, foolishly taking on the Shadow Creatures single handed when he's nowhere close to full power and calling Lois and Diana betrayers. Granted he has some justification with calling Lois a betrayer but he could have handled it with a little more grace. Diana though hasn't done anything to betray him yet so he sounds like a jerk for saying what he does.

As for the end of the romance, I've discussed this with fellow posters on the Comicvine Superman boards and I share the general view that this break up is only going to be a temporary gimmick I'm afraid. Tomasi has made references to the 'Power Couple' facing trials and tribulations to get through and he's hinted on Twitter that this break up might just be part of a rollercoaster of their love. Hence, what we get is merely a temporary situation so Superman and Wonder Woman get back together stronger than ever. Just because Lois and Clark is coming out doesn't mean New 52 Clark and Lois will get together.

Excellent review as always Anj, you make sound and salient points of commentary on this issue. It is sounding like you're not liking this series as much as you want to though.


Anonymous said...

I completely agree with all your points Anj . I've collected and read Superman and family books for many many years. Issues like this one help affirm my decision to finally stop picking up any Superman titles. I don't need or want angry emo Superman. Does anybody? Who is doing the market research on this? It feels like a bad dream. I've about reached the breaking point with Bats as well.

I've never missed the old DC more than I do now. All convergence served to do is remind me of tbe good times. Hopefully we'll get a new better Sipergirl comic again in the future. I really really hope we do.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments! I love the discussion.

I think that this direction of Superman and his relationship with Wonder Woman are divisive in their nature. People who want a classic Superman with Lois are probably off the books all together. People who like one thing but not the other might be leaving as well.

What DC should do is try to galvanize the Superman fandom, not splinter it further. I think we just keep getting farther and farther away from who this character really is.

Can I hope it is all mind control? I can.

Jay said...

I thought the relationship was extremely well-written in Soule's run, and the beginning of Tomasi's run was pretty good as well. But even as a fan I'm tiring of this constant contrived strife. This so-called betrayal makes absolutely no sense. I can KINDA seeing him being a bit annoyed that his friends were questioned based on the principle that they didn't deserve to be questioned in the first place, but come on. She took part with the lasso only so they'd be freed as she knew they had no dirty secrets and the government would leave them alone with the accepted truth. That's a betrayal? Nope. This makes absolutely no sense to me unless Wrath is screwing with Superman's head. Which I think is a decent possibility, but morseo desperately hope for because this is a terrible, terrible look for Superman that this is the event that makes him flip and leads to the Sneak Peek events. But, on the positive side, like I said, due to the Wrath concept, yes Anj, you can definitely hope its mind control and there's plenty of reasons within the story to support such a notion, thankfully. We just gotta hope that's the plan. As while mind-control is overused and contrived in its own right, at least that means Superman isn't a complete tool.

Jay said...

As far as the Annual #2, when I read the solicit initially I definitely thought it was the end, and was pretty annoyed. It still could be but I've since read theories of perhaps an ending similar to how Johns ended his GL run, maybe showing a vague scene of the two way into the future or something, and that's the meaning of "last breath" and the story continues. I'd like that. But only if they quit with the doom and gloom solicits. I mean once in a while okay, but come on, give something for actual fans of the relationship to anticipate instead of dread waiting for. Its already been virtually an entire spring and summer leading up to this stupid "I don't love you anymore" thing hanging over the book's head. If this is all its going to be though maybe I should rethink even wanting it to continue.

Anj said...

Hey Jay,
Sometimes your comments head into Spam. I don't check that all the time so I just added a bunch into the feed.
I am not deleting/editing so sorry if you thought that.

This issue was weird. My guess is it will be wiped away as Wrath effect.

Jay said...

No problem at all! That's my own fault for not completing my thoughts in one post, I apologize. Thank you for the heads up though!