Superman/Wonder Woman #22 came out this week, a dreary and brutal chapter in 'The Truth'. It is one of the worst books I have read in quite some time. It is relentless in its darkness. It is full of off-kilter characterization. And some of the scenes feel forced.
Now I have never quite understood why Superman and Wonder Woman are romantically involved. The relationship has never been presented in a way that seems to make sense. These characters don't seem to belong together as a couple. Emotionally, these two seem pretty different. So from the beginning, I have been a bit flummoxed by the title.
And I have had my issues with the entire overarching story of The Truth since its inception. I have wondered why DC can't seem to handle Superman these days, trying to twist him into something he isn't .. for example, the current angry, mean-spirited, depowered jerk.
This issue seemed to encapsulate all of these things. It distilled all the things I don't like about the current DCU and the state of the Superman comics into something so purely awful that it is almost toxic. Peter Tomasi writes about as dark, bitter, and violent world as I have read. These aren't the characters I have read for the last 3 plus decades. None of these characters are likeable. None are heroes. I can't root for any of these people. This is a superhero world looked at through a mirror darkly.
Listen, I read these books to follow the characters and review. But Tomasi may have finally forced my hand. And so I will end this review with a question for all of you.
So this review is simply going to be highlighting the awful character behavior in this book.
Let's start out with the punch heard around the world.
Lana, who has outright disliked and isolated Clark since Doomed, decides that Lois' reveal is just too egregious to go unpunished. So, like the rational person she is, Lana decides the thing to do is to plant a right hook into Lois' jaw.
Lana punches Lois.
In this current DC universe, this is a natural response for someone. In fact, Lois isn't surprised by it. She is more surprised that it took so long to happen.
But for me, almost as bad as the punch is the following panel and the reaction of others. Steel looks sad that he witnessed it. But he doesn't speak up. He didn't try to stop Lana. He silently accepts it. And Diana, she looks absolutely bored. She could not care less about these two. She doesn't tell them that fighting each other won't help Clark. No one seems shocked. This isn't a surprising turn of events in the current DCU. That is depressing.
If you want to see what is wrong with the Superman books right now, these two panels are a prime example.
Lost in all this is the fact that Lois revealed Clark's secret so he didn't die in that energy draining chair.
Superman has fled to the JLA satellite. He is going to take a shuttle closer to the sun so he can try to repower. When Clark arrives, the Flash shows up and sees how injured Superman is.
Superman's response to his friend is to knock him out.
Superman, in trouble and needing help, decides his best option is to beat his friend unconscious.
Because that makes sense. Superman should always beat up other heroes. That is what the Kents taught him.
We never quite hear if the proximity to the sun helps Superman. But he pushes his shuttle so much that the ship falls apart in deep space. Wonder Woman, who was following him in another ship, teleports into his ship and then teleports them both back to the satellite.
Now we finally get to the scene from the 8-page preview from Convergence. There is a slight word change here. Clark now says he doesn't know if he loves Diana, as opposed to 'I don't love you'.
But why does this scene even happen? If the Flash can teleport Superman away why is Diana chasing him in another ship. If she can communicate with him on radio, why follow? Did she think she was going to use her ship to make him get off course? And why does Diana teleport into Clark's evaporating ship to then teleport back to the satellite?
Why? To set up this dramatic scene of Superman declaring his non-love to Diana with the sun behind them. To get to this face-to-face in deep space the characters have to do things that don't make sense.
This ludicrous set-up - a shuttle chase that doesn't need to happen, a needless teleport to put them face-to-face - to make this scene possible makes the whole scene feel forced.
Back in the JLA headquarters, Clark admits that he is upset because Diana interrogated his friends. And so he says he is questioning the relationship.
Diana asks outright if Superman won't fight for their love. He says he won't.
You would think that I would be happy that Superman finally realizes that these two are ill-suited for each other. But instead I am surprised at Diana's non-response. She doesn't challenge him. She doesn't walk away. She doesn't do anything. She will allow him to brood and decide about their relationship's health. She will give Superman time to work this out while she waits. She is passive.
That doesn't sound like Diana.
With the 'race to the sun' plot point out of the way, Clark and Diana decide to hunt down the energy-draining villains from the last issue. We still don't know if it helped Clark. So that whole space scene feels unnecessary, meaningless, and now even more forced. It was written to get us to that one splash of Superman telling Diana he doesn't love her.
The Flash decides to help them track these parasitic creatures, never even commenting on Superman attacking him. Does that make sense? That Flash just falls in line, not being angry or questioning of Superman's attack?
When the three can't track down the energy-drainers with technology, Superman decides that he'll use the Parasite as a living tracker. Luckily he has been working on 'special gloves' which allow him to touch the Parasite without being drained. Good thing that deus ex machina was lying around. (Think they'll be around the next time there is a Parasite story? Unlikely.)
So to get the Parasite, Superman and Wonder Woman attack an army helicopter which is bringing the villain to prison. Superman crashes through the copter's windshield. Because that is the safest way for him to commandeer this thing.
But think about this. Superman attacks an army helicopter to free the Parasite. Is he a hero? Because that is what I want my heroes to do, attack the civilians bringing a known super-villain to jail.
Even the art mirrors the tone. Superman, with his sunken eyes and scowl, looks like a villain
Do you want to see a prime example of what is wrong with the DCU, look at this panel.
And Wonder Woman is along for the ride. She wants to help Clark. She doesn't question this idea by Clark. She doesn't try to talk him out of it. She doesn't try to alter the plan. She is on board for an assault. She is the doting girlfriend who just listens to her man ... because that sounds like Diana.
She uses her sword to cut her way into the ship, coming within inches of skewering an innocent guard with her sword. The guards shoot wildly in bay.
How no one dies is almost too far-fetched to buy. How does this thing even stay in the air? How does no innocent get injured?
Is this how I want Wonder Woman to act? Following her man blindly, attacking innocents? So quick to unsheath her sword that she almost kills someone?
But the assault is a success. Superman and Wonder Woman are able to grab the Parasite, still shackled in a giant device.
He is helpless.
Superman body slams him into the ground from the copter.
Wonder Woman bashes him across the face.
Because battering and torturing someone helpless, even a villain, is what I want my heroes to do. After all they should inspire me.
He decides to pile on.
When Parasite asks why he has been kidnapped (because that is what this is ... a kidnapping), Superman responds with a boot to the face.
Superman angrily kicks someone helpless in the face.
Because nothing says 'Superman' more than him lashing out angrily at everyone in the world. Nothing says 'I'm here to help' like a kick in the kisser.
Have I shown you enough? Do you see how Peter Tomasi has no idea of who these characters are? That Eddie Berganza shows just how wrong a choice he is to edit the super-books? That the DCU is a horrible place filled with horrible people. A place where there is no distinction between good and evil.
Nothing here has felt right. Nothing here is heroic. Nothing in this plot is good or compelling.
It is a shame because I love Doug Mahnke. The art is beautiful even if the subject matter is horrible. Look at this panel with Diana springing into action. I paused here because it is so dynamic and sharp. Put Doug Mahnke on a book more deserving of his stuff. I also like the cover by Cary Nord is actually quite pleasing to the eye. It is like
a lure to get you to buy the book. Then you read the inside and feel
you have been taken.
But the bottom line is that there is nothing I can get behind in this book. It starts with Lana punching Lois. It continues with Superman attacking innocent guards to spring a super-villain. And it ends with Superman and Wonder Woman physically abusing a helpless villain.
This isn't Superman. This isn't Wonder Woman.
So a question.
Do I continue to review this book, hopefully informing people and keeping them away from it?
Or do I vote with my dollars and drop the book?
Because this an awful book with awful characterization.
Or maybe this is just the sort of world DC Comics wants to be publishing right now, which isn't for me.
Overall grade: D- (raised from F because of Mahnke)