Now, as a reviewer, I have to acknowledge my own biases when I look at these books. And frankly, I have never been someone to get behind the the Clark/Diana romance. It has just never felt right to me. So I always have side-eyed the relationship and this title, waiting for someone to write the characters in a way that felt natural.
I also have to acknowledge that another of the things I have very much liked about Tomasi's current run is that it seems to re-establishing some classic elements of the Superman mythos. He is good friends with Batman. He is loved by Alfred. He cares about Supergirl and wants her to carry on in his absence. He has a good relationship with Lois. These last few super-issues have been wonderful to a fan like me who has questioned a lot of what has happened to Superman over the last 10 years or so.
This issue seemed to look backwards instead of looking forward. I suppose the relationship with Wonder Woman needed to be addressed. We had to deal with some of the lingering subplots from the prior years. But after the joy of the last weeks, this felt like a step backwards as it brought back things I would rather forget or move away from - the Diana romance and Ulysses.
The art is done by Ed Benes. With Benes you know what you are getting. There is a cheesecake feel to Diana throughout the book (although this isn't as gratuitous as other Benes books.) But even Benes feels like a look back.
And I desperately want to move forward. On to the book ...
Diana comes in and it is clear that a lot is unsaid between the two. Awkwardly flying in the background, Supergirl knows she needs to give the two some space and takes off.
While I get that Supergirl would want to vacate, this goodbye seemed a bit too fast and pat. Kara says "When you need to reach me, just go ahead and reach me." But these two haven't been able to reach each other for weeks. Clark demolished a government lab to talk to her. How will they reach each other?
And wouldn't Kara hug her dying cousin before going? Reach out to Diana in their shared grief? Give him her contact information?
Am I asking for too much?
To be honest, I don't even remember exactly what is going on in this romance? Are they together? On a break? Broken up? It has been so back and forth lately, interrupted by huge battles, that I don't recall where they stand before this. I thought they were having issues.
Here Superman says he hasn't told Diana about his illness yet because it would be hardest to tell her. When she asks if he loves her, he responds with a splash page sized kiss. Maybe this is the last hurrah for this romance? A kiss goodbye? Or is it DC holding the line on the power couple? It's hard for me to get behind this; it always has been.
I suppose it would be hard emotionally to break something off while dying.
But I also don't like the rather fatalistic approach Superman is taking towards his death. This is a universe of magic, wishing rings, omniscient beings, and resurrections. So his saying this was supposed to happen and not even investigating cures seems odd. It's as if he rushed to the final stage of grief.
Now only in Energy-Superman form, this person talks like Superman should, wanting to help people and being denied by this imprisonment.
As expected, it has something to do with his solar flare power, which makes sense.
It reminds Superman of the flare he used against Ulysses, who is also incarcerated in Stryker's. What I don't know is if the signature of this phony Superman is like *that* particular flare, or the flare in general. Goodness knows Superman used the flare too many times after it was introduced.
It is a bit too much of a coincidence so Superman visits Ulysses, still trapped in his power dampening cell. Ulysses is still angry at Superman. But he doesn't say if the flare altered him in any way.
Ulysses started out as an interesting concept, sort of Superman's origin in reverse. But he never quite cemented himself as a new and long term viable villain. It's a shame because Ulysses new world ends up dying because of Superman. He has both the power and motive to be someone who could stand toe to toe with Kal.
In my head canon, he was the dead body in Hordr_Root's drain chair way back in Superman #43.
I thought that was a good theory.
With his dampeners off, Ulysses fights Superman and quickly realizes that Superman is less than himself.
Was this a lucky happenstance for Ulysses? Or is he behind this somehow?
My guess is yes.
The avatar overpowers Diana and escapes.
It is clear this guy must be strong to defeat Wonder Woman so quickly. And he definitely is exploding with solar power.
Hmmm.... maybe Superman will need to leech off this power back into himself to cure his disease?
The power comes back on and under the dampeners, Ulysses is again powerless. But that doesn't stop him from gloating. I never took Ulysses to be a cackler. Maybe his sentence has made him a bit crazy?
I'm trying to wrap my head around this. I don't like Ulysses. I don't like Diana-Clark as a couple. And I don't know if Ulysses is a convenient excuse for a fight or if he plays a bigger role in this arc. Lastly, while I think Ed Benes is pretty capable, I don't know if he is the right choice on this book.
In the end, after several wonderfully good issues, this chapter in the storyline was a bit of a stumble. Let's hope things rebound!
Overall grade: C+