Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review: Superman/Wonder Woman #1

Superman/Wonder Woman #1 came out this week, written by Charles Soule and drawn by Tony Daniel. It is a book that has had its share of controversy already as the DC community seems pretty split on whether the romantic relationship between the title characters is a good thing.

Now I am a pretty big Lois fan. And I have always understood just why these two don't belong together, most elegantly stated in John Byrne's Action Comics #600. Clark is just a simple boy from Kansas and Diana is a goddess. It isn't an easy match.

Things change of course. But the stories in the New 52 with these two have done nothing to make me understand why they are together. There hasn't been any characterization explaining why they have decided romance is the way to go. From a meta viewpoint, this has felt forced, as if they are only together because the powers that be in DC have decided they should be.

And unfortunately, there wasn't much in this issue that made me think differently. If anything, this issue made me think they shouldn't be together. Soule does his best to show us the extremes of their relationship - loud moments of action and quiet moments together. But it still doesn't crackle.

The story has Superman and Wonder Woman battling an odd storm at sea intercut with flashbacks of Clark and Cat Grant, Diana and Amazon friend Hessia, and finally Clark and Diana alone. I don't mind nonlinear story telling but in this instance it took me out of the story, breaking any momentum the storm scene has by leaving it. And the transitions don't move the story either.

I will say, outside of Diana's high heel boots, Daniel's art is superb here.

We start out with Superman and Diana streaking to the storm together. I will say, they sure do look good together. But this could be them streaking to battle in a JLA book.

They decide to divide and conquer. Superman will take care of the storm and Diana will help out a plane in danger nearby.

I do like how Clark is kicking himself for saying so glibly 'I've got it' when talking about the storm.

But that is the thing. Clark is just a small town kid who now is dating a goddess. He should feel awkward around her.

But before we can get too invested in this rescue mission, we cut away to the private lives of Clark and Diana in the hours preceding a date.

These scenes are actually my favorite. I love Cat's continued enthusiasm even if Clark bemoans the lack of stories to break. It sounds defeatist of Clark. And didn't he get a file on the Twenty a while back? Why not break that story.

Instead we get these images of someone with the knowledge that Superman and Wonder Woman are amorous downloading pictures onto a thumb drive and mailing it to Cat. It sits there in a pile of mail, waiting to be opened. It reminded me a bit of Rorschach's journal at the end of Watchmen.

And this scene also struck me as Diana talks with her friend Hessia about why Clark is hiding their relationship. Diana thinks he might be ashamed. Her friend knows he has been trained to hide everything. Then Diana says it is an inherent difference between them ... her openness and his timidity. Umm ... maybe it'll be hard to be together?

I will say, at least Diana sounds like Diana here.

But we leave those scenes to head back to the ocean where Diana is hoisting this plane up, keeping it from crashing, only to have Superman get punched through it from whatever was at the bottom of the ocean.

I will say the page before where Diana struggles with the weight and momentum of the plane is wonderfully rendered by Daniel. And this panel is a great one as well. Superman must be going pretty fast given the perspective here.

Then back to earlier, this time as Clark and Diana start their date night.

I think this panel was funny, again showing how Clark must be nervous dating. He calls Diana beautiful and strange. Or is that some strange pick-up line by him?

Listen, I know it is early in their relationship. I probably was awkward and bizarre when I first started dating my wife. But all these scenes don't make me feel why these two are together.

The Hal line is beautiful.

When confronted by Diana about hiding their relationship, Clark talks about giving 'them' everything and this is something he wants to keep just to them for now.

It sounded a little weird. I assume the 'them' is humanity. But he sounds almost a bit resentful of mankind as if they pry. I suppose wanting to keep the relationship out of the papers and away from the paparazzi makes sense. But he even looks a little angry.

And then the most odd moment in the book. Diana wants to show Clark that he needs training in how to fight. While mighty, he isn't a true warrior. And to show that, she brandishes a sword and almost slashes him.

Soooo .... if I was dating someone and she pulled out a sword and waved it at me, even if it was to make a point, I think I'd be out of there.

Maybe separate I could deal with all these small moments. But together, they make me think their isn't any chemistry between Clark and Diana. I just don't feel it. Not yet.

And then we get to see one of my pet peeves again. The US military sees Superman break through the plane and assume that Wonder Woman and Superman have destroyed it on purpose. So a nearby battleship opens up its guns onto Diana.

Because if Superman and Diana were going to destroy that plane, they would fly into a storm where the plane was going to crash anyways and then be flung through it as opposed to using heat vision from far away or just letting the plane go down.

And then to make matters worse, Diana flies to the ship and rips it turret off, destroying it.

I am sick of seeing DC's heroes attacked by the military. I am sick of seeing the heroes fighting the military. Can we take a break from this?

And then we finally find out what clocked Superman. Doomsday.

And then we get this page where there is a big panel of Diana getting throttled with smaller panels in silhouette of Clark and Diana getting frisky only to be called away by the emergency.

I don't know, seeing the two of them hugging, unbuttoned, and kissing surrounding her taking a backhand to the jaw made me cringe just a little. This is where the nonlinear story-telling was its most jarring.

So ...

I think there is some potential in this. Who is Doomsday in this new universe? What will Clark do when Cat wants to break a story he wants to bury? And it really is a beautiful book. Daniel really does wonders here.

But the back and forth flashbacks felt jarring. And I still don't feel the romance here. Will Soule be able to convince me these two really have romantic feelings for each other??

Overall grade:C


GettinJiggly said...

I'm still two months behind on my reading but I was pessimistic of this book when announced. I'm not a fan of the nonlinear telling either. Also like your Vibe article it is disappointing what DC is doing with its characters. Its like they want to try and bring in a m, if this was the real world how would we react. I put it in line with what I call Nolanization of their properties. Just because it worked with one franchise doesn't mean you can run with it across your entire universe.

Count Drunkula said...

This issue was better than I expected, but not good enough to keep me reading the series.

I don't mind a team-up book featuring Superman and Wonder Woman. Hell, I love the idea of any second book with Wonder Woman in the title! But I hate, hate, HATE the Superman/Wonder Woman romance. No one believes it will last--because it shouldn't--and the creative teams have acknowledged that this is a bad idea that will damage the time stream. It makes Wonder Woman less special, and it makes Superman sleazy; their "love" feels like nothing more than a vulgar fling of super powered sex… which ought to be AWESOME, except not with the honorable icons that are Superman and Wonder Woman

Jay said...

Loved this issue. I have to respectfully disagree with the "simple farmboy" assessment. This might have been true pre-Flashpoint (much to most Superman fans' chagrin), but its definitely not anymore. He's far more than a farmboy, and what more this Superman doesn't shy away from that. He embraces it. Smallville is a big part of him, but its far from the only part, or the part he identifies with the most. Which to me is as it should be. Wonder Woman is a goddess, but Superman could essentially be a god. He chooses not to be. He chooses to be part of civilization, not above it. That's one of the greatest attributes of him.

Also, the creative teams have not acknowledged it was a bad idea that will damage the time stream. They introduced a very vague concept of Booster Gold claiming he came from the future to stop Superman and Wonder Woman from doing something. Just what that was is never revealed, and that plot point has yet to be built on since then, about a year now. So its kinda dishonest at this point to say anyone involved is outright saying its bad.

Count Drunkula said...

Sorry, I didn't mean any creators called the idea bad--why would they? But Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, and Dan DiDio have all said there will be serious consequences as a result of this hookup. And we've seen at least some of those consequences: the formation of Justice League of America, the "Trinity War", and the emergence of the Crime Syndicate in Forever Evil all spun out of Superman + Wonder Woman.

Anj said...

I guess I don't want my Superman to act like a god and want to be with a goddess.

I guess I want my Superman to think of himself as a man who happens to be super, as Clark first, as someone who wants to help because it is the right thing to do.

And I guess that is part of why I don't like this relationship or the New 52 Superman that much (outside of Morrison's run).

Anonymous said...


Jay said...

I agree there will be some consequences, I just don't think we've seen them yet, nor do I necessarily buy that they will all be negative consequences. Superman and Wonder Woman didn't help lead to Trinity War or the Crime Syndicate. E3 Alfred and Atomica arrived on Prime Earth years before Superman and Wonder Woman got together. This had been a plan being planned and laid out from that first year of superheroes. Alfred may have used Superman and Wonder Woman's relationship to his advantage when it came to setting up Superman killing Dr. Light, but he used lots of things to his advantage in setting up the CS arrival.

Martin Gray said...

I'm with you, there were good moments, but overall, the book seems designed to show us why these two are unsuited.

I have to say, I really hate this slacker Clark, Cat deserves a partner who at least pretends to be interested.

Anonymous said...

First off, even pre new 52 Clark considered his alien heritage a part of him. That was very much a real part of his relationship with Lois too.

The problem in the new 52 is that there is no balance. This Superman truly does live above us. He doesn't live among humanity bc he isolates himself and makes choices out of fear.

Clark truly loved Lois (and probably still does) but held himself back from her out of fear. This isn't heroic nor brave nor noble. It's cowardice. His parents were more brave when the adopted him not having any guarantee of their safety. This Superman is driven by fear and fear should never decide love.

Superman is not a god and he doesn't and shouldn't view himself that way. It's a terrible commentary of the character to present him as someone who thinks only a "goddess" is his equal. That negates the whole point of the story.

Clark's love for Lois made a powerful statement about just who Superman was. It was beautiful that he looked at humanity with all of its flaws and courage and saw heroism within us. He saw it so deeply that he fell madly in love with it and would have died for it. He walked among us in the most personal way.

Superman cannot call the love of his life a goddess and walk among us in the same capacity. It just ruins the whole message. It's a much more beautiful message on power, love, courage and humanity when the love of his life is the woman who isn't the most beautiful and who runs into the burning building without the privilege of superpowers.

This relationship will end and it should. --/Shades

Jay said...

I argue that there's actually more balance New 52 than before. Pre New 52 Clark acknowledged his alien heritage, and was emphasized more when late in the game, but he always came in a clear second to his Earth roots. And I'm not saying that's bad, I'm just saying that was the interpretation at the time. Some fans dug it, others did not. I did, but all the same am enjoying a different take, going back to older roots where Superman's Kryptonian side means much, much more to him. And I say I find it more of a balance because I think they're clear in showing his love of his human side too. I think its been a general misrepresentation two years in that just because his human life is different this time around, not as pristine, a little more lonely, that he doesn't love it as much. I don't buy that.

As far as Superman not presenting himself as a god, I completely agree. I only said he could if he wanted to. The fact that he does not, the fact that that's the last thing he wants, is what speaks to his character. With that said however, I fail to see how his relationship with Wonder Woman defines him as someone who thinks only a goddess is good enough for him. That's Ultraman, but not the New 52 Superman. The fact she's a goddess is probably the last thing on the list of things that attracts him to her. I

Anonymous said...

Jay, I understand that you really like Superman/Wonder Woman and I'm trying to be respectful of that....but I think you are really missing the forrest through the trees here as to why this fundamentally changes the Superman mythos in a negative way.

You mention Ultraman--and it's true. Ultraman has been raised from birth to believe that "human women" are not appropriate companions/lovers. He's been raised to believe he's "above" them. It stands to reason then that our SUPERMAN would feel the exact opposite in the inversion of the mirrorworld and would feel MOST connected to human women.

The problem here is that DC has set up a narrative where they have argued that only Wonder Woman is "good enough" for Superman because she has physical power. The majority of the marketing campaign for this couple was rooted in very shallow things. Their extreme beauty. Their physical power.

Superman is the most powerful and arguably the most desirable man in the WORLD. Yes, it DOES send a message about who he is and what he believes depending on how he chooses at his mate.

Superman is supposed to be different than the average man. A literal "super" man. That means he's supposed to be the man who might fall in love with something less obvious. He may not choose the woman that the other men would choose bc he's different---he's going to look beyond and see what's inside.

When Superman loved Lois it was a commentary on who he was as a man. Lois wasn't the "obvious" choice but her power came from within. She was flawed and mortal but incredibly brave and powerful. He saw within her that which he loved about humans and she became an exmaple of how powerful humans could be. It was a deeply personal commentary on who Clark was as a man---the true melding of his alien heritage and his humanity as he loved Lois Lane as both hero and man.

It fundamentally changes the narrative about who Superman is if the person he chooses to love---when he could have ANYONE in the world---is the most "obvious" beautiful, perfect woman. A woman as beautiful and powerful as he is. A woman that frankly....looks like him...just as a woman. There is no mystery there. There is no challenge. There is nothing he has to look past. She's the most beautiful, powerful woman in the world. And it's the same for Wonder Woman. It says something about her too if the only man who can satisfy her romantically isn't even a human man. She came to the World of Man to save "men" and they weren't even good enough forher.

Look, I get that you like this but there are fundmental themes and symbols here that you are missing. This relationship changes Superman and wonder Woman as heroes and symbols of humility and hope and goodness in a way that I just do not support. This doesn't feel like a progressive narrative in the slightest---it feels regressive. It feels like a story being written to appeal to the most obvious male demo who just think Superman "deserves" the hottest, most powerful woman.

It's not beautiful. It's not moving. Not the way Superman's love for Lois Lane was. This relationship just does not work and I will be very, very glad when it's finally over. It's mind boggeling to me that so many fans really don't understand why it's so problematic on every level for the meaning of these characters.---Shades