SUPERMAN WONDER WOMAN 1
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Tony Daniel
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
I learned one truism when I got married 13 years ago that I find holds water in about 90% of relationships, “Women marry men hoping they’ll change, men marry women hoping they won’t.”
I think Charles Soule agrees with me, because as perfect as Superman is, Wonder Woman is damned and determined to make him better. He’s powerful, but untrained. Good of heart, but unwise towards the world. He’s the greatest man to walk the earth, but needs the veil of mediocrity found in Clark Kent to honor his earth upbringing. These are the things Wonder Woman plans to fix. Honestly, I smelled wafts of an impending break-up between these two powerhouses more than I saw the buds of a relationship ready to flower. Because while men are capable of change, the process is slow and no matter how much we love, certain tenets of the self can not and should not be changed. Wanting to live a life of humility and simplicity is a much different personality trait than not hitting the laundry basket or leaving the toilet seat up. Hell, Clark isn’t even willing to show Wonder Woman his frosty bachelor pad much less clear a dresser drawer or make a giant pink key for her own entry.
This book is the deep emotional and character deep dive I’ve been begging for from books like JUSTICE LEAGUE. I get it, JUSTICE LEAGUE is an all-ages bombastic battering ram of conflict, to take a quiet respite like SUPERMAN WONDER WOMAN 1 portrays in its first issue would probably upset a lot of Fanbabies. Fangeezers though, who have been tempered by years of co-habitation with the gentler sex actually appreciate books where we see how this life of frenzy actually affects them as human beings.
Don’t think for a second this issue is without action. Soule’s pacing coupled with Daniel’s able art bops us back and forth between these discussions of self and the harrowing heroics of rescuing an entire naval battalion of naval forces from impending doom. While the issue starts with Wonder Woman getting in some gal talk during a sparring session with one of her fellow Gods and Clark trying to manage Kat Grant’s ambition for their Huffington Post knock off, Soule perpetually thrusts the book forward from earlier to now to show some great plane crashes and the complete destruction of a naval carrier.
The threat at first seems to merely be a nasty whirlpool created by some thermal dynamics at the bottom of the ocean. What causes that heat though, is a threat as old as Nirvana.
Doomsday is back folks and Daniel welcomes him with some massive scale carnage that will turn the stomach of even the most stalwart horror fans. I’m of two minds here, and part of my apprehension stems from New 52 continuity versus what we’ve known for years and the issue DOOMSDAY 1 during Villain’s Month.
I’ve never been clear on whether Superman has ever been fell by Doomsday’s massive meat hooks in New 52 context. The entire “origin” of Doomsday took place on Krypton as a young Kara is told of her Aunt’s battle against the creature with the help of Zod. However, the book of El also relays a prophecy of a day when Doomsday will return and kill the house’s greatest champion. During these scenes Superman has a mullet, which we all remember from the 90’s, and he looks much older than his New 52 visage. Who the hell had a mullet between 2006 and 2011 and didn’t live in an area still waiting for cable TV? I know, I know, comic time is it’s own beast. but at what point do we cry uncle from the confusion. Did the book of El tell of a time yet to come? Will mullets and perms be all the rage in 2014? It’s the problem that comes with trying to reboot, while still keeping pieces of your old boots on your feet.
Even though it has never been implicitly stated, I believe Superman does know Doomsday simply by a recognition of fear in this issue. I’ll also assume his death did take place between in the five year before dark time. It doesn’t jive with JUSTICE LEAGUE behavior in later arcs of the New 52 nor what actually happened during his death in 93 (that Justice League was not the new one by a long shot. I mean Booster Gold and Blue Beetle anyone?). All of this would sit better if the artist and DOOMSDAY 1 simply skipped the oh so 90s character renderings, but whoever said comics are for the hyper-literal (even though we all go there).
Misgivings and continuity nits aside, I’m happy with SUPERMAN WONDER WOMAN from a sheer content standpoint. I’m not happy about having to buy another book each month or the face FOREVER EVIL is completely ignored, but again that’s comics. I guess sometimes the needs of the one title, do outweigh the needs of the many.
Writers: Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Louise Simonson, Roger Stern
Artists: Jon Bogdanove, Tom Grummet, Jackson Guice, Dan Jurgens
reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
20 years. Wow.
Were Don McLean writing his homage to our collective demise, American Pie, in the 90s instead of the 70s, I have no doubt this cryptic poem of innocence lost would have reserved a verse for this now remastered DEATH OF SUPERMAN tome:
There is no rhyme or reason why
We fell our savior from the sky
Leaving little room for further grace.
Broken hearts and burning steel,
The culprit didn’t need revealed
Doomsday wore your very face
DEATH OF SUPERMAN not only ushered in the death of comics, or at the very least, crippling of the genre, it also reflected we will never again abide sacred calves. Blame Booth, blame Nixon, blame the loss of religion, blame your neighbor; we begged for the DEATH OF SUPERMAN because the virtues he stood for were no longer a reflection of ourselves. And what are comics, at least good comics, if not the hyperbole of our imagination grounded in reflective moments of the current human condition.
Now, the maggots that crawled from SUPERMAN’S carcass were splash pages without purpose, anatomical monstrosities, die-cut S shield covers, and polybags that now feel like my Grandmother’s skin after 20 years of storage. Again though, these trappings weren’t the often attributed 90’s death of comics, simply the last Hail Mary to keep a few extra zeroes on print runs.
DEATH OF SUPERMAN was the true event that put all comics on a respirator and feeding tube. Where else could you go from here? This mammoth storyline that crossed the multitude of SUPERMAN and JUSTICE LEAGUE titles was like a modern retelling of the bible. You had the ultimate fight for good and evil as the cacophony of colorfully clad disciples watched unable to deter destiny. It was a prophetic march that we all knew couldn’t last and in that knowledge we learned continuity was a mantra for a forgotten era. We also learned there is no such thing as consequence when billions of dollars in toys, movies and video game revenue rests on a hero’s shoulders. Death, true death, has no room for awakenings. Comic s has no tolerance for true death, at least in 1992 they didn’t.
It’s hard not to read this book and reflect on the aftermath. But there was no doubt it captured our hearts, minds and the news cycle at the time. The last point was a true rarity in the pre-Internet days when news was actually still a somewhat precious commodity and not vomited out on blogs and web pages en masse.
1992 was my senior year of High School. I was accepted into my 3 colleges of choice by October, so all I had left to do for the year was make lots of money at Merrill Lynch after school, buy weed with that money, get girls with that weed…and revel in comics. Back in those days we had to revel face-to-face, the comic store was a destination not a retail transaction. For hours, fanboys like myself would debate the virtues of comics with our predecessor fanmen. DEATH OF SUPERMAN kept us talking from Doomsdays’ first appearance out of the ground until the final panel of Kal in Lois’ arms. We were all mesmerized. Again, we knew even then it wouldn’t last, but the excitement of the event back when events weren’t a commodity made it a glorious time to be a collector. I didn’t realize how much the Internet has exponentially increased the quantity of comic conversations, but also exponentially decreased the quality of those interactions. It took me this reread to truly realize what made this series special.
Pacing! Plain and simple pacing. Doomsday wasn’t a stark reveal, like Monarch in ARMAGEDDON 2001. We also had no clue what was coming next. As Doomsdays visage became clearer, his swath of destruction across America became more brutal and bombastic. Starting with one armed tied behind his back, Doomsday became more than the bloke who killed SUPERMAN, he became the embodiment of fear for well over a year. In one page these artists and writers of yore told us everything we needed to know about this villain, as he first crushes a bird, then a tree, then a house and a family. Even for all of Darkseid’s evil ways, he would never sell out so-called “life” on Apokolips. Doomsday though, as the name implies, was hell bent on the death of everything. And he succeeded in spades.
I’m not a fan of nostalgia or lamenting remember when, I believe human evolution is a building experience that leverages the old and transforms it for the modern age. We’ve lost something since this time period though, and that something is called story. Writers words once flourished when the pacing didn’t have to meet the “Image” model of 3 panel pages and every other page splashes. Jurgens, Stern, Simonson…these folks delivered character moments that had impact despite their cramped panels. I was an even bigger fan of JLA during this time then Supes himself. Seeing Ice protect a family against Doomsday in a 9 panel page delivered more emotional impact than the entire first arc of the New 52 JUSTICE LEAGUE.
This might all sound like a now Fangeezers lament, but it’s truly not. I still love comics; I love the hyper detail that the new teams of artists deliver. But I will fight tooth and nail any fool who doesn’t say this story is impactful. Not only for the words on the page, but for the way it forever changed comics…and if I can be so bold the perception of the American dream.
Read DEATH OF SUPERMAN again to remember a time when stories truly surprised us before Internet spoilers ruined our sense of wonderment when we first opened a book. Read it for the first time to understand a forgotten craftsmanship in comics. Read it for the new coloring if you choose, I didn’t see a stark difference from my muddled memories. But read it, it’s important.