Today, Taylor and Mikyzptlk are discussing Superman/Wonder Woman 3, originally released December 11th, 2013.
Taylor: The holidays are a strenuous time. For all of the good that comes with them (family, friends, food, secret trips to the store for booze) there’s a lot of hard work that comes with them too. Travel is difficult, parents ask awkward questions, and for a lot of people choosing gifts for those they care about is especially difficult. How will you know they’ll like it? Are you spending too much (or too little)? Does this gift sum up our relationship? You would think that for superheroes like Superman and Wonder Woman these daily worries of the common man would be of no concern. However, in the third issue of the series this proves untrue, as Wonder Woman and Superman continue to develop their relationship in a way that’s recognizably human. Oh, and they have to deal with a crossover from the Phantom Zone who possesses the power to kill Superman and enslave Earth. Just your average holiday gathering.
Superman is busy working off the high he got from taking a sun blast from Apollo when Batman calls because he’s watched Superman fly around the Earth 300 times. Turns out Supes has some worries about his relationship with Diana but the world’s greatest detective is there to offer some sound advice. Meanwhile, Diana is worried about what she’s going to buy Clark for Christmas. While this is happening, the Martian Manhunter and other agents of A.R.G.U.S. are busy trying to contain General Zod, who recently arrived on Earth from the Phantom Zone. Eventually Superman and Wonder Woman show up to lend a hand and they take Zod, who is oddly compliant, to the Fortress of Solitude for observation. There, while enjoying his gift from Diana, Clark realizes that Cat has spilled the beans about his and Wonder Woman’s relationship.
This issue pleased me as much as seeing a huge present under the tree with my name on it. I’ve gone ahead and thrown all of my hesitations about this series out the window after reading issue three, as it’s clear writer Charles Soule isn’t going to let this title be weighted down by its cultural baggage. One of the main reasons for this is that Soule has taken a character in Superman, who’ve I’ve never liked all that much, and made him interesting. Perhaps I haven’t given Supes a fair nod here, but in many ways I’ve always found him kind of boring, what with his being, well, super and all. I like my heroes flawed and with some dirt on hands. Usually, that’s hard to do with Superman, but in Superman/Wonder Woman we find him at his most vulnerable. This in turn makes Superman a human and intriguing character.
This vulnerability comes from an unlikely source. The love that Clark has for Diana is all too human in its crippling effect on the last son of Krypton. Superman feels confused and even somewhat scared when he considers his feelings, and because of this he’s become a little introspective. After being supercharged by Apollo, Superman is basically on a cocaine-like high. He doesn’t want Diana to see him in such a state because he’s fearful of what he might do while so charged. He also doesn’t want his problems (aka DOOMSDAY) becoming her problems. These are worries that every thoughtful person has when in a serious relationship and it’s enlightening to see Clark ponder them while sitting on the moon. What makes this scene particularly poignant is Batman’s assertion that despite being from another planet, Superman is just a regular Joe like you and I.
The scene serves to humanize Clark in wonderful way. Namely, he’s scared. Scared of what he’ll do while high on sunlight and scared of what being in a relationship with Diana means. While this isn’t a flaw or dirt on the cape of Superman, it is a chink in the blue and red armor. It makes us see him not as a super, but as a man.
Tony S. Daniel’s artwork goes a long way toward making this scene work even better. The panel where Superman is sitting on the moon looking at the Earth reminds us that he is the son of two worlds destined to always be split by the two.
While dwelling on Earthly problems, Superman is not actually on Earth. The poignancy of that fact is moving, and Daniel nails this feeling perfectly with this frame. It shows us this fundamental split in Superman’s life in a wonderfully clear way. Additionally, Daniel excels when showing Zod’s arrival on Earth.
The expression on Zod’s face as he soaks up the yellow sun captures perfectly that moment when you step out into the warm sun after being stuck indoors all day. It’s freedom, warmth, and invigoration all in one. In the case of Zod, this feeling must be multiplied by a magnitude of ten given he’s gaining super powers from the sun’s rays. The vulture flying across the sun is also a nice touch. Instead of a majestic eagle, Zod is greeted by a bird that while also gifted with flight, is better known as being a portent of death. Foreshadowing anyone?
Mikyzptlk, I really liked this issue, did you? I’m more excited by the appearance of Zod than Doomsday because it seems more likely that he’ll team up with Wonder Woman’s enemies to better challenge our heroes. Do you think that will happen? Now that the cat’s out of the bag about Clark and Diana’s relationship, do you think a rocky road lies ahead for this power couple?
Mikyzptlk: I think it will be a challenge for sure, and I mean, what’s a story without conflict right? I’m incredibly curious to see how Clark will react to this, as it is exactly what he did not want to see happen. What I love about this the most though is that Soule is making sure to introduce conflicts that affect the relationship of Diana and Clark, while also introducing conflicts that will affect them as Wonder Woman and Superman. Of course, I’ll be interested to see if and how these different conflicts begin to intertwine.
It’s funny Taylor, in my discussion of the recent issue of Action Comics, I also referred to Superman as a “regular joe.” Just like the writer of that book, Soule understands how to make the Man of Tomorrow relatable. Where Greg Pak is utilizing a bit of humor to get his point across, Soule is utilizing Clark’s relationship with Diana to get the job done.
I honestly cannot think of a better way to approach this book, as Soule has placed the focus firmly on exactly where it should be: the relationship between the titular characters. Soule is doing a masterful job in crafting this “romantic action” book. It’s truly amazing how easy he is making his job look too, as nothing feels forced in his storytelling and genre-mashing. Most importantly, Soule has finally convinced me that a Superman/Wonder Woman relationship can actually work.
We’ve talked about Soule’s examination of Superman in this issue, but what about Wonder Woman? We get a peek at Diana’s vulnerable side as well, as we see her struggle to come up with a Christmas gift idea for Clark.
I’m used to seeing Diana filled with self-assurance, as she claims victory in one supernatural adventure after another. Here though, we see her struggle with something so simple, sweet, and undeniably human. Who hasn’t struggled with finding that special someone the perfect gift?
The best action movies often give their audiences an emotional core to latch onto in order to connect us with all the pretty explosions on screen. Usually, that emotional core comes in the form of a romantic relationship. Soule definitely understands that, and he is using the relationship of these characters not only to connect his readers to the story, but also to further explore the characters themselves. To put it plainly, this is how it’s done people, and I can’t wait to see more.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?