Today, Taylor and Scott are discussing Superman/Wonder Woman 4, originally released January 15th, 2013.
Taylor: When you’re Superman and/or Wonder Woman nothing is ever simple. This idea extends to basically every part of their lives, from their work as heroes all the way down to their most intimate experiences. Given the circumstances of their lives, it’s amazing that Clark and Diana have the stamina to maintain a romantic relationship. The two lovers had been blessed with keeping their relationship a secret from almost everyone they know, save a few confidants, but now their secret is out now and all that they have built together could potentially come toppling down under the weight of the world’s scrutiny. Issue 4 of Superman/Wonder Woman sees our favorite power couple split up by narrative space and the work of two distinct creative teams. The result is an issue that meditates on the desire to keep things simple while everything else becomes increasingly more complicated.
Thanks to Clark’s blog buddy, Cat, and an anonymous tipper, the word is out that Superman and Wonder Woman are an item. Naturally, this worries our titular heroes, so Clark does what any man would do: he goes to his fortress of solitude. While there, Zod, “breaks” out of prison and uses the Phantom Zone lens to bring his own boo, Faora, back from the prison dimension. While all of this is going down, Wonder Woman, who is of the deadlier species, beats up a bunch of robots to take out her frustration and decides she better spend some time back with her Amazons.
The most notable aspect of this issue is that it represents exactly the opposite of what Clark and Diana want in their lives: simplicity. Charles Soule achieves this feeling of complexity in a couple of different ways, the first of which is the most obvious. Midway through the issue the narrative jumps backwards in time and also changes artistic teams. The switch in the time frames is jarring and it’s a fairly good use of non-linear storytelling to create an unsettling feeling with the reader. You will remember that the last thing we see before the narrative jump is Zod clutching Faora after retrieving her from the Phantom zone.
Then all of a sudden a cut to a different, earlier scene! Previously Zod had freed all of the weird space monsters Superman had been housing and had blasted Supes with some heat rays, so the situation seems pretty dire. Just as you think you’re about to settle in for a romping issue where the action is the centerpiece, Soule pulls the rug out from under our feet. In a second we are whisked back in time and to Metropolis at the scene of Cat’s party. It’s a nice little trick and one that adds some complexity to what could have been an otherwise fairly standard plot line. Instead of happening at the end, the Climax of this issue happens at the midpoint. This causes the second half of the issue to kind of peter out to a trickle. It’s an unsatisfying feeling and I’m wondering if its intentional. Is Soule trying to make us feel as unsatisfied as Superman and Wonder Woman with these turn of events or is this just poor structure? Is this less simple narrative technique mirroring what’s happening in the plot? You be the judge, I suppose.
The change of artistic teams is an equally jarring effect midway through the issue, not least because the change goes unannounced. Again , this switch happens when Soule moves the action back a couple of hours or days, or who the hell knows how long. Perhaps the reason I found it jarring is that the change goes unannounced until it actually happens. Maybe I’m just spoiled by Marvel and my readings of A+X, but I’ve come to expect some sort of acknowledgment that a major shift in the creative tone will take place midway through an issue. I didn’t read anything about this issue before I picked it up, so I was caught unawares as to the change. Still, despite my gut instincts, I kind of liked the sudden switch. It refocused my attention on the issue and it made the non-linear story aspects of the issue really pop from the page. Of course, this matter is helped along by the capable work of Paulo Siqueira at the pencil, who penned this magnificent spread.
In a nice two pager, Siqueira gives us of the reaction of the entire world to some potentially (literally speaking) Earth shattering news. The decision to show a bunch of faces but only a few verbal reactions is a fantastic move. It lets Siqueira’s art tell the story and it’s always nice when the artist and writer seem to carry an equal load when it comes to the telling of a story. Additionally, this portrait is a nice parallel of the the embrace Zod and Faora share (picured above) later. This draws the two portions of the issue together in an unexpected and pleasant way.
In creating a drastic shift halfway through the issue Charels Soule is ramping up the action and making things seems more urgent for our heroes and their readership. I feel like it is a justifiable question to ask if this is intentional or not, however, given Soule’s work so far on this title, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. What about you, Scott? Are you a fan on the non-linear story and the switch in artistic talent? Does this make the issue far from simple or just kind of confusing?
Scott: I’m not sure I see why this needed to be a non-linear story. Saving Clark’s visit with Cat until the end of the issue makes sense if it reveals some information that would have made the Clark/Zod confrontation less suspenseful, but as far as I can tell it doesn’t. As it is, the structure of the issue is a little clunky. There’s something strange about having those two Fortress of Solitude scenes back-to-back. If the story were told linearly, with the Paulo Siqueira pages coming in between those two scenes, the issue would have flowed perfectly well.
You could easily make the argument that separating the issue like this make sense because the two halves of the story are so tonally and thematically different. But lots of comics juggle two major storylines at the same time. Separating them like this makes it feel like the two stories can’t coexist, like one is more important that the other. Really, it feels like the Superman/Wonder Woman romance is the backup for the General Zod story. It’s kind of a bummer, because Clark and Diana’s secret getting out is the major draw of the issue. Look at the cover!
It’s also kind of a bummer because Wonder Woman hardly factors into the first half of the issue. This is an absurdly Clark-heavy issue of Superman Wonder Woman. Diana plays a larger role in the second half, but even that is pretty Clark-dominated (although most of the dialogue revolves around their relationship, so I guess it’s “about” Wonder Woman even though her actual appearance is brief). I’d really like to see Soule feature the two characters more evenly. Superman doesn’t need another title to himself!
OK, that’s all the complaining I’m going to do. I enjoyed this issue. Honestly! While I don’t understand why he structured the issue the way he did, Soule’s writing is on point. I loved the montage of reactions to the news about the relationship. Finally some one kind of addressed the topic we’ve all been wondering about: if the two most powerful beings on Earth are together, what is their sex life like? Do they even have a sex life? Leave it to Lex Luthor’s prison guard pal to sum it up.
I guess so!
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