Superman/Wonder Woman 8

superman wonder woman 8Today, Scott and Taylor are discussing Superman/Wonder Woman 8, originally released May 14th, 2014.

Scott: I just finished watching the first season of Broad City on Comedy Central, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s about two girls navigating life in their twenties in New York. Not a groundbreaking premise by any means, but executed better than most. For a series with two main characters, it strikes a rare balance where both stars carry the same amount of comedic and emotional responsibilities. The co-leads, Abby and Ilana, are equally compelling and equally frustrating as they deal with issues like finding a new apartment or fitting in at a restaurant that is decidedly fancier than they are. Yes, they talk about men, too, but relationship struggles do not define these characters or fuel the season’s story arc. It’s a refreshing look at two independent characters, who are women, leading equally important lives. When reading Superman/Wonder Woman, another series with co-leads, I can’t help but feel it lacks that distribution of importance. This issue further illustrates that Superman is the dominant figure in the series, while hinting that writer Charles Soule maybe wishes that weren’t the case.

After defeating Doomsday, Clark has gone into hiding. Diana is growing worried and looks for help from Clark’s friends, Cat Grant and Lois Lane, who agree that Clark has been acting strangely aggressive but don’t know where he’s gone. Diana finds Batman, who tells her that Clark’s blood sample shows that he was infected during the fight and is turning into another Doomsday. Diana finally goes to Clark’s apartment (last place you would ever look, right?) and finds out Batman is very right.

SuperdoomClark asks Diana to kill him before he completely loses control, but Diana pleads with him to fight the disease himself. The disease responds to Clark’s mind and disappears… for now.

Despite Clark’s extreme physical transformation, this issue is far more concerned with how the Doomsday infection has affected his mind, or rather how his mind has affected the disease. Clark is saying things he wouldn’t normally say — he’s being a douche, frankly — but the fact that the disease responds to his will suggests he might actually believe the things he’s saying. Lois equates her phone call from Clark to a drunk dial, and he does come off seeming like an angry drunk when talking to Diana. What sobriety conceals, alcohol reveals, the saying goes. The Doomsday infection could have a similar effect. I don’t believe Clark really thinks of Batman as a jealous wannabe, but there is something behind the accusation he levels at Diana.

Help me help youThis is representative of the characters, as Diana is the more independent/stubborn of the two, but it also feels like Soule speaking directly to Wonder Woman writer Brian Azzarello. Wonder Woman is a rarity within the DC Universe, a completely self-contained book that doesn’t participate in crossover events and hasn’t even addressed the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship. It’s easy to see how Soule and other Superman writers might feel like Azzarello doesn’t want their help. Like Superman, Soule must be wondering if he’s “not good enough” to enter Azzarello’s Wonder Woman world.

I’m inclined to agree with Azzarello’s decisions. Nothing against Soule — he’s one of the few writers I would trust to explore the Olympus side of Diana’s life — but Wonder Woman succeeds because of the blinders Azzarello wears. This issue is the third of in the Superman: Doomed event, all three of which were released on the same day, meaning that to understand the events of this issue you needed to buy and read both Doomed 1 and Action Comics 31 beforehand. That’s a lot to ask of readers — in terms of money and time — especially those who just want to read a new issue of Superman/Wonder Woman. Readers of Wonder Woman don’t have to worry about picking up other titles to understand what’s going on in the series.

I don’t want to shower Azzarello with too much praise, because I think his standoffishness is contributing to this title’s biggest problem: in line with the series as a whole, this issue is almost entirely about Superman. It reads like an exercise in how to fail the Bechdel Test. Diana talks to Cat about Clark, she talks to Lois about Clark, she talks to Bruce about Clark, and she talks to Clark about Clark. When Clarks wonders why Diana never asks for help, she doesn’t respond. She briefly displays her God of War powers on a soldier, but only because the soldier was hampering her ability to talk about Clark. Soule is somewhat hamstrung — he can’t delve any deeper into Diana’s personal life if Azzarello won’t play ball. Even so, he really needs to give Diana something to think about other than “her man”.

As part of the Doomed event, this issue holds up fine. The revelation that the disease responds to Clark’s will is significant, as it doesn’t completely remove the blame from him for saying nasty things to his friends. I also like how Tony Daniel teases Clark’s altered look without fully showing him until late in the book. But this issue, like the series as a whole, doesn’t do justice to Diana. Perhaps Soule is waiting for an invitation from Azzarello to make Wonder Woman interesting. What do you make of this issue, Taylor?

Taylor: Scott, it’s interesting you bring up the Bechdel Test. While I think it makes for a good gauge of our pop culture as a whole, when discussing a singular event, such as a movie or a comic, it’s much less effective. There are plenty of ways a piece of media can fail the Bechdel Test and still triumph in a number of other female friendly ways. That’s not to say it’s not accurate, but merely a statement of its use. It’s tempting to think that Superman/Wonder Woman would pass this test given how flyingly Wonder Woman has passed the test on multiple occasions, but sadly that’s not this case. In fact, one could argue that this series and, more specifically, this issue do much to take away any good will Diana’s solo run might have engendered in us.

While part of the reason for this certainly is due to Diana’s one track fascination with Clark, as you point out Scott, it also is due to the way Soule writes her in this issue. The issue is framed as being a detective story of sorts with Diana searching for Doomsday-Clark. Disregarding the suspense killing move of showing us this achievement right off the bat, this mission plays out poorly for Diana. She goes on a wild goose chase looking for her lover, the entire time asking all of his closest friends where he could be. Through it all, she never thinks to check his (Clark’s) own apartment. Eventually, she does figure this out, but only when a man (of the bat variety) gives her an assist.

Why Wonder About This WomanDespite her awesome powers, Wonder Woman overlooks one of the most obvious locations when searching for Clark. She explains away her lapse of judgment do to her one-track mind, which skirts on making Diana sound simple minded. The fact that a male character was the one to point out her shortcoming only makes the episode seem that much more odd and disturbing. Instead of making Wonder Woman a strong and independent woman, she’s reduced to having to rely on help to find her boyfriend. It’s not the most forward-thinking plot point to say the least.

While that event soured me on the this issue, it’s not the only thing I found dragging this issue down. While the mystery-un-mystery of where Superman is is being solved, the reader is subjected to a large amount of unneeded dialogue. Just look at how many speech balloons are on this single page:

Wonder WordyThere’s 22, not counting the ellipses. It’s not an insane amount but taken in context of the page the dominating feature becomes the dialogue as opposed to the art. While I appreciate that exposition sometimes is inevitable, I just wish it had been deployed more gracefully in than this issue. When you consider that there are a number of large and spacious panels later in the issue, one can’t help but wish that the 20 pages of this issue were all used more thoughtfully.

All of  this is to say maybe I don’t blame Azzarello for wanting to keep his Wonder Woman away from other DC events. When this series first began I was delighted and surprised by how thoughtful the first issues were. However, the last couple of months have given us some things which aren’t terribly impressive. If I were Azzarello, and had spent untold hours crafting a character like Wonder Woman, I too would be worried about letting her fall into the wrong hands.

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?

9 comments on “Superman/Wonder Woman 8

  1. Scott, Taylor, I can’t disagree with you guys about how this issue treated Diana, but at the same time, this title is ABOUT her relationship with Superman, AND vice versa, and from the start both characters have seemed obsessed with eachother because that’s what this title is all about. That said, this issue is part of a Superman crossover, so it does seem excessively stacked against Diana. The first arc did a better job representing both characters worlds equally, but it still felt like a more Superman story with Superman villains, so I hope the next storyline gives Diana her time in the sun.

    Also, I love, love, love Diana’s civilianwear in this issue. Classy stuff, Daniel.

    • Good point Spencer! Taken in that light, it is interesting to consider that this is a Superman story where Wonder Woman is the main character. That would suggest that Wonder Woman is more important that Superman – interesting. Maybe this issue isn’t as stacked as I once thought.

  2. Scott brings up an interesting point about how Wonder Woman, the character, is less-represented in the series by the same toke that Wonder Woman, the series, is less involved with this series. Obviously, this is all part of a SUPERMAN event, and not part of a WONDER WOMAN event. The very idea of a WW event seems silly – you can’t get much bigger or better storytelling than you find in her solo series. I wonder how/if the relationship will change when Azz and Chiang hand the reigns over in a few months.

    (That’ll obviously be a bummer. Even at best, if Superman / Wonder Woman gets a little bit better by Wonder Woman getting markedly worse, that’s hardly worth it.)

  3. Taylor, I’d argue that Wonder Woman isn’t supposed to be a better detective than Batman. Genders aside, he’s the world’s greatest detective. What Diana does get to the heart of better than Bruce is what is happening to Clark mentally and emotionally. We’ve praised her empathy over in her solo series, and we’re seeing that strength displayed very organically here.

    But I’m totally with you on the out-of-order chronology here. The mystery would have been more satisfying if we just saw the events as they occurred.

    • I guess the way I view it, if someone’s missing don’t you check their own home first thing? It just seems like a weird oversight in Diana’s thinking for her not to do that. Frankly, it makes her look dumb, which I find a bit angering since we all know the opposite couldn’t be more true.

      • I don’t think she views him as “Clark Kent” but as “Superman” which is kind of a problem most DC creatives have had since the New 52 has launched. Remember when Clark was trying to convince Diana that they should go out on more dates as civvies? I think she doesn’t think of them as their alter egos.

      • I understand where Patrick is coming from with the intent, but I think Taylor is right about the execution. That is, I understand why Soule would want to show Bruce as the better detective, but I think Diana would have checked his apartment. Her “I don’t think of him as Clark Kent” explanation doesn’t really hold much water, since she spent the entire rest of the issue checking on Clark’s friends and coworkers.

    • I’m surprised that nobody has mentioned the obvious thing to me – This Doomsday Event is pretty damn good. Doomed was a great read. Action was very good. This was also quite entertaining.

      I didn’t have a problem with Wonder Woman not thinking to look at Clark’s place. As someone who hasn’t read a single panel of this comic, it just showed me that Wonder Woman is dating Superman, not Clark Kent. She doesn’t think of his alter-ego. Her disguise while looking for him showed this as well (or is that really how they date when not Supered up? I hope not).

      Anyway, the new shop in town offers 20% off on new comics, so I bought all three of the Doomsday titles and really, really liked it. The art was great in both Action and Super/Wonder (it was decent in Doomed, but the climactic fight scene was VERY tough to follow visually), and the story has me completely hooked, even though I don’t read any Superman stuff.

      A month or two ago I read Death of Superman for the first time and thought it was pretty well done. This is a good tribute to that with a key enough difference that makes it quite compelling. The one thing ruining the drama is all of the ads for Superman 32 coming out that seem to act as if nothing serious happens at all.

      • Those persistent previews for Superman 32 are annoying. (And incidentally, doesn’t seem to put a lot of confidence in the current Superman creative team… you know, which still has to turn in their closing chapter of Doomed.)

        I’m also enjoying this event a H’el of a lot more than I had expected to. I loves me some Pak and Soule, but Lobdell has been fucking up Supes too long for my tastes. REGARDLESS, I really like seeing a more natural and effective means of putting the other heroes in a position where they have to fight Superman – which I can only assume is coming up next.

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