Patrick: When all’s said and done, ‘Doomed’ will have made its way through four different series: Superman (before Johns takes it over next month), Action Comics, Batman / Superman (both of which are written by Greg Pak), and this series, Superman/Wonder Woman. The supporting casts featured in each chapter of this event vary a bit depending on the series — naturally, Wonder Woman and her supporting cast will feature more heavily here, just as Batman plays a bigger role in the series that bears his name. The slightly less visible connections come from what our authors are familiar with, or excited about writing about. Superman 31 found Super Doom trading blows with the Teen Titans, but only because they share a common writer: Scott Lobdell. Even Pak — who seems to be leading the charge here — has focused his issues on the Phantom Zone and Ghost Soldier and Mongul, all spun out of his own titles. The same things happens in this issue, as Super Doom gets a chance to beat down Soule’s other babies — Guy Gardner and the Red Lanterns. All of these developments are strange, and you can almost hear Lobdell, Pak and Soule glancing around the room, muttering “what else, what else, what else?” This reinforces their sadly generic vision for Man of Tomorrow.
As the Kryptonite smoke clears, Superman appears to be almost totally Doomified. Diana, now fearing for Clark’s physical well-being, enlists the help of Hessia, the Amazonian healer. Hessia suits up in some magical armor and confronts Super Doom. “But wait,” you and Diana say in unison, “the plan was to help Clark, not fight him.” At this point, Hessia has identified Doom as a disease to all life on Earth, her treatment is to beat the fuck out of it. There’s just enough Superman inside to keep him from fighting back — and thus keeping Hessia alive — until the moment she reveals that it was she who spilled the beans about the whole “Superman Hearts Wonder Woman 4-EVAR” story.
That’s too much for Clark, and his momentary loss of control gives Doomsday the opportunity to act. At least, I think that’s what’s happening here.
The text is pretty ambiguous — the only real hint we get here is that “My turn” in Doomsday’s voice over box. Previously, the issue pretty clearly creates a dialogue between both Supes and Doomsday, playing out in these graphically distinct voice over boxes. Now the question becomes: was Clark simply stunned by the betrayal and that caused him to break his concentration? Or did she genuinely hurt his feelings, so Superman willfully allowed Doomsday to take a swing? As much fun as it is to have Doomsday in Superman’s body, the thought that Supes might be harboring some of those more violent and emotional impulses is much more frightening. I find that second read to be much more compelling, even if it doesn’t totally jibe with what comes next.
Wonder Woman drags Superman up out of the atmosphere and closer to sunlight. That restores the balance a bit and Clark returns to his Supermanish self, suddenly a gentleman again, even going so far as to say he understands Hessia’s actions, while still keeping her secret from Diana. He’s immediately able to snap back into martyr mode, which suggests that we didn’t see Clark fly off the handle, we just saw Doomsday do it. This is reinforced when the Red Lanterns show up and plasma barf the shit out of him. Again, Superman is weakened and Doomsday emerges. Weirdly, Super Doom tosses his attackers down to Earth and beats a hasty retreat into space, while Diana has one of the more boring conversations with Guy Gardner I could image.
That scene is a weird little hiccup, and other than padding out the issue’s page count, I can’t really tell why it’s there. Effectively, Guy and the Reds slow Superman down for like 30 seconds. Maybe I’m asking for too much, and the watching Super Doom smack the shit out of various heroes is its own reward. Tony Daniel does render these battles in loving detail, and has a gift for monstrousness that the other artists on this event can’t quite match.
The earlier battle against Hessia is even better. That suit of armor is just incredible, and Daniel doesn’t mind warping the reality of plate mail to let her flip around like a damn ninja, swing that halberd/ax like it’s a lightsaber.
Drew, I kinda feel like most of Superman / Wonder Woman‘s run has been focused on the action beats, so maybe I’m expecting too much in this chapter of “Doomed.” If the point of this series, this event, or even this issue is to deliver the fireworks, well, you can’t really say it doesn’t deliver that. Still, I can’t help but feel like there was a missed opportunity for something interesting Clark characterization here. Also, given Pak and Soule’s other other series, who would you like to see Super Doom fight next? The Thunderbolts? Code Monkey?
Drew: I think Swamp Thing might actually be the most natural fit — if the mere presence of Doom-ified Superman is killing flora and fauna alike, you’d think there might be someone there to defend the flora. Of course, Alec kind of has his hands tied right now, and this event is already overstuffed to the point of muddiness, so perhaps its for the best.
I’m right with you on lamenting the missed opportunity for a real psychological look at what this transformation would be like for Clark. I mean, he’s fleeing the planet he loves in order to save it — shouldn’t the metaphysical manifestation of his psyche look a bit more emotive? Right now, he’s weighing in at Matrix Reloaded Keanu.
More importantly, Clark has an actual person to direct his love towards, but his goodbye to Diana is too abrupt to stick. I know it would be unfair to compare this issue to Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”, but this doesn’t even tilt at the emotions presented on the cover of that story’s trade collection. This issue fails to present any real sense of loss, making Clark’s sacrifice feel more like taking a sick day from work than a permanent goodbye to his entire life.
Without that emotional investment, this issue is left with pretty standard punch-em-up action, only I was decidedly less enamored of those fight sequences. Patrick refers to the action sequences as fireworks, and while I think the comparison to a non-narrative string of pretty colors is apt, I know that’s not entirely what he meant. But seriously, look at that double-page spread of SuperDoom fighting Hessia — any guesses as to the order of those panels? The layout fails to direct your eye in any meaningful way, leaving a chose-your-own-adventure-style sequence of randomly selected fight images. The silver lining is that the reading order doesn’t matter — there’s no storytelling here besides “they hit each other,” which comes across fine after only a panel or two.
But Patrick is right, the images themselves are pretty neat. I’m going to go ahead and chalk that up to Daniel’s stylistic debt to Jim Lee — he’s carefully studied how to craft cool panels at the expense of really developing as a storyteller. My LCS owner calls it “drawing cool,” and I think that’s the best way of putting it: the emphasis is placed on the coolness of the image, and less on its storytelling purpose.
Thematically, that may bring us back to the presence of the Red Lanterns here. It’s certainly “cool,” but I’m not sure I see the narrative necessity for their presence. If anything, adding more characters to the mix only muddies and emotional through-line. Diana and Guy share a nice moment talking about Clark, but the thought of the Red Lanterns intervening at this point only undermines the decisions Clark and Diana already made. A Red Lantern Doomsday does make some kind of sense, but honestly, I came to this event looking for a Superman story — Truth, Justice, the American Way — and I’m just not sure how any of this stuff fits. Maybe the “what else?” the writers can add is a little more Superman.
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