By: Charles Soule (story), Tony S. Daniel (pencils), Batt & Sandu Florea (inks), Tomev Morey (colors)
The Story: Generally, it’s best to say, “I love you,” when you’re not about to die.
The Review: Of all the complaints about the Superman-Wonder Woman relationship, the one that’s been around the longest, and the most legitimate, is the one pointing out the lack of genuine passion between the characters. No one can deny that you’d have to be a fool to turn down a tryst with Wonder Woman—or Superman, for that matter—should the opportunity present itself, but you can’t expect them to conform to traditional notions of romance.
In fact, the more you adhere to those notions, the stranger the relationship appears. Diana concludes, “We are each other’s shelter from the storm,” which is a very bold sentiment, coming from her, and a very unbelievable one if the metaphor is taken in strictly emotional terms. But what Diana really seems to be referring to is the thing that’s foremost in their minds: the Work. It’s hard to see the passion between them when they treat it as secondary to their costumed duties. Indeed, for all the tension they’ve experienced in the last few issues, Diana dismisses it to focus on the task at hand: “Enough of this. We aren’t children, and there’s work to be done.”
Clark is no better. As concerned as he is with his feelings for Diana, his concern is mostly in regards to how it affects how he operates as a superhero. “Do you think we were better—at doing the work—the real work—before we were together?” he asks.
“If I thought that,” Diana replies, “we wouldn’t be together.” It’s meant to be reassuring, but it also not-so-subtly exposes where her priorities lie. But you know what? You wouldn’t have it any other way, especially when it’s the warrior, not the romantic, that’s most attractive about her. Without question, her finest moments are when she’s fearlessly, confidently confronting the enemy, especially the ones that make Superman wary. “You are clearly a soldier—you trained for war,” she tells Faora, “But I was trained by War himself.”
These are easy scenes to believe in and enjoy because they fit so well with what we already know about Diana (and Clark, as the case may be). In contrast, to make our couple’s displays of love work, Soule has to go bigger, louder, downright nuclear. Only by throwing our heroes into a vault, beaten nearly to death, with doom around and above them, does Soule achieve some romantic tragedy reminiscent of Aida. But even here, their interaction bears more fruit for their vocational than romantic partnership. Putting Clark’s microscopic vision and her atom-cutting sword together, Diana says, “We could not do this apart. We are…better…this way.”
As you can well imagine, for Diana and Clark to land in such a dire situation, some fairly gnarly circumstances have to be in play. And this, more than anything to do with the stars’ relationship, is where Soule is consistently strong. If you’re going to put two of your biggest icons in one book, that book has to have double the fantasy, no? Soule comes pretty close: magical armor that absorbs and reflects the opponent’s strenght; an invisible “chariot” that defies even Kryptonian senses;* power-ups from the gods; unleashing an entire Warworld from the Phantom Zone.** It’s exactly the crazy, near over-the-top material you expect from a series like this.
Daniel’s art is eminently capable of rendering all this with supermodel looks and the right degree of realism to keep the story from stretching your belief into the stratosphere. Of course, to keep Soule’s script on track, he has to cheat a little, turning Clark, Diana, Zod, and Faora’s battle into a page of grappling of silhouettes (their second battle is cut out entirely), which inevitably dampens its epic quality. But overall, the action is furious and calculated, fitting for the ultra-powerful, ultra-competent players.
Conclusion: While the principal relationship is still a little hard to buy into, the rest of the issue is as bold and action-packed as you can hope for.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * I’m happy to see that the updated invisible jet—I mean, chariot—actually conceals the pilot and passengers. I always thought it was incredibly stupid for the jet itself to be invisible, but you could see Diana flying the thing.
** I’m glad to see Batman/Superman Annual #1 gave Soule something fairly grisly to unleash on the other power couple in the DCU.