Monday, 13 October 2014

Superman/Wonder Woman, Volume 1: Power Couple Review (Charles Soule, Tony Daniel)

This has to be some kind of record: New 52 Savage Hawkman shows up in this book and it DOESN’T end up sucking - what the hell is going on!? 

But I have to admit, I did like this book which surprised me because I read the monthlies and gave up after #3, disappointed. I didn’t think that the issues collected in a trade would work as well as they did so reading this book was a pleasant surprise. I guess some titles just read better in trade paperbacks than if you’re reading them month by month and vice versa. 

Superman and Wonder Woman are a secret couple for no good reason than to have this forbidden fruit angle that I suppose romantic readers will respond to. Then for no reason the Phantom Zone starts farting out Superman villains - first Doomsday, then Zod and Faora. Actually there is a reason given at the end but it’s pretty stupid. Thankfully the romance is put on hold while Superman and Wonder Woman fight back the Phantom Zone intruders.

While I generally liked most of what’s in this book, a few things bothered me. The main problem was keeping their relationship a secret - why? Well, apparently if the two ever broke up, there’d be mass devastation as one or both would go on a rampage. Hmm. Superman and Wonder Woman are GODS. Is it conceivable that they don’t react to things the same way petty humans do? Is it possible that if they ever broke up, nothing would happen - they would be mature enough to walk away as adults rather than throw a spat like a baby tossing its toys out of the pram? Or maybe they never break up - some people fall in love once and for life. 

But we’ve gotta have this secrecy subplot because of dummies projecting their own fears and shortcomings onto figures who are so far above them. And because we have to know: who leaked the shot of the two kissing?! I honestly don’t care and I really didn’t buy the hubbub over that pic in their world. Is it really that surprising that two god-like beings who’re both super-hot decide to bone? C’mon guys. 

In Power Couple, Charles Soule has created a very strong story that does sweep up the reader and carry them through to the end - you do want to know what happens next - but it fails in a couple of instances. The jumping-around style of narration is unnecessarily complex. We’re in the present, then the near past, then the future, then the past again, then the present, and so on. It’s not like you can’t follow it but it’s a very choppy way to write what is basically a straightforward story. 

And the story itself is fairly unmemorable. Superman and Wonder Woman fight another “power couple”, Zod and Faora, and win. Eh. It’s a bit thin, plotwise. But I get it, the book’s not really about plot so much as it is about character - and this is where Soule really succeeds. 

This book isn’t a Superman book with Wonder Woman as supporting character; it genuinely is a Superman/Wonder Woman book. We learn about Superman’s past and culture through Wonder Woman just like we learn about her background through Superman (admittedly though for more experienced DC comics readers, it’s all stuff you already know). Soule’s written a really decent Superman book and a really decent Wonder Woman book and then spliced the two together! 

That approach permeates the story so that Superman never dominates the fighting and isn’t in the spotlight doing the heroic act while Wonder Woman’s in the background. They both fight Doomsday. They both fight Zod and Faora. They both save cargo ships, planes and lives. And when it comes to the finale, the only way they can achieve victory is through being together. Besides a pants cameo from the New 52 JLA who get beaten pretty badly (which underlines how useless they are - I know, I’ve read their own title as well), the story is all Superman and Wonder Woman with no one else helping them out. 

You could look at the pairing and think of course DC would put the two together; they’re high profile characters who’re going to be really, really well known, even more so, when the DCU movies start coming out in just a couple years, so it’s worth pushing them to front and centre in as many comics as possible. But actually Charles Soule had a plan for them and it’s turned out to be anything but a cynical marketing ploy to shove the two together into an arbitrary title. 

Tony Daniel’s art surprised me too. I remember his work on the Batman books that spun out of Grant Morrison’s a few years ago, and the art was very much like Jim Lee’s (the less said about his writing, the better!). He hasn’t totally lost that look but in this book the lines are cleaner and leaner and the panels/pages are more dynamic. He’s gotten better as an artist and I don’t think I’ve seen better work from him before. His style definitely suits this modern, cinematic title with its hefty dose of splash pages, large panels, and BIG action. And, as a fan of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, I liked that Superman looked a lot like he did in that book post-nuke – it’s a nice nod. 

I didn’t love Power Couple partly for the reasons I mentioned earlier but also because for a book focused on two characters, I don’t think Soule really showed us anything new or insightful about them, either as individuals or as a couple. But, as light as it is, it’s still a solid superhero comic and entertaining to boot. And it ends really nicely with Clark and Diana dancing - woah, DC allowed their characters to have a little fun and smile for once! Superman/Wonder Woman, Volume 1: Power Couple is - shock! - a pretty good New 52 book! 

Looks like Hawkman played (a very ugly and hairy) cupid in this one! 

3.5 stars

Superman/Wonder Woman, Volume 1: Power Couple

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