With her introduction into New 52 continuity, Charles Soule has leveled the playing field for deadly game of four-square between Superman, Wonder Woman, General Zod and Faora. But first things first: the art in this book was beautiful. Tony S. Daniel's art, in my opinion, has improved over the last four issues. The battle scenes between Wonder Woman and monster from Tartarus was fabulous. Though I still shudder at Superman's new costume, he did a good job of drawing it. The fight scenes were great throughout.
I was unfamiliar with events that led to Wonder Woman being the last Amazonian when Soule had her visit her home of Themiscira. I'll have to catch up with what led to this tragic estate for her mother and sisters. The color and art here were also well done. The deep browns of the landscape and the sight of Queen Hippolyta, her mother, turned to clay hearken to Wonder Woman's own classic origins. Soule captured Wonder Woman's inner conflict about her relationship with Superman here also. Like the Fortress of Solitude, Themiscira is shaping up to be that place for Princess Diana. She admits her own weaknesses and doubt about her and Clark. This is new territory for her. I'm looking forward to watching her wrestle with these thoughts and "why [she] should wonder about any man" (Soule, 2014).
I enjoyed Soule's dialogue between Superman and Batman when he communicated that two Kryptonians escaped his custody. When Bruce hears from Clark that he couldn't find Diana because of a recent...er..."discussion," this had me amused. Batman rightfully scolds the Man of Steel, "You two have a spat, and the world burns? How can you not be aware of the stakes of what you're doing" (Soule, 2014)? Of course he should be aware of the stakes, but don't lecture him right now Bruce. Classic.
I going to step up on to my soapbox again. Superman's masculinity and role continues to seemingly be redefined in relation to his relationship with Wonder Woman in this book. I enjoy Charles Soule's stories. He's a good writer. It seems as though his intent is to shed light on the contradictions prevalent in the treatment and characterization of strong, female superheroes in relationship to their male counterparts. The industry standard has been that male superheroes play an almost patriarchal and pivotal role in stories while female superheroes play second fiddle (unless of course it's her own solo series or a female team book). Understanding how unfair and unequal this is in practice, it makes sense that Soule would explore the nature of issues in a book like this one. It's pretty radical come to think of it. However, it's Superman: the most iconic patriarch and recognizably chivalrous superhero besides Captain "Freakin'" America.
I love Wonder Woman. I deeply appreciate what her history and role in society has done for millions of women and girls for more than half a century. However, don't meddle with the things that made Superman "Superman." Their relationship in this book is seemingly becoming less egalitarian (let alone never complementarian). What I mean is... Superman never leads Wonder Woman (nor will she ever allow a man to do so), but their "thing" is becoming less a relationship between powerful equals and more of one where Clark is the "weaker vessel." This is partly due to the fact that the New 52 Superman is less-experienced than the pre-Flashpoint version, and Wonder Woman seems to be the teacher in matters of war, strategy and tactics. She's been at this longer than he has. (Wow, I never thought that post-Crisis, pre-Infinite would become pre-Flashpoint...go figure). However, all of that "inexperience" colors their relationship in my opinion. Maybe Soule's job with this new narrative is to make me (a male reader) feel uncomfortable as well as to elevate a new standard for female superheroes. Mission accomplished.
Moreover, the cover art of issue no. 5 contradicts the very notions that I believe Soule is trying to get across. Though the image of Faora on the cover is in good taste, many comic book readers (especially female readers) tire of the typical, sexualized female back-side shot where the character awkwardly turns her eyes upon the beholder (the reader that is). Beauty? It's a great cover, but not sure if it's appropriate for this book. Now stepping down from my soapbox for a month or so until Doomsday comes.
If you're not bogged down by the sexual and gender politics presented in this series, "Superman Wonder Woman" still is an action-packed, narrative-driven comic book. The writing is strong and humorous. Issue no. 5 was a fun read, especially the battle between all four of them (until it got awkward). I give this issue four out of five stars.
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