Superman and Wonder Woman are two somewhat difficult characters to really understand. Sure, they each have an iconic look, and Tony S. Daniel along with the inking team of Matt Banning and Sandu Florea go above and beyond to make this a good looking book. But to really get behind the curtain to understand what it’s like to be an alien, or an Amazon Princess…that takes something special. Batman’s motivation for vengeance is clear and easy to identify with, and even Green Lantern takes the concept of wish fulfillment to its full extent by granting Hal Jordan (or any of the other Lanterns) with a ring that creates anything they want. Both of those are easy concepts to grasp.
For this reason, in my history of comics collecting, I’ve never been an avid reader of either Superman or Wonder Woman. I like them fine and I enjoy reading them in the context of a team-up story like Justice League. But something about reading solo stories for the characters never grabbed me. Certainly there have been exceptions, such as Morrison’s All Star Superman, but by and large, I’m just not a Superman or Wonder Woman “guy.”
When the Superman / Wonder Woman title was announced, I wasn’t very excited. It seemed like a quick cash grab from DC to capitalize on these two characters’ budding romance as shown in Justice League. As a fan of the DC universe, however, I grabbed the first issue to check it out, and was happy to have been proven wrong. I’ve been reading each issue ever since, and now count Superman / Wonder Woman among a trio of titles, including Greg Pak’s and Aaron Kuder’s Action, and Pak’s and Jae Lee’s Batman / Superman, that are helping transform me into a Superman fan.
Superman / Wonder Woman #6 is a stellar example of this revitalized Superman. Let’s take a look at the cover, featuring Superman and his partner (not “girlfriend” or some other such pedantic term) Wonder Woman facing down two of the strongest villains in the universe – Zod and his “subject,” Faora. The cover is perfectly balanced between the four characters and really illustrates how they are equally matched in nearly every way. The outcome of this fight can easily go either way, unlike many physical altercations in which Superman engages when it’s obvious that eventually he’s going to win. Superman himself says in this issue, “I am worried about the fight to come….”
Tony S. Daniel does some really great work in this issue, and it’s a large task he has to accomplish, as he’s required to illustrate alien Kryptonian designs side by side with mythological Greek culture, and brand new armored costume designs for the two main characters. The designs themselves are all really well done, especially some really interesting things that come out of Hephaestus’s workshop. Daniel also provides some really great layouts in this issue, with one particular page being done in silhouettes against a bright blue sky, with dramatic splashes of red, courtesy of colorist Tomeu Morey, for Superman’s cape and the Kryptonians’ heat vision.
As strong as the artwork is in this series, and it really is superb, what makes this comic work is the interaction between Superman and Wonder Woman. We get a slightly less experienced Superman who, true to form, wants to be “the hero” and do the right thing by protecting the woman he cares for. He questions whether his feelings for Diana are compromising his ability to protect everyone else. Diana is the more experienced, and dare I say more mature, partner in this relationship, and it’s fun to watch her take the leadership role to help Superman become the hero he’s meant to be. This entire dynamic is encapsulated in one short dramatic scene at the end of the issue when Clark expresses his feelings for Diana, and she acknowledges them as only the Princess of Themyscira could. It’s very reminiscent of the scene between Han and Leia toward the end of The Empire Strikes Back, and that’s one of the highest forms of compliment I can give.
My only complaint with this issue is from the standpoint of DC’s constantly fluctuating time frame in the New 52. There is a very powerful scene at the end of the issue that puts both main characters in danger, and it’s meant to be an emotional capstone to the Zod and Faora story arc. However, the drama is downplayed quite significantly when you read an editor’s note earlier in the issue that indicates that “this story takes place before the current events in Wonder Woman.” So, when we get to the end of the story, although the characters’ sacrifice still speaks to their overall nature as heroes, it loses most of its emotional punch when we already know that there are no long-term repercussions for them.
If, like me, you haven’t been following Superman due to his somewhat lackluster earlier stories in the New 52, you should definitely check out Superman / Wonder Woman #6. It’s a perfect blend of action, drama, and character development combined with some of the strongest art in the New 52. While this appears to be the end of the first story arc, it’s still a great example of how and why these two iconic characters work so well together.