This is a difficult issue to review. On one hand, this is one of my favorite titles in the New 52, partly because it uses the relationship between Superman and Wonder Woman as a backdrop to illustrate how these two characters are actually very different from each other, and yet they have a chemistry due to their nature as being outsiders from the average human. Superman is an alien and Wonder Woman is an Amazon, and currently also the God(dess) of War, and she’s actually a bit wiser and the more experienced warrior of the two. The scenes in this issue that focus on this dynamic between the two characters are the ones that shine and help keep this book floating near the top of the rest of the New 52 titles. Credit for this completely goes to writer Charles Soule and regular series artist Tony S. Daniel.
Sadly, this month many of the issues that plague DC’s New 52 infect this book, namely: multiple artists, awkward forced cross-overs, and out-of-order publishing.
In terms of the art this issue, there are three different pencillers and two different inkers in this 32-page issue. None of those artists is series regular Tony S. Daniel. Individually, each artist is fine – I’m particularly fond of Barry Kitson when he’s allowed to just do his thing. Unfortunately in this case, these three artistic styles try to mesh together, but fall a bit short of the mark, and none of them are a good match with the art that’s come before in this series. Some of the art uses a slightly exaggerated technique, particularly for the facial expressions, which doesn’t really fit with the other styles.
Last issue saw the big showdown between Superman and Wonder Woman versus Zod and Faora, with a cliff-hanger ending that could have been pretty strong and compelling had the story not specifically pointed out “This story happens between the current events in Wonder Woman.” So, as you’re reading the story, you know that the consequences of the main characters’ actions can’t be that bad. This issue was a chance to explore the more subtle psychographic and emotional aftermath between the characters, and while Charles Soule does his best to focus on that, there’s a very awkward and jarring transition to focus on Doomsday as a prelude to the upcoming cross-book arc starring this old 1990s supervillain who had killed Superman in previous continuity. Yes, Superman/Wonder Woman has made reference to Doomsday before, but here it just seems forced, as though the editors said “don’t worry about dealing with the aftermath of last issue – you need to focus on putting more Doomsday in this issue!” The problem is not helped at all with the art of the Doomsday pages, in which the character is seen far underwater. The scenes are very dark and Doomsday is not detailed enough where it’s clear what he’s doing. His face in particular is so confusing that it’s difficult to know what you’re looking at. On top of this, sometimes his eyes are red, sometimes they’re just empty black sockets, and sometimes they’re blue, which is extremely confusing because that ends up being the exact same color as all of the bubbles around him. Lastly, Doomsday is just not handled very well in this issue. There’s one scene in particular that defies logic, as the people who seem to have been responsible for his return, and therefore know his capabilities and powers, act in a supremely idiotic fashion and seem shocked by Doomsday’s responses.
The third problem with this issue is not really the fault of the creative team – at least, I think. The events in this issue actually take place before last week’s Action #30. Since that comic also has ties to the Doomed story line, the reading order becomes important. Of course the reader goes into the story knowing that Superman and Wonder Woman are going survive the events of last issue’s cliffhanger. But we want to know how they survived and how they chose to deal with the aftermath. That’s what this issue should be about, while also subtly teasing the introduction of Doomsday. Instead, Action #30 starts out with Clark being just fine and not even dealing with what happened with him and Diana, but there are some other references that are very confusing until one has read this issue.
Superman / Wonder Woman continues to be a bright spot in DC’s New 52. As mentioned, there are some really strong scenes involving the more “human” side of the relationship between Superman and Wonder Woman. In particular, there are some fun layouts at the back of the book involving Clark and Diana in civilian mode going on a date together to a dance club. These two pages showcase what is really great about this title. Unfortunately, they are bogged down by the forced inclusion of Doomsday and the disparate artistic styles of three pencillers. Hopefully next month’s installment will get back on track to show why this is not only one of the best depictions of Superman in the New 52, but also one of DC’s best comics period.