Superman and Wonder Woman are the New 52’s hottest couple, but does that make them the hottest title as well?
When Superman/Wonder Woman was first announced, many expressed legitimate concern over Wonder Woman’s potential relegation to the role of “Superman’s girlfriend”. This argument seemed somewhat alarmist, as few people expressed similar concerns over the release of the Batman/Superman earlier in the year, and Wonder Woman’s well-received solo title has continually painted her as an independent character. Indeed, as the only character to not be granted multiple titles, with Batman and Superman already leading four a piece, it was high time that the character began to branch out, even if it also increased Superman’s tally in the process.
Superman/Wonder Woman is about a relationship, but just not one that either character is defined by. Charles Soule introduces us to the duo entering combat as equals, a quippier dynamic that the tactiturn (and mortal) Batman could ever offer. When not in combat, Clark and Diana are depicted as individuals, Clark keeping his private life close to his chest despite constant teasing from Cat Grant, and Diana openly discussing Clark with her Amazonian sister Hessia. The dichotomy speaks volumes about their lives away from the capes, and the two would remain separate save for one key scene.
As Diana wonders at the gifts Clark has to offer the world, she recognises a raw strength that she could help refine. In one swish of a sword, Soule partially defines the dynamics of their relationship out of costume, as Diana says “You have things to learn, and I’m just the woman to teach you.” The same careful balance Soule gives to their relationship extends to the layout of this book, contrasting more tender moments of a recent past with the violent scraps of the here and now. It’s in this that some of the strain of this debut issue starts to show, recognising that a book simply about the growing romance between Clark and Diana isn’t enough to sustain an ongoing series. Demands of perceived audience expectation dictates that blood is let and battles are fought, and it is just a shame that the first one is with one of Superman’s deadliest foes, rather than a new common foe.
Tony S. Daniel brings a variety of styles to the issue, perhaps reflecting the two types of characters that take the lead. Coupled with Batt’s inks and Tomeu Morey’s colours, an almost ethereal opening gives way to more familiar action in the first and final acts of the book. A much softer focus is given to the relationship scenes, which is a welcome change to the more sterile light that most mainstream comics seem to favour. This tends towards the soap opera end of the scale when Clark and Diana are together, but there’s a contrasting visceral side to the imagery that presents as [spoilers] Wonder Woman faces down Doomsday.
It’s unclear how this fits, if at all, into the current Forever Evil storyline, and allusions to Wonder Woman’s recent trials and tribulations in her own title are assumed knowledge. However, unlike Batman/Superman, the new Superman/Wonder Woman has a clearer focus on how the relationship is going to be defined. The longevity of the approach is still questionable, but if DC continues to treat the two icons as characters, then there is potential for this to be one of the strongest titles featuring either of them.
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