Writer: Charles Soule
Artists: Tony S. Daniel, Others
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: September 17, 2014
Superman is actually two men: faux-human journalist Clark Kent and alien superhero Kal-El. We all know this. It’s been that way for more than 75 years. For almost all of those years, Lois Lane has been the Man of Steel’s sweetheart. His object of desire. And though it may have been Kal-El that originally wooed that ambitious reporter, it’s only Clark Kent who she could ever truly relate to her. She could never understand his Kryptonian-imbued power and his crushing responsibility to humanity. For 75 years, Clark Kent had a girlfriend, a fiancée and a wife, but what about Superman?
Superman/Wonder Woman rights a lot of wrongs that have irked me. For one, Lois Lane never felt like a complete character without Superman. For years, she was merely arm candy and only existed to be a romantic interest. Don’t believe me? There was literally a comic series called Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane. In modern comics that’s changed for the better. She’s fiercely independent and more interesting to read, but there’s still a lingering sense of narrative co-dependence.
Wonder Woman isn’t arm candy. In fact, I can’t think of another superhero who is the opposite of the phrase (maybe Batman). Writer Charles Soule and artist Tony S. Daniel tell a story that’s about Superman AND his New 52 romantic partner Wonder Woman — not the traditional Superman story that Lois Lane happens to be tangled up in — and the result is an incredibly fun read.
The book is more than an analysis of a relationship, though. Sure, it has its fair share of saccharin one liners — but hey, the two characters on the cover are in love. Leave ‘em alone. What I adored most about this book is Soule’s ability to reward the reader. If you haven’t read Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman or haven’t picked up a Superman issue lately, I highly recommend you do so before tackling this book. It’s not essential, but strongly encouraged. Soule does an amazing job incorporating both worlds into one title. Readers see all the great characters of the Greek pantheon while little references from both parent books provide enjoyable moments of fan service, and Superman/Wonder Woman Vol. 1 goes all out with Superman’s villains. The only person missing from this baddie lineup was probably Brainiac.
One of the best moments of the first few issues comes when Superman has an in-your-face dick measuring contest with Apollo. Yes, the Sun god. You probably already know how that fight ended, but it’s that flirtation between two worlds that so much fun to read. Pitting Wonder Woman’s cast of characters, who frankly sometimes feel like an island unto themselves in the DC Universe, against Superman and his not-so-friendly menagerie of villains works surprisingly well.
Aside from the various cameos and crossovers of the pair’s action/adventure exploits, it’s fair to say this is a superhero romance, and that is in no way a criticism. The book holds a depth between its two leads that never felt as apparent within Lois and Clark. The creators could have fallen into the trap of satisfying the facile plot threads of thousands of Clark Kent/Diana Prince fan-fic that undoubtedly exists, but Soule actually comments on the couple’s differing backgrounds and how their relationship relates to their responsibility. Also: Diana asks friends for advice on what to get Clark for Christmas, and Superman and Batman have the best talking-about-girls bro session in the pair’s shared history. Clark and Diana actually feel like a real couple, despite their uncommon circumstances. For a book that focuses so intently on one relationship, getting this simple dynamic right was absolutely necessary. And get it right it does.
Only a few times does Soule’s narrative stumble. Opening scenes would kick off issues in media res with little orientation, or some small sections felt unnatural in the overall flow of the story. These were brief hiccups and forced extraneous scenes, but these road bumps were hardly a distraction in the end.
As for art, Daniel (among others) completely draws the hell out of this book. Every page drips with detail, urging you — begging you — to turn the next page. Daniel especially shines when drawing our favorite Amazonian princess. She’s fierce, yet her movements show grace whereas Clark is more of a bruiser, classically untrained for battle. Daniel is quickly evolving into one of the greats, so expect greatness.
And, ultimately, that’s exactly what Soule and Daniel deliver for this entire book: an intricate, thrilling portrait of two characters whose appeal only grows in each other’s company.
Darren Orf is a comics contributor with Paste. You can find his ramblings on technology over at Gizmodo.