T. Kyle King’s published work ranges from newspaper columns to film reviews and from short stories to law review articles. Most notably, he served as a site manager and staff writer at DawgSports.com, a daily weblog devoted to University of Georgia athletics, from 2006 to 2013, and he is the author of a book about the history of the college football rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Clemson Tigers published by Clemson University Digital Press in 2013. Kyle is a lifelong comic book fan whose thoughts on comic books previously have appeared at ComicsVerse, Progressive Boink, and the Superman Homepage. Kyle is a Superman guy.
DC Comics’ Truth story arc, in which Superman’s secret identity is revealed to the world, is a tale so big, it takes four titles to tell it.
Superman/Wonder Woman takes us through Clark Kent and Princess Diana’s investigation of mysterious disappearances in Smallville in the wake of the big breaking news. Superman/Wonder Woman #19 came out on July 15, but I must confess I just got around to reading it. In some ways, it was worth the wait — but only in some ways.
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Superman and Wonder Woman are where we left them previously, face to face with the Suicide Squad in the Smallville Cemetery. A moody Kryptonian and an overprotective Amazon take out their antagonists, but not without taking a few knocks in the process when Deadshot opens fire on the weakened Man of Steel with specially-manufactured armor-piercing shells.
The heroes retreat as the mysterious, but no longer faceless, villain behind the Suicide Squad’s assault gives the sinister command, “Initiate seizure protocol.” Diana binds Clark’s wounds while expressing her concerns, after which Superman insists she stay put while he heads to the White House. The issue ends with the Man of Tomorrow confronting the President of the United States in the Oval Office.
This issue is visually impressive. For a comic book whose first 14 pages depict virtually all the characters with their teeth gritted, there is a great deal of nuance to be found among the facial expressions. There also are some clever sight gags, such as the superimposition of Harley Quinn’s foregrounded face over a cemetery angel’s body in the background on the “Kirbyscope” double-page splash.
Doug Mahnke’s pencils are enhanced by Jaime Mendoza’s inks and Wil Quintana’s colours. The contrasts of shading and shadows with sunlight through the trees and vibrant primary colors make this issue pop. Quintana’s work, in particular, conveys Clark’s physical pain through deep purple bruises and Superman’s burning rage with glowing red eyes.
Unfortunately, Superman/Wonder Woman #19 looks better than it reads. From the first page, the dialogue from the contrived fight between the title characters and the Suicide Squad is forced, the issue does little to hasten the glacial pace of this strand of the Truth plotline, and the deceptive cover showing Harley Quinn jumping rope with the golden lasso of the fallen Wonder Woman makes it clear that the Squad’s inclusion primarily was for the purpose of capitalizing on the villains’ current high-profile popularity.
As with the subsequent Superman #42, though, these quibbles could have been overlooked had it not been for the overarching errors concerning the central characters. The title teammates simply are not recognizable in this issue as either Superman or Wonder Woman.
An understandably angry Superman is indiscriminately violent, bludgeoning Black Manta past the point of necessity after announcing, “You’re part of all this — which makes you eligible for a beating!” When Manta weakly whispers that this is “not exactly the Superman” with whom he is familiar, Clark shrugs it off with a curt: “Things change.”
Alone with Diana, his selfless expressions of concern for others are nullified by his immediate insistence that she not accompany him to Washington, D.C. “So that’s it,” she asks, “no discussion?” Superman replies by turning his back on her and answering over his shoulder, “I love you, but I’m going alone.” His only justification for this abrupt and dismissive behaviour is: “The repercussions of all this — has forced my hand.” One of the superpowers he has lost, apparently, is subject-verb agreement.
Wonder Woman fares even worse. Determined to protect the weakened Superman, Diana dispatches the bulk of the Suicide Squad, yet she carelessly fails to notice that Deadshot is playing possum. This inexplicable lapse by the Amazon warrior on heightened alert leads directly to Clark’s injuries. When she is tending to his wounds, Wonder Woman is timid and submissive, fretting over all the frightening possibilities without offering options and conceding every point rather than standing her ground.
With his powers decreased, this Superman has become not compassionate, but cruel, both to the foes he fights and to the woman he loves. When the need for her strength is greatest, this Wonder Woman has exhibited an uncharacteristic weakness, mentally on the battlefield and emotionally in her relationship. The title heroes of Superman/Wonder Woman #19 both were diminished by this issue. “Things change”, but this installment changed them for the worse.
Now it’s your turn.
Do you like the direction Superman/Wonder Woman is taking the ultimate power couple’s relationship?
Are you excited to see Kal-El’s confrontation with the Commander-in-Chief?
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T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.