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.
MORE NEWS FROM THE WEB
DC Comics’ sweeping Truth storyline, centered around the public’s discovery of Clark Kent’s secret identity, continued in Superman/Wonder Woman #20.
The third chapter of Peter J. Tomasi’s and Doug Mahnke’s Dark Truth epic follows up on an uneven effort in the prior issue with one of the strongest installments of the overall arc.
Superman is in the Oval Office, but he finds himself face-to-face with Colonel Steve Trevor of the Advanced Research Group Uniting Super-Humans. Kent confronts Trevor over the national government’s reaction to the revelation of his true identity. After hearing Superman explain himself, President Barack Obama enters the room and speaks to the superhero personally.
The two powerful leaders convince one another of their respective good intentions just before they are attacked by the Parasite. Superman protects the president from their assailant, who was brought there from Task Force X by the White House chief of staff as a precaution. On President Obama’s orders, Colonel Trevor discloses the coordinates Kent has come to obtain.
Meanwhile, unknown to any of the heavy hitters in Washington, D.C., Wonder Woman has launched a frontal assault on the Salvation Technology Emergency Evaluation Laboratory in Manassas, Virginia. There she finds the Kents’ reconstructed house, the exhumed bodies stolen from the Smallville Cemetery, and Superman’s closest friends. Freeing the captives, Princess Diana asks each of them to provide his or her personal truth about Superman. After hearing from everyone else, the Amazon warrior turns at the tale’s end to the pivotal figure in the unfolding drama, Lois Lane.
Once again, the graphic artistry of Superman/Wonder Woman #20 is top-notch. Mahnke’s pencils are minutely detailed, and he approaches his subjects from a variety of visual angles to maintain interest even in the many portions of the story that depict largely static talking heads. It is difficult to draw familiar locations like the White House and famous figures like President Obama without accidentally lapsing into caricature, but Mahnke convincingly portrays them both with understated verisimilitude.
The power of Mahnke’s drawings is emphasized by the work of his collaborators. Jaime Mendoza’s and Sean Parsons’s inks make maximum use of the numerous shadows in a story that is dark both in title and in tone. Wil Quintana’s colors serve the additional function of keeping the multiple scene shifts distinct in an issue that tells two parallel tales in overlapping fashion.
All this visual artistry augments Tomasi’s excellent verbal craftsmanship. His careful plotting aids greatly in thematically unifying what has been a disjointed and confusing Truth storyline running in separate threads through four different publications. Likewise, Tomasi’s superb scripting explores matters in depth without sacrificing excitement. The larger arc’s titular focus on the truth is examined with exactitude, culminating in a surprise ending that reminds readers that Superman is not the only hero whose name appears on the cover who can claim truth as a longstanding story element.
The gold standard of symmetrical storytelling in superhero comics is, of course, the fifth issue of Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen. Superman/Wonder Woman #20 is by no means on that level, but the title characters’ parallel heroics mirror one another’s in exacting fashion. This issue begins and ends with full-page depictions of the two halves of the power couple engaged in confrontations; the Man of Steel and the Amazon Princess each face individuals with whom they have cooperated in the past, who have acted in the manner that seems best to them, and from whom they seek the truth.
Most notably, the first half of the issue shows Superman engaged in conversation and Wonder Woman taking action before their roles are reversed in the remaining pages. This arrangement keeps the story lively, constantly alternating adventure with reflection. After the last issue unconvincingly offered us an acquiescent Princess Diana and an unrestrained Clark Kent, Tomasi prudently opens this latest instalment with a thoughtful and persuasive Superman juxtaposed against an indomitable and confident Wonder Woman. When the tables later turn, the former becomes a man of action and the latter becomes a woman of wisdom in a manner that does justice to both superheroes.
As encouraging as it is to see Superman and Wonder Woman separately demonstrating might in a fight, the dense dialogue is where Tomasi’s writing truly shines. The Man of Steel at long last offers an explanation for why he chose to live a double life as Clark Kent, and, throughout the issue, Superman consistently sounds like Superman. Wonder Woman utters just 13 lines in 22 pages, and most of her words appear while the Amazon Princess herself is off-panel, but her economy of verbiage lends considerable power to the many questions she asks and the few statements she makes.
Similarly, keen insights are offered in brief answers given by Clark Kent’s closest companions. Expressing his willingness to take a bullet for Superman, Jimmy Olsen makes a nice allusion to the line in Superman #39 that the Man of Steel doesn’t “only step in front of guns because I’m bulletproof”. Some Smallville citizens speak, including Lana Lang and Clark’s delightful childhood teacher, interspersed amid observations from denizens of Metropolis. Perry White responds that he “felt like a fool” when he learned that one of his reporters was secretly Superman. The editor’s admission succinctly rebuts the insults heaped exclusively on Lois by insensitive fans who wonder why she, and she alone in the Daily Planet newsroom, could not see past the glasses.
Superman/Wonder Woman #20 is an exceptional contribution to the Truth story arc. By restoring my faith in the series’ creative team after the last issue did such disservice to the book’s two main characters, Peter J. Tomasi and Doug Mahnke have given me hope that the next installment will be equally effective in redeeming the character who has suffered the most in this storyline, Lois Lane.
What was your reaction to the newest issue of Superman/Wonder Woman?
Are you encouraged or enraged by the latest instalment of Truth?
Share your thoughts on this storyline by joining in the ComiConversation in the comments!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Superman/Wonder Woman #20 is an exceptional contribution to the Truth story arc.