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.
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DC Comicsâ sweeping Truth storyline, centered around the publicâs discovery of Clark Kentâs secret identity, continued in Superman/Wonder Woman #20.
The third chapter of Peter J. Tomasiâs and Doug Mahnkeâs 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 governmentâs 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 Obamaâs 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 Kentsâ reconstructed house, the exhumed bodies stolen from the Smallville Cemetery, and Supermanâs 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 taleâs end to the pivotal figure in the unfolding drama, Lois Lane.
Once again, the graphic artistry of Superman/Wonder Woman #20 is top-notch. Mahnkeâs 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 Mahnkeâs drawings is emphasized by the work of his collaborators. Jaime Mendozaâs and Sean Parsonsâs inks make maximum use of the numerous shadows in a story that is dark both in title and in tone. Wil Quintanaâs 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 Tomasiâs 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, Tomasiâs superb scripting explores matters in depth without sacrificing excitement. The larger arcâs 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 Mooreâs and Dave Gibbonsâs Watchmen. Superman/Wonder Woman #20 is by no means on that level, but the title charactersâ parallel heroics mirror one anotherâs 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 Tomasiâs 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 Kentâs 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 doesnât âonly step in front of guns because Iâm bulletproofâ. Some Smallville citizens speak, including Lana Lang and Clarkâs delightful childhood teacher, interspersed amid observations from denizens of Metropolis. Perry White responds that he âfelt like a foolâ when he learned that one of his reporters was secretly Superman. The editorâs 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 seriesâ creative team after the last issue did such disservice to the bookâs 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?
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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.