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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Superman saw his powers diminished and his secret identity revealed in Truth, but, as DC Comics’ Justice arc moves toward its conclusion, the Man of Steel is closing in on the conspiracy behind his downfall. ComiConverse’s Superman writer, T. Kyle King, takes a look at the latest chapter, which debuted this week in Superman/Wonder Woman #24.
Peter J. Tomasi wrote the words and Doug Mahnke supplied the layouts for Power Hungry, in which Clark Kent and Princess Diana confront the Angle Man in the villain’s lair.
Will even the unwitting assistance of the Parasite be enough to enable the power couple to prevail?
Wonder Woman has been ensnared in the Angle Man’s robot exoskeleton, which the villain is using to batter Superman senseless while Clark attempts to free Diana. After the Action Ace has been rendered unconscious and the Parasite has gorged himself on the black hole beings’ energy, Angelo Bend explains his plan to use Firestorm’s nuclear power as the trigger for his absorption of the energy he has been siphoning secretly from Vandal Savage’s stored supply.
When Bend enters the water to begin the process, the trapped Diana exhorts Clark to awaken and fight back. The Man of Steel breaks free and dives in after the Angle Man, pulling the Parasite underwater with him. Superman short-circuits the absorption process by throwing the Parasite into the black hole opening around Angelo. As the island is destroyed, the Justice League teammates rescue Firestorm and return the captured criminals to custody.
Over the course of Justice, Superman/Wonder Woman has been the weakest of the four books involved in the arc, but the series’ strongest element has been Mahnke’s artwork. In Power Hungry, Mahnke handled the layouts, leaving the rest of the graphics to be split between two pencillers and among four inkers. This division of labor produces occasional incongruities, particularly with regard to Clark’s facial features, but Wil Quintana’s consistently vibrant colors tie the imagery together in an action-packed issue.
In recent months, Tomasi’s portrayals of both the Man of Steel and the Amazon Warrior have been off-target to the point of being off-putting, but he manages to bring both heroes back around in the midst of this concluding crisis. Despite being held immobile in the Angle Man’s oversized robot, Wonder Woman continues to use her wits and her words to work toward a solution, and Superman fights to free her with a determination born of courage and caring rather than anger.
After all the emotional coolness and physical cruelty that brought the two title characters to this point, it is refreshing to see Diana devote her strength to keeping Clark from harm and Superman refuse to surrender when attempting to rescue her from Angelo’s clutches. Neither of them succeeds, at least in the short run, but at least their heads and hearts are in the right places for the first time in far too long. When the Amazon Princess exhorts the Last Son of Krypton, “Power or no power — you’re still Superman,” we believe her.
Power Hungry has fewer loose ends to tie up than the concluding installments of the other Justice storylines, so Superman/Wonder Woman #24 moves quickly but doesn’t seem rushed. Rather, the rapid pace at which events unfold feels natural, not forced. As the Angle Man’s erratic energy discharges begin tearing his island fortress apart, the protagonists instinctively act heroically: Wonder Woman lassos the criminals, Superman snags Firestorm and the Parasite, and the Justice League duo uses teamwork to save the lives of all involved, including Angelo Bend.
Though they (and we) both know their romantic relationship (mercifully) is ending, Clark and Diana carefully avoid any interpersonal awkwardness and maturely acknowledge that they “make a good team.” Perhaps because Power Hungry is a fairly straightforward action adventure in which roughly two-thirds of the tale’s 22 pages are spent either in fight or in flight, Superman/Wonder Woman #24 has no time to waste on amorality, aloofness, and angst, and this issue is much the better for it.
The only even remotely objectionable moment in the story comes when the Man of Steel admits apologetically that he deceived the Parasite when bargaining with the villain for his assistance; instead of letting the energy leech go free, Clark intends to return him to Belle Reve. “You’re a black-hearted liar,” the Parasite grouses to the Kryptonian.
“At the moment,” Superman admits with what appears to be genuine regret, “unfortunately, yes.” “And you’re a known murderer,” Wonder Woman reminds the Parasite, “so shut up and sit down.” This exchange is accomplished without anyone being bound, beaten, or snarled at with a sneer, so, as ethical lapses go, this one was more than tolerable, in light of what has gone before.
By finally making the good guys good, Tomasi managed to reveal a reality kept obscured by the outrageous elements that made earlier issues in this series so loathsome: Angelo Bend is an effectively crafted bad guy. His oily shrewdness comes through in his condescending confession to Wonder Woman once he thinks he’s won, and the underwater sequences unveiling the culmination and collapse of his diabolical designs are depicted in some of the best artwork in the book. It’s too bad the Angle Man didn’t come closer to getting the better of his exchange with Vandal Savage in their closing colloquy at the end of the issue.
Even so, though, Superman/Wonder Woman #24 is the best installment of this series in several months, and it finally brings Peter J. Tomasi’s portrayal of the Man of Steel more in line with the improved version being provided in stories penned by Greg Pak and Gene Luen Yang. As Justice comes to a close, DC at long last appears prepared to do justice to the Man of Tomorrow.
That’s enough of what I think, though. ComiConverse with us by letting us know what you think in the comments below, and I’ll be back soon with a review of the newly released Superman Annual #3!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
After some of the worst issues in the Justice arc, this story showed long overdue improvement.