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
Superman has survived Truth, but its side effects still linger, and the newly vulnerable Man of Steel must rely upon others for assistance. In Superman/Wonder Woman #25, Princess Diana seeks the help of Artemis, Hephaestus, and other members of the pantheon to save the gravely injured Clark Kent. ComiConverse’s Metropolis Marvel correspondent, T. Kyle King, offers his thoughts on this latest issue.
Writer Peter J. Tomasi and penciller Doug Mahnke once more lead the creative team charting the adventures of DC Comics’ ultimate power couple, this month bringing us A God Somewhere, in which Diana calls upon Hermes and his coevals to heal the wounded Clark. Hades, however, has other ideas. . . .
Wonder Woman carries the unconscious Superman to Artemis, Eros, Hephaestus, Hermes, and Strife for their aid in saving his life, only to find them indifferent to her plight. Hades piques the gods’ interest by proposing to send Clark’s spiritual form through a series of challenges in separate realities created by the assembled divinities. If the Man of Tomorrow passes their tests, they will heal him.
Superman endures the experiences the gods have in store for him, making it through a hunt for a mysterious quarry, hostile encounters with his former friends from Smallville and Metropolis, a choice between escape and an inferno, and a confrontation with his own conflicted feelings for Diana. Ultimately, his injuries are mended, but the cure comes with a cost.
Though Superman/Wonder Woman #25 nominally qualifies as the continuation of the Savage Dawn saga begun in Superman Annual #3 and furthered in Action Comics #48, more than a hop, a skip, and a jump separate the end of Assault from the start of A God Somewhere. Consequently, while Tomasi authors, and Mahnke illustrates, an arresting opening scene for the story, the audience is left to wait in vain for explanations (or even acknowledgments) of the glaring gaps separating consecutive installments.
When last we saw Clark and Diana, they had been knocked unconscious by an impact with the streets of Metropolis. Superman was being killed slowly by the kryptonite-powered armor that temporarily restored a portion of his powers. Vandal Savage was waging an all-out assault on the Big Apricot, raining down Black Mass bombs upon the city as he siphoned off the last of the superhero powers needed to fuel his long-awaited endgame. Wonder Woman was out cold. Sometime between that issue and this, she ostensibly woke up, took the armor off of the Action Ace, and lit out for Mount Olympus. In the process, I guess she left a radioactive Metallo suit just sitting on a city street and abandoned the now utterly unprotected City of Tomorrow to whatever fate an immortal evil caveman with a spaceship had been plotting for several centuries. There are, in sum, overwhelming unanswered questions hanging over this issue, yet A God Somewhere ignores their existence entirely.
As we have come to expect from Superman/Wonder Woman, the artwork is strong. Mahnke’s detailed pencils are given definition by Jaime Mendoza’s, Jonathan Glapion’s, and Scott Hanna’s inks, while Wil Quintana’s colors continue to be a highlight of the series. From the marble of the Greek temple and the pantheon that resides within it to the menacing glow of Hephaestus’s molten mitts and Hades’s cranial candles to the disparate realities created in the gods’ minds’ eyes, Quintana uses hues to clarify character, establish mood, and set scenes.
The combined efforts of the graphic artists on Superman/Wonder Woman #25 are, as usual, effective and exceptional. Their collective handiwork is especially eye-catching in such sequences as the double-page spread at the outset and the full-page shot at the end, although Clark might want to consult a phlebologist about those alarmingly pronounced veins on his neck and arms.
Unfortunately, though, much of this issue takes place in a surreal dreamscape to which the near-photorealistic precision of Mahnke and his cohorts is ill suited. The intricate depictions of the gods and the hypnagogic image of the superhero’s spiritual avatar as half Superman and half Clark work well, but the pocket realities in which those imaginative figures are placed are too credible to be convincing.
Artemis’s hunt leads them through a cornfield that looks like a cornfield, Strife’s Daily Planet is merely a dingier duplicate of the real thing, Hephaestus’s spaceship in a volcano is built to strict Kryptonian specifications amid bubbling lava, and Eros’s statuary garden is all marble and flora. Sequences that should have sent Superman into Salvador Dali paintings to play the straight man in scenes directed by David Lynch were rendered purely literally instead, reducing the capably yet conventionally executed graphics to less than the sum of their parts.
Despite those pronounced problems, though, A God Somewhere was well crafted. Tomasi at long last has begun to deliver kinder and gentler – in short, heroic – versions of the Goddess of War and the Last Son of Krypton. Yes, they both still shout curse words impatiently through gritted teeth, but at least now their anger is intermittent and understandable rather than constant and unjustifiable. Superman’s stolid perseverance in the face of strange and shifting trials is convincingly true to the character, and the limitations of space necessitate that the tale cut to the chase as each challenge unfolds at a rapid pace.
Through a few simple actions and a handful of straightforward words, the Man of Steel reaffirms who he is without fanfare or extravagance. He proves to Artemis that Superman does not kill. He demonstrates to Strife that the Metropolis Marvel turns the other cheek rather than taking an eye for an eye. He shows Hephaestus that the Action Ace does not give up and run away, no matter how tough times get. He illustrates for Eros how completely the Man of Tomorrow cares, even if he does not always have the luxury of confessing the depth of his emotion. Throughout it all, despite being run through with a spear, pelted with bricks and bottles, doused with lava from erupting Mount Etna, shot at least seven times, and used as a pawn in a game callously played for the gods’ amusement, the Last Son of Krypton takes no action more aggressive than tackling the prey he has been told to slay and mistakenly believes is not human.
A God Somewhere has its problems, both in theory and in practice, but at the core of the story is a cleverly conceived restorative journey that shows an ethereal patchwork of superpowered alien and mild-mannered reporter for who Superman truly is. The cliffhanger ending promises the shocking conclusion will be continued in Superman #48, so the Man of Steel is not entirely clear of the shadows and into the light, but Superman/Wonder Woman #25 was another solid step in the correct direction.
It is, we might suppose, always darkest before Savage Dawn, but Superman fans would be well advised to train their eyes on the horizon, because day is breaking for the Man of Tomorrow, and A God Somewhere assures us that the hero is nearly here.
As you await the next chapter, are you more eagerly anticipating the culmination of Vandal Savage’s sinister master plan or the evidently impending return of Superman’s full powers? ComiConverse with us in the comments below!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Despite its flaws, this inventive story of Superman’s spiritual journey to recovery got to the heart of the character.