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/Wonder Woman #29, the penultimate chapter of writer Peter J. Tomasi’s Super League story arc, was released last week. With Rebirth just around the corner, Tomasi and artist Jorge Jimenez had to kick The Final Days of Superman into high gear. ComiConverse’s Man of Steel reviewer, T. Kyle King, offers his thoughts on Fire Line.
With a trio of Supermen to feature and a myriad of puzzle pieces needing to fall into place, Tomasi tried to balance plot progression with pyrotechnic superheroics to set the stage for the grand finale. Will the last collapse of the New 52 universe generate a big bang explosive enough to launch the coming continuity?
Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman face off with the solar flare-powered super-duplicate at the White family farm in California. When Lois Lane ventures too close to the battlefield, the Action Ace asks the Caped Crusader to take the Daily Planet reporter out of danger while he and Diana face the glowing imposter.
Clark, Lois, and Jonathan White hide out in the pre-Flashpoint Metropolis Marvel’s mountain fortress, which his wife is disturbed to learn he had kept secret from her. At a D.E.O. peripheral base in National City, Supergirl learns of the metahuman energy spikes appearing in Salinas. As Kara flies off to assist her cousin, Kal-El’s golden doppelgänger takes to the air with the dying Last Son of Krypton in his grasp.
In an era of extreme fan reactions across the internet and over social media, it unfortunately is in vogue for devotees of superhero stories either to deify or to demonize creators and their creations. Tomasi continued unwittingly to challenge that paradigm in Superman/Wonder Woman #29 by crafting a story containing numerous elements that were both favorable and failures.
Jimenez was complicit in this inconsistency, producing visuals that varied widely in quality and in style. The artwork’s often angular and elongated aspect made the graphics reminiscent of the abstract expressionism Bill Sienkiewicz exhibited in The New Mutants. That look might have worked on a malleable character like Warlock, but, on the likes of Lois Lane, Superman, and Wonder Woman, it just appeared weird. Bold kinetic imagery was weakened by these unwelcome cartoonish characteristics, culminating in a final page on which Solar Flare Superman looked like the love child of The Fantastic Four’s Johnny Storm and the Snow Miser from The Year Without a Santa Claus.
Tomasi’s storytelling suffered from the same sorts of awkward oddities; just as the artwork aspired to be highly stylized yet descended into caricature, so, too, did the characterization. Tomasi displayed some deftness of touch in such subtleties as Lois White excusing Jon to go explore the fortress so she could speak privately with her husband, but Clark’s response — consisting of noncommittal platitudes and a ham-handed allusion to the Alamo — fell flat and failed to do justice to Dan Jurgens’s credible married couple.
The incoherent Alamo reference epitomized the curious quality of the writing. Some sentences strangely were finished on the far side of a page-turn reveal, not always by the same character who had begun speaking in the preceding panel. Supergirl, who previously flew off when the story no longer required her presence, is reinserted into the action on the flimsy pretext that the D.E.O. suddenly has noticed metahuman power surges in Salinas. If the D.E.O. hadn’t previously noticed such surges at the base from which Clark White had been conducting clandestine superheroics for years, what good is the D.E.O.? Rather than coming across as taciturn and pragmatic, Batman’s boorish behavior toward Lois Lane is merely nasty.
There are good moments sprinkled throughout Superman/Wonder Woman #29. The dying Man of Steel darts in front of Lois to save her from his delusional duplicate’s attack. Superman defiantly declares that “no one disgraces the ’S’ shield.” Rather than stewing over the Caped Crusader’s rudeness, Lois thinks quickly to find a swift solution to her predicament. Kal-El and Diana stand over the briefly spent Solar Flare Superman before he recharges, recalling a similar scene between Jim Kirk and Gary Mitchell in a classic Star Trek episode. Supergirl asserts herself calmly yet firmly when insisting upon being allowed to leave the D.E.O.
For all these fine snippets, though, Fire Line fails ever to come together cohesively. Seven issues into The Final Days of Superman, there is nothing like a “Super League” in sight, and the narrow focus of Superman/Wonder Woman #29 prevented any mention of critical events occurring in China. This issue featured a great deal of movement without ever producing significant progress.
Superman/Wonder Woman #29 wasn’t exactly bad, but it wasn’t particularly good, either. Despite its fiery title, this issue was neither hot nor cold, calling to mind the Bible verse about the proper reaction to lukewarmness.
What was your take on the seventh installment of The Final Days of Superman? J
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T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Despite having some nice moments, this issue suffered from inconsistencies in the writing and the artwork.