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 was de-powered by Truth, then he was re-energized by kryptonite, and now he’s headed for Rebirth. The Savage Dawn storyline that will close out the New 52 for the Man of Steel continued its forward momentum with two issues that were released on Wednesday, Superman/Wonder Woman #26 and Superman #49. ComiConverse’s mild-mannered Metropolis Marvel reporter, T. Kyle King, brings you a dual review.
Back-to-back chapters in the saga of Superman’s showdown with Vandal Savage hit the stands simultaneously, with Superman/Wonder Woman wordsmith Peter J. Tomasi and penciller Doug Mahnke presenting Skyfall, which was immediately followed up with Superman writer Gene Luen Yang’s and artist Jack Herbert’s Sacrifice.
Did the DC Comics double feature succeed?
Superman follows the Fortress of Solitude into space and attacks the Stormwatch Carrier when his Arctic Kryptonian home merges with Vandal Savage’s orbiting headquarters. Wonder Woman returns from Jupiter, where the Jovian moons have been realigned, and the Amazon Warrior joins the Man of Steel in a battle with Savage’s metahuman descendants. The Stormwatch Carrier now has enough energy to fuel the tractor beam that diverts toward Earth the comet from which Vandal acquired his immortality. The Stormwatch Carrier descends near Metropolis, burying Superman beneath it.
Trailed by her personal guardian Metallo, Lois Lane arrives at the scene just before Wonder Woman frees the Man of Steel. The comet enters Earth’s orbit and activates the hidden abilities of everyone carrying Savage’s genetic signature. As Vandal’s awakened descendants converge where the Stormwatch Carrier touched down, Mr. Terrific assembles a team of heroes, setting the stage for an epic showdown. Lois places herself in harm’s way to bring Metallo into the fray on the good guys’ side, and, when John Corben is fatally wounded, he urges Clark Kent to remove his kryptonite heart and use it to take the fight to the villains.
Because Superman/Wonder Woman #26 and Superman #49 dropped on the same day, fans of the Man of Steel were rewarded with what amounted to a 44-page giant edition. Spread over two issues, the artwork nevertheless meshed well, as Mahnke in Skyfall and Herbert in Sacrifice each participated in inking his own pencils, while Wil Quintana had a hand in coloring both issues. This helped provide a uniform look to the continuing story, augmented by the creepy green glow tracing the hero’s raised veins.
Like a snowball rolling down a mountainside, Savage Dawn has picked up so much speed and momentum that it careens along with reckless haste, crushing everything in its path. This gives Superman/Wonder Woman #26 letterer Rob Leigh and Superman #49 letterer Steve Wands an inordinate amount of guttural “ARRGH!”s and booming “KRAKOOM!”s with which to contend, but the headlong pace of the action leaves little room for nuance and nearly none for personality. This means that Yang’s subtle storytelling was the baby tossed out with the bathwater of Tomasi’s brooding Supes, but I suppose the more uplifting Superman/Wonder Woman of Skyfall ultimately was worth what had to be given up in the less layered Superman of Sacrifice.
The price of so much more action, unfortunately, was a lot less talk and even fewer explanations. Throughout both issues, the dialogue is either inscrutable or overly on the nose. When not giving sinister orders of the “Release the world engine!” variety, Savage speaks solely in sonorous platitudes. Tomasi’s Wonder Woman proposes as her plan of action: “Four fists are better than two!” Yang’s Metallo declines to leave the symbolism implicit, hammering home the point with an unchanging facial expression in a speech that begins forthrightly: “Superman, take my heart.”
Meanwhile, the wrapping up of Vandal Savage’s master plan leaves a bit to be desired as cohesive long-term premeditated schemes go. Having killed off three of the children with whom he initiated his fiendish plot, Vandal has to bring in his second-string offspring to keep the family business going, leaving lame latecomers like Salvaxe, the Puzzler, and the even more two-dimensional twins introduced and dispensed with in Superman/Wonder Woman #26 to fill the void. By now, we’re watching a Godfather sequel in which all Don Vito Corleone has left is a brood full of Fredos.
What with all the tractor beams and DNA signatures and grunts and punches and battles royale, it’s hard to find a spot to pause and ask questions, but the incongruities continue to accumulate.
Why casually kill off the son Savage went to such pains to save?
Didn’t Diana dispense with Salvaxe in an earlier issue?
If the passage of the comet empowers anyone sharing Vandal’s genetic signature, why weren’t the members of his immediate family affected when he first encountered the celestial wanderer?
What was the point of moving Jupiter’s moons?
If it was to make room for the comet to get through, wouldn’t increasing the gas giant’s mass have dragged the cosmic passerby toward the largest of the planets?
For that matter, what was the point of the weapons ring run by the state senator, the excavation of Soviet missiles in Siberia, or lulling Firestorm into a trap if the key to the whole plan was to locate and merge with the Fortress of Solitude?
Wouldn’t it have sufficed to have parked the Stormwatch Carrier in the thermosphere and kept an eye on Superman to see where he landed when he flew to the North Pole?
Wasn’t stripping the Man of Steel of his powers counterproductive to the whole enterprise if tracking down the Fortress was the goal all along?
At this point, Savage Dawn feels like a retrospective compilation of the greatest hits of Truth, which didn’t have that many hits. Superman #49 shows Lana Lang among the captured Justice Leaguers, as though having a childhood friendship with Clark Kent counted as a superpower capable of energizing whatever Nazi starships powered by artificial suns, solar flare-absorbing Quarmers, and black hole creatures ingesting the internal energy source of the Atomic Skull couldn’t.
Mr. Terrific makes another cameo, Haemosu foregoes Mythbrawl for a shot at the real thing, and Frankenstein shows up just long enough to remind us that the monster is “still being controlled by Wrath’s black goop”. I’m pretty sure it’s Black Mass, but I’m also pretty sure that it was sucked out of Frankenstein, unless he was one of the lucky folks singled out for excellence in the bombing of Metropolis, which no longer makes any sense now that the comet is highlighting the real rulers of the future. To have been thought through for thousands of years, Vandal’s plan seems remarkably haphazard and convoluted.
In the end, though, some nice touches shine through, particularly in Superman #49. The coming of the comet sets into motion a series of Biblical allusions. Vandal Savage has his progeny look skyward at the streaking source of his immortality, beckoning them as if to Bethlehem with the exhortation: “Follow the star and come to me!”
A couple of pages later, though, the villain’s thinking takes an Old Testament turn as he likens himself to Abraham, the father of many nations, when he gloats, “Offspring as numerous as the stars.” The descendant who mortally wounds Metallo later calls out, “Father! I crushed your enemy as a sacrifice to you!” Vandal addresses him as “my son”, pronounces him “worthy”, and invites him “into my kingdom!”
The highlight of these two issues, however, is the developing evolution of Clark’s relationships with Diana and Lois. In Superman/Wonder Woman #26, the title characters demonstrate their comfort with one another as teammates rather than soulmates in a simple exchange. “Miss me?” Diana asks upon returning from Jupiter. “Absolutely”, Superman answers before they get back to the business at hand.
In Superman #49, after both Diana and Clark shoot distant looks at the faraway Lois, the Daily Planet reporter saves the day by rushing onto the battlefield because she knows it is the only way she can get Metallo to help the Man of Steel. When Kent and Lane come face to face in the midst of the dueling metahumans, their verbal exchange is even more brief than Clark’s and Diana’s: “Hey”, he says; “Hey”, she replies. In his mind, though, Superman thinks what he should have been thinking all along: “Lois. She’s still looking out for me. Maybe she always was.”
Skyfall and Sacrifice together deliver a fast-paced and fun one-two punch, but Superman/Wonder Woman #26 and Superman #49 offer additional evidence that Savage Dawn is the denouement that proves Truth was less than the sum of its parts. None of it ultimately adds up, but Clark is back on friendly terms with Lois, Kal-El is back to being only on friendly terms with Diana, and Superman can fly. The restoration of the status quo probably is all the payoff we’re going to get at this point, but that is adequate, even if it is no more than that.
Did you enjoy DC Comics’ double delivery of Savage Dawn stories in Superman/Wonder Woman #26 and Superman #49?
Let us know in the comments below!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
These back-to-back chapters rush along at a frenzied pace, offering a lot of fun but not making much sense.