Review: Superman/Wonder Woman Vol. 2: War and Peace hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The same disclaimers I offered for Action Comics Vol. 6: Superdoom apply for Superman/Wonder Woman Vol. 2: War and Peace, that the entirety of both of those books are included in the Superman: Doomed collection. If your bookshelf can stand a volume of each series missing from the sequential numbering, Doomed offers a more complete story at the same or lesser price. Basically all a reader loses in foregoing War and Peace for Doomed is two Futures End tie-in issues (with the term "tie-in" used loosely) and I'd deem that a fair trade-off.

I've enjoyed recently a number of DC books by Charles Soule, notably his Red Lanterns and also the Superman/Wonder Woman book that preceded this one. I'm therefore inclined to give Soule a pass, though I'd note that of the bloated fifteen-plus-part "Doomed," it would seem Superman/Wonder Woman: War and Peace got stuck with a lot of the issues that simply recap events taking place in other chapters. That's another reason to read Doomed and not War and Peace, because a lot of what happens in Doomed happens in chapters other than these.

Left to his own devices, Soule has an epilogue issue here that's engaging and sweet and problematic in all the ways that the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship is, which further suggests that Soule's first Superman/Wonder Woman volume wasn't a fluke and rather "Doomed" just got in the way. As Futures End tie-ins, the two Futures End issues here are almost Elseworlds (and approaching, in their disconnectedness, almost nonsense), though Soule does build on the framework of Brian Azzarello's Wonder Woman in interesting ways.

[Review contains spoilers]

Writers Soule and Greg Pak split "Doomed" into a handful of mini-events, and of these it seems Superman/Wonder Woman often offers the second or third part. This makes for less dynamic reading than Action Comics Vol. 6: Superdoom, quite aside from trying to read five or six separate parts of a giant crossover as a cohesive piece. But the first "Doomed" chapter collected here, for instance, involves the Doomsday-virus-infected Superman mouthing off to Wonder Woman in Clark Kent's apartment interspersed with flashbacks to how Wonder Woman came to find him there. It might charitably be called a "mood piece," but really it's a whole issue of Clark and Diana in Clark's apartment that moves the story forward not at all. And War and Peace is relatively full of these -- Superdoom's fight with another Amazon that doesn't affect the story, an issue that mainly just checks in with the expansive cast, and so on.

That first "Doomed" issue, Superman/Wonder Woman #8, starts the book off on the wrong foot as it is. Diana arrives at Clark's apartment to find the Doomsday-ized Superman oddly transformed to a misogynist, which I never knew to be one of Doomsday's attributes (Superman opines on how he "should have known better" than "giving a girl a key" to his apartment, and then wonders if he and Diana "cannn ... have a little fun," creepy extra letters included).

We come to find that Diana went to Clark's office first to try to find him, which seems a bit of uncharacteristic desperation on Diana's part; Soule's positing that Diana doesn't think to check Clark's apartment until Batman suggests it because Diana focuses on Superman over Clark is clever on one hand, but also seems an equally uncharacteristic mistake on Diana's part on the other. And though artist Tony Daniel generally depicts Wonder Woman well, he has her costume awkwardly popping out of her trenchcoat in the apartment scene in a way that makes her look more stripper than God of War.

But, skipping all the madness in between, Soule gets it back on track in Superman/Wonder Woman #12, the "Doomed" aftermath issue "Metamorphosis." For one, after all the "Doomed" chaos, Superman is willing to kiss Wonder Woman before a stadium of people, letting go some of his earlier hesitation to make their relationship public as Diana wanted. And in the heat of anger, Diana admits she loves Clark, a callback to the last volume that Soule presents nicely subtly here. And in what is Soule's final Superman/Wonder Woman issue, there's a series of lovely flashbacks to key moments in this book's short history.

Of course, the issue turns on what's a ridiculously petty fight between Superman and Wonder Woman, in that he gave her a plant and she neglected to water it (and, this being comics, it then turned into a raging beast). It is really small, and that underscores the problem Soule has faced and any other writer will face, that to have Wonder Woman and Superman in a relationship is either to not be able to use all the normal relationship tropes like jealousy or insensitivity or such, or to end up portraying either Superman or Wonder Woman like melodramatic jerks. Soule in this instance is able to lay most of it at the feet of the goddess Strife, a well other writers now won't be able to drink from; it works and it doesn't in some of the same ways that made the earlier volume in this series equally fascinating.

Soule's Wonder Woman: Futures End issue (notably drawn by Rags Morales) involves Diana and a council of warriors besieged by the forces of the goddess Nemesis, but then Superman arrives and it's all revealed to be an illusion in Superman/Wonder Woman: Futures End. That latter issue, also notably, is drawn by Bart Sears, but it's problematic to say the least that the entire first chapter just didn't actually happen; also the Superman here is "our" Superman, brought forward in time five years, a fact quickly glossed over and also I have no idea how or if this actually coincides with Futures End at all. But to Soule's credit, his Wonder Woman has talked more than Azzarello or Meredith Finch's so far about what it means to be the God of War and how Diana wants to redefine and possibly lessen war in the world; the conclusion in which Diana becomes the God of Peace, hurried as it is, seems like maybe where Azzarello's story ought have been headed all along.

I am remiss in not yet mentioning that Charles Soule's "Doomed" stories in Superman/Wonder Woman Vol. 2: War and Peace does include the first-ever (in this continuity) meeting of Wonder Woman and Red Lantern Guy Gardner (piggybacking on the Guy/Superman meeting in Red Lanterns Vol. 5: Atrocities). Guy and Diana's encounter is brief, but it's another example of Soule writing a tough but stand-up Guy Gardner. That reminds me how much I like Soule's Red Lanterns, which is probably a handy reminder at the end of this Superman/Wonder Woman book. I don't think "Doomed" acquit any of its crossover titles well, and in all I'd like to see the Superman books, maybe incongruously, stop trying to offer blockbuster mega-crossovers and focus on smaller one-or-two part stories instead, of the kind that served the "Triangle Titles" so well back in the "golden age."
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