Given my many qualms about this series, I was expecting to be unimpressed by this first issue. However, given my love of Wonder Woman, I set my qualms aside in the hope that it would turn out to be a well done, fun book that I enjoyed. Turns out, neither happened. It wasn’t bad, but nor was it particularly good. While I liked a few things and others I didn’t care for, altogether it just felt bland to me. More on this momentarily, but first:
I am about to tell you about all of the action AND all of the romance in this new series!
You’ll know it all!
So if you want to read it yourself first, run away!
Providing both action and romance, an adventure on the high seas is intermingled with a deep conversation about Clark and Diana’s relationship in this first issue. Out on the ocean, a huge storm has kicked up, an airplane is in distress, and Doomsday is somehow involved. Meanwhile, during the date night these aquatic shenanigans interrupted, Clark and Diana talk about whether or not to keep their relationship secret. Clark likes the secrecy, Diana does not, and ultimately things appear to settle on the secrecy side before a move to the bedroom is postponed by the aforementioned oceanic disruption.
The action side of things is fine. Superman gets punched straight out of the ocean and through an airplane, Wonder Woman angrily dismantles the guns on a naval ship, and then Doomsday shows up and fights Wonder Woman for a bit. There’s no real explanation for the storm or Doomsday, but this is a set-up issue. I’m sure we’ll learn more about that next month. The action is nothing new or innovative, and they go a little hard with the splash pages and two-page spreads, but it’s not bad or anything. Standard superhero fare, really.
The relationship side of things didn’t work as well for me. I’m not a fan of the relationship in general because I just don’t find it interesting, and hearing them talk about it, Diana to a friend and then both Clark and Diana together, was kind of dull. I just have no investment in it, so their issues and insecurities surrounding the relationship don’t do much for me. The writing and art didn’t help either. Again, it’s not bad by any means, but it lacked spark. I wanted this book to sell me on this relationship, to show me what I’m missing in terms of why and how this is an interesting pairing, and I didn’t get that at all.
What’s worse, the way the relationship was discussed ultimately made me rather annoyed with both of them. The New 52 has set up a universe where superheroes aren’t particularly beloved, and they’re out saving the world while humanity is more afraid and wary than grateful. This can’t be fun, obviously, but Superman of all people should not get bogged down by this. He’s SUPERMAN. He should be able to let it go, and to understand the importance of rising above it.
Instead, he’s kind of antagonistic about it. When Diana mentions sharing the wonders of his Fortress of Solitude with the world, segueing into a discussion of sharing their relationship with the world as well, Clark wants none of it. He replies:
We give them everything. This is ours. At least for now.
There’s an irksome self-pity and self-aggrandizement in “We give them everything”, and a certain degree of entitlement in “This is ours”, like the world doesn’t deserve to know about his fortress or his relationship. They’re too good and special for “them.” To me, Superman is the last person in the universe who would have an us vs. them mentality when it comes to the rest of humanity, no matter how little he may be appreciated.
A similar frustration, and the us vs. them framework, show up again with Wonder Woman later in the issue. When the naval ship shoots down the plane, thinking that Superman and Wonder Woman had attacked it, she angrily tears the guns off the deck, yelling:
WHY? We try to help you, and you fire on us?
Frankly, the naval crew just saw Superman blast through an airplane. How were they to know he was punched out of the ocean by Doomsday? It’s a reasonable mistake to make. And yet there’s Wonder Woman losing her cool, furious at “them” for shooting at her and Superman. Who the missile wouldn’t even hurt, by the way. She’s a demigod and he’s the goddamn Man of Steel. They would be FINE. If she was mad that the pilots she rescued might have been injured, that would be understandable, but clearly that’s not the “us” she was referring to.
The rest of the issue was average, blandish superhero romance/adventure, but this antagonism towards humanity, this seeming inability to understand where they’re coming from and why they might be scared of superheroes, really rubbed me the wrong way. When Diana offered to train Clark in combat because he’s more a wrecking ball than a fighter with any sort of finesse, she said:
You have things to learn, and I’m just the woman to teach you.
Initially I read that as a reference not just to combat but to Clark’s relationship with humanity and penchant for keeping secrets, that Diana would help him open up and share more with the world. But then she flips out and starts wrecking a boat, furious at the stupid humans who dared misinterpret what was going on. I know it’s not a huge component of the book, and I’ve blathered on about it longer than it deserves, really, but I hate when superheroes are dicks. Both of them kind of were in this issue.
Of course, there’s much more going on in the book. We get a look at the supporting cast, starting with Cat Grant, Clark’s website pal. Clark Kent’s website is perhaps the least interesting Clark Kent story that’s ever been done (though on the plus side it did make me think of @CK1Blogs, an absolutely hilarious Twitter account), and the whole content/number of viewers discussion was just plain dull. Cat is pals with Aaron Lord, though, who I think is a new character. If he’s any relation to Max Lord, that could be interesting. In the old DC universe, Max Lord took over Superman’s mind so Wonder Woman killed him. In this universe, I have no idea what Max Lord has been up to, but perhaps some of the animosity will carry over.
What I did love was Diana’s supporting cast, an Amazon named Hessia who appears to be based in London. It’s great to have another Amazon around, and I’m curious to hear the story of why she’s not on Paradise Island and turned into a snake like the rest of her Amazon sisters. I think she could be a fun character, and I hope she gets more to do than dole out relationship advice to Diana.
All together, I feel pretty ambivalent about this book. Charles Soules’ writing was okay, but just okay. The pacing was sort of interesting, flipping back and forth in the story timeline and occasionally interweaving the date night/fight narratives. He didn’t sell me on the relationship, or even pique my interest in it a bit, but the story moved along.
The art was fine, with occasional flashes of impressive work and occasional duds. I don’t think that Tony S. Daniels quite has a handle on how he’s drawing Diana yet, and his work with her felt a little inconsistent, but that should come with time. He also got saddled with a lot of scenes with people just standing around talking at each other, and it’s hard to make that exciting. The action scenes were better, though they went to the splash page well a lot, and in close succession.
Overall, the issue added up to a fairly bland read for me. I was neither enthused or outraged, and everything balanced out into a neutral, meh sort of feeling. I hated the antagonism towards humanity and the us vs. them mentality, but I really like Hessia. The action scenes were mildly interesting, and the romance scenes were mildly dull. It all leveled out into an issue I neither cared for nor disliked. I’m really curious to hear what everyone else thought about it, so please let me know in the comments.