One of the biggest complaints about the nu52 version of Wonder Woman has been that she's not especially wondrous. In her own title, largely she plays second fiddle to others, whose help she always seems to need and who end up saving the day, while Wondy looks on bewildered, usually having learnt something very very important that requires her to apologise to someone, probably male. In other titles, she shows up and, with a few honourable exceptions (eg Supergirl #17), doesn't do very much either - was there much point to that Batwoman crossover a while back? I don't think so.
So when Superman/Wonder Woman was announced, there was a great deal of concern among fans, not just because of the title, that Wonder Woman would again be the B-team to a male character, an ancillary companion in need of constant rescuing by her male counterpart and whose mythos and personality would be subsumed under the banner of 'Superman's super squeeze'.
Now, five issues in, it's clear that these worries are largely unwarranted. Because, to pull a reverse-Kenobi on Wonder Woman fans, this is the comic book you've been looking for.
After last issue's disagreement following the world's discovery of their relationship, Diana's gone home to Paradise Island to have a confab with her petrified mother and serpentified sisters about whether Superman is a suitable companion for her.
However, she soon discovers that the gates of Hades that the Amazons were supposed to guard have come open and at least one thing has escaped.
Wondy's able to defeat it but has to use her unbreakable lasso to tie up the door. I wonder if that'll turn out to be mistake…
Meanwhile, back at the Fortress of Solitude, Superman is having to deal with not just a loose Zod and a bunch of his pets but the newly vivified Faora (you remember her from Man of Steel, don't you?).
Things don't go well for Supes, not having been trained in fighting but having to deal with not one but two equally super-powered soldiers.
Fortunately, Batman and Cyborg have put out a distress call to the one person in the world with the strength and skills to stop them.
After a bit of bickering between Superman and Wonder Woman about who should be doing what in the fight, Superman's inability first to hit a girl and then to fight properly result in his being taken prisoner. In return for Superman's safe return, Wonder Woman frees Faora and lets Zod and her go free.
Is it any good?
It's practically faultless, now easily the best superhero (and Wonder Woman) title on the DC newsstand - simple and direct but with depth, intelligence, good characterisation, plenty of hat tips to old school DC mythology to keep the fans happy, and a Wonder Woman who finally shows the character's potential in the nu-52. It's also beautifully illustrated by Tony Daniel.
Essentially the best bit about the title is its moments of characterisation, largely for Diana but also for Clark. We have the usual problem facing virtually every woman - will her mother approve of her new partner? - but writer Charles Soule shows how this problem is compounded on many levels for Diana (both textually and super-textually, given fan debate about the title and the relationship) because:
- She's a princess and her boyfriend grew up on a farm in Kansas.
- She's an Amazon and atypically, her choice of partner is male.
- She's the daughter of Zeus and a goddess and although Superman is godly, he's not a god.
- He has a dual identity, the Clark Kent side of which he can't share unless Diana hides who she is, too. And Amazons don't hide their lights under bushels.
Point four has the obvious subtext, of course, of should a woman be less than what she is and change who she is for her boyfriend, even one who's Superman? It'll be interesting to see what Soule's answer is, but I have confidence it'll be a good one.
We also learn along the way that Diana - who back in the good old days had the wisdom of Athena and learnt English very quickly…
…has now chosen to learn Kryptonian, an entirely dead language that isn't even Superman's first language, in order to appreciate his culture. Which is a nice, committed girlfriend touch and, of course, demonstrates how smart she (still) is.
More importantly, though, we learn the drawbacks of being the most powerful man on the planet - no one to playfight with or spar with when you're growing up or want to learn martial arts. The most powerful woman on the planet? Well, she's not only an Amazon warrior, she's been trained by the god of war himself* and that means she can take on two Kryptonians and not only fight smart but give them a thorough beating when her boyfriend discovers being able to punch quickly and very hard isn't quite enough. That gives us a very definite statement on Wonder Woman's importance in the DC Trinity and adds a little realism to the world of super-powered fights.
As well as all the main action, we get a side fight, a reminder of the pre-nu52 task of the Amazons (recently touched on in Batwoman #12), and a suggestion of new plot opportunities to come from whatever else escaped from under Paradise Island. What else is going to come up? Well, we'll have to wait and see. Because if you're not reading this yet, you're seriously missing out.
Injustice: Gods Among Us. Year Two #3
I should also point out that Wonder Woman popped up in the alternative universe of Injustice: Gods Among Us last week. That person who I thought was Wonder Woman in previous issues? Not actually her. No idea who it actually was - a stunt double? A mistake by the artist? Anyway, she's still in bed after being hit by that nuclear explosion back in year one. And Supes is by her side.
I'd say that so far, year two is proving considerably superior to year one, but with not much happening at the moment, it's hard to tell if this a fluke or not. Certainly, the writers are having great fun killing off superheroes, and if that's your thing, well this is the comic for you.
* Yes, yes, Athena would have been a better choice by Azzarello. Too late now though.