Written by: Peter J. Tomasi
Art by: Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza, Jonathan Glapion, Scott Hannah, Wil Quintana and Rob Leigh
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: January 20, 2016
I don't know why I always end up doing this, but I always seem to use this opening paragraph to defend my love of this book. Well, maybe "love" is a bit too strong a word, but Wonder Woman, Superman and myself like each other a whole lot and keep flirting with the idea of taking it to the next level. However, just when I'm about to make a commitment, something always comes up and this time it was the Truth storyline. It's actually a shame because Clark losing his powers (kind of) could have been a great way to show fans that DC's most powerful power couple could get through any and all trouble and while Wonder Woman came out looking good, Superman has been a jerk. A big, selfish jerk. In fact, Superman dumped Wonder Woman a couple issues ago and it really has me worried about the future of this title. I'm not here to talk about the future, I'm here to talk about this issue and that's what I'm going to do. So here goes...
If you haven't been reading all the Superman books right now, you probably were lost when the issue opened. Diana is carrying a beat up Clark and presenting him to a select number of Olympian gods, begging for their help. To catch you up, Clark was the man who fell to Earth at the end of Action Comics #48 and while the Metallo suit he was wearing gave him back the semblance of some of his powers, it couldn't help a guy who was literally a flesh and blood meteorite. So, with Clark teetering between life and death, he needs some divine intervention.
One of the things that really drew me to this book when it started was how well it told a new story without ignoring what was happening in each of he characters' solo books. It has gotten away from that lately, but this opener brought it back in spades. We get some familiar faces and it all felt right, especially when they agree to help heal Clark...with a twist. Superman will have to prove his worth in a series of tests. Damn those gods, they never make it easy!
First up is Artemis and it's no surprise that her test involves a hunt. They are hunting the most dangerous game there is (her words, not mine) and while that is indeed "man", it's the identity of the man that makes it so cool. This leads right into Strife's test and I was struck with the feeling that this issue is more Twilight Zone than any Superman book I've read.
With Strife, Superman has to walk among those he cares most for as they hurl insults (and much more) at him. Strife actually thought that Superman would start snapping necks, but that really felt off. While I told you in my introduction that Superman has been a jerk, he hasn't been that bad.
Next up is Hephaestus and the test here is Superman deciding if he wants to stay on Earth or go somewhere else that would appreciate him more. I really liked the concept of this test, but everything moves too quickly and there is no chance for any tension to build. I'm sure you can guess what he chooses and that sends us directly to Eros and the next test.
This isn't your grandfather's Eros...he carries guns and smokes like a badass. He also knows all of Superman and Wonder Woman's intimate secrets. This was my favorite part of the issue because it calls out Superman for treating Wonder Woman so badly since losing his powers. The scene ends with a tie-in to the Superman/Wonder Woman Annual, but without an answer to the question Eros asks.
The issue ends with everyone gathered and while it looks like Superman is going to live (surprise!), the cliffhanger suggests he will be a different man. I guess it's all a question of semantics, but I was a little bit confused.
This issue was a fast read, but not in a great way. Tomasi has a pretty cool idea going here, but like I said above in the Hesphestus bit, the pacing takes away any tension that could and should have been there. The tests are interesting enough, but we jump in and out so quick that it almost gave me whiplash. Then there is the cliffhanger. Without spoiling it, the gods declare that Superman is something I always thought he was. I'd love to hear what others think because it just made me scratch my head. I think I know what Tomasi is going for, but it isn't really what is said. Even without that ending, this issue was fun enough, but really left me with the feeling that it was just a filler issue so that we can finish up the story in one of the "bigger" Superman books.
I did enjoy the art throughout the issue even though it made me miss Cliff Chiang's art on Wonder Woman. Any time I see the gods like this, I want Chiang's versions, but Mahnke does a good job and even with multiple inkers, the issue looked consistently good.
Bits and Pieces:
While the concept of this issue sounds cool enough, the reality was a filler issue with pacing problems that didn't let any of the moments have the impact they could have. On top of that, I was a bit confused with the cliffhanger and what it actually means going forward. I'm sure someone will school me on it, but I don't know if I'll like it even then.