Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Superman/Wonder Woman Annual #1

In an era of no-fault divorce, mail order brides, and cheap boob jobs, there’s a lot of incentive for people to give up on relationships. If given the option between actually working through a problem or just finding someone else who doesn’t have that problem, a majority of those people will just say, “Fuck it,” I’m done with this shit. And it’s not just out of sheer laziness, although trophy wives and burned out rock stars make that hard to believe. Some people just have problems that are too fucked up to fix with counseling and make-up sex. Human beings are often irrational, unreasonable creatures who tend to get even more irrational and unreasonable when someone else doesn’t solve their problems for them. That’s why the strongest relationships and the most epic love stories aren’t the bullshit premise of every Hugh Grant movie ever made. They’re the result of couples who take the time to work through their shit.

Superman and Wonder Woman are one of those couples that has to deal with more shit than most. Even a couple of recovering alcoholics don’t have to survive being in a nuclear explosion or dealing with asshole relatives who happen to be gods. Yet despite all the complications and all the bitching and moaning from fans claiming it’s just a gimmick for the 50 Shades of Grey crowd, they’ve found a way to make it work. Since hooking up in Justice League #12, Superman and Wonder Woman have actually put a conscious effort into developing their relationship and making it stronger. That means doing crazy things like supporting one another when shit gets tough and enduring when things go wrong. That doesn’t take someone with a PHD in psychology and gender relations to figure out, but dozens of shitty Disney movies have led us to believe that everything works itself out on its own. Well now that Superman is turning into fucking Doomsday, he and Wonder Woman can’t exactly get through this with self-help books and therapy. They need to find a way to get through this shit while being willing to beat up anyone or anything that gets in their way, which includes fending off an alien invasion. The Superman/Wonder Woman Annual #1 is ground zero for this struggle and I hope other couples follow along. Maybe then they’ll understand why leaving the toilet seat up isn’t grounds for divorce.

That struggle has already reached epic levels of fucked up. Superman, still infected with Doomsday, had to leave the Earth, both because he can’t fight the urge to kill everything within a 200-mile radius and because Lex Luthor poisoned the atmosphere with Kryptonite. For once, the cold emptiness of space is a lot safer than Earth and since this is the same Earth that contains spiders, jellyfish, Donald Trump, that’s saying something. But it doesn’t stay safe for long and not because of space spiders either.

Superman end up confronting Cyborg Superman, who is like an erector set powered by a billion nuclear reactors. Yet it’s still an unfair fight because a Doomsday-powered Superman still sees it the same way most people see a wounded tarantula. The only natural instinct is to crush it and burn the entrails. Cyborg Superman tries to taunt Superman, saying that he’s got a whole fleet of fancy alien robots heading to Earth and he’s too late to stop it. He might as well told a meth head his mother is fat because even with an alien fleet of killer robots, it’s still not a fair fight. This only means Superman isn’t going to stick around to rip apart Cyborg Superman in ways that would make Charles Manson nauseous. But I imagine it’s still on his to-do list.

And Superman isn’t the only one who is going to be pissed at an alien army is heading to Earth. The Justice League usually take an interest in incoming alien invasions. This is the same league that fought off an invasion from Darkseid so they’re going to take this shit pretty seriously. Steel, who has been working with Lana Lang for most of this crossover event, give them a few warnings, but they don’t end up being necessary because the fleet ends up taking out Earth’s defense grid. While defense contractors may appreciate being paid to rebuild it, this doesn’t bode well.

But that’s not to say that Lana and Steel aren’t completely useless in warning the league. This is where it shows there has been some real, honest-to-Rao effort put into this story. Lana Lang, who is two parts Elon Musk and one part Jessica Alba in the New 52, reveals the source of the mysterious plague that knocked everyone in Smallville and Metropolis into a coma. She says the plan is to do this to the entire world, that way Brainiac’s forces don’t have to deal with these annoying humans. It’s so brilliant that it makes Darkseid’s plan look like it was organized by Andy Dick. It also shows that Lois Lane isn’t the only human woman in the DC universe who can contribute with an attitude and a great rack.

Despite having plenty of warning and details of the alien battle plan, it still couldn’t hurt to have Superman on the front lines. I know it makes for a shitty situation on all sides in that people have to choose death by Doomsday or death by alien robots. But since Doomsday has made it clear that he doesn’t use anal probes and Brainiac has shown no such assurances, I think that makes the choice pretty clear.

This still requires Clark Kent to fight for control against the influence of Doomsday. It’s a struggle that has been ongoing for most of this event. At times, it has fluctuated wildly. Clark Kent’s will-power is strong, but Doomsday is basically the Hulk on cocaine binge. Yet in some strange way, Superman ends up influencing Doomsday. It actually supports the idea of returning to Earth to protect Superman’s adopted home. That may just be because it’ll surround him with more fleshy targets, but it’s the first time that Doomsday is shown to have a personality with more depth than Al Gore.

The battle against the Brainiac invasion begins and again, there’s considerable effort at making it appropriately epic. Other members of the Justice League get involved, as anyone would expect in the face of an alien invasion. The scope and scale of the attack is nicely conveyed. It might not sound like a big deal, but in an era where refinement is only reserved for energy companies and hard liquor, it feels refreshing. It’s like a bag boy at a grocery store going out of his way to help. Few expect it these days, but it’s deeply appreciated when it happens.

When Superman arrives to the battle, the Kryptonite in the atmosphere knocks out Clark Kent and lets Doomsday give a spikey middle finger to all notions of anger management. That means Brainiac’s fleet stands no chance. They might as well be shooting at a tank battalion with marshmallow guns and stuffed kittens. It’s as satisfying as it sounds without adding chocolate and graham crackers to the mix.

The scope and scale continues to grow, giving the battle an even more epic feel. It goes beyond the Justice League, touching on skirmishes all over the world. The Teen Titans, Swamp Thing, and the Red Lantern Corps all get to play a part. And Cyborg, being the Justice League equivalent of Siri, monitors the whole thing to help give a comprehensive perspective on this battle. Again, this is way more effort than I expect. If only the post service and my cell phone carrier put this much effort into their work, I wouldn’t be waiting in line at the post office or dealing with dip-shit tech support people every other Tuesday. It shouldn’t be this overwhelmingly awesome. It shouldn’t have to be. Yet here we are and I’m not complaining, not until my cell phone service starts fucking up again anyways.

As this epic battle is going on, Steel and Lana aren’t done contributing. The alien invasion by Brainiac’s fleet is in full swing, but Cyborg Superman is nowhere to be seen. And he’s not doing the cyborg equivalent of jerking off either. He doesn’t seem to think that a global alien invasion is enough. Darkseid already did that and it’s about as trendy as crocs and ug boots. So Cyborg Superman is planning something else, which involves constructing this big ass ring on the dark side of the moon. He’s assuming the rest of the world is distracted with the whole alien invasion and it’s not an unreasonable assumption. Lana and Steel know this and understand they can’t expect anyone to lend a hand when they’re fighting off alien rectal probes. So they have to be the ones to deal with this. It’s a pretty woman and a badass black guy in a steel suit. That sounds like both a fair fight and an awesome porno.

It’s just another in many other awesome fights that continue to unfold. Doomsday is certainly enjoying himself, having both killer alien robots and a planet full of fragile, squishy life to maim. But when he starts to have a little too much fun, Clark Kent tries to fight back to keep him from going on a Hulk-style rampage. Keep in mind, he’s trying to do this while the whole planet is shrouded in Kryptonite gas. He really shouldn’t have the strength to fight back against someone like Doomsday, let alone stop himself from vomiting uncontrollably like a teenage boy sitting through a Twilight marathon.

Now I know Superman is all about strength, will-power, and accomplishing the impossible, but this is starting to push it. The first time the kryptonite came into effect, he went down faster than Jenna Jameson at a dildo factory. Now he’s up and fighting again, surrounded by kryptonite and going up against someone like Doomsday? I’m all for rooting for the underdog, but not when it’s this unrealistic. It’s like rooting for the Mighty Ducks against a team of Canadian ninjas.

To be fair, it’s not a struggle that Superman is able to win. He slows Doomsday down, but he doesn’t overcome him. If he did, then that would be too unbelievable even for Superman. This is the point where he needs help from a beautiful woman like Wonder Woman. This is supposed to be their book anyways, even if it is a tie-in. This is one of those struggles that a couple needs to work out together. Granted, this isn’t one of those anger management issues that can be addressed through counseling and appearances on Dr. Phil. But they’ve been helping each other and supporting each other since their relationship began. Why should it be any different when one of them is possessed by an alien killing machine and the other happens to be the God of War? It’s certainly a more reasonable fight than who left the toilet seat up.

While I’m sure the Lois Lanes of the world want to cook up some popcorn and jerk off to a Superman/Wonder Woman fight, this struggle ends up being secondary. There’s still the matter of an alien invasion and a secret plot by Cyborg Superman. That doesn’t mean the Superman/Wonder Woman battle should be secondary. As I said, this is still their fucking book. But it’s still part of a larger crossover event so the melodrama that has soaked the panties of many Superman/Wonder Woman fans in this series has to wait.

Steel and Lana Lang are still caught up in a fight that might end up being more important than any lover’s spat or alien invasion because they’re trying to stop Cyborg Superman from dumping napalm onto the fire. Steel tries to slow him down, but even he knows it’s not a fair fight. A man in a steel suit is not going to measure up to a cyborg Superman in the same way 12-year-old with boxing gloves is not going to measure up against a hungry polar bear. Even Lana knows this and she’s able to make it a fair fight, getting in a few shots with the ship and showing that she has bigger balls than most men could ever boast to having.

As badass as Lana Lang is, she still manages to get herself shot out of the sky. Cyborg Superman doesn’t just shake off cheap shots. It forces Steel to abandon this horribly unfair fight and rescue her from the ship. It’s incredibly heroic and all, a guy rescuing a pretty girl who just saved his ass. But it still leaves Cyborg Superman intact and probably laughing his ass off. To be fair, they were overmatched and had nobody to call. Yet that didn’t stop them from being as badass as the situation allowed them to be. Most would have started playing games on their phone and waited for Batman to solve the problem. These two actually made the effort and for that, they deserve a shot of tequila and a bong hit.

The fight against Doomsday Superman and God of War Wonder Woman is a bit more balanced, but not in the same way. This is the battle that has the most drama, an out-of-control Superman against a beautiful woman who’s desperate to save him. This the battle that’s supposed to soak the most panties and trigger the biggest boners. Clark Kent is losing his struggle to regain control and Wonder Woman is running out of time because Doomsday is ready to start using innocent people as chewing gum. At this point, the only way to stop him is to treat him like a zombie in a Resident Evil game and go for a headshot. And only Wonder Woman has the hand cannon to do it.

It’s a moment that should be very emotion. However, it’s somewhat rushed. Wonder Woman does plead with Superman to regain control so she doesn’t have to give him the Marie Antoinette treatment. It just doesn’t feel as dramatic as it could have been. Compared to the effort and details put into every other part of the story, it feels sub-par. If it were a math test in high school, it would get a C-plus. It’s still a passing grade, but not as great as it could be. I don’t mean to channel like my bitchy old algebra teacher, but I hold stories of this scale to a higher standard.

In the end, Wonder Woman’s pleas aren’t the deciding factor. It’s actually Batman’s doing, of course. I know some Superman fans will bang their heads against the wall for this, but his role is important here because he finds a way to remove the kryptonite cloud from the air. That means Clark Kent is no longer weakened and incredibly pissed off because Doomsday was hurting his girlfriend. It allows him to regain control so Wonder Woman doesn’t have to resort to a head shot. Again, it could have made for a much more dramatic moment than it turned out to be. It didn’t fail, but it didn’t pass with flying colors either.

It still helps that plenty of effort is put into conveying the scope and scale of this battle. We get another big-picture look at the overall struggle. Cyborg reports that heroes on multiple fronts are beating back the alien invaders in a way that would make an awesome Independence Day sequel. And with Superman regaining control, it seems the tide for the battle has finally turned. It’s still not over. Superman and Wonder Woman aren’t quite yet ready to get to the makeup sex just yet, but they’re a bit closer now.

Unfortunately, they’re not as close as they think. The battle on Earth might be won, but Cyborg Superman didn’t seem to give three hundredths of a shit about that battle. He was busy working on that big cosmic ring behind the moon. Once Steel and Lana left the battle, he finally had a chance to reveal what it was for. Turns out, it wasn’t meant to be a cock ring for Ron Jeremy. It was meant to be a planetary sized boom tube to allow a planetary sized monster through. I’m not sure what kind of monster this is. But it’s the size of a planet and it looks like a cross between a squid, a tarantula, and the Terminator. I think I’ll just skip the part where I guess and go right to shitting myself.

There were plenty of epic struggles in this issue. We had an alien invasion from Brainiac, a plot from Cyborg Superman, and Doomsday attempting to overwhelm Superman yet again. All these struggles were presented on a global scale that was richly detailed and gushing with awesome on so many levels. However, there were a few levels of awesome missing from the mix. One of the greatest strengths of the Superman Doomed arc has been its ability to inject sincere personal drama into a plot that involves spikey gray Hulk wannabe fighting the urge to sterilize all life from everywhere within a 200 mile radius. The personal struggle with Clark Kent trying to fight the influence of Doomsday along with Wonder Woman doing everything she can to help him in that struggle has made this event both compelling and epic.

However, that greatest strength might as well have been a watered down shot of light beer in this issue because it played only a minor role in the overall global struggle that emerged. Now it helps that this global struggle was very well-developed and very epic in its own right. However, that lack of dramatic impact is very noticeable. There’s not the same sense of emotional struggle that there was before, which makes the issue feel somewhat unbalanced. It’s not unbalanced to the point where it needs a high dose of lithium and shot of Valium to settle down, but it’s still noticeable enough for a drunk. I give the Superman/Wonder Woman Annual #1 a 7 out of 10. It has a lot of great shit going for it. It’s just not the same shit that made this event so compelling to begin with. I’m all for a diversity of awesome. But when it gets to a point where it can only be consumed while sober, I think that defeats the purpose in some respects. Nuff said!


  1. I agree with your rating. I think the inconsistent art hurt the emotional impact in some places.

    1. Thanks! I appreciate your comment. Emotional impact is the most important part of any story. Superman/Wonder Woman as a series has built its brand on having that impact. This issue had some, but just not enough.