Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Tony Daniel
Part of me still can't believe this comic book actually exists. It counts as a second ongoing Wonder Woman series. You know how incredibly rare that is? You'd have to go back to the very beginning to see that happen previously, with a bunch of titles you wouldn't even recognize. None of them became Action Comics, in other words, or Detective Comics. Batman and Superman have long had entire families of lines out the wazoo. Wonder Woman? She's the third in DC's Big Three, mostly because she's the most recognizable female hero in that or any other publisher's history. She earned her stripes. But rarely has she been popular enough or significant enough in a storytelling way to warrant something like this.
Of course, it's all because of the kiss. The Kiss, from Justice League #12, orchestrated by Geoff Johns. There are plenty of precedents to this moment (read this), but The Kiss was the start of a whole new, completely in-continuity relationship. It sets an entirely new standard.
I've been arguing all along that Geoff Johns had been shaping Justice League into as much of a second Wonder Woman series as possible (much the way he later shifted it as such into an Aquaman one with the "Throne of Atlantis" event). This was the culmination point, and this series is the big payoff. Superman and Batman have now, with this year's launch of Batman/Superman, had several ongoing series spotlight their unique dynamic, and so this is a way of continuing that trend, but in a whole new way. A lot of it is motivated by how Superman is being presented these days. I'll get to that. But it's also motivated by a new desire to elevate Wonder Woman to her proper place.
The New 52 launch gave DC a chance to rededicate itself to this task from the start. Wonder Woman has had a number of defining creative runs in her day (I will always point new readers in the direction of Greg Rucka's, for the record), but sometimes it seems as if she's the subject of a ridiculous game of hot potato. No one can seem to spend enough time with her to really create an impact. Did you know she had her own "Doomsday"/"Knightfall"/"Emerald Twilight"/"Terminal Velocity" event in the '90s? It was called "The Contest." She was temporarily replaced, just like every other DC icon. As far as the significance of Wonder Woman lore goes, hers was probably the most thematically sound of all those stories. But you don't really know much about it, do you? The character of Artemis almost became a permanent member of her supporting cast because of it. Almost.
Something Johns has tried to do recently is bring back the significance of Steve Trevor, basically the Lois Lane/Carol Ferris of the Wonder Woman world. And like Lois, Steve's been frustrated romantically in this new era. Because Wonder Woman's got a brand-new bag.
Aside from developments in Justice League, however, she's also been the subject of a new approach to her obligatory solo series. At the hands of Brian Azzarello, Wonder Woman has taken on a character all its own, totally unique in DC's line-up, its Hawkeye before Marvel had Hawkeye, the indy flavor with one of the most mainstream characters around. And Azzarello has been humming along, building a new template, a new foundation for taking Wonder Woman seriously. In the years ahead this achievement will only grow in significance. But the problem is, it's not Wonder Woman as you would expect, not the outsized, traditional take that the rest of the DC series are geared toward, not the iconic approach.
Just what is the iconic approach to Wonder Woman? I'm arguing that until now, it just plain didn't exist. She existed as a placeholder until someone figured it out. Johns effected a Year One arc in the early issues of Justice League, explaining who she was and how she came to enter Man's World, and why it would be so natural for her to enter a romance with Superman.
Because, really, who else can understand the Man of Steel other than the Amazonian princess who is as close to his kind of existence as he has ever known, and even gotten to experience things he could only dream of, knowing her own people, being born into a role rather than assuming it?
A lot of what Wonder Woman is in comics today, in Justice League and now Superman/Wonder Woman, is the subtle repositioning of Superman that DC has been working toward for several years now, which this year's Man of Steel movie experience perfectly exemplifies.
It used to be that DC was scared of letting Superman be Superman. He was too powerful, his critics said, too unrelatable. So his humanity was played up. His vulnerabilities. The perfect love of his life always assumed to be plucky human reporter Lois Lane, someone he could share the dual nature of his existence.
And yet. And yet creators like Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison (who himself elevated Lois to more equal footing within the pages of All Star Superman) finally said enough was enough. Superman should be allowed to be himself again. Be as powerful as he was always meant to be, that shining beacon in the sky, the example for which humans were meant to strive (messianic messages or otherwise). And a Superman of this kind, far from wanting to be more like a regular guy, feels incredibly alienated. That's how you make him approachable. All those Marvel characters who take this story so literally, they just never get it. It's not enough to say you're just as pathetic as everyone else. You need to know why they feel as pathetic as you.
That's Man of Steel in a nutshell, by the way, all of Clark Kent's insecurities as he slowly realizes that he was always Superman. And that hardly makes his journey any easier.
And so what do you get for the man who has everything? Someone who understands him. Someone very much like, well, Wonder Woman.
And so we finally have a series like this. We get Charles Soule writing the Superman perspective as its been repositioned, clarified, made iconic all over again. And Wonder Woman. We see, for the first time, how complementary they really are. We get Wonder Woman the warrior, who can rib Superman for his improvisational fighting techniques. She knows how to handle herself physically. Not because of her powers, but her prowess. And so she's pitted immediately against Doomsday, the dude who brought Superman to an end, once.
They compete. Superman and Wonder Woman act in concert, in crises that evoke their contrasting styles, how only they can truly understand what it's like to be in these kinds of situations. It's all so brilliant, exactly what it needed to be.
The art from Tony Daniel, as with everything else Tony has done, rises to the occasion. His style continues to evolve, become more and more evocative. I thought it was bad for his career when Tony was abruptly removed from the Detective Comics relaunch. But this project is far, far more significant.
If more readers can begin to understand the significance of all this, Superman/Wonder Woman could become one of the bestselling comics of this or any other age. I think it deserves to be already.