Superman/Wonder Woman Vol. 3: Casualties of War
With a comic series, you’re better off following authors than characters or lines. I gave Superman and Wonder Woman a chance post-handoff (from Charles Soule/Tony Daniels to Peter Tomasi/Doug Mahnke), and I didn’t like the new team. The artwork is rough and distorted, the plot is average, and worst of all, it has misogynist elements straight out of the bad old days. I will not be back to this line until the production team changes again.
A young hero named Wonderstar, with no memory, attaches himself to Superman and Wonder Woman. Together, they thwart some minor villainy until Wonderstar’s past is revealed and another villain comes out from the shadows, leading to a confrontation. That’s really it for the plot. While the “big idea” theme (that superheroes cause trouble and tragedy by attracting and battling supervillains) is legit, and collateral damage was rightfully a major complaint about the Man of Steel movie, the comic doesn’t do it justice. The author tries to put the relationship central, as Superman is always about protecting people and Wonder Woman is about the mission, but the execution is superficial. Plus, watching a villain attack bystanders to prove that Superman and Wonder Woman are villains for failing to stop him from attacking bystanders was so poorly rationalized that it made my head hurt.
The art is poor quality. Colors and images are flat and washed out. The linework is rough, like a font blown up past its intended size. Faces are wonky in a way that’s hard to articulate. Sometimes it’s inappropriate expressions, like frequent smirks. Other times, the faces look as if they’ve been smushed against panes of glass. In the worst cases, the parts aren’t even in the right place, and without the costumes, you wouldn’t necessarily realize you’re dealing with the same people panel to panel. It was also annoying to see a reversion to a more sexualized Wonder Woman, who strikes butt-first poses and flings punches so that her breasts are front and center in the frame. Her “off-duty” outfits as Diana Prince were clearly chosen by men who are not well acquainted with fashion. A skintight long sleeved mini-dress worn with a black choker is particularly egregious.
In addition to the rougher art and cheesier poses, the book felt dated in its stupid one-liners, many of which are irritatingly gendered. When hitting Wonder Woman with a blast of air, a male villain taunts, “Anyone ever tell you the windblown look makes your hair look great?” A female bank robber fights against our heroes with the rallying cry, “Didn’t anyone ever tell you… not to get between a woman and her shopping money?” Just putting these lines in the mouths of villains does not automatically negate their misogyny. The same villains would never taunt Superman with his appearance, or joke about how the female bank robber needs the money to compensate for pay inequalities for women.
And this isn’t the only case of gender shenanigans. Wonder Woman’s female nemesis muses, “What is it with women? With men, I know what to expect. An initial spurt of bravura teamed in the end with cowardice. Even the best of men are driven by – at most – two or three desires. Easily manipulated. Like putty, but with too much hair. But women… Women are as baffling and as dangerous to each other as we are to men. You can make no predictions on what we will do next, who we might crush… who we might love.” Again, it’s not enough just to make a villain say this. You have to actually have a character challenge her on it.
I was so excited by the first work in this series, a well-written, quality production superhero story with a romance. Unfortunately, it’s been all downhill from there.