On Wednesdays I look at various chapters in Wonder Woman’s history. Click here for previous installments.
Superman/Wonder Woman vol. 1: Power Couple, DC Comics, 2014.
I was pretty hard on Superman/Wonder Woman when the series started in October 2013. I don’t like the idea of Superman dating Wonder Woman, in part because I’m a huge Lois Lane fan and mostly because I find the idea of a powerful woman having to date someone more physically powerful than she is really regressive. I didn’t like the first issue much either, but Charles Soule has been a generally decent writer on other comics like Swamp Thing and Red Lanterns, and I’ve heard good things about his She-Hulk run, so I figured maybe it’s time I gave this series another look. (Also, the first two trade collections are readily available at my local library, which helps.)
Superman/Wonder Woman #2, DC Comics, January 2014.
So yeah, when last we saw Wonder Woman in this series, she was fighting Doomsday. That’s not good news, because Doomsday is the unstoppable monster who killed Superman back in the early 1990s. Except of course now that never happened because DC started its whole universe over in 2011. In this new reality they haven’t even met yet.
So yeah, Diana fights Doomsday, and I guess he breaks both her arms, but it doesn’t really matter because she heals fast and she’s totally fine a few pages later. (“Divine blood,” she says. Handy!) And Doomsday disappears just before he’s seemingly about to do her in. It’s completely unclear in Tony S. Daniel’s art that this is what’s supposed to be happening—we don’t see anything that looks even remotely like Doomsday disappearing—but later Wonder Woman says that’s what happened.
Superman recognizes the description of the monster and freaks out because it’s supposed to be in the Phantom Zone—the ghostly dimension where Krypton banished its prisoners. I guess he’s heard about what a killing machine Doomsday is, but he’s frustratingly vague on the details of what he knows or how he knows it. “Doomsday is death,” he says. It’s back in the Phantom Zone now, but Supes is all freaked out that it might escape again. So Wonder Woman has to give him a pep talk about how he could take the thing down if he has to because he’s good enough, he’s strong enough, and gosh darn it, people like him.
Then Diana takes Clark to meet her family. Specifically she takes him to Hephaestus to commission some fancy magic armor for him, but then Apollo and Strife have to show up and make trouble. The ever arrogant Apollo, currently lord of Olympus, just has to pick a fight with Superman, a fight that starts with condescending snark and quickly turns physical.
There’s a lot of swatting and smiting each other for great distances. (And we see Strife exclaiming, “One punch!,” a reference to a great moment in Giffen/DeMatteis’s Justice League #5 from 1987 that was funny the first time but has been referenced so many times over the years that callbacks like this one have grown really stale.) There’s one clever moment when the solar-powered Superman points out to the god of the sun that attacking him with sunlight isn’t the greatest idea in the world. “You don’t know very much about me, do you?” he says.
And because every issue of this series seemingly has to end with an “oh shit!” moment, this issue’s “oh shit!” moment is that General Zod has escaped from the Phantom Zone. Oh shit!
Superman/Wonder Woman #3, DC Comics, February 2014.
So okay, let’s talk about General Zod. A Kryptonian officer gone very bad, Zod is easily the best known of the Phantom Zone criminals. That was true in the comics, and it was especially true because of Terence Stamp’s unforgettable performance in the 1980 movie Superman II.
About twelve years ago, I decided to grow a beard, the beard I still have today. I’d had beards before, every now and then, but I’d never really trimmed or shaped them in any way. It was all or nothing, so they were always pretty scruffy. This time I decided to try my hand at shaping my beard, and as soon as I decided that, I knew what kind of beard I wanted. I wanted a Zod beard.
Now, because of the way my facial hair grows, I didn’t quite wind up with a Zod beard. In fact, eventually I had to face the fact that it was really more of a Riker beard, which isn’t nearly as cool.
The original Zod, the one in the comics, didn’t even have a beard, and surprisingly it wasn’t until 2006 that the DC Comics version was changed to look more like Terence Stamp, because screw it, that’s the Zod that people really remember. Tellingly, this was in a comic cowritten by Geoff Johns—the guy who later decided to change Captain Marvel’s name to Shazam because that’s what a lot of non-comics-fans thought his name was anyway—and Richard Donner, the director of Superman the Movie and much of Superman II.
A new version of Zod was also the villain in the recent Man of Steel movie, but that wasn’t particularly memorable. It’s telling that the Zod resurfacing in Superman/Wonder Woman looks like the guy in the 1980 movie, not the 2013 one.
Now, of course, it’s a whole new universe in the comics again, so Superman has never even met Zod. Let’s see what he makes of him!
Well, first, Superman is all hopped up on goofballs, supercharged by Apollo’s sunlight injection, so he’s hanging out in space till the effect wears off, having some male bonding chat with Batman while he waits. I actually like the dialogue in this scene. Bruce explains that he’s comforted by how very human and down-to-earth Clark’s upbringing was, despite all his power, and that’s a perspective that Diana doesn’t share. I’m not crazy about the fact that this plays into the whole “Wonder Woman doesn’t understand human emotions” thing that was really overused in the 2000s and is really contrary to what always made Wonder Woman so great—that she’s the most understanding, the most insightful of the heroes because of her Amazon upbringing, not some imperious warrior princess because of the same. (Unless the situation calls for it, of course.)
Meanwhile, Diana is hanging out with her mysterious Amazon friend Hessia, whom we still know nothing about, and she’s fretting about what to get Clark for a Christmas present.
And Zod’s appeared in the Sahara desert, crazed and roaring, tearing people apart and stomping them to death. A group from the Justice League of America—not the one that Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are in but a rival group organized by Wondy’s ex-boyfriend Steve Trevor—try to stop Zod. Somehow I don’t think Steve, Hawkman, J’onn J’onzz and Vibe are really up for the task.
Only once Superman and Wonder Woman arrive does Zod suddenly shift from nonverbal rampage to very civilized and apologetic. He even speaks English! But he is snagged in Wonder Woman’s magic lasso, and maybe that’s the unspoken reason that he mellowed out so suddenly. He explains that his arrival took a toll on him and he’s much better now. Also he wonders if they’ve seen his girlfriend Faora anywhere. She’s another Phantom Zone criminal who’s popped up every now and then since 1977, and she’s bad news.
So Superman takes Zod home to his Fortress of Solitude and keeps him in his space zoo until he figures out what the heck is going on.
Now, you may notice that this is mostly a Superman story, with Wonder Woman tagging along in a supporting role. I definitely noticed that too, and I’m not too happy about it. I’m hoping there’s a more Wondy-centric storyline coming up after this one. But knowing how comics work nowadays, it’ll be many issues before this first story plays out.
In this issue, Wonder Woman is very much the girlfriend, and she gives Superman his Christmas present: Just some time that they can spend together and let other heroes save the world for a while.
Unfortunately, there’s always some crisis that just can’t be ignored, and this time it’s a personal one. Somehow word has gotten out about Supes and Wondy’s love affair, and now the whole world knows. And honestly, everybody’s a little freaked out. I guess this is that “oh shit” moment that we were waiting for.
How will they handle their tabloid fame? Well, that’ll have to wait for another Wonder Wednesday.