A Review of “Superman / Wonder Woman, Volume 1: Power Couple”

Superman/Wonder Woman, Vol. 1: Power Couple (Superman / Wonder Woman, #1)Superman/Wonder Woman, Vol. 1: Power Couple by Charles Soule

This graphic novel collects the first 7 issues of this story arc, which is one that I haven’t managed to follow in the New 52. I knew of it’s implications, of course…it’s difficult to read anything current in the DC Universe and not know of this romance of titans, but I wanted to finally delve into the story and see for myself.

First, I’ll say that I’ve read reviews and heard strong opinions on whether or not this is sensationalist storytelling on DC’s part to put Superman and Wonder Woman together as a couple. I also have reservations about this, but I’m not reviewing that editorial decision. That is what it is, and there’s no point in reading any review of this collection if you disagree with the plot so entirely.

That said, the writing in these issues is strong. I really haven’t read Soule’s work until this, and I’m impressed with the way he crafts his dialogue. These are two of the most primary characters in the DC Universe…no small undertaking to handle on the page, and he does so deftly. What is actually quite fascinating about the romantic concept here is how both characters are developed in ways that we didn’t see coming. Superman’s desire to maintain a dual identity is as much for the protection of his emotional well being as it is for the protection of those he loves here…and Wonder Woman sees this as a weakness that she has difficulty reconciling. Both struggle to balance the selflessness of their role to protect their world with the very human selfishness of wanting to be happy with someone else. In doing so, Soule is wrestling with the role of the hero, the failings that come from the humanity of the heroes viewed by the public as gods among us, and the heightened repercussions of their choices. As Wonder Woman frets over the tragedy that inevitably befalls the hero, Batman chastises Superman:

“You two have a spat, and the world burns? How can you not be aware of the stakes of what you’re doing?”

I appreciate how Wonder Woman, particularly, is handled in this collection. After her strong start in the New 52, I was worried that she would be overly romanticized or weakened here. I’m glad that quite the opposite is true. We feel her trepidation and insecurities surrounding their relationship…the vulnerabilities that any of us have when being involved with someone. Yet, she is still the adept warrior who needs no help from Superman, and in fact arrives to save him in a critical moment. Both are recognized as the most powerful heroes on the planet, a just due that is all too easily missed when writing Wonder Woman.

I can also say that, for the first time, I felt that I truly heard Diana’s voice in Soule’s writing.

Unfortunately, what Soule does so beautifully with dialogue and character development, he misses in overall plot. The storyline of battling escaped Kryptonians bent of world destruction is merely a forgettable vehicle with which to convey the larger issues presented here, and the climactic fight scene feels dismissive and bordering on unbelievable.

I was a fan of Daniel’s artwork in the Justice League, and he performs just as well here for the most part. He’s a bit more inconsistent in these pages, however, particularly in facial expressions, which leave especially our protagonists looking oddly unfamiliar in several panels.

I respect what DC’s trying to do here, and the way in which they are exploring the characters. There is quite a bit within these pages that is thought provoking, and indicative of the angst with which we see heroes in the “real world” today. I wish that a more thorough plot had been used to convey this adventure, as the final pages fell quite flat and were disappointing. Overall, this concept is off to a good start, but has much room to improve.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

A Review of “Daredevil”, Season 1

Distorted image of Daredevil by Xpectrp. Used under Creative Commons.It shouldn’t be any secret that I started reading comics when I was very young. While the X-Men were really my first comic book experience, the were a gateway drug that led me to many other adventures in the medium.

I couldn’t tell you how old I was, but I remember the afternoon clearly. My mother was sitting in the other room with someone who was selling magazines…I think it was a neighborhood kid selling them as a school fundraiser or something like that, but that sort of fades to the background. Mom called me into the room and showed me pages of Marvel comics that were available as subscriptions. She told me that I could choose one.

My heart skipped a beat. Any title that I wanted, delivered to our house every month?? This was utopia. I remember carefully perusing the options available. This was huge, an important decision. I eventually selected a title of which I had only read a couple of issues at that point, but one which had intrigued me. Daredevil: The Man Without Fear.

For the next year, the issues arrived, wrapped in brown paper, and I devoured them. I played Daredevil, hurling pretend billy clubs at imaginary foes. There was something about the character that fascinated me, and, though my reading interests went elsewhere over the years, Daredevil was always one of my first long-term relationships with the Marvel universe.

I love that enterprises such as Netflix are beginning the adventure of creating their own series and movies, rather than being beholden to an antiquated industry that controlled creative expression and it’s distribution. Because I, like most fans and serious readers, sort of just pretend that Affleck’s feature film as Daredevil didn’t really happen, I was thrilled at the announcement that Netflix was releasing an entire season of a live-action Daredevil series at once. This actually sort of saved my Netflix subscription, because, as their access to films seems to be dwindling, the sure way to keep me subscribed is to promise numerous original series of comic book heroes. I had high expectations for the series, as Marvel Studios has produced such incredibly high quality work of late.  I had read interviews with the director discussing how the approach to directing a series in which most viewers would be seeing multiple episodes in one sitting was very different. On release day, I blocked off my schedule. This was taking me back to one of my first loves in comic book literature, and I couldn’t wait.

The writers stayed remarkably true to the original story and characters, developing each in a thorough way. The series was remarkably character-driven, and each action sequence was complimentary, with no fighting as a primary through-line. This is the mark of a well-done comic book story on the screen, because it’s all too easy to allow shallow plots and well-choreographed combat to dominate at the expense of characters that have realized so much potential on the page. When these compelling characters are allowed to guide the story arc, fascinating explorations of the human condition can occur. This is precisely what Netflix has allowed to play out in these thirteen episodes. So much of the nature of a hero is explored here. What differentiates a hero from a vigilante? What are the ethics involved in taking the law into one’s own hands? What is the obsession that would drive someone to push away his friends and loved ones in a tunnel-vision quest for justice? These are some of the ideas that are unpacked at length in this series.

Something with which I was particularly impressed is the time that was given to dialogue and character development. When you essentially have thirteen hours with which to work, the opportunity to develop characters and play out  dialogue is just so much greater than what one could do within the confines of a 2 hour film. The exchange between Matt and Foggy after Foggy has learned Matt’s dual identity is given most of an episode. The quality of the writing of this series is also extremely high (the Kingpin’s speech, “I am the ill intent,” in the final episode is positively chilling).

Part of what’s so interesting about a character like Daredevil is his motivation. Matt Murdock is less motivated by defending others than he is forcibly stopping evil. He denies being a hero one episode, and in another asks his priest why God “…put the devil in me.” While Matt Murdock is troubled by what he is doing and wrestles with its consequences, so has the Kingpin wrestled, and determined that he is pre-destined to be evil. Both compelled and unable to stop, each on opposite sides of a moral and theological divide. This is just the stuff of which good superhero narrative is made.

My chief complaint with the series…and the only reason why I would not recommend it to all audiences…is the overly gratuitous violence in many of the fight scenes. While these scenes are necessary and are not forced onto the narrative, they are filmed in a way that seems focused entirely on shock value, and actually (and sadly) detract from the excellent story being told.

Overall, this is an excellent addition to the Marvel canon and continues forward the creative manner in which Marvel Studios has crossed their universe over between film and small screens. Daredevil is apparently to launch a new section of the Marvel Universe for viewers (Defenders, anyone?), and it has most certainly set a high bar for all comic book television series moving forward.

For anyone interested in the character, or already a fan of Marvel on the screen, this is a series that you’ll want to watch. If you’re a bit squeamish of a higher-than-expected level of blood with your adventures, then proceed with caution. Daredevil is not for the faint of heart.

Image attribution: Xpectro under Creative Commons.

Cracking the Eggs

Egg Emoticons by Kate Ter Haar - Used under Creative Commons

While we take our faith very seriously, there are very few things about which I’m choosy when it comes to holidays. I’m not that person who shouts about “keeping Christ in Christmas,” if you know what I mean. Still, Karen and I had discussions early on as to how we would celebrate Easter with our daughter. As it’s one of the two most central holidays to the Christian faith…arguably even the most important one…it’s one that we want to get right. By “get right,” I mean not focused on bunnies and eggs and that sort of thing.

That said, celebrating the coming of Spring is fun, and, I think, it’s healthy to observe the changing of the seasons around us. There’s a valuable perspective that comes with that, a thankfulness and observance that’s all too easy to permit to slip by as we stay indoors all day and streamline our workflows.

So, the end result of this was to have two celebrations. The first would be on the first day of Spring, at which time our daughter would receive her basket and eggs and bunnies and chocolate. On Easter Sunday, we would observe the Resurrection, the critical holiday to our faith, and consider it’s implications in how we perform our faith.

Of course, when grandparents get involved, there’s no end of chocolate and egg hunts, but they’ve sort of earned that privilege at this stage.

This year,  Karen chose a medium of which I had never heard to present the story of Easter to our daughter: Resurrection Eggs. They’re a spiffy little device, I must say, and she used them to walk through the events of the holiday last weekend.

This morning, I was trying in vain to wake up and feeding my coffee addiction while watching our daughter play. She has several small toy farm animals that are currently favorites, and she had declared a shelf of the living room entertainment center to be the barn into which they would escape the rain. During the course of the play, she got the Resurrection Eggs out of Karen’s bag, opened all of them, and involved their contents with the rest of the collection. I was struck by the way in which she incorporated these small symbols of a most holy story into the rest of her play…they walked side by side with the other “characters.” This struck me because, each year when Easter arrives, I struggle to find it’s center, it’s essence. This has been true since grad school, largely because I just don’t have the contemplative time now that I had then…and I mourn that loss. For some reason, though, Easter is a time that I can’t ever seem to set aside, to slow down and appreciate. Perhaps it’s the time of year, as well, but, with few exceptions, Easter sails by each year and leaves me on the other side wondering why I can’t find it.

I think that I see the answer in this morning’s events, because that is exactly what this faith is to be. Holidays are important observances, but I don’t for a moment believe in some arbitrary separation between the sacred and the secular, between a religious observance and the rest of the world. If the Christian faith means anything, it’s that entering into what is around us is the desired result, rather than moving away from it. I love that what was in those eggs…those symbols of the sacred for the young mind…were brought out to walk beside, and interact with, the rest of the characters around them, because it is that which Believers are to do.

Perhaps I can never see Easter because I’m always trying to look inside the eggs, when I should, in fact, be walking more amongst them.

Image attribution: Kate Ter Haar under Creative Commons.