Friday, April 17, 2015

Superman/Wonder Woman Annual #1

[Last Sun] Chapter 3 "The Promise"

Story Charles Soule
Pencils Ed Benes, Tony Daniel, Pascal Alixe, Cliff Richards, and Jack Herbert
Inks Jaime Mendoza, Matt Banning, Vicente Cifuentes, Pascal Alixe, and Cliff Richards
Colors Jeromy Cox
Letter Carlos M. Mangual, Dezi Sienty and Taylor Esposito
Cover Tony Daniel and Tomeu Morey
Assistant Editor Anthony Marques
Group Editor Eddie Berganza
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. By special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family.
Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston.
Doomsday created by Dan Jurgens, Brett Breeding, Jerry Ordway, Louise Simonsson and Roger Stern.

I'm usually pretty satisfied with Tony Daniel's art, but this cover does nothing for me. Why, exactly, is Wonder Woman glowing? And what's going on with Superman/Doomsday's jaw? His mouth shouldn't be able to open that wide, right? I think this could have and should have been a much better cover.

So, unlike H'el on Earth, which pretty much kept the Justice League involved the whole time, Superman: Doomed only featured the League in very small doses at the beginning and again toward the end. So what happens when you skip about 10 issues in a huge story like this? You get pretty confused pretty quick. I'll do my best here. In any case, I can reasonably assume I don't know much more than the Flash does.

The issue begins with another image of the Daily Planet homepage and a story written by Lois Lane. Curiously, Lois focuses on how dangerous Superman has become since turning into Doomsday, and she even says Earth's best chance for survival lies in the hands of Brainiac, who is apparently invading the planet. I've surmised that Lois is being controlled by Brainiac at the moment, but why would Perry White allow such a thing to be published?

Our story begins near Mars, where Cyborg Superman battles Superdoom (the transformed Superman), as the Brainiac invasion fleet approaches Earth. Superdoom easily rips off Cyborg Superman's arm, but he just laughs, saying all he was doing was stalling for Brainiac. When Superdoom hears this, he immediately takes off toward Earth.

Meanwhile, 22,236 miles above the earth, in geosynchronous orbit, the Justice League meet in what I assume to be Lex Luthor's satellite he gave the team, although this issue calls it the Justice League Emergency Bunker. Flash, Wonder Woman and Cyborg are in person, while Batman confers via hologram. Flash notes that Brainiac has sent a lot of ships, and Cyborg learns they're all full of robots. He tries to communicate with them, but is hit by surge of electrical feedback and is essentially shut down.

As Flash tends to Cyborg, Wonder Woman receives a call from Steel and Lana Lang. For some reason, these two are in a spaceship 238,900 miles from Earth. Lana has used her electrical engineering skills to discover a pattern in Brainiac's attack. And that pattern tells her Brainiac is trying to turn off the entire planet at once. Steel says they just have to destroy 36 percent of the fleet to prevent this, a figure that Batman agrees with. The Justice League then has a brief discussion about Superman. Apparently someone flooded the atmosphere with kryptonite, which weakens Superman's resistance to the Doomsday virus. Batman is worried about Superdoom returning to Earth, but Wonder Woman has faith in her boyfriend.

Inside Superman's mind, his good self is represented by Clark Kent and his bad side is essentially Doomsday wearing his Superman suit. Clark says he's fast enough to dive down to Earth, fight Brainiac's forces, then leave the kryptonite atmosphere before it effects him too much. The Doomsday side of him is very much in favor of this plan, believing that he'll be able to take control before Clark can leave Earth again.

So Superdoom puts his plan to the test in Cambodia, where Hawkman and Simon Baz are getting their butts kicked by Brainiac's robots. Superdoom easily destroys the machines, and almost attacks Hawkman, but he pulls out at the last second.

Wonder Woman wages war in Greenland, while Batman works on ridding the atmosphere of kryptonite from the Fortress of Solitude. Swamp Thing fights in Louisiana, the Red Lanterns in Hong Kong, Aquaman in the Atlantic Ocean, the Teen Titans in Ecuador, and in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia, the Flash is working with Green Arrow.

These two have had virtually nothing to do with each other in the New 52, but they have become best friends on the CW, so I guess it's good to see them share a panel here. Anyway, despite the heroes' best efforts, Cyborg reports they aren't destroying the robots fast enough. Meanwhile, in lunar orbit, on the dark side, Cyborg Superman is constructing a large gateway. Steel notices this and prepares to directly battle Cyborg Superman.

In Romania, Superdoom has easily destroyed a bunch more robots, but now is preparing to destroy a nearby town. Clark fights the monster in his head, but can't prevail against the kryptonite. Soon, Wonder Woman arrives to prevent Superdoom from taking innocent lives. However, even Wonder Woman can't stop her monster boyfriend. She removes her wristbands and begins to glow blue, which is what must be happening on the cover, but I have no idea what it means. Is she going into god mode? Well, whatever it is, it doesn't work, and she eventually feels she has no other choice but to cut off Superdoom's head. But just before she does so, Batman completes his plan off panel (an editor's note directs us to Action Comics Annual #3) and all the kryptonite is cleared from the atmosphere. The Clark side triumphs over the Doomsday side, and Wonder Woman spares her lover.

Cyborg then observes that the heroes are finally gaining an edge, as we see Brainiac's forces falling to Shazam and Captain Cold standing alongside the Weather Wizard and ... a miscolored Mirror Master? It looks like he was drawn as Mirror Master, but colored as the pre-52 Heatwave, which, of course, is nonsensical since Heatwave has never worn that white-and-orange outfit in the New 52 and is currently presumed dead.

Anyway, Steel predictably fails against Cyborg Superman, but he is able to escape with Lana. However, Cyborg Superman happily explains that the whole invasion was merely a diversion for his and Brainiac's true plans. And somehow, Steel is able to figure out that Brainiac's forces began to self-destruct after 36 percent of their numbers were destroyed. He says this to Lana while they are still very much in space, floating around with their spaceship destroyed, protected only by his organic steel. So yeah, then Cyborg Superman summons a gigantic monster large enough to easily swallow Earth whole.

The Good:

Hmm ... I was previously rewarding Superman: Doomed for being an epic story, but I don't think I can say that anymore. Much like H'el on Earth, this Superman crossover began with a bang, and ended with a whimper. Maybe I would be feeling differently had I read those 10 issues I skipped over, but I kind of doubt it. What started out as a Doomsday story has become a Brainiac story, and not a very good one by the looks of it. I am, however, glad that the Flash did more in this issue than stand silently in the background.

The Bad:

Stupid science. Everything Steel and Lana Lang said and did in this issue was completely stupid. I hated the whole electrical engineer bit and especially that 36 percent number they kept throwing around. And I have a serious problem with a couple of characters floating around in space, explaining things they shouldn't be able to explain. I can handle this liquid, organic steel providing enough protection to survive in space, but to be able to carry on lengthy conversations? Too much for me. And I'm only complaining this much about these two because they were such a large part of the story.

Weak story. I think this one got away from Charles Soule. There's so much going on here — possessed Superman, global invasion, major villains returning, and, especially for this title, a fight between Wonder Woman and Superman. So why wasn't this issue better? Perhaps Soule bit off more than he could chew. By wasting so much time with Steel and Lana, he wasn't able to give Brainiac's invasion much more than a montage. And the heart of this issue — a Superman III-esque internal struggle coinciding with an external Wonder Woman fight — was severely undermined by essentially being resolved off panel. So much hinged on Batman clearing the atmosphere of kryptonite, and all we got of that was an editor's note. And of course, we were treated to the cliche of having our main villain, Cyborg Superman, gleefully announce that every defeat he suffered was all part of his larger plan. (This was the same problem that plagued the Young Justice show.) I was so frustrated at the end of this issue, I almost wanted that giant monster to swallow Earth and be done with it.

Final score: 3 out of 10

Next time, we'll take a quick detour into some passive Flash appearances in the Grayson series, staring with issue #1.

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