“Superman/Wonder Woman” #28 brings us through the first half of “The Final Days of Superman,” but — in doing so — serves up the least impressive chapter of this storyline to date. Peter J. Tomasi’s story is definitely shifting toward a more super-powered path, but it’s Ed Benes’s art that ultimately comes across as a little too flat.
Tomasi’s latest chapter tackles the status of Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship once and for all. Those opening five pages of the comic are definitely the strongest in terms of the script; it not only puts this “are they still together?” bugbear to rest, but it does so without dwelling on the issue for too long. This is what “The Final Days of Superman” has been doing so well: addressing the various emotional ties that still exist but never getting overly melodramatic or overwhelming.
On the other hand, the rest of the issue deals both with Ulysses (the ally-turned-enemy from the Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr.’s run on “Superman”) and the man claiming to be Superman/Clark Kent, but neither of these confrontations is compelling. Fake Superman has no discernible personality; he’s literally just an attachment of powers and a bit of memories grafted to someone else, and his threats are as uninteresting as one can imagine. The idea of pieces of Superman’s mind and abilities somehow manifesting on others — almost as if they’re scales dropping off of him and landing upon bystanders — is an intriguing one, but so far there’s yet to be a hook that makes this attention-grabbing on a story level. Ulysses is similarly lacking any sort of hook as someone who seems present only to tie off another loose end. Removed from the idea of being a Superman analogue originally from Earth, he’s just a snarling villain that misses any sort of nuance.
Benes’ art varies greatly from one project to the next, and unfortunately that doesn’t work here. Superman himself looks off-model; his face is not only distinctly not Clark Kent’s, but — if anything — he looks more like the glimpses we’ve seen of the Chinese-American star of Gene Luen Yang and Victor Bogdanovic’s “New Super-Man.” Everyone is also incredibly unexpressive. On page 2, Supergirl looks like she’s in an entirely different comic than what the dialogue tells us; her pose in the second panel looks like she’s gearing up to seduce someone, and — in the third — her expression is so blank that Superman and Wonder Woman might as well not be talking. That’s also true for Wonder Woman on this page; she seems divorced from her own dialogue, to say nothing of Superman’s heartfelt words. This continues throughout the book; the artwork so flat it makes me wonder if this is part of why the story’s characters aren’t connecting, as it mutes the reactions demanded by the script. Benes has done much better work on other comics, but this feels uninspired.
“Superman/Wonder Woman” #28 feels limp, which is a shame considering how much stronger the previous three chapters were. Hopefully we’ll see the remaining issues rally a bit more, because this slump at the halfway point makes it a bit harder to get excited for the remaining chapters in May. Superman has had a worthy send-off up until now; let’s hope that comes back soon.