It’s been a year since DC Comics’ premiere power couple moved into their own comic together, and they commemorate the occasion with a date night in “Superman/Wonder Woman” #13 by new series writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Doug Mahnke. At least, they try to, but as always, their night out usually gets interrupted by a super-villain or two.
That’s almost a shame in this case, as Tomasi begins to explore a relatively unseen aspect of both characters: their lives off the clock, but not as civilians. Clark and Diana are out of costume and dressed to the nines for their date, sure, but it’s still Superman and Wonder Woman going out to dinner. Tomasi shows that Kal doesn’t automatically have to become Clark just because he puts on a suit, allowing him to focus on a dynamic between two superheroes being themselves when they’re not, well, being superheroes. It’s the kind of dynamic that actually makes a night on the town just as interesting as a battle over it, if not more so, and one of those ideas that make readers wonder why it’s not examined more often.
Despite some tension and an early ending to their evening, their date goes a lot better for them then their subsequent fight with a pair of familiar bad guys does, and there’s really nothing during the course of the battle that’s as compelling as their quiet time, except for a surprise appearance serving as the issue’s cliffhanger ending. What Tomasi does well during both sequences is establish a natural sounding dialogue between the two characters; they sound like the allies they are while engaged in battle, but also like a surprisingly normal couple beforehand.
Tomasi manages to avoid the stereotypes of typical couples, even if it’s only a reversal on the guy impatiently waiting for the girl to get ready. But he also misses on the characterization a bit; Clark seems a little too eager to play the role of Boy Scout for random strangers at the expense of his date, and Diana’s mood swings from impatience to understanding and back again. The leadoff flashback sequence, in fact, shows Diana in an unnecessarily brutal light; it’s clear enough that she’s a deadly warrior without honing in on a callous disregard for civilians.
Mahnke and Mendoza deliver a pretty strongly detailed set of pages; the oft-repeated flashback to the invasion from Apokolips is referenced again here, as it has been in multiple DC titles since the New 52 relaunch, but Darkseid’s parademons look unusually disturbing here. A rainy night in Manhattan never appeared so bleak, and the pair of villains truly looks menacing. The biggest inconsistency comes from facial close-ups; expressions are rendered nearly flawlessly in some panels but are painfully awkward in others; Diana appears to be doing her best Lily Munster impersonation in one particularly sloppy panel.
Mahnke’s layouts sync nicely with Tomasi’s script; smaller panels throughout Clark and Diana’s evening out give Tomasi opportunity to focus on the couple’s relationship, and larger ones enhance the battle scenes only when necessary, such as to establish the scene, introduce the bad guys, or simply for dramatic effect. Nothing is wasted or overblown; the issue is efficiently laid out, and colored equally efficiently by Tomeu Morey. The artists stretch out a little more on the cover, with a typically iconic pose of the Dating Duo embellished with a grainy texture and drenched in a background of red. The technique is overdone slightly, as Supes looks like he took a shot of mud right to the eye.
“Superman/Wonder Woman” #13 is the better Wonder Woman title of the week, despite some characterization and artistic inconsistencies. An intriguing look at a side of two characters not often seen is unfortunately truncated by an obligatory battle scene, but overall it remains a nice start to the title’s second year.