Embroiled in the story of Superman’s identity being revealed to the public, Peter J. Tomasi, Doug Mahnke and company’s “Superman/Wonder Woman” #21 introduces some new elements to the title even as other pieces are wrapped up.
There’s a power-craving monster in “Superman/Wonder Woman” #21, but I’m not referring to the beasts unleashed on both Firestorm and Superman this issue. The President’s Chief of Staff, Mr. Bend, is a bit of an enigma here; Tomasi shows him enacting various bad things this issue but, for the moment, there’s no motivation given. We’ll probably get one before too long, but — based solely on this issue — he’s a bit of a bland face. His minions are equally featureless in that regard; there’s no personality here, nothing to latch onto. They might have taken down a powerful character but that doesn’t make them any more interesting.
Tomasi also clearly enjoys expanding the cracks in the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship as trust issues begin to surface. It makes perfect sense, considering what an incredible amount of stress Superman is going through post-outing, doubly so with so many faces from his past having been captured as part of “Dark Truth.” What’s nice is that this issue continues to treat the two characters as equals; Superman might be angry at Wonder Woman’s actions, but her motivations and decisions are understandable and this isn’t a situation where one character is right and another one is wrong.
Mahnke’s pencils are enjoyable, and he’s someone who’s able to draw scowling faces shrouded in shadow repeatedly and make them still look inventive and original. He’s an apt choice for a story titled “Dark Truth,” because Mahnke’s strengths are in a slightly darker rendition of the superhero world. With four inkers and three colorists, it would have been easy for this book to visually look a big jumbled mess, but it’s much to Mahnke’s credit that his pencils are strong enough that there’s still a good consistency from one page to the next.
“Superman/Wonder Woman” #21 clearly sets up a larger storyline still to come (especially with the final page tying into the other Superman family titles this month) and, as a result, it’s understandable there are going to be some lackluster moments. If it wasn’t for Lois’ moments under the lasso, I suspect this issue would have been entirely forgettable, but it’s there that Tomasi and Mahnke remind us they normally deliver much stronger stories. This is transition, pure and simple; it’s not bad but it’s not more than average, either. I look forward to seeing where the title is heading, but hopefully the heavy lifting was completed this issue so things can get a bit more exciting in October.