Today’s Super Comic — Wonder Woman #14 (2008)

wonder_woman_vol_3_14Not every writer “gets” Wonder Woman, but Gail Simone absolutely does, as demonstrated in her excellent run that began with 2008’s Wonder Woman #14.

Here, Wonder Woman is both a warrior and a diplomat. She’s very human, but also somewhat alien to our culture. And she bridges the gap between classical mythology and DC’s modern pantheon.

An early scene captures her perfectly. Intelligent super-apes attack her, and she initially enjoys the skirmish but ultimately talks her way to a peaceful resolution. Later, her interior monologue comments on American office culture from her unique perspective: “It is a strange culture that outlaws the hug. On the other hand…there is cake. And that excuses much.”

Also, the issue sets up a confrontation with Nazis. And yeah, sure, they’re never going to be sympathetic or complex antagonists. Still, watching good people clobber Nazis is one of superhero comics’ earliest pastimes…and it never gets old.

I have no idea if the upcoming Wonder Woman movie will be amazing or will disappoint like other recent DC movies…but either way, we will always have Gail Simone’s exceptional storylines to re-read.

Writer: Gail Simone

Penciler: Terry Dodson

Inker: Rachel Dodson

Cover: Terry & Rachel Dodson

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Wonder Woman: The Circle (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Kingdom Come #4 (1996)

kingdom_come_4Kingdom Come arrives at a perfect conclusion.

The Superman in this miniseries has been one who’s lost his way. He still wants to do the right thing, but his previously impeccable judgment is impaired. This is the issue to address how he let that happen and how to right the course…but only after he reaches his breaking point, brought upon in part by his own incredible sense of responsibility.

Wonder Woman, too, has strayed, and her arc comes to a head in an excellent confrontation with Batman. And Captain Marvel is extremely well cast as the one character who is both superhuman and human.

The two-page spread early in the book showcases Alex Ross’s amazing artistic talents. He crams so many characters on the battlefield, with every bit player and background actor engaged in a specific action against a specific opponent. Throughout the book, each page is a phenomenal work of art.

Writer Mark Waid clearly understands superheroes’ two most important roles—to fight always for life, and to inspire. Unless they do those two things, they’re not truly superheroes. This series is ultimately all about superheroes becoming heroic again, and while I’ve never ranked my favorite comics, Kingdom Come would easily fall in the top ten. Probably top five.

Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Alex Ross

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Kingdom Come (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Kingdom Come #3 (1996)

kingdom_come_3In the third issue of Kingdom Come, Superman doesn’t want to adjust to a changing world, but Captain Marvel couldn’t adjust. Superman strives to maintain peace, but Wonder Woman is prepared for war, if necessary.

The inclusion of Captain Marvel (Shazam) is an excellent choice. He truly is DC’s most innocent superhero. He’s a child who can transform into a super-powered adult, but he’s still a child at heart. But this miniseries is set in the future, and Billy Batson is all grown up…and the manner in which he’s grown up reflects the world around him. He simply doesn’t fit in this darker age, leading him into Lex Luthor’s thrall. His cheesy smile has never been creepier.

The conflict between Superman’s idealism and Wonder Woman’s pragmatism is especially well-handled, and it’s all the more interesting because it’s a conflict between two people who respect each other a great deal.

Tensions escalate throughout the issue. We get some relief as Batman has his Awesome Batman Moment. But this is all about putting all the chess pieces in place for the climactic battle, and it features many excellent moments along the way, including this fantastic quote from Superman to Batman:

“The deliberate taking of human—even super-human—life goes against every belief I have—and that you have. That’s the one thing we’ve always had in common. It’s what made us what we are.”

I will savor re-reading the final issue.

Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Alex Ross

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Kingdom Come (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Kingdom Come #2 (1996)

kingdom_come_2Another issue that’s just as good, if not better than I remember.

This is the “gathering of forces” issue. Superman rebuilds the Justice League. Batman and a few other non-powered ex-Leaguers make their own appeal to the younger generation. Lex Luthor and a cabal of old villains are up to something. And the antiheroes continue to do whatever they damn well please…but with significantly tougher opposition now.

The key to the issue’s success is the focus on varying worldviews. Superman and Batman’s argument, which involves not a single punch or blast of heat vision, is far more compelling than anything seen in the Batman v Superman movie. Wonder Woman, who’s serving as Superman’s right hand, also sees things differently than the Man of Steel due to her experience as a warrior.

And then there’s Magog, the “superhero” who precipitated Superman’s retirement. Magog took it upon himself to kill, rather than apprehend, the Joker; Superman wouldn’t stand for such a blatant disregard for the law and human decency, so he took Magog to court. And Metropolis and its citizens sided overwhelmingly with Magog. He was the future, and Superman was the past.

But “new” doesn’t always equal “right,” and as we saw in #1, Magog’s carelessness resulted in the deaths of a million innocents. And his genuine remorse in this issue adds just enough depth to his character.

“They chose the man who would kill over the man who wouldn’t,” Magog says, “and now they’re dead.”

As I suggested yesterday, this is one of the greatest Superman stories ever told.

Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Alex Ross

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Kingdom Come (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Wonder Woman #184 (2002)

Wonder Woman 184Writer/Artist Phil Jimenez had a terrific run on Wonder Woman that shows how to do a good, solid superhero book that’s fun for kids and adults alike.

It’s been a while since I’ve read any of the Jimenez issues, and I’m regrettably missing a good chunk of them. But every issue I do have is a winner. I grabbed one at random, issue #184, and was treated to time-travel, dinosaurs, evil Nazis, shrunken super-villains, two Wonder Women, a tribute of sorts to an old World War II super-heroine, a respectable new romantic interest who got dragged along for the ride, and stellar artwork throughout. All in 22 pages!

This is a comic book that’s so delightfully unembarrassed to be a comic book. It embraces the superhero genre’s absurdity and reminds you why you love it. Plus, the book portrays a likeable, kind, heroic Wonder Woman who makes a great role model for younger readers. (More recent Wonder Woman comics I’ve read haven’t been so kid-friendly, which is a loss for kids.)

Now I want to track down those missing issues.

Writer/Penciler: Phil Jimenez

Inker: Andy Lanning

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up

Today’s Super Comics — The All New Atom #17 & 18 (2008)

All-New_Atom_17The Atom and Wonder Woman team up! Not the original Atom, though, but that’s fine. Ray Palmer has always been plenty likeable, but he tends to work best as a supporting character rather than a lead, making the Atom a strong candidate for an “all-new” version.

The titular All New Atom was Dr. Ryan Choi. Like his predecessor, he worked as a college professor in Ivy Town and was an all-around good guy…just younger, a lot less experienced, and a lot more awestruck by the whole superhero thing. It was a great opportunity for writers to build a new Atom from the ground up, retaining what worked but crafting an engaging new character free from continuity baggage.

The series got derailed somewhere along the way, and offhand I can’t recall what’s become of this Atom. But the original run of issues written by Gail Simone remains a fun look at a novice superhero coming into his own. You can always count on Simone to deliver solid superhero stories.

In these two issues, the Atom goes on a date with Giganta and becomes incredibly awkward around Wonder Woman. Which is to say…good times. And Wonder Woman’s evaluation of the new Atom serves as a fitting end to Simone’s time on the book.

Writer: Gail Simone

Penciler: Mike Norton

Inker: Trevor Scott

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in The All-New Atom vol. 3: Small Wonder (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comic: Action Comics #761 (2000)

Action761Superman and Wonder Woman meet Thor! Okay, not Marvel’s Thor, but Norse mythology happens to lie within the public domain, so they can get transported to Valhalla and meet a different interpretation of Thor.

But that’s actually the least of what makes this single-issue story so fantastic. It opens amid an ongoing subplot at the time in which the public suspects there might be a “Mrs. Superman” and is speculating about who this lucky lady might be. Lois—his actual wife at this stage of continuity and keeper of his secret identity—teases Clark about the whole thing and tries to get him to name someone whom Superman the icon would marry, hypothetically. Clark insists there couldn’t possibly be anyone other than Lois. And then Wonder Woman drops by.

But when Wonder Woman gets sucked into a centuries-long war among gods in another dimension and Superman is dragged along, he demonstrates what an exceptionally decent hero he is, and writer Joe Kelly expertly delineates Clark’s relationship with Lois and his friendship with Diana. He’ll fight by Wonder Woman’s side until the end of time if needed, because she’s his friend, and even after centuries of seemingly endless war, he’ll remain faithful to Lois, because she’s his love. (And he also vows never to take a life during this whole thing, because he’s also that kind of hero.)

A complete, epic tale of love and friendship spanning centuries—in a mere 22 pages. Fantastic stuff.

Writer: Joe Kelly

Penciler: German Garcia

Inker: Joe Rubinstein

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up