Power couple

Wonder Woman and Superman are officially an item, as the pair realise that there’s no one out there like them.

Justice League #12 (DC, US$3.99) Writer: Geoff Johns Artist: Jim Lee (and a posse of inkers!)

IN 1988, the DC Universe hit puberty courtesy of the super-powered fling between Superman and Wonder Woman in Action Comics #600. Then, in a newly remodelled DC Universe (post Crisis On Infinite Earths), both characters had no strings attached and the Man of Steel was attracted to the Amazonian Princess after collaborating in the Legends event. Unfortunately, their romance never got to second base, but it did open up the possibilities of an inevitable union – which materialised in the epic Kingdom Come series, where Superman and Wonder Woman tied the knot and were expecting a child.

With Kingdom Come set in an alternate universe, the mainstream books have been purely based on the Lois-Clark chemistry. Over the years, there has been no other worthy third party to replace Lois, not even the other “double Ls” such as Lana Lang or Lori Lemaris. Similarly, as part of Wonder Woman’s persona as a feminist role model, the Amazonian Princess’ heart was mainly occupied by Steve Trevor. There was an anomaly though (in 2004’s JLA #90) when DC tinkered with the possibility of a Wonder Woman-Batman romance. Fortunately, (im)mortality prevailed over sensuality. Besides, a Batman-Catwoman union made more sense.

Courtesy of the new DC 52 Universe, what was once complicated is now simplified, as the new Man of Steel now comes without a ball-and-chain! Love or loath her, Lois Lane is no longer Clark’s other half, and with this new Superman still in “a stranger in a strange land” mode, everything and everyone is a new experience and experiment to him. So, why not let his first love be with the Amazonian Princess?

As for Diana, her New-52 roots still involves Steve Trevor. While their relationship started off perfectly, Steve’s “power-less” state made him a liability and target. This led to a much-publicised break-up, though there are still strong feelings between them. Unfortunately, whatever spark is left gets severely tested when Steve is abducted by Graves (a new Justice League villain) for interrogation purposes. How much punishment a mere mortal can withstand is the order of the last two issues, as Graves attempts to dig all relevant information on Wonder Woman’s past and fears. This is also where this milestone issue begins as it paves a new foundation towards the formulation of a “Power couple” and the League’s future.

With Jim Lee’s pulsating illustrations dominating most of the last 11 issues (not forgetting the wonderful Johns-Gary Frank back-up Shazam tales), this first dozen landmark issue stands out mainly because of the plot and its defining moments. While much of the focus over the last three issues have been geared towards building up Graves’ persona, the former author-cum-victim of Darkseid’s attack on Earth is still a villain-in-training.

Tracing back to issue six, where Graves and his family were at ground zero of Darkseid’s showdown with the League, the man has come full circle from seeing his best-selling Justice League book top the charts to watching his family fall victim to the after effects of Darkseid’s visit, which results in him developing a personal vendetta against the League. Armed with the ability to tap into his opponents’ biggest fears, Graves is a Doctor Destiny-meets-Scarecrow type of villain. With the usual mind-over-illusions moment inevitable, what makes the build-up interesting is the weaving of Graves’ past and Steve’s comeback, which eventually turns the tide in the League’s favour.

Spoiler alert!

While the League’s victory was never in doubt, it is the ramifications from this episode that sends ripples into upcoming events. Firstly, Graves and the tabloids tarnish the League’s holier-than-thou image as Earth’s protectors. Akin to a Wikileaks moment, snippets of infighting amongst League members (i.e. Green Lantern versus Wonder Woman) are now on the public domain, raising doubts over the stability of the team.

Then there’s that unfinished business between Diana and Steve, as their earlier break-up was not executed cleanly and it’s evident that this Graves incident has reignited some sparks. Not willing to put Steve in harm’s way again, Diana puts aside her emotions to deliver the coup de grace to their fragile relationship. Despite being gifted with super strength, this issue portrays Diana in a vulnerable state enroute to a super-smooch moment with the Man of Steel.

In case you’re wondering “what was Superman thinking?”, the build-up to this iconic moment sums it up, as the Man of Steel neatly lays down his case for companionship and the risks (and setbacks) of being close to non-super powered beings.

With this super-powered match, the ensuing story arcs offer some very exciting developments for DC’s newest couple. Steve’s role as a jilted lover (not once, but twice!) certainly warrants some airtime in future story arcs. For those on “Team Steve”, rejoice as his retribution comes in a few months time courtesy of a new look Justice League of America team. With a new team of superheroes at his disposal, the inevitable Steve-Diana-Kal-el showdown should eclipse most other love triangles.

Overall, this milestone issue does not disappoint, despite the euphoria surrounding it. There are valid reasons for Superman and Wonder Woman to lock lips, and from the upcoming events, it is obvious that this is no “one-issue-stand”. Another significant development is Jim Lee’s pencilling role – the fan favourite artist will be leaving the title. If it’s any consolation, possible replacements include the likes of Ivan Reis or Gary Frank.

In the past, Justice League incarnations have usually found it difficult to repeat its first 12 months’ high in the following year. With the Superman-Wonder Woman relationship, a “traitor in the midst” development, an impending showdown with a new League, and the Trinity War – there are definitely exciting times ahead for the League.

By the way, if you suffer from “Compulsive Completionist Disorder”, apart from getting all three variant covers for this issue, it is also worth noting that the cover of Wonder Woman #12 features a parody of the Justice League #12 cover.

Comic courtesy of Earth 638 (2nd Floor, Kelana Mall, Jalan SS6/12, Kelana Jaya, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Tel: 03-7804 8380, e-mail: earth638@yahoo.com).

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