ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #642
WONDER WOMAN #219
Getting the griping out of the way right at the top because, on the whole, Sacrifice
is a kicker of an arc: this would have worked just as well as a three issue storyline. You could have skipped either Superman
as they are basically interchangeable -- Supes battling some convenient archenemies in vaguely Silver Age-style hallucinations while everyone else looks confused.
In fact, I think there is an argument to be made that Sacrifice
works better without either Superman
, for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with either Mark Verheiden or Gail Simone. I skipped the first two issues the first read-through (they're not normally on the schedule and I forgot) and started with Adventures of Superman
. Greg Rucka does a two-page recap and the reveal of Superman's assault of Batman registered just fine without two issues of foreboding. I'm sure the last page of Action
had impact when read in order, but all of the serious action takes place in AoS
and Wonder Woman
and I don't think the first two issues of the arc together carry a proportionate weight of the storyline. Although if you skipped Action
, you would have missed Simone's J'onn fanservice with the chocos, a pleasantly complex Lois, and the surreal sight of Supes in costume-plus-hoodie. (Thank you, John Byrne.) AoS
works because it relies on an unreliable narrator who we can realistically forget is unreliable, which is easier to do if we haven't been reminded of the fact for two issues. Clark's genuine remorse and guilt fuel his segue into the next delusion without a hiccup. His fears that Max will take advantage and use the rest of the JLA to take him down are perfectly logical and he reacts in kind, strongly and benevolently and making sure he doesn't actually hurt
any of his controlled teammates. (And if you can remember Cyclops returning to the X-Mansion where everyone is being manipulated by Mastermind into thinking he's Dark Phoenix, then you can imagine that maybe Supes is the sane one this time.)
Superman's wary dread of the truth of events he doesn't remember, not unlike how we mere mortals feel after a night of too much drinking, is very powerful on its own. Clark's faint hope that this isn't what it looks like, despite all the evidence that it is precisely what it looks like, has an ache of heartbreak. As the scope of his actions is revealed to him (and us), we can almost feel the nausea rise -- as well as the fears of the others.
Where I really started to wibble on the gullibility meter in AoS
is in how easily Superman takes out a veteran team and why there seems to be no protocol for dealing with either a rogue Superman or an evil entity of Superman's power class. Clark's genuine goodness has probably encouraged others-not-Batman to be lax about protecting against his turning, but even if we're going to forget all about JLA: Tower of Babel
.... meh. Nevertheless, the last page was quite cool (and the accompanying start to WW
) because it's comforting to know that Max is still a perv even when he's the bad guy.
[As a semi-aside, I suppose it's just part of the whole Return to the Silver Age that DC is going through that nobody seems to either notice or care that half of the JLA types in this arc aren't actually in the JLA anymore. Silver Age has trumped current continuity for a while now, so the presence of Black Canary and Hawkman, both JLA reservists more recently of the JSA, don't cause anyone to bat an eyebrow. J'onn is permanently there, Wally stands in for Barry-as-peacemaker, and that John is there instead of Hal could be as much a coincidence as a nod to the JLA's current roster. They certainly treat him as unnecessary and useless.]
When it's done right, Diana taking on Superman (JLA: League of One
) and Batman (Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia
) is so very much more than the tough broad showing her mettle because while Diana's a fantastic fighter, she's not a brawler. I'd love
to see her in a fight with Hawkman, but her first instinct is never violence. Rucka played that up -- perhaps a little too far -- with the whole Book o' Pacifism arc last year, but he more than makes up for any overemphasis with this battle royale.
The three-way fight in WW
between Diana and Max and Kal is great not for the no-holds-barred violence and for Diana's fantastic demonstration of how to work with what you have when what you have isn't much, but instead because Max spends the entire time goading Diana into doing what he has
to know that she will eventually do -- kill him. This version of Max Lord is no fool. He outsmarted Batman and pretty much the entire world, so it's too much of a stretch to believe that he thought Diana would hold back. Diana was trained as a warrior before she became a hero and Max knew that. He knew she'd kill him if there were no other alternative and he is driven enough to be content with a posthumous legacy. Kal witnessing Diana's killing Max will continue Max's plan, even if he isn't around to see it.
(skipping a little space because I'm gonna be talking about Infinite Crisis
and while it's only rumor, some of you are sensitive like that.)
Repeating a discussion I had with pals this week (okay, parroting most of it)... Of all of the Infinite Crisis
rumors that are floating around, the one I came out of this arc hoping wasn't true was that Diana dies and is replaced as Wonder Woman, presumably by Donna. Before Sacrifice
, it was a... not necessarily acceptable, but at least something I could swallow. Diana is the most replaceable of the Big Three -- yes, I've seen the rumors about Bruce starting post-Crisis II in Arkham and Dick returning to the Batman suit -- and DC needs to find a place for Donna now that she's been brought back after that agonizing labor. And yet.
I don't want Diana being punished, literally or karmically, for killing Max Lord. What she did was brutal, but it was a valid combat decision and it says terrible things about the ethical code of the DCU if she must pay with her life for an act that was not a crime.