In the early days of the New 52, I remember reading that DC's reboot fell flat for readers due to a lack of "connective tissue" between books. With years of continuity thrown out the window, character interactions felt flat and lacked all but a superficial impact. Basically, DC's reboot failed because there was no history between characters, at least not that we knew about. While I didn't buy the argument back then, I did understand where that fan was coming from, especially when it came to the controversial Superman/Wonder Woman relationship. It feels like DC has spent more time having other characters react to the pairing then showing why the two characters are attracted to each other or work as a couple.
Enter Superman/Wonder Woman, Charles Soule and Tony Daniel's new DC series. Unlike Superman Unchained or Wonder Woman, this book is set firmly in the DCU and quickly establishes both characters' backgrounds and current statuses as part of a larger tapestry. There's references to Clark's budding blogging career (good luck with that, buddy), the current plight of the Amazons, and the Justice League, all the while establishing Superman and Wonder Woman's relationship and characters and setting up a major new (for the New 52) threat. Soule mixes romance with action without making the book seem too "Twilight". As Soule's been saying all along, this is more than a book about an ill-fated romance, it's a book about two of DC's strongest heroes, and he delivers just that.
Soule deftly navigates the various iterations of the characters in the New 52. Wonder Woman acts mainly like Azzarello's take on the character, but with a dash of Johns' more extreme version, while Superman retains much of the passivity of Lobdell's take on the character while retaining some of Snyder's more superheroic tone. Soule is to be commended for his character work here, he manages to walk a tightrope while starting to add his own take on the characters.
Tony Daniel, when not rushed, is one of DC's strongest traditional superhero pencillers. His artwork in Superman/Wonder Woman is far stronger than his work on Detective Comics, with smoother lines and more natural blocking during scenes. There are times when Daniel's art feels more like a collection of static photos than snapshots into the action, but Daniel gives the scenes an appropriate sense of action throughout the issue.
I'm also glad to see that Soule and Daniel are experimenting with layouts. There's a sequence towards the end of the issue featuring Superman and Wonder Woman canoodling in the background in a palette of red and black while Wonder Woman battles a foe in the foreground which showed some real promise. I love, love, love when any comic plays with their non-traditional layouts, and it's not something we've seen a lot of from Daniel. I think it's a great way to separate a book from the generic superhero comic and an easy way to bring in a fanbase.
Where the book fell flat with me, however, was Soule's use of flashbacks throughout the issue. While they were a useful tool to set up Superman and Wonder Woman's relationship, it really hurt the action sequences in the book and killed the suspense, and I feel the book flashbacked at the wrong time, throwing off the pacing. However, I'm betting that this was a one time thing, so I'm not going to write the book off for that single flaw.
Superman/Wonder Woman really is a "connective tissue" type of book. Soule spends more time in this one issue defining Superman and Wonder Woman's relationship than the rest of DC's books have over the last year. However, it doesn't address why these two characters are together, which is something that needs to happen soon if DC wants the fanbase to really buy into this romance. I'd really like either Superman or Wonder Woman give even the briefest explanation as to why they're trying to make this thing work. Does Superman feel that Wonder Woman's more confident and aggressive personality compliments his own? Why is Wonder Woman attracted to Superman? If you're looking for answers for that, you won't find them in this issue.
All in all, Superman/Wonder Woman is an above average book with a few flashes of greatness. This book will succeed if it can breathe life into the Superman/Wonder Woman pairing and will fail if it tries too hard to maintain a balancing act between conflicting takes on characters and not moving Superman and Wonder Woman's relationship forward. There's a talented creative team involved, so I'm hoping that this issue will act as the starting block for a fantastic univese building comic.