Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Cool Comic O' the Week - 3/22/14: Superman/Wonder Woman #6

I'm sure I'm not the only comics reader getting dizzy by Marvel and DC's recent-months scrambling  to yet again refashion their titles.  Tons of new books are flooding the market following cancellations of others just from the Big Two alone, notwithstanding DC's Villains Month last fall and the subsequent "Forever Evil" crossover arc that should be winding down to its conclusion.  Both imprints are either starting anew (like Marvel's "All New Marvel Now # 1" reboots and new plot pickups in surviving titles) or they're expanding their characters into new series.  It's very much like the explosion of capes and mutants throughout the nineties, where you truly needed to be in the know to keep up.

I'm holding on through DC's Justice League and Justice League of America, which I hope will regain their strength after "Forever Evil" concludes and I'm trying to hang in there with Action Comics, which was gangbusters (though occasionally weird) through Grant Morrison and Scott Lobdell's runs.  Greg Pak is a solid writer and he knows his characters, but I'm dubious about where that series is headed, even with Clark Kent's childhood friend Lana Lang (a nice choice) playing such an important part lately.  The Batman/Superman team-up book (also fielded by Pak) has been pretty solid, but the prevailing theme there, along with most of the big-name comics, is the alternate reality scenario.  Frankly, I want a lot more from that title, despite its accolades and Pak's pretty fun "Game Over" storyline that was printed vertically over three issues. 

Scott Snyder has been nothing short of brilliant in handling the regular New 52 Batman series well into his third year on the title, but I've been waiting for DC to come up with something worthy of J. Michael Straczynski's stellar Earth One couplet for Superman.  You can remove the undies and make him look like a sleek space sentinel all you want, but Superman in the cyber age kinda needs of a bit more of an edge than just a costume overhaul. 

Well, thank you, Charles Soule.  Soule's Superman/Wonder Woman series has been the toast of DC the past six months, in my opinion.  There have always been single shot stories and the occasional flirtation between the mightiest male and female on the planet, but no one's ever taken the time to actually flesh out a relationship between these two powerhouses.  Soule has bravely engineered a believable romance between The Man of Steel and the Amazonian daughter of Zeus.  What began in the recent Justice League titles as the hottest brewing sexuality since Batman and Catwoman in the "Hush" storyline has evolved into the superb Superman/Wonder Woman series that just completed its first story arc with a breathtaking and poignant finish.

Even though it's getting tiresome seeing rehashes of the Superman II film plot of Supes' hedonistic Kryptonian kin escaping the Phantom Zone and trying to take the Earth for their own, in this series it works.  Even with a guest appearance by Doomsday that hints of future havoc for Clark Kent and Diana Prince to deal with in later issues, Charles Soule and artist Tony S. Daniel make the showdown against Zod and Faora (forget the muted maniac Non of the Donner film's trio of baddies) a bigger event than "Forever Evil" and it hardly has to match the latter's broader scope.  We truly feel that Clark and Diana are in love and that the summation of their powers is stronger than any adversary who could confront them, even the gods who barely tolerate their union.  Then again, Supes does piss off Diana's brother, Apollo in this series and there are repercussions to pay, which is fabulous to think a god amongst mortal men has a higher deity to answer to.

Here's hoping Superman/Wonder Woman continues to pay off down the road as it has through the first six issues.  Though it's suspected this romance will only play out for a certain amount of time since Lois Lane has forevermore been the holder of the Last Son of Krypton's heart, Soule's characterization is what sells the love interest.  Diana and Clark often express their natural hesitation to go deep with each other and Diana trying to find a Christmas present for a super being that has it all is a very touching dynamic to this series.  Their relationship is strenuous, but their strong partnership is unquestionable and the kisses and amorous expressions stand for something here.  It doesn't hurt they make a kickass tag-team in a fight.  The final five pages of Superman/Wonder Woman # 6 are cathartic and Wonder Woman's retort in response to Superman's declaration of love carries nearly as much punch as Han Solo's parting shot to Princess Leia before his dunk into carbon freeze on Bespin in The Empire Strikes Back. 

                        Listenin' to:  The Jam - Compact Snap

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