Each issue of DC Comics Wonder Twins by Mark Russell, Stephen Byrne and Dave Stewart has broken the mold of superhero comic in a variety of ways, but with the return of the originally planned six-issue series, Wonder Twins #7 seems to hit the hardest. In this start of a “second season” the team pose a great deconstruction of well known superhero tropes, while presenting one of the best pep talks from the Big Blue man himself—Superman. It seems DC’s decision to make it a twelve-issue limited series bodes quite well, as Russell and team may have created the best issue yet.
Feeling the complete weight of sending her friend to jail, Jayna learns hard life lessons via Superman, but before that let’s touch on some other segments. Russell has the ability to bring up serious subject manner in his books in a less than serious way, making you look into what exactly is happening while laughing. This technique is pretty smart, because who would like an on the nose hyper serious take on events? Most times those read as hamfisted, or pushing an agenda. In Issue #7 it may not be as subtle as the previous issues, but nonetheless it’s a great twist on a trope. As the announcement of a meteor -on a collision course to earth- causes citizens to start going bonkers and riot, thus destroying everything in their path… as a rioter does.
These riots occurred due to the aforementioned announcement of a meteor crash, but is propelled by a select few citizens noticing the Batwing, Invisible Jet, and Superman flying out of the Hall of Justice. That must mean that the Justice League is running flying away from the planet to stop the meteor correct? Not when you’re in fear for your life! In the final moments of a fear filled life you tell everyone it’s because the Justice League is running away! It’s not like they have saved -and sacrificed themselves- for the planet a multitude of other times.
As silly as all of that sounds, it also sounds insanely realistic. If Earth was filled with superheroes, who even though has saved us many times, warned of a meteor crash, then promptly left, wouldn’t that scare the hell out of the populace? Once you stop and think it makes complete sense. Whereas other comics the populace aren’t fazed too much, like it’s just another Tuesday. This could be due to repeated Earth invasions or such, but it’s a scene that’s never shown or alluded to in other comics. That is until Russell makes it a focal point in this issue. As previously stated he has the ability to write moments that make you question comics in subtitle ways, then others right in your face. Or in this case, a meteor on your earth.
Trying to calm down the rioters, League Member Repulso is called upon, this is where Russell’s humor is mixed with serious, but we shall also come back to this. With the Wonder Twins clearing out the riot, the rioters make their way to The Hall of Justice just to be stopped by the Justice League, fresh from space. One rioter stands up to the Man of Steel, questioning why they left them, and didn’t try to stop the meteor. To this Supes explains elegantly, “We DID. You have to leave the planet to divert meteors. It’s sort of where they live.” This nonchalant response is beautiful, showcasing Superman’s quick witted, cool-headed response. Followed up with the information the death ball has been dealt with.
This doesn’t please the rioters as they explain the League could have warned them earlier, proceeded by the question of how many times has this happen? With this Supes explains quite often, only to be lashed out upon with the question of not telling the public of mortal danger. With six words and a hand Superman answers with the destruction the rioters have caused. This interaction between Superman and the rioters is spectacular, showing a side comics generally don’t, while explaining why the League doesn’t tell the general public every time something akin to this happens.
These heavy moments and breaking of traditions is helped by wonderful Saturday morning cartoon feeling Byrne brings to the table. The reason this is mentioned before we get to Repulso is because this art shouldn’t work with the themes being told, but by golly it does. Instead of going with a gritty art style to help talk about the themes, and twisting of told stories, it’s done with a cartoonish factor that makes it feel like a cartoon with a life lesson. Today’s lesson? That no matter how hard you try, even if you do every single thing correct you may still fail. Plus this hero business is a lonely one. Try drinking that down with some Frank Miller art.
Now Repulso. What or who is Repulso? Another creation by Russell for Wonder Twins, but instead of a new villain he is part of the League, or that’s what Superman says. Repulso is a plot device for the lonely superhero who just wants to help. But he isn’t only used for that, he also doubles as a pungent smelling human wrecking ball. As a larger, more rounded male he emits a smell so bad that even in a hazmat suit it penetrates through, or in Zan’s case, being able to smell it as a cloud. Repulso is showcased as a happy go lucky character, who loves interactions due to being cooped up in a sealed bunker because of his smell. Throughout he is nothing but kind even when attacked by the rioters, hammering in the fact that he knows what he is used for, but he is just happy to help.
Now to what may be one of the best Superman moments in recent years. Superman should be shown as what everyone strives to be, even without the super powers. He should instill hope, love, compassion, and all of those other feelings we love to lock away. Russell showcases these characteristics that made Superman the idol he is perfectly, especially in the chat with Jayna. On a deeper level the duo compliment each other, as they are both aliens on Earth. With Superman being there for years, and Jayna being a more recent transplant. But that is beside this moment. Instead this is about her feelings as of recent. Starting the conversation Jayna explains her problems aren’t nearly as bad as the recent ‘space-borne annihilation of earth’, but to this Superman says he’ll be the judge of that. As simple as that sounds, that’s a great moment of showing how great of a character Superman is, no matter what he will sit, chat, and listen.
In this chat between one who is lost, and one who has been lost countlessly, the life lesson is hammered home. To put all the dialogue here wouldn’t do it justice, so we’ll just shorten it and speak a little on its behalf. With her friend in jail -partly due to her, even though she tried to help-, being demoted at the Hall of Justice, and her brother being too busy for her now that he is a ‘hero’, she feels that with everything right she has done, she should be “rewarded”. Or better yet, why have this bad things happened to her. This statement alone can hit home for a great number of readers. Superman’s response will invoke that same feeling, even though he states it has heroes, it applies to everyone, “Heroes don’t work for rewards…..this job can be anything but rewarding.”
Rewards can be seen it the normal sense, a gift or such, but in this sense it’s more akin to put good in, get good out. You try to help a friend, but no matter what you do it fails. This being what occurred. Furthering this Supes explains that this line of work is by its nature lonely, it isolates you from the people you are saving, from everyone. Another example of this happens in Marvel’s recent Ghost-Spider Annual #1, which by the way is great and worth the read!
In comics, we love a hero who is never down and out mentally. Yeah they may get beat physically, but rarely is there a mental battle they fight that doesn’t get solved easily. It’s normally, “oh trust yourself” or the like, instead Superman says, yeah that shit happens, it’s part of the job. But through the rain you will see the sun. Corny? Yeah, but when nothing is going the way you want, you stand up, find yourself, and find out what you truly stand for. Life may hand us lemons, but it also hands you the ability to make friends, and although it may not seem it, or be hard in the process, the good you do is noticed, even if there is no rewards.
With this motivational speech at its end Jayna is seen playing board games with Repulso, in the form of an ant that can’t smell. The perfect ending to a life lesson that someone may need to hear. Perfectly showing how an alien is as human as us.