Wonder Woman #45 Review: “Amazons Attacked” Stumbles to a Poor Conclusion

April 25, 2018

ww45.jpg

Let’s start with some happy news: This run is going to end. We’ve always known this in the abstract, of course. Creative teams at the Big Two never last forever. But now we’ve got a date. On July 11, 2018, Wonder Woman #50 will come out and mark the end of James Robinson’s tenure writing the book. While it’s kind of a downer that they’re letting him write such a landmark issue after months of churning out terrible work, the bigger news is that it’s finally over. Steve Orlando and Laura Braga are taking over for a brief arc starting with Wonder Woman #51, and then a new, yet unnamed creative team will come in.

I’d be excited for anyone not named James Robinson to be writing the book, but Orlando is an especially good choice. I’ve enjoyed his work for a while now, and from his few comments on what’s to come it sounds like he’s got a good handle on Wonder Woman and why she’s amazing. Braga is a great choice, too. She’s done fantastic work on DC Comics Bombshells, and I’m looking forward to her drawing Wonder Woman in a more modern setting. It should all be a lot of fun. We’ve just got to slog through five more issues to get there!

Speaking of a slog, Wonder Woman #45 came out today, bringing the “Amazons Attacked” storyline to a close. The issue was bad, the arc was dumb, and damn near everything about this book continues to suck. So let’s talk about it, I guess? But first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to ruin the conclusion of this foolish arc!

Look away if you don’t want to know how Darkseid loses because… love?

It doesn’t make any sort of sense.

As I just mentioned, in this grand finale to months of painful storytelling, Wonder Woman defeats Darkseid with love. More specifically, she uses her love for her brothers, sisters, and other divine relatives killed by Darkseid in his quest to repower himself, loving them so fiercely that she somehow pulls their souls from his body. Darkseid, now weakened, burns up and disappears.

So, yeah. The thing is, Wonder Woman and love go hand in hand. Her compassion and her kindness have been hallmarks of the character from the very beginning. When William Moulton Marston created her, he made her the embodiment of the loving authority of women. If any superhero is going to use love to defeat a villain, it’s going to be Wonder Woman. The problem is, it still has to make sense. There’s need to be a degree of logic. You can’t just say that Diana’s love is “bright and true” and then ta-dah, Darkseid is done. Wonder Woman is not some sort of loving necromancer. She cannot draw out the souls of the dead through sheer affection alone.

And even if Robinson and co. wanted to make this a new superpower for her, then okay, explain it. It’s a bad, silly idea, but make it work. Set it up in some fashion. Do a little bit of foreshadowing and table setting so it doesn’t come off like a bizarre deus ex machina. Love is a wonderful, powerful thing, but to use it to such a degree, entirely out of the blue, kind of ruins the entire ending. Well, “ruin” is the wrong word. That implies that there was something good to begin with. But it’s cheap, and unearned, and generally dumb.

On top of that foolishness, this issue continues one of my main frustrations with this run: Robinson’s focus on male characters. I’ve said it a million times, but this book is called Wonder Woman. She should be the main character. And, almost as importantly, women should play an important role in the series, across the board. In this issue, we start with opening narration from Steve Trevor. Then Jason, a man, goes to Themyscira to save the Amazons from Grail’s attack. And finally Grail, once captured by the Amazons, is imprisoned with Ares so that HE can teach her the values of love and peace that he has learned. Learned from women, I might add; his wokeness comes from submission to Aphrodite and the Amazons. That’s too many dudes doing too many things. All while Wonder Woman defeats Darkseid in the dumbest of ways.

This issue is basically the culmination of so many terrible ideas. Bringing back Grail. Giving Diana a brother. Ignoring every rad female supporting character in the Wonder Woman mythos. Letting James Robinson write a comic book after, I’m guessing, he traded his skills at storytelling to some sort of evil leprechaun for magic beans? I’m not exactly sure how his writing turned so bad so quickly, but the larger point stands: The dude is doing garbage work here. And all of that combines into this boring, nonsensical conclusion that lacks any excitement, heart, or reader investment.

At least it looks pretty good. So long as you’ve got Emanuela Lupacchino drawing Wonder Woman, even if it’s just for some of the pages, it’s going to be a book worth looking at. She captures the character so well, and Ray McCarthy does a great job inking her work. Marco Santucci is solid, too. I prefer Lupacchino, but he carries off his pages nicely. And of course, series MVP Romulo Fajardo Jr. holds everything together with his coloring. The dude’s a magician. When books go off the rails like Wonder Woman has as of late, often times it shows up in the artwork. You see rushed drawing, and everyone down the production line starts phoning it in. While we’ve had some instances of hasty linework over the past few months, Fajardo Jr. has been making everyone look better with every single issue he colors. Give the man a dang raise, DC.

So, Darkseid is done, and now we’ve just got to get through some sort of Metal tie-in for the next five issues. Then we get a new creative team and maybe we can enjoy the book again? Gosh, I hope so. I’m real tired of hating what should be my favourite book.

Advertisements

Women in Comics Statistics, DC and Marvel, Winter 2018 in Review

April 19, 2018

genderxlogo

My quarterly “Gendercrunching” column went up at Bleeding Cool this week, and the New Year has brought some notable changes to both major superhero publishers. Female creator representation appears to be on the rise at DC, while it’s dropping precipitously at Marvel.

All together, DC Comics’ average percentage of female creators came in at 17.1% for the winter months, a 1.5% gain from the fall. It’s not a huge leap, but DC’s numbers have been stagnant for a while now. The overall totals for January, February, and March were all higher than any of the fall months, which bodes well for the longevity of this shift.

Marvel, meanwhile, is tumbling. Their average percentage of female creators fell to 14.8%, more than a three point drop from the autumn. What’s more, each winter month was lower than the last, extending their current skid to four straight months of losses. Marvel’s got a brand new Editor-in-Chief in C.B. Cebulski, but so far his tenure feels like a return to the old days of Marvel being a boy’s club. Plus with a dude-centric relaunch on the way and the recent departure of several female assistant editors, these numbers could decline even further over the course of the spring.

Head on over to Bleeding Cool for the full charts and analysis! It’s an intriguing start to the year, for sure, and it will be fascinating to see how the numbers change over the next quarter.

Wonder Woman #44 Review: The Fight Rages On! And Remains Terrible/Nigh Unreadable!

April 11, 2018

ww44.jpg

I had a really nice weekend, gang. I went to Chicago for C2E2, had a great time at the show, tried a poke bowl for the first time (it was DELICIOUS). It was excellent all around, and the fun started with a panel discussion about Catwoman at The Book Cellar with some super smart comic critics. Angelica Jade Bastien, Lauren Burke, Caitlin Rosberg, Katie Schenkel, and I spent the bulk of the time discussing Catwoman, of course, but every now and again the conversation would turn to the current run of Wonder Woman. And with that turn came utter bewilderment at what a mess the book is right now, partly in relation to its brilliant “Rebirth” relaunch and partly just on its own, entirely lacking merits. Everyone was utterly flabbergasted at the horrible depths the series has sunk to as of late. It was a cathartic conversation, with the general consensus being that James Robinson should perhaps consider a different career path entirely.

Anyway, there’s a new Wonder Woman out this week, so let’s talk about it. But first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal the secrets of yet another painfully subpar issue of Wonder Woman!

They don’t make a lick of sense in terms of current continuity, though!

This book is dumb.

So this issue is mostly fighting, which I appreciated. The brawling meant that there weren’t long, drawn out conversations that lacked any semblance to normal human speech and simply regurgitated previously established facts. I’ve had enough of that with the past few issues. Now, the fighting wasn’t particularly good, nor were the quips and banter therein. The structure of the battle on the page jumped around a lot, seemingly at random, and the core brawl between Wonder Woman and Darkseid was the only one that actually mattered. Jason and Grail’s faceoff didn’t really go anywhere, while Steve and his Howling Commandos appeared to be entirely ineffective.

Like most of Robinson’s run, the battle was largely filler to get us from Point A to Point B without actually adding anything new or interesting to the story, revealing anything about the characters, or otherwise enhancing our reading experience. It was just a bunch of punches to burn through pages until Darkseid’s machine could be powered enough to open a portal to Themyscira. I do like a good fight. This is a superhero comic book, after all. But I like the fights to say something beyond “oh, this will fill up the issue until the dramatic reveal at the end.” This fight was entirely perfunctory. Any reader with any sense of how the story was unfolding would know that there were no stakes here at all. Darkseid’s plan was going to work, and no amount of brawling was going to change that.

And about this dramatic reveal. So Grail gets to Themyscira and turns some Amazons into parademons. I have two big thoughts about this. First, those Amazons would have DESTROYED Grail. I know she’s half Darkseid or whatever, but Amazons are Amazons and there were a bunch of them. Even with a surprise attack, the gal would have been taken down and hastily so. You don’t mess with the Amazons.

Second, this was framed as a homecoming for Grail after leaving the island years earlier, but here’s the thing: THIS IS NOT GRAIL’S PARADISE ISLAND. Remember when the New 52 relaunch messed up Wonder Woman and the Amazons so badly that DC brought in Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott to fix it? And that their solution was to explain that the New 52 Amazons were a fiction? Grail was created before this fix. She is a product of the fake Amazons, not the real Amazons. This Themyscira is not her home. Technically, her home doesn’t even exist and she is some sort of bizarre anomaly. The folks behind Wonder Woman don’t seem to care about any of this, and have decided to ignore the change in continuity entirely.

Continuity needn’t be a prison, of course, but these things were changed for a reason. The Wonder Woman mythos was fundamentally broken, and Rucka and Scott set in right in a way that resonated with scores of fans. But now, this run is undoing all of that. Rucka and Scott danced around Wonder Woman’s New 52, daughter of Zeus origin, giving DC an out for ever mentioning it again. This arc has made it a centerpiece of the story. Rucka and Scott wiped away the New 52’s terrible depiction of the Amazons, and this arc has brought back one of its oddest, dumbest choices with Grail. It’s mind boggling. Everyone did a very good thing with Wonder Woman: Year One. It’s easily one of the best Wonder Woman stories ever told! And now DC is letting this trash fire of an arc toss it all aside.

One bit of good news from this issue is that Emanuela Lupacchino is back. Even when she’s working on a tight schedule, which I suspect she may have been here, her art is always dynamic and enjoyable. She’s got a great grasp on Wonder Woman herself, and it was very fun to see her draw the Amazons, however briefly. It’s a shame that someone with such an obvious penchant for Wonder Woman and her world is being used for such a terrible storyline. I hope that she’ll get another shot at the book with a writer that actually understands and appreciates Diana. Romulo Fajardo Jr. remains on top of his game as well, like always. The richness of colour and the breadth of texture he brings to his work is just remarkable. It’s all so subtle and seamless, and remains the one thing keeping this entire run afloat. Luckily with Lupacchino he’s got some nice line work to enhance, but he’s definitely elevated several lesser artists in past issues and has maintained a consistent look for the title.

So yeah, we’ve got Amazon parademons now and more fights ahead, I assume. Good grief. There’s a few more issues of this foolishness, and then Robinson is starting yet another storyline. When will the horrors end?! Not anytime soon, it seems. Ugh.

 

My Chicago Schedule: C2E2 and Beyond!

April 5, 2018

I’m in Chicago this weekend, and here’s a quick rundown of where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing! First off, I’m talking Catwoman with Angelica Jade Bastien, Lauren Burke, Caitlin Rosberg, and Katie Schenkel at The Book Cellar tonight. Click the image below for more info:

catwomanposter

I’ll also be at C2E2 all weekend long, set up in Artist Alley at Table E7:

c2e2

You can click that image for more info as well, and also here is a handy map of where I’ll be at the show:

c2e2map

I hope to see a bunch of you in Chicago this weekend!

Women & NB Creators at Marvel Comics Watch, June 2018 Solicits: 20 Creators on 14 Books

April 4, 2018

womenatmarvelJUNE.png

We’ve got some good news and some bad news with Marvel’s June solicits. The good news is that for the first time in several months, Marvel’s number of female creators is out of the teens. Just barely so, but hey, the numbers have been so bad that we’ll take what we can get. The bad news is that the a sizeable amount of the gigs listed below are one-time outings, and thus won’t be back in a similar form next month. If Marvel wants to keep the numbers up, there’ll either need to be some big changes to the line or a lot more oneshots. Let’s take a look at who’s doing what at Marvel this June:

  • Ashley Witter: Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #21 (cover)
  • Becky Cloonan: Moon Knight #196 (cover)
  • Devin Grayson: Marvel Rising: Alpha #1 (writer)
  • Elizabeth Torque: Dazzler: X Song #1 (cover)
  • Erica Henderson: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #33 (interior art, cover)
  • G. Willow Wilson: Ms. Marvel #31 (co-writer)
  • Gail Simone: Domino #3 (writer)
  • Gurihiru: Marvel Rising: Alpha #1 (cover)
  • Jody Houser: Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #20 (writer), Star Wars: Thrawn #5 (writer)
  • Laura Braga: Dazzler: X Song #1 (interior art)
  • Magdalene Visaggio: Dazzler: X Song #1 (writer)
  • Mariko Tamaki: Hunt for Wolverine: Claws of a Killer #2 (writer)
  • Natacha Bustos: Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #32 (interior art, cover)
  • Nik Virella: Infinity Countdown: Black Widow #1 (interior art)
  • Nnedi Okorafor: Wakanda Forever: Amazing Spider-Man #1 (writer)
  • Rainbow Rowell: Ms. Marvel #31 (co-writer), Runaways #10 (writer)
  • Stacey Lee: Marvel Rising: Alpha #1 (variant cover)
  • Stephanie Hans: Ms. Marvel #31 (variant cover)
  • Yasmine Putri: Infinity Countdown: Black Widow #1 (cover)

All together, there are 20 different female creators set to work on 14 different books at Marvel this June, 5 more creators than in May, though on 2 fewer books. As far as I can tell, there are no non-binary creators scheduled in this round of solicits. The gain is good to see. So far, 2018 has been a rough year for representation at Marvel, and while 20 women is still quite paltry, it’s nonetheless a step up from where the publisher’s been lately.

However, it seems unlikely to last. Of the 20 women above, 10 are working on one-time jobs. As cool as it is to see new books starring Black Widow, Dazzler, and the Marvel Rising team, these are all one-shots. These single outings combined with a handful of variant covers means that half of Marvel’s female creators in June are not working on sustainable gigs. Hopefully they’ll be back elsewhere next month, but such a strong reliance on one-off work is hardly a recipe for good long term representation at the publisher.

Things aren’t look great for female characters, either. We’ve got the aforementioned oneshots, which are fun and all, but Marvel is set to unveil a slew of new series in June and only one has a female character in the mix. Deadpool, Doctor Strange, Hulk, Iron Man, Muliple Man, the Sentry, and Thor are all headlining new books. Only Ant-Man and the Wasp has a female lead, and she’s a co-lead. This prevalence of dudes, real and fictional, is the hallmark of Marvel’s new line, and chances are this trend will continue as it keeps rolling out.

Overall, Marvel’s not in a very good place with female and non-binary creators right now. The numbers jumped this month, but there doesn’t seem to be any indication that this will last long term. Men seem to be the publisher’s focus right now, both on the page and behind the scenes, and much of their new line appears to be an attempt at appeasing conservative fanboys. Things might change at some point, but the current trend doesn’t bode well for women and non-binary creators at Marvel.

Women & NB Creators at DC Comics Watch, June 2018 Solicits: 19 Creators on 17 Books

April 3, 2018

womenatdcJUNE.png

June is a huge month for DC, and the bulk of it is centered around their two superstar writers. Scott Snyder is relaunching Justice League, with Jim Cheung and Jorge Jimenez drawing the books, while Brian Michael Bendis is kickstarting his new Superman run with a Man of Steel mini-series featuring art from Ivan Reis, Evan “Doc” Shaner, Ryan Sook, Kevin Maguire, Adam Hughes, and Jason Fabok. You may have noticed that these creators have something in common, namely that they’re all men. It’s a fitting dude-fest given that DC Comics’ June solicits contain their lowest number of female and non-binary creators in nearly two years. As always at DC, when big things are happening, women and non-binary creators are few and far between. Let’s take a look at who is doing what this June:

  • Adriana Melo: Plastic Man #1 (interior art)
  • Amanda Conner: Plastic Man #1 (variant cover)
  • Aneke: Bombshells United #19 (interior art)
  • Becky Cloonan: Shade, The Changing Woman #4 (cover)
  • Brandee Stilwell: Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #6 (co-writer)
  • Cecil Castellucci: Shade, The Changing Woman #4 (writer)
  • Gail Simone: Plastic Man #1 (writer)
  • Jenny Frison: Wonder Woman #48 (variant cover), Wonder Woman #49 (variant cover)
  • Jody Houser: Mother Panic: Gotham A.D. #4 (writer)
  • Magdalene Visaggio: Eternity Girl #4 (writer)
  • Mairghread Scott: Green Arrow #41 (writer)
  • Marguerite Bennett: Batwoman #16 (writer), Bombshells United #19 (writer)
  • Marguerite Sauvage: Bombshells United #19 (interior art, cover)
  • Marley Zarcone: Shade, The Changing Woman #4 (interior art)
  • Mirka Andolfo: Harley Quinn #43 (interior art), Harley Quinn #44 (interior art)
  • Nicola Scott: Future Quest Presents #11 (variant cover), Mera, Queen of Atlantis #5 (cover)
  • Rachael Stott: Motherlands #6 (inteior art)
  • Sandra Hope: The Silencer #6 (cover)
  • Vanesa Del Rey: The Wild Storm #14 (variant cover)

All together, there are 19 different female creators scheduled to work on 17 different books in June, 4 fewer creators than in May and 3 fewer books. As best I can tell, there are no non-binary creators set to work at DC in June. I’ve said before that in this day and age, with so many different, amazing women and non-binary creators working in comics, that a big publisher like DC or Marvel should be able to hire 20 of them a month with ease. If a publisher can’t get out of the teens, then they’re not even trying. And now DC is in the teens. Just barely so, but still. This is an embarrassingly low total, doubly so given that it’s such an important month for the publisher, and triply so because it marks DC’s lowest total since August 2016.

Moreover, fictional men are getting all of the focus in June as well. Superman’s the star of the show for the Man of Steel mini-series, of course, while only 2 of the 9 members of the new Justice League are women. There are also 5 special issues leading up to Batman and Catwoman’s nuptials called Batman: Prelude to the Wedding, in which only 2 of the 10 named characters are women and all of the creators are men. And 4 new Hanna-Barbera crossover issues with all male characters and about 17 dudes writing and drawing them. We’ve got a new Hawkman book in June, too, again with all male creators. At least the new Plastic Man has some women in the mix behind the scenes, even if the month as a whole is sorely lacking in fictional representation.

And as bad as these numbers are, they might be about to drop further. June marks the last issue of Bombshells United, ending one of the most enjoyable runs I’ve ever read and also removing a bastion of female creators from the monthly solicits. With its double shipping, you could count on 3-5 women each month in Bombshells United, and now that’s come to an end. July might be a rough outing, barring some new books or creative changes.

As I said at the top of the piece, female and non-binary creators tend to disappear when DC does big new initiatives. In every new round of relaunches or big creative shifts, men are always at the forefront. And frankly, this isn’t going to change until these men do something about it. Creators like Scott Snyder and Brian Michael Bendis are mega-stars. They could be working with any artists they wanted to, and yet here we see them with eight different dudes. The big names at DC need to step up and fight for improved representation at the publisher, otherwise it’s just going to be the same old thing again and again. Gail Simone does it. Greg Rucka does. And others need to join in.

Wonder Woman #43 Review: Diana Takes a Backseat, Once Again

March 28, 2018

ww43.jpg

At some point, I think that DC will eventually realize that people buy Wonder Woman for Wonder Woman. It’s a simple idea, and one they’re pretty good at with their other characters. Batman is mostly about Batman. Superman is mostly about Superman. And yet here we are once again, with another run of Wonder Woman in which Wonder Woman all too often feels like a side character. Such is the case this week, in which a significant portion of the book is dedicated to a lengthy conversation between Diana’s boyfriend, Steve Trevor, and her brother, Jason. Diana gets a few pages, fighting a couple of Furies for no good reason and to no gain, but the core of this issue is two dudes chatting away and doing a bit of macho posturing. What’s even more irksome is that the conversation is largely pointless, a rehash of past events and mysteries that remain unsolved. This is indicative of a larger problem with the book: In twenty pages of comics, only one significant event occurs, and it’s one we all knew was coming in some form or another. The rest feels like filler. So yeah, this garbage run continues to be garbage. We’ll discuss it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to tell you the ONE SOLITARY THING that happens in this issue!

And it is neither good nor interesting!

Why must DC make us suffer so?

Hold onto your hats, gang, because I’m about to unleash the book’s big reveal. You know those artifacts that A.R.G.U.S. has? The ones that Darkseid has been jonesing for over the past few issues because they’re central to his big, evil plan? Well get a load of this: He attacked A.R.G.U.S. and got them all, and now his big evil plan can come to fruition. Your minds are blown, I know.

There was one almost interesting thing about this wholly expected development. I was waiting for a fight, some sort of major assault on A.R.G.U.S. with lots of action and drama, but for perhaps the first time in this entire run, James Robinson zigged when I thought he was going to zag. Instead of a battle, Darkseid just straight up steals the entire building, and I didn’t see that twist coming. It’s not a particularly good twist. Or a fun twist. But it is a twist, and for that I commend him.

And now I slowly walk that commendation back because lord knows there was a lot of space for a big battle on offer in this issue. Everything apart from the last handful of pages was useless conversation. Not to say that all conversation is useless in comics, of course. I like some banter. I like to learn about the characters and have them bounce off each other. Chatty books are fine with me. I don’t need loads of battles and action and whatnot.

The problem with this issue’s conversations, though, is that they were largely pointless. Steve and Jason just rehashed old stuff without adding anything new to the mix. Wonder Woman interrogated/fought the Furies and learned pretty much nothing from it. Darkseid said vague things about his evil plans. None of it added to the ongoing story or moved it forward in any real way. It just filled the pages until Darkseid attacked. That, combined with the fact that James Robinson seems to have lost the ability to write dialogue that resembles actual human speech in any way, made this issue quite a slog.

The art team did their best, however. I’m not terribly familiar with Marco Santucci’s work, but he acquited himself well here. The big test for every Wonder Woman artist is their ability to draw Wonder Woman, and he did a nice job from the very start, opening the book with a splash page that had a bit of a Phil Jimenez vibe. And Romulo Fajardo Jr. was amazing with the colors, as always. I know I say this all the time, but he really is the MVP of the series right now. We’ve had so many artists during this run, but his colors help give the title a consistent, high quality look. His steady excellence is the only thing stopping this runaway train of a series from barrelling into a ravine some months. Luckily with this issue, Santucci gave him a hand and we got some decent artwork throughout.

So we’ve got what, about seven more issues of this run, at least? Good gracious. It looks like Wonder Woman’s battle with Darkseid is coming sooner than later. A tie-in to DC’s big Metal event looms on the horizon as well, so that should mean that the Darkseid story will be sorted out before long. Wonder Woman looks to be playing a big role in the post-Metal DC universe, co-starring in the relaunched Justice League along with leading a new version of Justice League Dark. Perhaps her increased profile across the line will bring some creative changes to her solo title, finally. Not only is it long overdue, but these big changes present a fine opportunity to make the switch. I know I’ve got my fingers crossed.


%d bloggers like this: