Wonder Woman #76 Review: Mother and Child Reunions

August 14, 2019

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After the suitably epic, oversized Wonder Woman #75, this issue takes a break from battle and revelations in favour of something a little quieter. It’s a nice pause after the action and adventure of the past few outings, a well deserved breather as characters adjust to their new realities and the opportunities they present. There are several different reunions, all of them enjoyable, some of them very long awaited. I’m glad to see everyone generally happy for an issue, especially Diana. She’s been through a lot since G. Willow Wilson took over the book, an almost step by step tear down of who she is as a person that’s forced her to re-examine herself and her place in the world. And now she’s back with everyone she loves, and there seems to be a peace in that, a reassurance of her purpose.

It’s a lovely issue until the final pages of the book, when a twist sets us up for the next arc. DC’s really going hard with this “Year of the Villain” stuff, and suffice it to say that the Cheetah is not fooling around. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal all of the heartwarming things that happen in this issue!

Make sure you’ve read it first!

Go warm your heart with the actual comic!

We start with Diana and Hippolyta together again, finally. Their conversation holds no startling revelations or dramatic turns, and I’m glad it doesn’t. As much as I’m sure Hippolyta will play a major role in the story to come, it was good to see the two of them interacting casually, as mother and daughter, with no real stakes or danger looming over them. It’s a respite that was a long time coming for Diana, and I like that Wilson took the time to give them a quiet moment together.

It’s short-lived, of course. Wonder Woman always has things to do, and an entire world to return to. Without one of her team members, too, since Maggie decides to stay on Themyscira. I love this development for several reasons. First, Maggie’s got the heart of an Amazon and will fit right in. Second, her training under Antiope will be super cool, and I’m excited for awesome warrior Maggie in the future. And third, the scene sets up the potential for more mortal women to join the Amazons and learn their ways, which I am all for. That would be such a fun addition to the DCU, and something I would be glad to see not just in Wonder Woman but across the entire line.

Diana’s reunion with Steve is very cute as well. She’s been away for a while and he’s been worried, and his relief and joy at seeing her again is played beautifully here. Having Atlantiades come along also adds a nice comedic element to the scene. He’s not threatened by them, really, but they certainly aren’t impressed with Diana’s choice of beau. While I feel like this could turn into future drama, for now it’s just amusing. Especially combined with what has clearly been a very awkward period for Steve with Aphrodite as his houseguest. I’d like a flashback issue of them being roommates, please.

The heart of the issue, though, involves Diana and Veronica Cale. She’s been Wonder Woman’s arch-nemesis for a while now, but I can’t help but like her. Greg Rucka’s run gave her such depth and motivation that even though she’s a villain who’s always trying to hurt my favourite character, I still feel for her. She’s been through a lot, and while she’s working out her anger in unhealthy and damaging ways, it’s a very justified anger nonetheless. Plus she’s smart and cutting, and fearless in taking on the divine powerhouses of the world. I gotta respect that, and I like her all the more for it.

But there is no fighting this week. (Sure, Veronica pulls a gun on Diana, but that’s a friendly greeting relative to their usual interactions.) I love that Diana’s first move upon returning home is to go to Veronica and tell her she can see her daughter again. It’s such a Wonder Woman thing to do, to bring solace and joy to an enemy who’s done nothing but hate you. You see, I think Diana likes Veronica, too. Well, maybe not “like.” But she feels for her like I do, and understands what’s beneath her villainy. It’s a complicated relationship that I very much enjoy, and it was so lovely to see Veronica and Isadore back together after so much time apart. Pairing their mother/daughter reunion with Diana and Hippolyta looking on was a marvelous touch, and I’m so glad to finally have a resolution to their story.

This issue was heavy on emotional reactions, clearly, and guest artist Lee Garbett did a marvelous job communicating the feelings in each scene. Every moment of joy or anger or relief or disdain was portrayed well, not so big as to be cartoonish or so subtle as to go unnoticed. He brought a great balance to the book, and gave it exactly the tone it needed. I also quite liked the soft style of his linework. The inking wasn’t crisp and sharp like we usually see in superhero comics. It was loose and light, with blacks that weren’t super saturated, and it all felt like it was done in a dark pencil rather than ink. It was likely some sort of digital brush, but whatever it was, it fit the story well and colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr. matched the linework with more muted tones to bring a pleasing harmony to the look of the book.

So everyone was happily together again, until the Cheetah showed up. And now we might have a situation. It appears that the Cheetah, seeking entry to Themyscira, has killed Aphrodite. I’m hoping it’s a fake out, because I really like Aphrodite and how Wilson writes her, but a bloodied god killer sword and a sizeable chest wound is a troubling combination. The fallout from this should be considerable, and based on the solicits we’re going to be going after the Cheetah for the next few issues. Just when things had calmed down again! Isn’t that always the way.

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Women & NB Creators at Marvel Comics Watch, August 2019 Solicits: 37 Creators on 28 Books

July 26, 2019

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August is a big month for Marvel, with a “landmark” thousandth issue from a massive team of creators set to hit comic shops. The numbering is completely arbitrary, and it’s not even a real series. Marvel saw the success DC had with its legitimate Action Comics #1000 and Detective Comics #1000 and, since there are no Marvel books anywhere close to a thousand issues yet, just decided to make something up and have their own Marvel Comics #1000. It’s a goofy gimmick that will sell a ton of copies because that’s how the comics business works, and it’s set to feature a bunch of female creators, as you can see below. Let’s take a look at who’s doing what at Marvel this August:

  • Alexandra Petri: She-Hulk Annual #1 (writer)
  • Alitha E. Martinez: Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #46 (interior art)
  • Amanda Conner: Gwenpool Strikes Back #1 (variant cover), Invisible Woman #2 (variant cover)
  • Aneke: Age of Conan: Valeria #1 (interio art)
  • Anna Rud: Marvel Team-Up #5 (cover)
  • Ashley Witter: Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #1 (cover)
  • Becky Cloonan: Marvel Monsters #1 (interior art)
  • Carmen Carnero: Captain Marvel #9 (interior art)
  • Claire Roe: Fearless #2 (interior art)
  • Dana Schwartz: Deadpool Annual #1 (writer)
  • Elsa Charretier: Power Pack: Grow Up! #1 (variant cover)
  • Emanuela Lupacchino: Absolute Carnage: Mile Morales #1 (variant cover), Gwenpool Strikes Back #1 (variant cover)
  • Erica Henderson: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #47 (cover)
  • Eve L. Ewing: Ironheart #9 (writer), Marvel Comics #1000 (creator)
  • Gail Simone: Marvel Comics #1000 (creator)
  • Gurihiru: Gwenpool Strikes Back #1 (variant cover), Power Pack: Grow Up! #1 (interior art)
  • Irene Koh: Marvel Comics #1000 (creator)
  • Irina Nordsol: Doctor Strange #18 (cover)
  • Jen Bartel: Black Cat #3 (variant cover), Marvel Comics #1000 (creator), Marvel Tales: X-Men #1 (cover)
  • Jenny Frison: Fearless #2 (variant cover)
  • Jody Houser: Star Wars: Tie Fighter #5 (writer)
  • June Brigman: Power Pack: Grow Up! #1 (interior art, cover)
  • Karla Pacheco: Fearless #2 (co-writer)
  • Kathryn Immonen: Marvel Comics #1000 (creator)
  • Kei Zama: Death’s Head #2 (interior art)
  • Kelly Sue DeConnick: Marvel Comics #1000 (creator)
  • Kelly Thompson: Captain Marvel #9 (writer), Marvel Comics #1000 (creator)
  • Leah Williams: Gwenpool Strikes Back #1 (writer)
  • Louise Simonson: Power Pack: Grow Up! #1 (writer)
  • Meredith Finch: Age of Conan: Valeria #1 (writer)
  • Mirka Andolfo: She-Hulk Annual #1 (cover)
  • Rainbow Rowell: Marvel Comics #1000 (creator), Runaways #24 (writer)
  • Sara Pichelli: House of X #2 (variant cover), House of X #3 (variant cover)
  • Seanan McGuire: Fearless #2 (co-writer), Ghost-Spider #1 (writer)
  • Tini Howard: Death’s Head #2 (writer), Marvel Comics #1000 (creator), Thanos #5 (writer)
  • Yasmine Putri: Absolute Carnage: Lethal Projectors #1 (variant cover), Fearless #2 (cover), House of X #2 (variant cover), Powers of X #2 (variant cover), Star Wars: Tie Fighter #5 (variant cover)

Altogether, there are 37 different female creators set to work on 28 different books in August, one fewer creator than in July on two fewer books. As best I can tell, there are no non-binary creators listed in this round of solicits. It’s a slight drop in both counts, but Marvel’s putting out fewer books this month so we’re in the same ballpark as before as the publisher continues to maintain its high level of female creators. Marvel is on quite a run right now.

We’re still seeing the concentration of female creators we had last month, though. Marvel’s set to put out 85 books in August, and with women working on 28 of them that means the publisher has female creators on 33% of the line. This is a slight step up from July’s 32%, but still below the 40% they posted in June. While the number of female creators remains high, they’re not spread out as much across the line right now.

There are some new names in the mix in August. We’ve got two new female writers with Alexandra Petri and Dana Schwartz, adding an already strong lineup. There are a lot of returning favourites, as well, including legends like June Brigman and Louise Simonson, and it’s been a while since we’ve seen Kathryn Immonen.

For new books, Marvel Comics #1000 is obviously the big one, and it’s set to feature darn near every Marvel character ever, so there’ll certainly be some ladies in the mix. For new books, we’ve got a Gwenpool mini-series and a relaunched Gwen Stacy book, Ghost-Spider, that’s basically just the same book and creative team with a slightly different title and new numbering. There are also team books like Agents of Atlas, Future Foundation, and Power Pack: Grow Up! that have female characters involved.

All together, it’s another solid outing for Marvel. With so many books coming out each month, the jobs are plentiful and they’re filling them with a lot of female creators. Proportionally, it’s not the best numbers we’ve ever seen because Marvel’s been at a comparable level before with much fewer books. But still, this is a relatively strong run, and it’s great to see so many wonderful female creators doing excellent work each month.

Wonder Woman #75 Review: The Battle for Themyscira

July 24, 2019

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I don’t usually start my reviews with a spoiler, but if you read last week’s issue then you knew this was coming: Diana, princess of the Amazons, has returned to Themyscira. Which at first glance doesn’t seem like a huge deal until you remember that, apart from “Year One,” she hasn’t been to her real home since the New 52 reboot nearly eight years ago. The Paradise Island of the Azzarello/Chiang run and the Finches’ tenure was an elaborate ruse, and she’s been kept apart from the true Themyscira ever since she discovered the truth in Rucka, Scott, and Sharp’s run. I’ve not figured out the numbers in any official capacity, but as a Wonder Woman historian I think I can confidently say that this is the longest she’s been separated from the Amazons, and probably by a wide margin. The mod era, with the Amazons departing to a different dimension, was only four years! And they’ve otherwise been a constant presence in Diana’s history.

So this was long overdue. The Amazons are a big part of what makes Wonder Woman such an amazing character, a powerful matriarchy that exudes female strength, power, and sisterhood. She’s amazing on her own, of course, but everything she is comes from this background and they’ve always been an essential part of her world. The community makes her stronger. To keep the true Amazons sidelined for so long was a mistake, one that’s finally been righted. We’ll dig into it all in detail, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

Yes, the Amazons are back but you knew that was coming!

Other things happened as well, and I’m about to spoil them!

Look away if you haven’t read this issue yet!

So, quick recap, amid all the chaos in the divine realms, Grail escaped, took over Themyscira, and captured Hippolyta. She also turned some of the Amazons to her side, but Antiope escaped with a small band to Dimension Chi, where Wonder Woman met up with them last issue. In this outing, Wonder Woman leads her forces against Grail and ultimately defeats her. It’s a big, long issue, with extra pages on account of it’s Wonder Woman #75, but that’s the core of it.

The battle was pretty darn good, too. G. Willow Wilson and her artists Xermanico, Vicente Fuentes, and Jesus Merino have pulled off an impressive feat here. This wasn’t a quick skirmish. This was a lengthy combat sequence, with a whole host of characters. There were entire armies on both sides, of course, but we were also following multiple characters through the fight. The end result was clear, legible, and exciting, which is not something I can say about a lot of huge comic book battles. Usually it’s just chaos, and this was not. It was well-executed, and fittingly epic for an anniversary issue. If you’re gonna charge an extra buck for the book you better make it worth it, and they definitely did.

The reunion was lovely as well. Seeing Diana and Hippolyta together at the end of the issue was all kinds of heartwarming. I love their relationship and hate that it’s been sidelined for so long, so having them back together was a long awaited moment of joy for me. Plus it got me excited for what’s to come. We only see them together briefly, but I know there are conversations to be had and perhaps many adventures ahead. Hopefully this marks the beginning of a new era for them, and the Amazons will be brought into the DC universe again. It’s been poorer for their absence.

However, as much as this issue was generally well-executed and had some great moments, it was lacking in surprises and twists for me. Everything that I thought was going to happen ended up happening, making the whole experience feel a little flat. I don’t think I’m not some sort of Nostradamus either. At the end of the last issue, it was clear that Wonder Woman and Antiope were going to go back to Themyscira and fight Grail, and I was pretty sure they were going to win. There were some other obvious bets too, like that Hippolyta would be threatened and Isadore Cale would come into play. I suppose I was a little surprised that Nubia sided with Grail initially, but I was suspicious of that throughout the issue and then not terribly shocked when she eventually turned on Grail. The issue is technically a game changer in that the Amazons are back, and that’s great! But it changed the game in exactly the ways I expected it to, without any big shocks or unexpected turns along the way.

It was very well drawn, though. Three artists can be a bad sign sometimes, and a few of the transitions from one to the other were a bit bumpy. They really scattered all three throughout the issue seemingly at random. But it hung together pretty well, and was strong throughout. I’ve been raving about Xermanico for months now, so I’ll not spend too much time on him other than to say that he’s a spectacular fit on the book and should draw every issue. Cifuentes was solid as well, matching the style of the book and fitting seamlessly into this world with some lovely pages. And finally, Jesus Merino. I’ve been very critical of his work lately. Underwhelmed, to say the least. But he was decent here! This is definitely the best art I’ve seen from him in some time, and he handled the bulk of the battle to good effect. Fingers crossed that this bodes well for future outings, because he’s scheduled on a lot of issues coming up. Also, shout out to Romulo Fajardo Jr. for his always amazing coloring! Tying three different artists together so the book feels cohesive is tricky work, and he did a fantastic job, as always. The dude’s a legend, and has been with the book for most, if not all, of the last 75 issues. It’s dang impressive.

So the Amazons are back! In expected ways, but that’s okay. I’m glad to have them back in the fold regardless. And now we’ve got that to explore, plus “Year of the Villain” shenanigans on the horizon. The Cheetah’s got a nasty sword, and that will of course mean trouble for Wonder Woman and her pals. But with her mother and her sisters at her side again, I’m more than confident that Diana can handle whatever comes her way.

Women & NB Creators at DC Comics Watch, August 2019 Solicits: 15 Creators on 16 Books

July 22, 2019

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DC’s numbers for female and non-binary creators haven’t been high for a while, in part because they’ve trimmed back their line and fewer books means fewer creators across the board. But still, even in this new reality, DC’s representation for August is a step down from what we’ve been seeing lately. While the publisher’s Zoom and Ink lines (soon to be renamed) are much more diverse right now, the single issue line remains behind the times. Let’s dig into the solicits and see who’s doing what at DC in August:

  • Amanda Conner: Wonder Woman: Come Back To Me #2 (co-writer, cover)
  • Bilquis Evely: The Dreaming #12 (interior art)
  • Cecil Castellucci: Batgirl #38 (writer)
  • Elena Casagrande: Young Justice #8 (interior art)
  • G. Willow Wilson: Wonder Woman #76 (writer), Wonder Woman #77 (writer)
  • Jenny Frison: Wonder Woman #76 (variant cover), Wonder Woman #77 (variant cover)
  • Joelle Jones: Catwoman #14 (cover)
  • Kat Howard: Books of Magic #11 (writer)
  • Kelly Sue DeConnick: Aquaman #51 (writer)
  • Mirka Andolfo: Catwoman #14 (interior art)
  • Nalo Hopkinson: House of Whispers #12 (co-writer)
  • Rachel Dodson: Justice League #29 (variant cover)
  • Sandra Hope: Superman: Up in the Sky #2 (inker)
  • Tiffany Turrill: Lucifer #11 (cover)
  • Yasmine Putri: Lois Lane #2 (variant cover), The Flash #76 (variant cover), The Flash #77 (variant cover)

That is not a long list. Altogether, there are 15 different female creators set to work on 16 different books in August, three fewer creators than in July and four fewer books. As best I can tell, there are no non-binary creators in this round of solicits. Dropping a few notches shouldn’t be too big a deal, but with so few creators to begin with these small drops are proportionally significant. Falling from 20 to 16 books, for instance, is a drop of 20%. That’s not small at all.

With the low output of the entire line, though, we need to contextualize the numbers. DC is putting out 58 new comics in August, and with female creators on 16 of them that means that women are involved in 28% of the publisher’s line. It was 32% last month, and 33% the month before that. While the numbers aren’t going off a cliff here, they’re certainly dropping after a generally steady run for the past few months. And keep in mind, steady numbers is just maintaining the total, with the same number of female and non-binary creators doing the same amount of work. Growth is preferable. Drops are disappointing.

Perhaps predictably, it’s a quiet month for new creators in the ranks. Silent, even. Every creator listed above is someone we’ve seen recently. This has been happening a lot lately at DC. With fewer books, the ranks are closed in now. A certain number of regulars get work, but the opportunity for new voices has been minimal.

August isn’t a great month for female characters either. The big news is yet another Batman/Superman book, which should be gorgeous thanks to David Marquez but I just don’t care about the Batman Who Laughs. He’s somehow both creepy and boring? I’m not into it. There is a new Wildcats book, with a few female characters on the team. And with Warren Ellis writing, it should be a good read. Otherwise, we’ve got a new Neal Adams Batman book that should be bonkers and some “Year of the Villian” specials featuring male villains.

Overall, it’s an underwhelming August for representation, real and fictional, at DC. New things might start rolling out soon with the fall solicits and maybe that will lift the numbers, but right now things are starting to trend downward. As much as it’s good to see more diversity in DC’s kids and teen graphic novels, that doesn’t mean they should just forget about doing the same in the single issue line.

Wonder Woman #74 Review: Reunited, And It Feels So Good

July 10, 2019

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Some major things are happening in this week’s issue of Wonder Woman, leading to even more major things for Wonder Woman #75 in two weeks’ time, presumably. Quarter century issues are a big deal these days, maybe because so few comic books make it to a 25th issue, much less a 50th or a 75th. Publishers like to save up big moments for these books and make them special, and the ending of this issue is definitely promising that. Significant developments are afoot.

Also, if you follow G. Willow Wilson on Twitter, she’s been teasing this month’s issues lately. Apparently Wonder Woman #75 is going to be 38 pages long, with an assortment of artists and a lot of double page spreads. Plus, various twists and reveals! It sounds like it’s going to shake up the status quo of Wonder Woman’s world quite a bit, and we’ll dig into what that could mean, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to tell you everything that happened in this issue!

Look away if you have not read it yet!

Also, you should be reading this book!

Hit your LCS or get it on Comixology! It’s a dang good series!

So should we do the big reveal first? Sure, let’s dive right in. The Amazons are back! Or rather, some Amazons are back. General Antiope and Philippus lead an escaped band of Amazons hidden in Dimension Chi, because Themyscira has fallen to its foes. The prisoners on the island escaped and took over, and now Grail is in charge and Hippolyta is in chains. I could happily live the rest of my life without ever seeing Grail again, but the good news is, the veil between the worlds is torn. Diana can go rescue her mother and save her sisters, which is what I assume the Wonder Woman #75 mega-issue will be all about.

With some surprises, of course. I doubt it’s going to be a straight forward beat the bad guys, save the good guys situation. There will probably be complications. But I’m even more interested in what comes next. If Diana can save Themyscira AND keep a path open to it, will the Amazons finally be part of her world again? Because I would love that. It’s been so long since we’ve had proper Amazons able to interact with the DC universe as a whole. The New 52 Amazons were trash, and the Rebirth Amazons have been sequestered. I miss the old days, when Themyscira was part of the United Nations and the Amazons could join in on major comic events. Remember in the Perez run when they opened Themyscira to the world and Lois Lane was among the first group of visitors? That was so cool. The DC universe is a better place with an awesome matriarchy in it, and I really hope that they come back in some capacity. Preferably a full on, move Themyscira into this plane of existence sort of thing.

Returning to this issue, though, I will say that the lead up to the Amazon reveal was a bit underwhelming. Part of it was the art. Jesus Merino just doesn’t do it for me. His stuff is straight forward, average superhero art. There’s no interesting flair or style to it. When Xermanico took over for the last six pages, things improved dramatically. Merino’s stuff was flat before that, and Xermanico brought everything to life just in time for the big reveal.

But another part of it was that the story wasn’t very compelling. The fight with Empress Hippolyta (the villainous Hippolyta from the last issue) seemed rote and uninspired. Again, the art didn’t really make anything cool of it, but I don’t know that there was a lot to it in the first place. It felt like fifteen pages of filler leading to Antiope. While there was some stuff about having a goddess as a mother that gave us a bit of bonding between Diana and Atlantiades, that was about it. Also, Maggie figuring out how to defeat Empress Hippolyta instead of trained Amazon warrior Diana was hard to buy. As much as I get that Maggie is rad, and that the sword is maybe imparting some sort of skill or knowledge to her, she’s not Wonder Woman. Figuring out how to stop the bad guys is Wonder Woman’s job.

I’ve got a theory that Wonder Woman’s world is too small right now. When Wilson was on Ms. Marvel, there was a huge cast of characters with different plotlines on the go. Not a single page felt wasted. There was so much to do and so many people to check in with! But with Wonder Woman, it’s really just Diana. Atlantiades and Maggie are cool, but there’s not a lot to them apart from coming along on Diana’s journey. Or rather, they’re compelling characters in want of subplots that aren’t so intertwined with Diana. Maybe bringing the Amazons back will change this dynamic and give Wilson more to work with. I’m used to far more engaging storytelling from her than a ten page fight that doesn’t really add anything to the book.

One last note on the art, because those final few pages are just top notch stuff. Xermanico puts so much texture into his drawings to start with, which is awesome, especially on the costumes, but with the shading I don’t know if it’s him or colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr. but there’s this Ben-Day dot shadow technique that I love. It’s an old school style on Xermanico’s modern artwork and it looks so good. I want Xermanico to do every issue. He and Fajardo Jr. work beautifully together.

So we’ve got a big fight ahead of us in two weeks’ time! And Antiope in the midst of it all, which is super cool. She’s never been a major player in the comics before, but after Robin Wright’s amazing depiction of her in the Wonder Woman movie I’ve been waiting for someone to bring her into the comics in a big way. Now it’s happened, and between Diana, Antiope, and Philippus, the foes of the Amazons should be very frightened indeed.

Wonder Woman #73 Review: Through a Glass Darkly

June 26, 2019

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I love an alternate universe. Whether it’s slight changes in a different dimension or a full on evil mirror universe, I’m instantly intrigued. I am here for bizarre multiverse fun all day long. However, alternate universes haven’t been great for Wonder Woman. I’ve never been a big fan of the evil Earth Three, the Crime Syndicate, or Superwoman. The characters are so evil as to not be interesting. And Flashpoint Wonder Woman wasn’t much fun either, what with the weird design and the Amazons’ unnecessary invasion of the UK. It just didn’t live up to the exciting potential an alternate universe represents.

This issue does, though. It’s great to have some past Wonder Woman favourites back for this issue, and Steve Orlando and Aaron Lopresti do smart work by keeping things small. An alternate universe is a big idea, and the impulse always seems to be to make the story huge and expansive, even cosmic at times. But here, the alternate universe is contained. It’s not part of a massive multiverse, it’s a manifestation of Queen Hippolyta’s imagination as she observes the sort of queen she could be if she gave into her darker inclinations. It’s all internal, meant only as an opportunity for self-reflection until a young Diana gets curious and stumbles into it. Then things get messy. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

Look away if you have not yet read this issue!

Also, you should read it!

You don’t even need to be caught up on the current arc!

It’s largely a standalone tale!

Hippolyta’s dark universe comes with an evil version of herself and a group of Amazons bent on conquest and aggression rather than peace and love, so it’s no wonder that the two queens don’t get alone. Or rather, the queen and the empress. These Amazons appear to rule an empire. When the queen’s attempts at diplomacy fail, unsurprisingly, we then get a series of trials to decide who is the superior Hippolyta. It’s all super fun.

And exactly what I expected from Steve Orlando. His past issues of Wonder Woman have demonstrated a deep appreciation for the history of the Wonder Woman mythos and an understanding of how what is powerful and meaningful about the character can intertwine with the sometimes outlandish aspects of her comic book past. This issue gives us so many classic references, from an awesome chariot race with kangas to an invisible jet contest to an iconic bout of bullets and bracelets. Then, just as the last trial is set to begin, Themyscira is invaded by Atomia, the Queen of Atom World.

Atomia is not one of Wonder Woman’s better known villains. She’s only appeared in a couple of regular issues, and was part of Kurt Busiek and Trina Robbins’s 1986 The Legend of Wonder Woman mini-series. But she’s a classic Golden Age foe who debuted in Wonder Woman #21 way back in 1947. This was a period in which Wonder Woman’s creator William Moulton Marston was quite ill and the bulk of his writing was being done by his assistant, Joye Murchison, and she wrote this issue. We can see Atomia here drawn by H.G. Peter, with Wonder Woman and the Holliday Girls all tied up, as per usual in the Golden Age:

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It’s another great deep cut from Orlando, and Lopresti and inker Matt Ryan bring the scene to life with a very cool update of Atomia and her various minions. Together they all capture a wonderful, modern take on old school Golden Age fun.

And more importantly, it’s all in service of a good story that digs into the heart of Diana and Hippolyta. Diana is locked up for most of the issue, but when she hears the battle and people screaming she’s compelled to break free and go help. Even at this young age, she’s still the hero we all know and love, and by saving the imperial Amazon realm she not only earns freedom for her and her mother, she also gets to offer Atomia mercy where Empress Hippolyta would have only offered destruction. Defending others and understanding your enemy are values Diana learned from her mother, and that she’s able to hold to them in the dangerous crucible of this evil dimension speaks to how well Hippolyta taught her.

For Hippolyta, we get a sense of her dedication to her role, and how she struggles to do what is best for her people. Empress Hippolyta is her mirror, a way for her to analyze her own actions and see how her choices would play out if she went a different direction. The empire is violent and cruel, yet one key divergence still seems to weigh on the queen. Empress Hippolyta has no daughter, and lives only for her Amazon sisters. As her opposite, Queen Hippolyta wonders if she was selfish to have Diana, and whether that choice was best for the Amazons. Then Diana swooping in to save the day demonstrated the wonder that she has become, and how she embodies everything that is right and good about the Amazons. It’s a nice moment of reflection that captures the bond between Hippolyta and Diana while also underscoring the loneliness Diana must be feeling in the current ongoing arc and explaining the desperation she has to find her lost family.

Lopresti and Ryan do good work throughout the issue, making the Chi Dimension feel different than the standard take on Themyscira. And whoever decided that Empress Hippolyta should be blonde made the right call. Otherwise, this issue could have been very confusing! It’s fun to have Lopresti pop by Wonder Woman again. He paired well with writer Gail Simone back in the day, and earned himself a spot in the pantheon of modern Wonder Woman artists. It was also enjoyable to have an issue drawn by the same art team throughout after the mishmash we’ve had over the past couple of issues. Double shipping, gang. It’s the pits.

I’m curious to see how this tale of Diana’s past will influence the present. We know if this dimension exists, then Hippolyta is still alive. But what will our intrepid heroes find when they enter this dark alternate universe? Is this where the Amazons are hiding? We’ll know more in two weeks’ time!

Women & NB Creators at Marvel Comics Watch, July 2019 Solicits: 38 Creators on 30 Books

June 20, 2019

womenatmarvelJULY

Marvel’s July 2019 solicits may mark the highest number of female and non-binary creators we’ve seen from either Big Two publisher in the several years I’ve been doing these pieces. I say “may” in part because I’ve done quite a lot of them and skimming back through years and years of posts to check seems deeply onerous. But also in part because while we’ve definitely been in the high 30s before, it was at a time when DC and Marvel were putting out fewer books, and right now Marvel is putting out SO many books. Thus, this may well be the biggest number we’ve seen (it’s certainly very close to it) but on a per capita basis I doubt it would hold up as the best month ever. Nonetheless, it’s quite good! Let’s take a look at who’s doing what at Marvel in July:

  • Alitha E. Martinez: Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #45 (interior art)
  • Amanda Conner: Captain Marvel #8 (cover)
  • Anna Rud: Marvel Team-Up #4 (cover)
  • Ashley Witter: Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #34 (cover)
  • Audrey Mok: Marvel Rising #5 (cover)
  • Carmen Carnero: Captain Marvel #8 (interior art), Star Wars: Target Vader #1 (variant cover)
  • Claire Roe: Fearless #1 (interior art)
  • Elsa Charretier: Star Wars: Age of Resistance Special #1 (interior art)
  • Emanuela Lupacchino: Loki #1 (variant cover)
  • Erica Henderson: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #46 (cover)
  • Eve L. Ewing: Ironheart #8 (writer)
  • G. Willow Wilson: Star Wars: Age of Resistance Special #1 (co-writer)
  • Gail Simone: Domino: Hotshots #5 (writer)
  • Gurihiru: The Unstoppable Wasp #10 (interior art)
  • Jen Bartel: Marvel Tales: Captain America #1 (cover), Marvel Tales: Hulk #1 (cover)
  • Jenny Frison: Age of Conan: Belit #5 (variant cover), Fearless #1 (variant cover)
  • Jody Houser: Star Wars: Tie Fighter #4 (writer)
  • Karla Pacheco: Punisher Annual #1 (writer)
  • Kate Niemcyzyk: Age of Conan: Belit #5 (interior art)
  • Kei Zama: Death’s Head #1 (artist)
  • Kelly Thompson: Captain Marvel #8 (writer)
  • Kirbi Fagan: Shuri #10 (cover)
  • Leah Williams: Fearless #1 (co-writer)
  • Magdalene Visaggio: Ms. Marvel Annual #1 (writer)
  • Mirka Andolfo: Aero #1 (variant cover)
  • Nilah Magruder: Marvel Rising #5 (writer)
  • Nnedi Okorafor: Shuri #10 (writer)
  • Rachael Stott: Shuri #10 (interior art)
  • Rainbow Rowell: Runaways #23 (writer)
  • Sana Takeda: Age of Conan: Belit #5 (cover)
  • Sara Pichelli: House of X #1 (variant cover)
  • Seanan McGuire: Fearless #1 (co-writer), Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #10 (writer)
  • Stacey Lee: Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge #4 (variant cover), The Unstoppable Wasp #10 (cover)
  • Stephanie Hans: Invisible Woman #1 (variant cover)
  • Tini Howard: Age of Conan: Belit #5 (writer), Death’s Head #1 (writer), Secret Warps: Iron Hammer Annual #1 (co-writer), Thanos #4 (writer)
  • Vita Ayala: Age of X-Man: Prisoner X #5 (writer)
  • Yasmine Putri: Fearless #1 (cover)

That is a very long list! All together, there are 38 different female and non-binary creators scheduled to work on 30 different comic books at Marvel in July, three more creators than in June though on six fewer books. That is the one thing I did notice when compiling this month’s numbers, that there was more clumping than usual, i.e. several women and non-binary creators on one book rather than spread out more across the line. There’s one case in particular where this makes sense, the new Fearless mini that features all female characters and an all-female creator line up. But generally, things were more concentrated this month.

We saw that especially when we look at the number of books that are coming out, as we’ve been doing lately to make up the discrepancy between DC and Marvel’s publishing slate. Marvel’s putting out 93 new books in July, so with female and non-binary creators on 30 of them, that gives us a representation percentage of 32%, a noticeable step down from June’s 40%. This total also puts both Big Two publishers in the same ballpark right now in terms of representation across the line, though Marvel’s still got a significant lead in creators overall even when adjusted for output.

For new names, we’ve got nothing. Everyone listed above has worked at Marvel before. We’ve got some returning favourites, though, with a few folks we haven’t seen in a little while. Or, in the case of Karla Pacheco and Kei Zama, nearly three years! Also, Marvel’s debuting a new line of Asian characters written and drawn by Asian creators, and while I’ve tracked down several of them, a few don’t seem to have an English language presence online to allow me to read up on them and determine their gender preference, so we’ve got a few question marks this month.

In terms of female characters, the aforementioned Fearless looks like it’s going to be pretty dang cool. We’ve also got a new Valkyrie with Jane Foster taking on the mantle, which I’ve got mixed feelings about. She’s such a good Thor, and I want movie Valkyrie to be comics Valkyrie now! But still, it looks decent. The Invisible Woman’s got a new book as well, with an all-male creative team apart from a variant cover, and Aero is a female-led book that’s part of this new Asian heroes lineup.

Overall, female and non-binary creator representation at Marvel is quite strong, though with so many books the impressive numbers don’t hold up quite as well on a per capita basis. Still, this level of consistency isn’t something we’re used to seeing from Marvel, and keeping the numbers so high for so long, regardless of the plethora of books, is quite a feat, even with lots of room to grow yet.


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