I generally liked Wonder Woman #20. If you read these reviews with any regularity, you’ll know that the series has been in a bit of a rut for me lately and I’ve been frustrated with various elements of the book. Some of those elements still remain, and I’ll talk about them in a bit, but some improved with this issue, which was very nice to see. Plus, they improved by means of a kick ass fight scene, which is extra fun. But before we discuss:
There was a VERY cool fight scene that I am about to RUIN for you if you haven’t read the book yet.
This is your last chance to leave before SPOILERS!!
Carrying on, the fight scene between Wonder Woman and Artemis was great. On a purely entertainment level, it was well choreographed and exciting. The night sky over London is a very cool place for a fight, and Chiang broke the panels down into cool angles and perspectives to make the battle dynamic. I particularly liked this overhead panel of Artemis throwing Wonder Woman into Trafalgar Square:
All told, it was a well-set, well-designed fight that made for some excellent comic book fun.
The fight also addressed a number of concerns I’ve had with the book lately, and with Wonder Woman in particular. It’s been a while since Wonder Woman’s won a fight on her own; lately, she’ll get into a battle of some kind, it’ll start to go bad, and some boys will show up and sort it all out for her. Here, Wonder Woman won on her own, hands down, without anyone else’s help. She, a demigod, defeated a full god, and in impressive fashion.
Wonder Woman was outmatched in brawn, so she won the fight with brains. For the vast majority of this New 52 run, Wonder Woman’s not been the brightest. She’s been duped at almost every turn, shown a lot of poor judgment and naïveté, and just generally she’s not come off as much of a smart, capable superhero after the first few issues of the book. Here, though, she beats Artemis with physics! Wonder Woman’s strategy is all about momentum, using Artemis’ strength and speed against her with some clever lassoing. That first Trafalgar Square was cool, but this one is even better, with Wonder Woman whipping Artemis down into the ground:
Wonder Woman turned a disadvantage into an advantage, and fought like a proper superhero for the first time in a long while.
A key part of this battle was restraint. Instead of flying off the handle and going full tilt against Artemis, Wonder Woman fought carefully and calmly. First, she kept her bracelets on. Artemis taunted her, trying to get Wonder Woman to release her divine power and make it a real fight, but Wonder Woman knew that a) that kind of power in the middle of a city would be dangerous, and b) that this wasn’t a fight that would be won by brawn. Second, when Artemis blew up the hotel room where Zola, Lennox, and the rest were staying and Wonder Woman didn’t know if her friends were dead or alive, she didn’t lash out. She kept her cool, continued to fight smart, and didn’t let her emotions get the better of her. Artemis is all angry, unchecked brawn, and Wonder Woman beat her by being the opposite.
So this was a really good issue for Wonder Woman. She’s still one of the least interesting characters in her own book, but at least she’s behaving like a superhero now. This smart, reined in but powerful Wonder Woman much more fits my idea of the character than what we’ve been seeing for the last year or so. It was nice to see her start and finish something well, without anyone’s help. I hope this continues in future issues.
However, as great as the fight was, yet again Wonder Woman only appeared in 9 of the book’s 20 pages. It wouldn’t be so bad if this didn’t happen every month OR the rest was jam packed with cool stuff, but that just hasn’t been the case. Structurally, I have some big problems with how the series is progressing. It feels like half a book’s worth of story each month, spread out over 20 pages. In particular, the five pages set on Olympus that we’re getting every issue now are driving me crazy. They seem to exist only to rehash what we already know, and in an extremely drawn out manner. This issue took four pages to get to where we were at the very end of the LAST issue. Even months into this bizarre, spread too thin routine, I still find myself shocked to be disappointed in the storytelling choices of Brian Azzarello. Of all the writers in comics, I never expected to have problems with how he structured his work. But Wonder Woman’s become rather formulaic and slow as of late.
The inconsistency of the art is frustrating as well. Chiang did the breakdowns for this issue, and you can see the flair he brings to the page layouts in Goran Sudzuka’s finished art. However, Chiang only drew 5 of the pages himself, and they were the most boring ones. Sudzuka finished the rest, and while they weren’t bad, they weren’t Chiang. Chiang’s done only two full issues since the zero issue way back in September, and I really miss him on the book.
Finally, while Wonder Woman awesomely won the fight with Artemis, Ares did return Artemis to Apollo, so we’ll have to watch how that plays out. If Artemis is down for the count and is a non-factor now, then it’s not a big deal, but if she shows up again, spoiling for another fight because Ares let her go, that’s another fast one that’s been pulled on Wonder Woman.
Nonetheless, this is one of the better issues of Wonder Woman in some time. The fight was great, Wonder Woman got some of her oomph back, and now the tables are set for a big fight with the First Born next month. Why can’t these kids just get along? They’re family!