I’m amused by the degree to which I am enjoying a comic book based on a hypothetical eleventh season of an often not so good CW show. Smallville the show had a lot more misses than hits, and I had absolutely no interest in the comic until Wonder Woman showed up, and now I absolutely love it. It’s the book I’m looking forward to most each month, I got my local library to order the first collection of the series for me, and I’m leaning towards continuing to pick it up even after the Wonder Woman run ends. It’s been a very pleasant surprise.
The second issue in the “Olympus” arc (or fourth through sixth if you’re reading digitally) fills in a lot of the backstory that was only hinted at in the first issue, not only for Diana but for the rest of the cast as well. We learn that the head of the DEO, Director Bones, who you may know from his DC universe incarnation in the current run of Batwoman, was part of a team during World War Two called Shadowpact that included Zatara and our villain, Felix Faust. They gained unnaturally long life from one of their adventures, and Faust has since found a dark master and is powerful enough to intimidate even Director Bones. This is bad news for Diana, since she turned herself into the DEO to find her mother, and Bones will likely turn her over to Faust.
The revelations concerning Hippolyta are a big change from the classic Wonder Woman story, but are interesting. Last issue, the new twist was that Steve Trevor landed on Paradise Island as a young boy and befriended a young Diana. This issue, we learn that not only did Hippolyta return Steve to America, she hasn’t returned to Paradise Island since. Diana leaves Paradise Island to find both of them, and learns that Hippolyta stayed there to take care of the orphaned Steve. However, he doesn’t know where she is either. It turns out Faust has her locked away, and while no one knows this yet, I can’t imagine it’s going to end well for Faust once Diana finds out.
Big changes to the mythos aside, Bryan Q. Miller’s Smallville universe Diana really captures the essence of the character. She volunteer’s at a shelter for displaced women (the amusingly named “Marston Home for Wayward Girls”), points out the inherent gender imbalance in American society, and, when necessary, takes down people who threaten her and her friends with great aplomb.
One scene perfectly captured Diana for me: When Director Bones threatens to open fire on Steve and Diana, Diana assures Steve that she won’t let them hurt him. The two had just had an argument, and Steve quizzically responds “Thought you were mad”, to which Diana replies “That does not mean I do not care.” Protecting people is always a top priority, as is loyalty to her friends, no matter the circumstances. That line captures how Diana feels about the world a million times better than her “I love everyone” to Hades did back in Wonder Woman #10.
I also like that for a book starring Superman there was a lot of Diana. Superman swooped in to grab the soldiers out of a tank Diana destroys, and catches a bullet just before it hits Steve, while Clark visits Diana and does some research on Faust, but Diana is in a sizeable portion of the book. Lois gets some great moments as well, including the president being so scared of her journalistic prowess that he literally runs away from her. Smallville Season 11 is a fantastic showcase for Lois Lane, and reminds us exactly what the New 52 is missing by having her largely sidelined.
My only complaint about the issue, and it’s a very minor one at that, is that we don’t spend a lot of time with young Diana on Paradise Island. I loved those flashback sequences in the first issue, and we only got one here. Hopefully there’s more in the future, but if there’s not, the present is still ridiculously entertaining too.
Reading these digital first stories all together in print is a fun and different experience than a regular comic. They’re longer, for one, which is nice, but they’re also structured to originally work as three separate weekly stories. Thus, a lot happens in each issue because it’s essentially three mini-issues in one, each of them building to a fun climax or reveal and trying to pack as much as they reasonably can into each shorter installment. It’s not just the increased page count that makes the digital first print books a meatier read than a regular comic, but the format itself results in more compact yet eventful storytelling. If you’re going to pay four bucks for a comic book, a digital first title is going to get you far more bang for your buck.
Ultimately, it was another great issue of what is quickly becoming my new favourite series. The depiction of Diana is great, Superman/Clark and Lois are a lot of fun, the bad guys are evil and the stakes are high, and Diana flips over a tank in the middle of a city street. Plus the writing is sharp and the art is fantastic. I don’t know what else you could possibly want in a comic book.