Today was a double whammy for Wonder Woman fans, with both Wonder Woman and Superman/Wonder Woman debuting new creative teams and both books failing to deliver a decent Wonder Woman. I’ll have a review of Superman/Wonder Woman later in the week, but for today let’s get into Wonder Woman #36. It’s not good, gang. It’s not a complete travesty, so at least there’s that, but there’s really not much going for it. We’ll dig through it all momentarily, after this:
I am about to reveal everything that happened in this comic!
If you haven’t read it, turn away!
While I hate to be a downer and blather on about stuff I don’t like, I found nearly every scene of this comic disappointing on some level. It just continually missed the mark, in a variety of ways. Let’s go through it scene by scene.
The opening three pages are fine, a long rumination on the rain that cuts to a variety of locales and features some decent work by Finch. It’s not an exciting opening to the comic, but it’s scenic, at least. These pages are the best part of the book really.
David Finch is known for female characters in a manner that’s, well, what’s a nicer word for exploitive? He drew Catwoman with her zipper going down to her navel, he created a Batman villain who was essentially a Playboy bunny. His history with female characters is pretty bad. So it’s not great that the first time we see Diana, she’s in the shower. It’s not overly sexy, especially relative to some of Finch’s other work, but it’s a lot of flesh. It’s just a really bad decision for introducing the character given his track record.
The book then jumps to Paradise Island, where a group of Amazons are debating the new male members of their society. The two Amazons who are opposed to their presence, and thus to Wonder Woman, are complete stereotypes. One is all crazy eyed and borderline hysterical, while the other is an old crone. Amazons arguing amongst themselves isn’t something I’m keen about to begin with, and having the women who are against Wonder Woman be such blatant and clichéd villains is kind of cheap. It’s shoddy storytelling, and lacks nuance.
Next up is a double page spread of the Justice League. I am of the opinion that if you’re going to do a double page spread, you should make it look good. The art here is not strong. I don’t even know what’s up with Superman’s hair, Wonder Woman looks completely vacant, and the whole thing is poorly put together. Frankly, it’s something Finch will be able to sell for huge bucks, what with the size of it and six members of the Justice League, and that’s probably why he used up two pages for it. But the art isn’t even good! It’s just bizarre.
Wonder Woman goes off to investigate the mysterious destruction of some villages in Thailand, and when she finds Swamp Thing she attacks him immediately. She doesn’t ask why he’s there or talk it out first, she just assumes he’s behind it and launches a flying kick at him. It’s reckless and foolish and, more significantly, not at all how Wonder Woman rolls. Wonder Woman doesn’t punch first and ask questions later. Violence is a last resort for her. Nearly every single Wonder Woman run has established this basic tenet of the character, from Marston through to the present day. It turns out, Swamp Thing was investigating the destruction of the village as well, and wasn’t behind it. That double page spread of Wonder Woman’s flying kick will sure sell for a lot though…
Also, Wonder Woman loses the fight.
Then on the flight back, Aquaman tries to straighten her out. Wonder Woman then launches into a big thing about how she’s overwhelmed because she’s being pulled in so many directions with the Amazons, the Justice League, the gods, and more. Can a woman really have it all?! First, the woman overwhelmed by the busyness of her life angle is yet another cliché, as is the massive unloading of it all. Second, she’s Wonder Woman. She can handle it. It’s what she does.
But if she didn’t already have enough problems, guess what? When Wonder Woman returns to Paradise Island, she finds out that her mother, who had been turned into a clay statue, is now dead. The statue melted in the rain; it seems that no one thought to bring it indoors. Hippolyta dying is the oldest story in the book. It’s happened so many times, to the point that this dramatic final page reveal barely elicited a shrug from me. In a recent interview, Meredith Finch mentioned that she didn’t read up on Wonder Woman’s comics much because she wanted to focus on her own approach to the character. She probably should have, because killing off Hippolyta has been done to death.
Throughout the issue, Finch’s art is inconsistent and his Wonder Woman is poor. With Cliff Chiang, we had a strong, powerful, beautiful woman. With Finch, we’ve got the head of a sultry teenager, with her snub nose, big eyes, and lips constantly slightly agape, and the body of an adult, shapely woman. Her head is also often over-sized, making her look more like a child with a lady’s curves than a grown woman. It’s an uncomfortable combination, and very offputting.
The writing itself isn’t terrible, but the story is awash in clichés. Moreover, the first issue fails to give Wonder Woman a single strong moment. She’s an emotional mess, and her fight with Swamp Thing is entirely wrongheaded. She never smiles, and she never does anything heroic. This is not a good way for a new creative team to introduce the character.
There was one thing going on with the story that I did find mildly intriguing. In the shower scene, Wonder Woman is washing off blood, and when she gets out of the shower there’s a drawing of her and a young girl, clearly made by a child. Later, while baring her soul to Aquaman, Wonder Woman holds an old teddy bear. Plus, she seems generally angry and upset throughout the issue. I think these things hint at a past tragedy, perhaps a young friend recently lost. I assume we’ll find out more in future issues.
Overall, though, this wasn’t a good issue. More damningly, it was a bad Wonder Woman issue. She didn’t come off well, visually or via the story. Maybe things will pick up as the story progresses, but given this first issue I have very little hope for this run now.