Oh, Sensation Comics. You are the relief I so need in world where the New 52 Wonder Woman is just the worst. A good issue of Sensation Comics always improves my mood, and luckily this week the series has put out a great issue. Oddly, it’s got very little Wonder Woman in it, and seems to be set in a universe where Wonder Woman doesn’t actually exist. Usually a lack of Wonder Woman in a book about Wonder Woman bothers me, but this time I think it worked beautifully.
“Rescue Angel” is set in Afghanistan, where Lieutenant Angel Santiago has arrived at a Forward Operating Base to go visit a school for girls in a nearby village. The village elders are confused by the very existence of a female pilot, but Santiago is quickly embraced by the enthusiastic founder of the school. Then, after the visit, the story takes a dangerous turn.
Early in the issue, we learn that Santiago wears a lucky Wonder Woman charm with her dog tags that her niece gave her as a gift. At this point in the story, there’s no reason to suspect that Wonder Woman won’t show up at some point to save the day in some capacity, but that’s not exactly the case. When the military convoy is attacked by RPGs, Santiago rushes back to save an injured soldier. After she’s rocked by a blast, Wonder Woman appears to help her get up and move the soldiers to safety, but later we find out that a concussed Santiago was the only one who saw her. In fact, her doctors seem to think she hallucinated Wonder Woman’s appearance. As the issue ends, Santiago’s fellow soldiers bring her some issues of Wonder Woman from our universe. This isn’t a superhero story; this is the real world, our world, and Santiago is the true hero of the piece. She’s the one who saved the day, not Wonder Woman.
It’s a clever twist by writer Amy Chu, and a really smart use of the anthology format. We’re so used to stories about Wonder Woman that we easily believe that she’s actually there when she first appears, so the reveal at the end packs a very cool punch. It’s some nice outside the box thinking that makes this story an especially memorable one.
I also love the juxtaposition of Wonder Woman with Lieutenant Santiago. Showing Wonder Woman performing the brave, amazing feats that Santiago actually did is a powerful way to emphasize her heroism, and the heroism of soldiers generally. It’s easy to get caught up in the fun of superheroes, and we spend billions going to their movies, but there are people out there performing real heroic acts every day.
Bernard Chang’s art is strong throughout the issue, especially during the battle scene. It’s difficult to communicate the chaos of a battle while keeping the comic coherent and readable, but Chang does just that. It’s nice to have him drawing Wonder Woman again, however briefly. His issues during Gail Simone’s tenure on Wonder Woman were great, and I think he has a real knack for the character.
On top of being a well told and clever story, this issue is especially well timed given the recent, horrific terrorist attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan that left almost 150 people dead, most of them children. The school taught male and female students, and it’s beyond distressing to be reminded that there are parts of the world where just going to school can put children at such terrible risk. I appreciated that this issue highlighted not just the importance of education generally, but the commitment of local people in these regions to education and making a better society. It would’ve been easy to just paint Lieutenant Santiago as a hero and celebrate the troops, but Chu and Chang made sure to point out that there are so many locals who are heroes as well:
Overall, this was a great issue of Sensation Comics with a clever story and strong art. This story will be available in print in February, so keep your eyes peeled for that.