Well, I’ll say this for Wonder Woman #38: It’s probably the least bad issue of the Finches’ run thus far. It’s not good by any means, but it’s less aggressively bad than the last two. Still, the issue is rife with problems, starting first and foremost with the depiction of Wonder Woman herself and cascading down from there. We’ll discuss it all momentarily, but first:
I am about to reveal EVERYTHING that happened in this comic book!
If you haven’t read it yet, leave now!
Unless you’re skipping the book and just reading this instead, in which case, here we go!
Let’s start at the beginning. Literally the first half of the book is a dream sequence; it’s ten pages long. A hydra attacks Paradise Island, and kills scores of Amazons before Diana arrives to stop it. When the hydra sees Diana, it bows down to her because she is the god of war and the beast is now her pet. Then Diana is confronted by a version of herself who’s fully embraced her god of war status and the two fight for a bit before Diana wakes up in her bed, covered in blood.
From a storytelling perspective, this dream sequence went on for WAY too long, and had a bunch of double page spreads and splash pages that were generally unnecessary, the original art for which should sell for a bonkers amount of money. And really, a lot of the art is quite good. David Finch draws an excellent hydra, and while I still don’t care for his Wonder Woman he’s definitely doing a better job of making her look like a grown woman instead of a curvaceous adolescent. For example, look at this face from this issue:
As compared to this face from Wonder Woman #36 in November:
The first looks like a woman, the second looks like a girl. Proportionally as well, her head fits her body better now. He’s definitely improving, and deserves some credit for that.
However, the dream sequence as a whole is pretty on the nose in terms of Diana’s anxieties about her role among the Amazons, and goes on for much too long for something that communicates feelings and anxieties we already know she’s dealing with.
Also, here’s something to look forward to and/or dread: The dream sequence ends with Strife watching Wonder Woman, and hints at her involvement in the story down the line. Strife was sort of a breakout character during Azzarello and Chiang’s run, a wild and enigmatic goddess who twisted the story in unpredictable ways. While she was a lot of fun in the hands of the old team, I’m worried about her with the Finches at the helm. They’ve botched up pretty much everything thus far, and that doesn’t bode well for their take on Strife.
The second half of the book, ie. the part of the story where things actually happen, isn’t great. Diana has a conversation with Hessia, a former Amazon who now lives in the world of men. Hessia makes some excellent points about how being the god of war will affect her, but Diana is petulant and angry, and doesn’t want to listen to her at all. David Finch may be drawing Wonder Woman to look more like an adult, but Meredith Finch still has her behaving in a very childish manner.
I understand what they’re going for in this storyline, trying to communicate the pressures of being Wonder Woman and the difficulties of managing it all. They’re trying to give her some emotion and problems that she’ll eventually overcome, of course. The thing is, they’re making Wonder Woman look like a childish idiot in the process. She’s an emotional wreck, she’s being a jerk to her friends, her attitude and issues are obviously affecting her performance of her myriad duties, and she doesn’t seem to notice. This Wonder Woman is in no way self-aware, and Wonder Woman has always been a character who knows herself and what she represents. It’s just an entirely off base characterization. Wonder Woman should be far smarter and more in control than they are making her, and this frazzled, irritable take on the character is wearing very thin.
After the Hessia meeting, Wonder Woman shoots off with the Justice League to investigate another odd occurrence. Wonder Woman gets snippy with Batman, and Superman gets attacked by a swarm of weird bugs, and we’re left hanging on what’s happening there until next issue. My best guess is that it’s another god of war situation, much like the birds that attacked Paradise Island in the last issue, but we’ll have to wait until next month to find out.
Finally, we return to Paradise Island, where the old witch-looking Amazon presents her new heroine, Donna Troy, to her fellow Amazons and proclaims her as their new queen. First off, as a I said last week, Donna Troy’s costume is pretty rad. I’m saying a lot of nice things about David Finch’s art today, and it’s weirding me out, but it’s a fun outfit.
Second, how are the Amazons on board for this? The creepy old Amazon lady shows up with a new champion, and everybody’s going to be, “Okay, cool. Let’s all be ruled by this gal we’ve never met before”? The Amazons can’t be that dumb. I’m hoping that there’s some more debate next issue and Donna Troy isn’t just automatically the queen, because that would be ridiculous. That any real Amazon would accept some new, random lady as their queen is a silly enough idea, but that a majority would be on board seems completely unlikely to me. The Amazons have not been coming off well AT ALL in the New 52, though. They’re pretty much unrecognizable at this point, so my idea of smart, rational Amazons may be an antiquated one.
All together, there were actually some decent moments in this comic. The art is improving. The hydra was cool. Donna Troy’s costume is spiffy. But overall, it’s still a mess with a half-baked storyline and an entirely out of character Wonder Woman. Also, it remains entirely joyless. It’s just dark, all of the time, with no fun and no jokes and no levity. Wonder Woman is traditionally one of the happier characters in the DC universe, even when things are bad, but here she’s just perpetually dour and upset. It’s all getting very old, and we’re only three issues in.