Remember when Wonder Woman Annual #1 came out and it wasn’t terrible, and I was mildly optimistic that the Finches’ second arc might be not too bad? Well, that optimism was ill placed. We’re two issues in and while this new arc isn’t as aggressively terrible as the first, it doesn’t have a lot going for it. It’s traded being offensively bad for just being boring, which isn’t much better. The Finches have fixed a lot of the problems of the first arc; the Justice League isn’t around, Wonder Woman isn’t complaining all the time, and she isn’t drawn like a sexy adolescent anymore. But the poor storytelling remains, and that’s really the most important element. Let’s discuss the issue, but first:
I am about to reveal ALL OF THE THINGS that happen in this comic!
If you haven’t read it, turn away!
Okay, carrying on. We’ve got a couple of new developments in this issue. The first ten pages are devoted to Diana and Hessia living it up at a dance club and Diana then chasing that new dude who’s trying to kill her through London. Nothing actually happens; the dude tries to kill her, misses, and ultimately gets away. He rides a pegasus, which is pretty rad, I suppose.
SIDENOTE: Pegasus is the classic winged horse, but I don’t know if this is THE Pegasus or another winged horse, or if we call all winged horses pegasuses or just Pegasus. I’m going to go with calling it a pegasus for now, and you can correct me in the comments if I’m wrong.
Anyway, not a lot goes on in the first half of the issue, but then we get a flashback and learn that the mysterious would-be assassin is Aegeus, a descendant of Thesus and thus Poseidon, and he’s trying to claim what he thinks is his rightful place as a god. We still don’t know who he’s working with, but there are hints that it might be Strife. Speaking of Strife, she shows up a little later to free Donna Troy after Wonder Woman has a long and boring conversation with her imprisoned sister about forgiving herself. Strife convinces Donna to go see the Fates.
And that’s about all that happens. In terms of changes from where we were at the end of last month’s issue, Wonder Woman knows Aegeus is after her, we know Aegeus’ backstory, and Donna Troy is free.
Rather than dig into various aspects of a story I don’t particularly care about, I’m going to focus on one scene to try to articulate why I find this comic so bland. It’s the opening scene, with Diana and Hessia at a dance club. When I posted the preview for this issue on Monday, I talked a bit about the cliché of the woman who’s harassed by a guy and then decks her harasser. It’s been done a bunch of times, with diminishing returns, and this is one of the most clichéd versions I’ve seen. The actual scene in the book is longer than the preview, with the dude hitting on Diana for a page beforehand and Diana clearly stating she’s not interested. The guy is a walking caricature, Diana’s reaction is exactly what you’d expect, and her speech afterwards aims for empowered anger but just reads as tacky. I understand what Meredith Finch was going for here, but it all just comes off as stale.
Apart from the harassment bit, the writing in the scene feels incredibly flat on several levels. There are more clichés with Diana spouting the usual “This was just what I needed”, dancing her troubles away line that you can see in pretty much any scene sat at a dance club in any form of media. Moreover, the club is in London, and you can’t tell at all. Nothing captures the locale in the slightest. I’m not saying that there should be Union Jacks everywhere and that Diana’s fellow dancers should be talking about tea and crumpets and the queen, but there should be some sense of setting and instead there’s none. It’s all just generic. In Azzarello and Chiang’s run, when Diana needed to blow off steam she went to a punk club. It had atmosphere and a sense of place and said something about the character. Meanwhile, this scene is just completely nondescript.
The art doesn’t help matters. David Finch dresses Diana and Hessia in generic club dresses. There are no designs, no textures, nothing unique about them. They are a red and a grey dress of the same construction. Also, Diana’s only got one move: hands in the air, hips sticking out to one side or another. She does it over and over. Plus there are actual music notes in the background to let the reader know that music is playing:
It is all so very bland and nonspecific. Finch is not good at investing clothing and settings with any kind of mood or characterization. Because of this, he fails to set a scene properly, and also fails to communicate anything about the character and who she is through his art. This scene is like the clip art version of a dance club, everything boiled down to a simple, dull, non-detailed version of things.
I suppose we should be thankful that Finch didn’t try to come up with more creative outfits for Diana and Hessia, because he does so for Hera later in the issue and the result is a belly top and a loin cloth. It’s not great. His Zola is much improved, though! I’ll give him credit for that. He’s got her back in plaid and looking a bit more like herself.
Ultimately, this hopelessly bland and generic club scene is indicative of the Finches’ run as a whole. They’re not investing the characters with unique attributes that make them more than cardboard cutouts, and they’re not putting them in situations that speak to who they are in some way. Plus, they’re spending four pages on a clichéd dance club scene that really adds nothing to the book when they’ve got a dang pegasus in the mix. Pegasuses are SO COOL. How do you not have four pages of rad pegasus fun instead?
I feel like everyone in this book needs to push a little more. Dig into each scene, figure out why it’s in the book, what it’s saying about the characters, how you can bring out a bit more of everyone, add some excitement to the book, or do something unexpected. It all just feels boringly surface level and shallow, without much thought put into it. A pointless club scene, unfruitful chase, hints of backstory, and a moderately shocking ending is a really dull formula, doubly so when poorly executed. It’s hard to get invested in a book when there’s so little to get invested in.