More than anything else, the quality of a Wonder Woman story depends on how well the creative team captures Wonder Woman. Cool fights, interesting settings or scenarios, and menacing villains are all important ingredients, but getting Wonder Woman right is the key. The current arc of Sensation Comics, “Besties”, has turned Wonder Woman into an arrogant jerk and the result is a rather disappointing story. I had high hopes for this arc, because the idea of Wonder Woman teaming up with some teens in a story written and drawn by a variety of female creators sounded like a ton of fun, but the first two installments aren’t great.
Barbara Randall Kesel writes Wonder Woman as a tone deaf braggart, basically. She joins a group of teens racing on the beach and defeats them all, then crows about it. Wonder Woman then launches into a big speech about how they could all do better if they worked harder, and offers several specific critiques for the girl who’s already her school’s best runner. There was no “You’re all doing great! Keep it up!” enthusiasm, just “I am the greatest and you should be like me!” bloviating. When Alicia, one of the girls, points out that Wonder Woman is only faster than them because she has gifts from the god, Wonder Woman dismisses her valid point by saying that she uses her gifts well. In short, she’s kind of the worst.
She’s also a hypocrite. When Alicia insults the Amazing Amazon’s skimpy outfit, Wonder Woman blasts her for slut shaming. Then when Superwoman shows up and they get into a verbal sparring match, Wonder Woman full on slut shames her for hooking up with other members of the Crime Syndicate:
It’s kind of gross. I know she’s a villain and all, but come at her with some legitimate critiques.
The first issue of the story was kind of interesting because Alicia tore down Wonder Woman at every turn, and deservedly so. Wonder Woman was being a total ass. Even though Wonder Woman answered all of her critiques, she did so in a haughty and superior fashion that only confirmed that Alicia was right to try to take her down a few pegs. I almost wondered if Kesel and company were setting up a story where Wonder Woman learns a valuable lesson about arrogance, which seemed odd and different but maybe sort of cool. However, Wonder Woman’s responses seemed to be written as if they were fair responses to Alicia’s concerns; they weren’t, but the tone suggested that’s how we were supposed to read them. Turns out, they weren’t going for Wonder Woman learning a lesson; after Wonder Woman saved Alicia and her friends from Superwoman, all was forgiven and Wonder Woman was now her hero. It’s an unpleasant “might makes right” turn that feels unearned and dismisses Wonder Woman’s earlier arrogance.
The art for both issues is fine, if somewhat underwhelming. Irene Koh’s issue is a little bit scratchy and not detailed. It’s not bad, but I’ve seen much better work from her elsewhere. It’ll probably read better on the printed page, in smaller form, than blown up on my computer screen. I liked Emma Vieceli’s art a bit better; it’s more polished, though I’ve seen better work from her as well. Nonetheless, Vieceli has a flair for dynamic storytelling and did a particularly nice job with the fights scenes.
All together, this arc is not one of Sensation Comics‘ better outings, and it’s largely due to a horrendously cocky and rude Wonder Woman. The attitude she displays just doesn’t fit the character at all. I’m all for confidence and being proud of who you are, especially with female characters; Wonder Woman should definitely claim all of the credit she deserves and take pride in her abilities. But these issues went far beyond that, and just turned her into a jerk. There’s one issue left, and I’m curious to see if Kesel can turn it all around somehow and either show Wonder Woman learning something or explain her arrogance in a satisfactory manner. I’d love a finale with a turn that makes me reconsider these first two issues entirely.
If you’re waiting for print, this issue is out in just two weeks! It hits comic shops on August 19.