The first two issues of the “Besties” storyline struck an odd tone, with an arrogant Wonder Woman defeating teenagers in a footrace and then telling them they need to work harder if they want to be a champion like her in the first issue followed by Wonder Woman slut shaming her evil Earth 3 counterpart in the second issue. The writing didn’t fit the character well at all, and I was hoping that the third issue would have some sort of twist where Wonder Woman realized she was being too cocky or revealed that her bad attitude was some sort of ruse. It did not.
The conclusion was one big fight, with Wonder Woman and Superwoman duking it out to prove who was the better warrior. The only real twist was that Superwoman was pregnant, a revelation that momentarily caused Wonder Woman to hold back, but that was about it. Other than that, Wonder Woman continued her Muhammad Ali schtick as she continually asserted that she was the greatest.
I can see what Kesel was going for here, contrasting the backgrounds of the two women to show that Wonder Woman’s genesis of sisterhood and mutual support was a better source of strength than Superwoman’s brutal, solo origin. I agreed with everything that Wonder Woman said about her own greatness because of course Wonder Woman is the greatest. What I didn’t like was that she had to say it, over and over and over, for three straight issues. Pretty much every line she spoke had something to do with how fantastic she was. It works to a certain degree in an epic battle against Superwoman, but not when Wonder Woman had used the exact same tone and arguments to shut down a teenager two issues before. If Wonder Woman had been kinder and more supportive of the girls in the first issue, showing and not telling the virtues of being an Amazon, the telling in the final issue could have had some punch. It would’ve been earned. But because she was kind of an arrogant jerk from the get-go, espousing similar rhetoric in the finale just felt like more of the same cockiness.
Everything just felt out of character. Superwoman bloviating about her superiority makes sense; she’s an awful person. But Wonder Woman is not the sort of hero who takes that kind of bait. She’s better than that. While Superwoman was busy throwing down her villain monologue, Wonder Woman should have just swooped in and taken her out. Engaging with her verbally just made Wonder Woman look petty. The whole arc did, frankly. There’s a line between confidence, which is good, and arrogance, which is bad, and Wonder Woman leaped over that line in the first issue and just kept going.
The art in the story was strong. Braga did an excellent job capturing the fight and making it flow naturally in an exciting way. If you took out the words and replaced them with something else, this could have been a really good comic because the fight was well constructed. I also liked the way she differentiated between Wonder Woman and Superwoman. They look very similar, but Braga gave Wonder Woman an air of regality and heroism while Superwoman embodied a boiling anger and perpetual snarl. I think this panel captures the difference nicely:
Superwoman is furious and lashing out, while Wonder Woman looks calm and slightly amused by the entire situation. It really is quite a good looking issue.
The only flaw is a massive one, in that the entire story just doesn’t seem to understand who Wonder Woman is. You shouldn’t read a Wonder Woman story and come away thinking, “Dang, she was kind of a jerk.” Especially a story with Superwoman in it; she should occupy all of the jerk space, while Wonder Woman comes off as a rad hero. That didn’t happen here. The print version of this story is out in comic shops next week, so give it a peek if you want to see come cool art. Irene Koh, Emma Vieceli, and especially Laura Braga did some nice work on the book, and I think it’ll look great in print. Just maybe skip the words and make up your own story as you go through it.