After last week’s issue of Sensation Comics ended with a retread of a plotline the book had used just a few issues before, in which the villain took control of a horde of innocent people and set them against Wonder Woman, I didn’t have the highest of hopes for the finale to this arc. It’s not a great sign when the creative team recycles a story so soon. Plus, this sort of mind-controlled masses angle can only end one way, with the hero trying to avoid hurting the enthralled crowd and going after the source of the mesmerization. Unsurprisingly, that was what happened this week, with Wonder Woman corralling the crowd with the help of some lions and tigers and then beating the Cheetah in a final battle.
But let’s set the predictable, reused storyline aside for now; it’s a bummer, but not what struck me most about this issue. Instead, when I finished the book I was disappointed at the straight forward, surface level conclusion. It’s a superhero comic book, so chances are that the good guy is going to win. We know this going in, and because of this knowledge, something as simple as a big fight where the villain reaffirms their particular grievance and gets carted off to prison is very unsatisfying. As is the stinger at the end, revealing that “The Cheetah will return!” Yeah, we know. That’s how superhero comic books work.
Superhero comics have been around for more than 75 years. At this point in the game, a good ending has to have something more than just a big fight where the hero defeats the villain. Something that basic just doesn’t cut it. It needs a twist, or a surprising reveal, or a clever callback, or even a really well designed fight. Something needs to set it apart, or it’s just going to come off as bland and uninspired. I know that this comic is based on the Wonder Woman television show, which was your standard, formulaic 1970s fare, but good storytelling is good storytelling, and a key to a good story is an ending that feels earned rather than prescribed.
This is an ending that felt like it was just going through the motions. The Cheetah learned nothing. Wonder Woman learned nothing. The only thing remotely interesting in how it all played out, characterwise, is that Wonder Woman was able to befriend the lions and tigers that the Cheetah released to harm her, and we’ve seen this “Wonder Woman has a way with animals” thing a hundred times before. The second that the Cheetah set those animals free, every Wonder Woman fan reading the book knew that it wouldn’t work out for her. There just wasn’t anything new or interesting or surprising in the mix to elevate this finale from generic to enjoyable.
The art continued to be fine, though somewhat average. I thought that Ortiz did a nice job on the big cats, in particular. However, the real hero of the book was colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr., who did fantastic work turning a fairly ho-hum story into something that looked interesting. Fajardo Jr. has a real knack for using colour to draw the reader’s eye to the key parts of the page, and his texture work is very impressive. There were a lot of panels with linework that looked quite flat, but Fajardo Jr. added depth and feel with the colours that did the artwork a world of favours. I think that the big reason the Cheetah’s look was compelling was because of his excellent blends and texture work to give it all such a realistic feel.
Ultimately, though, the book was a disappointment, and it largely comes down to the writing. It’s just too shallow and basic. I feel like a lot of people involved are riding on the buzz of “It’s Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman!” and letting that sell the book rather than the story. But that buzz will only get you so far. I hope that the arc that starts next week offers us something a little different to take this book up a level, because the premise remains great. This could easily be one of the most fun books on the stand, but three arcs in it’s been average to okay at best. Kick it up a notch, gang! Lynda Carter deserves some killer stories.