Middle issues are probably the trickiest part of a comic arc to write. In the first issue, you set the stage and introduce everyone, in your last issue you have your final battle and resolve all of your plotlines, but the middle issue can sometimes feel like treading water. You’ve already done the setup but you can’t get to the conclusion yet. Wonder Woman ’77 hasn’t been great with middle issues; the book often falls into the usual formula of a minor battle with the primary villain leading to a “shocking” cliffhanger. But this week, the team mixed it up with enjoyable results.
There was still a battle with Celsia, the big bad, that was fairly typical middle issue fare. She attacked a party to capture a man who was behind a nuclear meltdown, Diana Prince quickly turned to Wonder Woman, and fighting ensued. All of that was fine, if a little typical. But then the end got interesting. Celsia escaped with her target and Wonder Woman gave chase, and I expected another skirmish leading to a conclusion where it appeared that Celsia had the upper hand, only to have Wonder Woman defeat her in next week’s issue.
But instead, someone else showed up! And provided less of a cliffhanger and more of a “Whaaaaaat?” moment. Marc Andreyko went for a deep cut here, bringing in the Atomic Knights to wrangle Celsia. Originally, the Atomic Knights were post-apocalyptic warriors who appeared in a regular feature in Strange Adventures in the early 1960s. They’ve been brought back a few times since then, but rarely for long. Andreyko’s clearly left behind the post-apocalyptic angle, moving them into the 1970s, but owing to the final page reveal, details about them are sparse.
And that’s what makes this a good middle issue. In all of those middle issues where the villain is about to defeat the hero, we know it’s going to turn around in the finale. Those cliffhangers lack any kind of punch, and telegraph the final issue. But here, with a new, obscure team brought it at the end of Wonder Woman ’77 #11, I have NO idea what’s going to happen next. I know they’re working for some guy who was at the party, but I don’t know if they’re good or bad, how Wonder Woman will react, or what their relationship is to Celsia. The finale is wide open now, and that’s the best way to go into a conclusion. Kudos to Andreyko for the fun curveball.
Also, Cat Staggs deserves a lot of credit too for selling the heck out of that final page reveal. The original Atomic Knights were kind of goofy, just some folks in irradiated armour riding big dogs around. Later incarnations have been all slick and modern. Staggs takes a new tack, making them look cool and suitably atomic while maintaining the 1970s sensibility. The costumes are something I could totally see on an old TV show, but a rad one with a great costume designer. They’ve got a great colour palette as well, the glowing logo makes for a cool look, and the overall effect results in an intriguing introduction:
With such cool costumes, I want to know all about them, and I’m excited to see more of them next week.
Staggs and colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr. do a nice job with the rest of the issue as well. I particularly liked Celsia’s fire and ice powers, both in terms of how they look on the character and how they manifest when she shoots them out. It’s a good looking issue all around.
While most of this issue is a fairly run of the mill middle issue adventure, the surprise at the end elevates the entire book and has me very curious about what’s going to happen next week. I’m glad to see Andreyko break away from the typical formula, and with the Atomic Knights looking so cool next week’s issue should be a fun read.