Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman began its final arc yesterday, marking the beginning of the end one of the best showcases for Wonder Woman in recent memory. These digital first series are rarely long for the world; Adventures of Superman and Legends of the Dark Knight lasted about the same length. But the loss of Sensation Comics is more significant, seeing as Wonder Woman has never had the many series that Superman and Batman regularly star in. Usually she’s just got her eponymous title. Even more unfortunate, lately that main title and her co-starring series, Superman/Wonder Woman, have been pretty terrible. The end of Sensation Comics is a huge blow for fans of Wonder Woman.
But on the plus side, Sensation Comics is going out with a bang. Trina Robbins is writing the final arc, and I’d be hard pressed to think of a better choice. Robbins is a legend, from her underground comix to her fantastic historical work on women in comics to her past Wonder Woman stories. Joining her on art is Chris Gugliotti, a newcomer to DC with a unique style. The combination of the two makes the start of this finale something special.
The story is an unlikely team up between Wonder Woman and her nemesis, the Cheetah. The urzkatarga berries that turn Barbara Minerva into the Cheetah are disappearing, and Minerva is getting weaker after each transformation as she rations her limited supplies. Her situation is so desperate that she turns to Wonder Woman for help, betting that her compassion will make her help her enemy. And she’s right, of course. Wonder Woman can’t not help someone, especially someone who’s life is in peril.
As with most first issues, part one of the story is a lot of set up. Robbins explains the origins of the Cheetah and her reliance on the urzkatarga berries, and sets up the quest to find more. But it’s also an unconventional start. I’ve written a lot about the three part arc formula in my recent digital reviews because so many creators seem to be following the same basic pattern of establishing a villain, having a small fight, then finishing with a final fight. Everything is built to move toward that end battle, and the stories are rather predictable.
This story is different. There’s a scuffle between Wonder Woman and the Cheetah at the beginning, and the reveal of a potential villain at the issue’s end, but the focus is on helping the Cheetah rather than building to a fight. There’s a lot of ambiguity; the Cheetah isn’t the most trustworthy companion, and that guy at the end in charge of the reverse Dr. Moreau scene on the island the duo visits could be a friend or a foe. The story sets up a lot of fun stuff with potential to go in a variety of different directions, and I’m excited to see where Robbins takes it.
Gugliotti’s art is a treat as well. I’m not familiar with his work, but I’m absolutely going to check it out now. He’s got a cartoony style that will appeal to both children and adults, and his characters are wonderfully expressive. Gugliotti seems unconsidered with the typical superhero aesthetic of beautiful women carefully posed to be as lovely as possible. There are a variety of panels where Wonder Woman and the Cheetah do look very pretty; I mean, look at how gorgeous this opening page is all around:
But he plays to the emotion of each story beat above all else, trying to capture something real in their expressions rather than maintain a posed facade. It’s good stuff. His colouring elevates the artwork even further. It’s rich and textured, but varied as well. Gugliotti doesn’t rely on any one technique or style with his colours. Instead, it’s sometimes smooth and sometimes rough, sometimes blocked out and sometimes detailed, but all of it carefully rendered in a beautiful way.
Also, DANG that Anna Dittman cover. That’s all I have to say about it, DANG DANG DANG DANG DANG. It’s killer.
If Sensation Comics has to end, at least it’s ending on a high, with a legend at the helm writing the book and lovely, innovative art throughout. There’s almost an air of defiance to the book, like it’s saying to the comics market, “We may be going out, but here’s what you’re going to be missing and you’ll be sorry when we’re gone.” I’m looking forward to the next two weeks. If you’re waiting for the print version of this story, it’ll be compiled in Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman #17, on sale on December 2.