The gods lie. Every divine system has a trickster deity, of course, for good or ill or sometimes both, a Loki or a Puck or an Anansi. But more than that, systems of gods are a reflection of the humans who created them, and thus they have the same foibles and flaws. They tend to use their followers as tools for their own gain and glory, capriciously abusing their powers to satisfy their momentary whims. Zeus took different forms to trick women and have sex with them. Yahweh sent lying spirits to his prophets to deceive the Israelites when he wanted to punish them. Ishtar promised men wealth and power only to bleed them dry and leave them broken. The gods are deceivers.
This is what “The Lies” seems to be exploring, though Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp are delving into these themes in a world in which the gods are quite literally real. For us, the vast majority of the deities out there are just stories; even religious people believe in their particular pantheon and think the rest aren’t real. In the world of Wonder Woman, there are actual gods, and they’re just as bad as our mythologies make them sound.
Let’s dig into Wonder Woman #7, but first:
I am about to reveal key plot points from this issue!
Look away if you haven’t read it yet!
So we’ve been assuming that “The Lies” are about Wonder Woman and her deities, and whatever power has compelled her to remember false Amazons and a false pantheon. But we’ve barely scratched the surface of those lies four issues into the arc; instead, we’re spending a lot of time with the Cheetah and her complex, abusive relationship with her patron deity Urzkartaga, and it turns out that Barbara Ann Minerva has been the victim of lies as well. She was told that the scores of girls delivered to Urzkartaga were there to worship him, and that he imparted some of his power to one of them. She became the Cheetah, the Protector who enacted his will throughout his realm.
But Urzkarataga’s worshippers weren’t powerless followers. They were his wardens. The women held all the power, and Urzkartaga deceived them by convincing them that they had none, and that only through him could one of them approach the divine. It was a ruse to hide his true weakness and immobilize a potential threat: The girls could destroy him if they worked together to do so. Which they did, at the end of the issue when Wonder Woman exposed the truth. Urzkartaga was vanquished and Barbara Ann Minerva was freed of her Cheetah persona.
In last month’s installment of “The Lies,” the Cheetah told Wonder Woman, “Your paradise was made by your gods. Perhaps they play games with you the same way Urzkartaga plays with me.” With Urzkartaga’s deception now exposed, there may be an additional layer to that sentiment: Perhaps Wonder Woman’s gods lied to her the same way Urzkartaga lied to the Cheetah. And it will be interesting to see which gods were involved. The Urzkartaga plot relied on reinforcing patriarchal authority, ensuring that men were in charge and that girls were seen as expendable so that his chief weakness could be contained. Depending on which gods have deceived Diana, we could be looking at another critique of patriarchy once she gets to the bottom of “The Lies.” Which would make sense, given that in her false world the Amazons had turned against each other, female deities persecuted them, and Athena, the goddess of wisdom, was nowhere to be seem. Retconning this as a nefarious patriarchal plot would be a fascinating reimaging of the largely disastrous New 52 era.
Now, the Urzkartaga reveal was interesting, and I’m curious to see how it plays out for Wonder Woman, but the journey to get here was very long. Even if there are parallels with Diana’s gods, this was a slow story that, while it’s had it’s cool moments, has been a bit underwhelming. I like the ideas behind it, and I’m all for the rehabilitation of the Cheetah. The execution thereof just hasn’t worked so well for me. It’s not been bad, but it’s not been particularly compelling or entertaining, especially compared to the amazing work we’ve seen in the “Year One” storyline.
The art hasn’t helped things either. When I reviewed last month’s outing, I was critical of Sharp’s work and said it felt a bit rushed and sloppy. All of those elements are even more pronounced this month. There are a couple of really lovely panels where he clearly took his time, but there are scores more where the inking feels slapped on and rough. Moreover, backgrounds are nearly nonexistent. They’re in a cave, so there’s not a lot of exciting stuff that can be done, but the roots and such that run behind them are pretty slapdash. Sharp’s skills lie in his lush, detailed renderings, and the timeline of a monthly schedule doesn’t seem to be allowing him to do dig into his artwork in this way. Laura Martin does what she can with the colors, but it’s always awkward to put smooth, blended coloring over blocky, rough artwork. It just looks incongruous. I think she singlehandedly salvaged a few backgrounds with some cool effects that broke up the perpetual brown of the cave, but the overall visual appeal of the issue is limited.
Ultimately, if the Urzkartaga reveal is foreshadowing for what Wonder Woman is facing with her own deities, that’s a clever touch. But the execution thereof has been somewhat lacking. The story is too drawn out, the art is flagging, and everything good about the book is getting a bit lost in how it’s been presented. There are two issues left in the arc, of course, and what comes next may well prove that every seemingly slow step along the way thus far has been a key moment for the larger story. That would be lovely. But while there are a lot of cool ideas in the mix here and some genuinely great moments, the pacing and deteriorating artwork of the first four issues are stopping “The Lies” from fully living up to the intriguing vision behind it.