Wonder Woman #21 Review: The Compassionate Core of Wonder Woman

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Yet again, I’m starting with an apology for a delayed review, with travel the culprit once more. But I’m back home now and should be settled here for the foreseeable future, so my reviews of Wonder Woman should be on the day of each issue’s release moving forward. This week’s issue was yet another outing that was worth the wait, as we see a lot of the key pieces that have been set up throughout “The Truth” thus far come together. With Wonder Woman, Steve Trevor, Barbara Ann Minerva/the Cheetah, and Veronica Cale all in the same spot for the first time, you knew something was going to happen. And a few somethings happened, all of them very interesting, but there was one moment that I loved best of all. We’ll dig into everything, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to dive into all of the twists and turns of this issue!

Look away if you have yet to read it!

So last issue’s cliffhanger, with Maru sniping Wonder Woman from afar, didn’t amount to much. What seemed to be a grievous issue last month was easily shaken off, a bit of audience manipulation that might have annoyed me if I didn’t appreciate the style with which it was executed so much. Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp ended Wonder Woman #19 in dramatic fashion and left us on the edge of ours seats, then began Wonder Woman #21 with a great action scene that had our heroine fighting through the pain, furiously deflecting bullets, and then nabbing Maru in impressive fashion. I particularly enjoyed the use of the sniper lens as a panel, and how it went from Maru seeing Wonder Woman from afar to Wonder Woman being right on top of her just a second later. It was a well executed sequence all around.

This led us to the Black Sea and the fake Paradise Island. Veronica and Barbara showed up with the still faceless Izzy and Veronica’s dogs, the imprisoned Phobos and Deimos, followed quickly by Wonder Woman and Steve. The small fight we got there was less innovative and visually inventive than what opened the book, but the emotions of the scene were the key focus here and that was very nicely done. Wonder Woman still believed in her friend and the humanity at the core of the Cheetah, even if Barbara felt that she’d lost herself fully in her feline form. And, of course, the true Barbara is still buried in there; the way she lashed out when Wonder Woman mentioned Etta made it clear that she still remembers and yearns for her other life.

Also, I’ve mentioned this before, but Liam Sharp’s redesign of the Cheetah is fantastic. For decades, the Cheetah has been very sexualized, drawn as a sexy cat lady rather than a dangerous creature. Sharp embraces the danger wholeheartedly. His Cheetah is fierce and frightening and more animal than human, and he does a good job marrying the feline traits to a female form that finds a balance between the two in ways we’ve never seen before. I really hope that this new look sticks around, because it’s so much cooler than past incarnations of the character.

The fight between Wonder Woman and the Cheetah served as a means to open the gate to, well, somewhere. The mysterious tree we’ve been seeing since this run began returned yet again, and Wonder Woman’s blood opened a portal through it. This was well depicted, especially the first reveal inside of it. Sharp’s swirly clouds and floating islands was all kinds of cool, but Laura Martin’s colours took the panel to the next level with her pinks and lavenders swirling about. It looked totally otherworldly. The way it was drawn on subsequent pages was somewhat less compelling; in general, I felt like Sharp was rushing things at times with this issue. But that opening shot to set the scene was gorgeous.

After Izzy ran into the portal, Wonder Woman and Veronica followed, and this led me to my favourite scene of the issue, and one of the best moments in Wonder Woman since “Rebirth” began. When Veronica explained that she was trying to find her daughter, Wonder Woman reached out her hand and replied, “We will seek her together.” This instantaneous compassion really captured the heart of Wonder Woman and who she is. Veronica Cale’s been working to destroy her for years. She turned her sweet friend Barbara into the vicious Cheetah, twice. She’s attempted to hurt or kill everyone Wonder Woman holds dear. And yet, the second Veronica needs help, Wonder Woman offered it. This doesn’t mean she’s forgiven, of course. But it shows that Wonder Woman saw the humanity in her, saw the woman who’s lost her daughter, not just in this bizarre realm but in a much deeper way, and decided that it was more important to help an enemy save an innocent girl than to exact any kind of revenge or even justice first. To me, the core of Wonder Woman has always been if someone needs help, she helps them, and then deals with whatever else may be going on after. Compassion comes first, and this issue illustrated that beautifully.

The issue ended with the big reveal that they’d stumbled upon Ares’ prison, as well as what appears to be a fully restored Izzy. I’m curious to see if this is a permanent restoration or a momentary reunification in this mysterious realm; we know from two weeks back that Ares had Izzy’s spirit/soul/what have you with him, so perhaps she really is whole again. Whatever the case, Ares is back in the mix again. Or, perhaps for the first time? We saw Ares back in “Year One,” but Wonder Woman doesn’t recognize him nor does he bear much resemblance to the cruel, bloviating deity we saw then. He doesn’t have fancy word balloons here, either. Could that first Ares have been a false Ares? Or maybe this Ares is false? Or maybe Wonder Woman just doesn’t recognize him without the armour and I’m reading way too much into this. I’m excited to see how this all shakes out, and given the interconnectedness we’re starting to see between “The Truth” and “Godwatch,” I’m hoping that we’ll at least get some hints in a couple of weeks with Wonder Woman #22. Everything is coming together, and it’s all very intriguing!

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2 Responses to “Wonder Woman #21 Review: The Compassionate Core of Wonder Woman”

  1. Sarah Says:

    I had the exact same reaction upon seeing Ares. I wondered if it was simple a more beguiling form or perhaps the so called lies extent to Diana’s true past, but perhaps I’m reading into it too far. I did however love the fact that this version of Ares looks as if it’s lifted straight from an ancient Greek statue – in fact I’ve seen a statue of him in a very similar pose. I also hope this form of cheetah remains, I can’t stand the long haired, ultra feminine portrayal in the past – this new version sets her as a believable, dangerous for for wonder woman.

  2. Jeppe Dittmer Says:

    My guess is this is the real Ares, and the one we meet in Year One, who was also trying to find Themyscira, was some kind of projection of this real one. So ‘fake’ Ares was trying to finde Themyscira to free real Ares. I wonder if it will be revealed that Ares also had a hand in Steve crash landing on Themyscira.
    I love the look of this new Ares, as it is exactly how I think Ares should look. Ares should be sexy, as I think he should represent not just the horrors of war but also it’s seductive power. All the honor, glory and bravery and whatever else that makes war and warriors seem cool and manly and so on. I like the idea that the divine personification of war is a monster, that looks like an idealized male self-image fantasy.

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