This week’s issues of Wonder Woman takes “The Dark Gods” one step closer to its conclusion, and one step closer to the long-needed introduction of a new creative team. On the plus side, Wonder Woman is actually in this one, a nice change from the utter lack of her two weeks back. On the negative side, everything else is about the same, i.e. not at all good. This entire run has been weak, but “The Dark Gods” is especially bland. James Robinson used to be known for innovative superhero narratives. Starman is a classic, and even more recently his Scarlet Witch book was enjoyably outside the norm for Marvel. But his Wonder Woman run has just fallen flat, time and again. As we near the conclusion of his run, nothing feels fresh or interesting. It’s superhero paint-by-numbers, with every move telegraphed and every turn expected, especially this issue’s cliffhanger. It’s just boring. Even so, we’ll get into it all, but first:
I am about to reveal everything that happens in this issue!
Though if you’ve ever read a superhero story, you can pretty much predict how this one is going!
It’s mind-numbingly straight forward stuff!
So Wonder Woman is back from Zamaron, and that is good. Wonder Woman is always better when Wonder Woman herself is in it, even if that improvement only takes the overall quality from awful up to very bad. The Dark Gods are doing terrible things across the Earth, and she and Jason are focusing on their leader, the oddly named King Best, a giant stone monster with red eye beams. He’s a weird villain. The other four Dark Gods have powers that compel people to behave in certain ways en masse, whether it’s starting large scale wars, getting lost in a thrall, inspiring suicides, or a nationwide extreme orgy. It’s all very gruesome, but destructive in a way that’s mildly interesting at least. And then the Big Bad is just a rock man with laser eyes. It feels like a step down in creative villainy. He absorbed the Justice League in the last issue, I suppose. That’s something. But compared to the twisted powers of the other Dark Gods, King Best seems a little humdrum.
Anyway, Wonder Woman and Jason beat up the dude for most of the issue, pulling the old “knock him down but he’s not finished yet” cliché as the issue nears its end. Then Diana meets up with Steve while Jason flies off to fight with one of the lesser Dark Gods on his own, and you’ll never guess what happens next. Oh wait, you’ve guessed it already? It’s an obvious twist that we’ve all been expecting for weeks? That plays out pretty much exactly how we thought it would? Okay then. Yes, Jason has been turned to the dark side. Gasp. I’ll be on the edge of my seat for the next two weeks, waiting for the epic conclusion to this mind blowing cliffhanger.
I mean, this is just some ridiculously lazy writing. I do appreciate that Robinson actually tried for half a second with the lesser Dark Gods and made them somewhat intriguing. Those are frightening power sets that, in the hands of a writer that actually seemed at all invested in telling a cool story, could have been really interesting. But this Jason twist is just weak. Literally everybody on the planet has just been waiting for him to turn bad, even the billions of people not reading this comic book. If you explained the gist of this run to a random stranger on the street, their first reaction would be, “Oh, that brother is going to turn evil, FOR SURE.” And now he has, in another shrug of a final page reveal.
The artwork in the issue isn’t exactly elevating the uninspiring story, either. Jesus Merino’s work is fine, if somewhat standard superhero fare. It lacks the beauty of Emanuela Lupacchino’s linework, or the exciting action of what Stephen Segovia’s shown us lately. Merino is a solid, reliable artist, very much in the wheelhouse of DC’s generic house style. There’s nothing bad about it, but there’s nothing particularly fun or compelling either. It’s exactly the sort of thing you’d expect to see in a mid-tier superhero book nearing the end of an lackluster run. Actually, no. It’s slightly better than that. I’ve seen some bad arcs peter out with rough art, and Merino’s a step above that. He does the job, and tells the story. It’s not his fault that the story is terrible.
Romulo Fajardo Jr. is still in the mix though, laying down those good, good colours that make this book exciting every two weeks. The story and the linework rarely do much for me, but Fajardo’s always got something cool on the go. This week, it’s his subtle progression of time through the opening fight scene. It begins late in the day, with a sky that’s starting to darken. And it darkens more as the fight goes on, until Wonder Woman is flying in front of a full moon after the fight ends. The dude even takes the time to add a nice sunset effect when King Best gets thrown into the Atlantic Ocean. I love the effort we get from Fajardo with each issue. The man is top notch. As is letterer Saida Temofonte, who makes the bad words read well. The story might not be good, but dang if it isn’t laid out perfectly for easy reading.
And now the best thing of all: We’ve only got one issue left, gang. It’s going to be a big one, a special fiftieth issue shindig with some extra pages, but then we are free! Steve Orlando is coming in with Laura Braga on art, and the old era will pass away as a new one begins. I’m so ready. I’ve been ready since Robinson’s first issue, really, and now we are finally at the end. Gosh, it would be fun to write a positive review again. And I’ve got a good feeling about this creative team. ONE MORE ISSUE LEFT. Thank the gods, Old and New and Dark.