Wonder Woman/Justice League Dark: The Witching Hour #1 Review: What The Hecate?

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It’s a big month for us Wonder Woman enthusiasts, with DC releasing a five-part crossover story that is tailor made for some spooktacular October fun. A quick note on the schedule, so you can all keep up: “The Witching Hour” begins in today’s special, part two is next week in Wonder Woman #56, part three is the week after in Justice League Dark #4, part four is the week after that with Wonder Woman #57, and finally we wrap it all up with one last special at the end of the month, on Halloween day itself. So yeah, something a little different! Wonder Woman has been largely self-contained for a while now, with a few tie-ins to other DC events but not much in terms of actual crossovers. This could be fun.

“The Witching Hour” has some solid creative bona fides, too. James Tynion IV is writing all five issues, and he’s been a mainstay at DC for a while now. I quite enjoyed his recent Detective Comics run, and while I’m out of the loop on his current Justice League Dark run, I’ve heard decent things. He’s joined on art by Emanuela Lupacchino, Alvaro Martinez, and, in this issue, Jesus Merino, which is a nice lineup all around. So let’s dig into all of the creepy and kooky fun, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

If you have not read this issue yet, look away!

Go enjoy the chills and thrills of this comic book first!

There’s a lot going on in this first outing of “The Witching Hour” so maybe we should start with a little background. The team in Justice League Dark recently defeated an inter-dimensional magic eater called the Upside-Down Man, but in doing so it seems that Wonder Woman manifested some unusual powers. So not only is the magical world of the DC universe in a state of chaos right now, Wonder Woman’s got something weird going on. It’s precarious all around.

That something weird is a brand from Hecate, the ancient Greek goddess of magic and witchcraft. Thanks to secret rituals by some Hecate-worshipping Amazons, young Diana was branded with the mark of Hecate back when she was a girl on Themyscira and now Hecate has the power to control her and make her turn all pale and evil. This is obviously a very big problem. Moreover, Hecate is displeased with modern witchcraft, thinking the kids these days waste their power, so she wants to burn magic away and make something new. And by “burn magic away” I mean literally burn a bunch of witches. She’s on quite the a rampage.

The last thing you want when the goddess of witchcraft is on a rampage is for one of the most powerful superheroes on the planet to be under her control, but here we are. Oh, also, Zatanna can’t use much magic either lest it pull back the Upside-Down Man. And Hecate has blinded the rest of the Justice League to magical goings on, so they don’t know what’s happening. It’s a pretty good set up all around. Huge supernatural threat, compromised heroines, magic on the fritz, and no superhero support? That’s a real pickle.

This first issue does a good job of setting the table for those of us who weren’t up on Justice League Dark. I think my enjoyment of the issue was helped by the fact that I know all the characters from other, older books, even if I’m unfamiliar with their current situations. As much as it’s weird bordering on sacrilege that Zatanna isn’t wearing a tuxedo and a top hat, it’s still Zatanna. I know her. Same with Swamp Thing, Detective Chimp, Man-Bat, and the rest. For folks not familiar with these characters, though, things might be a little more confusing. It’s a lot at once, without much in the way of explaining who everyone is.

The general idea comes through, however. Even if you don’t know Detective Chimp, chances are you know Wonder Woman and realize that her being controlled by a witch goddess is going to be a bad scene. And the book does a good job of setting up the aforementioned pickle of a story. You don’t need to take a master class in the history of Dr. Fate or some such to understand the big threat and the stakes here. And I like I said, it’s a cool set-up. I’m excited to see how the gang gets out of this one, because it’s looking real grim right now.

Jesus Marino does some good work throughout the issue, with the always excellent Romulo Fajardo Jr. on colours keeping the book looking extra sharp, but the issue is saddled with a problem I see in a lot of superhero books: The villain doesn’t look that cool. And hey, I get it. Creating instantly iconic designs is HARD. And I see what Marino is going for here. Hecate is often depicted in triple form, and he tries to capture that, but the design itself, with its cloaks and chains and bangles and glowing lights, is all a bit much. It’s too busy, and just not compelling.

Far more effective are the possession looks, both with Witchfire and Wonder Woman. The stark white skin and black tears streaming down their faces is really creepy, and the white, fire-like hair is a cool touch. I don’t love the purple forehead brand and the armour elements so much, but the basic look works very well. I’m curious to see how the other artists adapt and build on both of these designs moving forward.

Overall, I thought this was a fun beginning and I’m keen to read the next issue. Crossovers like this can really burn you sometimes, making you buy five issues instead of your usual two, and when they’re not great it’s not just disappointing, it’s actively aggravating. Comics aren’t cheap. But I think we might have a good one here. Based on this first outing, “The Witching Hour” has a lot of potential, both as a suitably eerie Halloween treat and a cool story all around. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.

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10 Responses to “Wonder Woman/Justice League Dark: The Witching Hour #1 Review: What The Hecate?”

  1. Ben Herman: In My Not So Humble Opinion Says:

    Witchfire? Is this the same character who was in Power Company about 15 years ago?

  2. Jeppe Says:

    As someone who has been reading the Justice League Dark story leading into this I thought this issue work really well as both a natural continuation of that story, as well as a jumping on point for new readers. There was obviously a lot of exposition that I already knew about, but the writer did a really good job of still making this information interesting to me. (I am a sucker for JL meetings.)
    There is one thing that i found a little strange though. When Hecate killed the priestesses that branded Diana, did that happen right in front of Hippolyta? I guess Hecate also wiped Hippolyta’s mind, or you’d think Diana would have heard about that time when four women suddenly turned to dust right in front of her mother. I think it could have been a little clearer what happened there.
    Being really into greek mythology, I am a little annoyed that Hecate is once again being used as a villain, but I get it. The Titan goddess of witchcraft and magic is an obvious choice as a villain a bit like Hades. I guess the version of Hecate that appeared in the Finchs’ run have been removed from canon along with the new52 Amazons? No complaints here 🙂

    • Tim Hanley Says:

      I assumed it was a mind wipe situation, like she did later with the Justice League. And yeah, it’d be nice to see more nuanched portrayals of these classic mythological characters. Have you read Madeline Miller’s Circe? I’d love to see comics writers start to approach the characters in Wonder Woman’s world in a similar sort of way.

    • Jeppe Says:

      I have not read or even heard about this book. Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll tjek it out 🙂

  3. Jeppe Says:

    Tim are you going to review the Wonder Woman: Earth One vol 2 book that just came out?

    • Tim Hanley Says:

      Probably not. I really, really, really hated the first one, so slogging through this second one doesn’t really appeal to me. I’m certainly not spending money on it 🙂 If I get it from the library later and have some interesting thoughts, maybe I’ll share them.

    • Jeppe Says:

      If you do get around to reading it I think you should write a review on it even if it ends up being long after the book came out. I certainly would love to hear your thoughts on it, as I very much shared your opinion on vol. 1 and was consequently shocked to discover that I totally loved the second one.

      I don’t know if Morrison actually took some of the criticism of the first book to heart, or if the improvements in this one is simply a result of the central conflict no longer being between Diana and her mother, but either way, the result is that all the things I hated about vol. 1 is pretty much gone in the second one. Hippolyta and the Amazons no longer come off as horrible elitist jerks. There is no weird out of place body shaming. And the stuff that is still somewhat problematic is authentic to the golden age Wonder Woman comics, like Diana hauling bad guys off to Transformation Island against their will and the Amazons using mind altering Venus girdles on people to make them more obedient.
      Also, Diana actually comes of as a hero in this one rather than a bored teenager rebelling against her mother.

      Best of all the book isn’t fucking boring like the first one was, thanks to some genuinely effective villains, most notably Doctor Psycho, reimagined here as a government agent pickup artist. Watching him get his hooks in Diana and try to manipulate her was way more tense and unnerving (in a good way) than anything else I’ve read in a superhero comic in a long time.

      Even the few quibbles I had with the artwork in vol. 1, mostly an overabundance of Amazon butt shots and weird porn like facial expressions, have been fixed here, and are nowhere to be found in vol. 2.

      The book still feels like a pastiche of the golden age Wonder Woman comics, but it is a good pastiche now instead of the misguided and fundamentally broken one that vol. 1 was.

      Anyway. I’m not going to try and sell you on this book anymore. Just wanted to let you know that I think it might be worth a shot, even if you hated the first one. Like I said. I would personally love to hear you’re opinion on it, even if you don’t agree with me, and it ends up being long after the book came out.

      • Tim Hanley Says:

        Hmm, interesting. I remain wary, but more curious, certainly. I’ll read it when my library gets it, and even if it doesn’t warrant a full post here, I’ll probably tweet about it at least. Fingers crossed that I enjoy it, too! That would be a fun surprise.

    • Anonymous Says:

      Vol. 2 was better than Vol. 1, but I still didn’t really like it. As with part one, there are lots of aspects that are very enjoyable, but at it’s base, I feel that Morrison is intentionally trying to twist some of the original themes and philosophy to make WW and the Amazons seem somewhat sinister. Although that is certainly less the case in Vol. 2, it still really comes across like, “Yes, these misogynists are terrible, but maybe they have some valid points? And also, are the Amazons REALLY that different? BOTH SIDES!” And…yeah, you can f*ck right off with that shit, as far as I’m concerned. It’s like Morrison goes out of his way to plumb the depths and nuances and motivations of misogynists, while portraying the Amazons’ beliefs as rigid, one-dimensional, and easy to poke holes in. It at times seems more like a rebuke (or if we’re being charitable, a “deconstruction”–often using Dr. Psycho of all people as the mouthpiece for this) of the character rather than a celebration. And considering the reverence that he dealt with the Superman universe when he wrote All-Star, I find the contrast quite revolting.

      Pretty art, though!

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