We’ll get to Wonder Woman in a moment but first, let’s talk about the new She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. When Netflix announced that they were bringing back She-Ra with Noelle Stevenson as showrunner, I instantly had an idea of what the show could be. I’m a big fan of Stevenson, from Nimona to Lumberjanes to her early days of hilarious Tumblr comics. She’s got a delightful yet slightly dark sensibility that always comes through in her work. And when She-Ra debuted, it was everything I wanted it to be. It’s charming and hilarious and surprisingly heavy at times, and as queer as they let kid’s TV be these days. Basically, it was what I expected to get in a Noelle Stevenson project, in all of the best ways.
I feel the same way about this run of Wonder Woman. I’m a huge fan of G. Willow Wilson too, and I’ve enjoyed all of her comics and prose work. Her strengths lie in telling fun, action-packed stories that simultaneously dig into deeper, timely themes. I thought that he was the perfect choice to take over Wonder Woman right now, and she’s bringing everything I thought she would to the book. It’s an exciting story with lots of cool fights, but it’s also a deeper meditation on a whole host of issues, from the nature of war and heroism to the limitations and disappointments of supposed allies in these fraught times. Basically, it’s great, and exactly what I hoped it would be. Also, how awesome is it that we’ve got G. Willow Wilson on Wonder Woman in our comics and Noelle Stevenson on She-Ra on our televisions? Truly we live in a golden age of entertainment.
Let’s dig into the issue, but first:
I am about to reveal all of the rad things that happened in this issue!
Look away if you haven’t read it yet!
And make sure you do read it! It’s so good!
So, Ares sucks. I think we all knew that deep down, but I was hoping he’d come around, that he would learn something from Wonder Woman and channel his newfound quest for justice into something actually productive. But no, he’s just a dope. And even when Wonder Woman shows him the error of his ways in the most blatant, impactful way, he still takes the wrong lesson from it. Instead of fixing his mistakes and finding a better way forward, he just decides to leave. Even though he started the war, even though all of these deaths are his own doing, he’s decided he wants no part of it any longer and just steps away.
It’s a fascinating turn. There are so many ways to read it, all of them compelling. The book has felt like it’s about the nature of war and justice over the past few issues, asking whether answering violence with violence is wise or if it’s just perpetuating a vicious cycle. We get more of that here, with a critique of the power structures behind war. So often, those who start wars leave them unfinished, walking away unscathed while scars and lingering tensions remain for those caught in the middle of it. Ares is a global superpower in and of himself, igniting a conflict for his own selfish reasons and then leaving it behind when it gets to bothersome. We’ve seen this too many times in the real world over the past few decades.
But I think there’s another interesting angle here as well. With Ares so inspired by Wonder Woman, I can’t help but see him through the lens of male feminists who position themselves as allies to the cause, only to ultimately prove themselves to be self-serving above all else. Ares wanted to be like Wonder Woman, but not only did he fundamentally misunderstand her from the beginning, he balked when she pushed back and then left full of anger and spite. How often have we seen this with allies for all sorts of causes? These white male saviors who saunter in and spout the lingo only to turn away when the people who have actually been doing the work deign to challenge them in any way? It’s painfully common, unfortunately, and I think we see something similar here with Ares. He’s trying to help a worthy cause, but in the wrong ways and only to make himself feel good. When it feels good no longer, he leaves. It’s a biting critique of male allyship.
And also, the fights are cool! It’s a comic book, after all. Between all of the deep philosophizing, Wonder Woman is battling Ares, deflecting a bunch of bullets, and just generally being her awesome self. It’s a fun read.
Plus Steve’s adventures with the mythological creatures continue, and lead us to a fun surprise. We meet the leader of these Olympian exiles, and it’s none other than Aphrodite. This should be VERY interesting. First, Aphrodite is key to Wonder Woman’s own history. In her earliest adventures, love was the core of the Amazonian worldview, and Aphrodite was its embodiment. I’m curious to see if Wilson delves into that. Second, the goddess of love is an obvious contrast with the god of war, and having them so near, with conflict abounding, should prove to be compelling. And third, Aphrodite and Ares have quite the history. They were lovers, and in Rucka’s run it was the love of Aphrodite that led Ares to accept his imprisonment in the first place. So yeah, now that he’s free there might be some serious drama here. I’m excited to see where this all goes.
The art, however, remains a bit underwhelming for me. Cary Nord’s work here seems even sparser than the last issue, and the detail is lacking. We see this a lot when people take on a book that ships twice a month. A lovely first issue leads to a rougher second issue and then a bit of a slapdash third. It’s a ludicrous schedule for artists, and editorial would be wise to consider other approaches to ensure that the quality stays high. I got a distinct later Frank Miller vibe from a lot of these pages, and not in a good way. Nord is successfully telling the story and is not bringing down the writing here, but he’s not exactly elevating it either, which is disappointing.
Still, the book remains a great read overall. Wilson is doing some fascinating things, and I can’t wait to see where it all goes next, especially with Aphrodite in the mix. She could be a very fun wild card moving forward.