Archive for the ‘WW Comics’ Category

Justice League Dark #4 Review: The Witching Hour Comes to Nanda Parbat!

October 17, 2018

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Well, I think we all saw that ending coming. It’s been telegraphed since the crossover began two weeks ago. That turn was on the way. And the fun thing is, I was looking forward to it! Superhero comics can be formulaic, to say the least. When done poorly, you can see the whole story stretching out in front of you from the get-go and then drop four bucks a month to watch your predictions come true. But good writers play with the formula, and that’s where things get fun. The cliffhanger of this issue was always coming. It had to! And we all knew it. So while this ending isn’t that much of a shock, there’s still some tension because dang, what comes next? The gang is in a serious predicament here. That thing we knew (and they knew, to some extent) was coming has happened, but NONE of us have any idea how they’re going to deal with it now, the team least of all. It’s an unsurprising cliffhanger that leaves me very eager for the next issue, and that is quite an impressive feat. We’ll dig into it all momentarily, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I have nimbly danced around a major spoiler thus far, but will do so no longer!

Look away if you haven’t read this comic yet!

Also, go pick it up! It’s good!

With that taken care of, we can stop beating around the bush in terms of details. Circe helped Wonder Woman channel the power of Hecate in an attempt to defeat the goddess of witchcraft’s evil plans but, surprise surprise, the goddess of witchcraft is super powerful and now Wonder Woman is under her control. This is exactly what Zatanna was worried about last week, and rightly so it turns out. But this was also their only play. Magic is on the fritz, and this was a chance to channel some major power and maybe stop Hecate. “Maybe” being the key word here.

I’m really enjoying James Tynion IV’s depiction of Zatanna in this crossover. She’s a great character that never gets the attention she deserves, and she’s really taking the spotlight here in a fun way. I loved how she disagreed with Wonder Woman’s plan in the last issue, and how Tynion took care to show that yeah, they were both absolutely right. It was a very dangerous plan, and it was also the only plan they had. And now, with Diana controlled by Hecate, we’re getting to see Zatanna step up as a leader. I haven’t read the first few issues of Justice League Dark, but my understanding was that Wonder Woman was in charge of the team. Now Zatanna’s got the reins, and that should make for a fun time. She seems to have a close connection with everyone and they all defer to her already, which is another dynamic I quite like. Having the other characters respect Zatanna so much is yet again a good move by Tynion. She deserves to be treated as such.

But she’s in a tight spot now. Hecate is tearing through everything, including Nanda Parbat. I always like to dig into the mystical side of the DC universe, and Nanda Parbat is its quintessence. I mean, it’s a secret, magical city in the mountains of Tibet where time moves differently and the dead aren’t quite dead. It’s the hub of weird magic fun. Also, I love that it’s this super secret, mysterious place and yet pretty much every superhero has been there at one point or another. That’s just classic comic booking.

However, not even Rama Kushna, the goddess who makes Nanda Parbat her home, can stand against Hecate. While Hecate tears the place apart via Manitou Dawn, she simultaneously possesses Black Orchid half a world away and starts a new campaign against the Parliament of Trees, a key component of the Swamp Thing mythos who monitor and guard all plant life on Earth. This crossover is BIG, and I am into it. We’ll pick up with the Parliament of Trees next week in Wonder Woman #57 as Hecate continues her destructive tour across the planet, but for now we’ve got Nanda Parbat in ruins. Not for the first time, but still. It’s a big deal. Plus, far more significantly, Wonder Woman wasn’t able to stop it with her additional powers, and now she is under Hecate’s thrall. Things could not be going worse.

The issue is nicely drawn by Alvaro Martinez Bueno and Raul Fernandez. They’ve worked with Tynion before on his excellent Detective Comics run, and the familiarity shows here.  Everything flows smoothly, and you can tell that the art team is playing to their strengths. They also manage to achieve something that the previous artists didn’t quite reach, and that’s making Hecate look interesting and menacing. Hecate’s appearances in the past two issues were serviceable but underwhelming, though, as I said then, this is understandable. It’s hard to design an iconic villain look. But Martinez Bueno and Fernandez have built nicely on these earlier attempts, and while the overall look for Hecate is still a bit clunky, there’s a simplicity here that was lacking before and, even better, an ominous, threatening quality. If Emanuela Lupacchino’s art last week was lovely where it should be lovely, Martinez Bueno and Fernandez’s work here is creepy where it should be creepy. Brad Anderson’s colours go well with the linework as well. Big destructive scenes like this can get brown and muddled sometimes, but he does a nice job mixing up the colours and creating distinctive palettes for each setting.

So yeah, the worst has happened. The team’s lost Wonder Woman and Hecate is besting them at every turn. And the best part is, I’ve got no idea how they’re going to get out of this one! We’ve got two more issues of “The Witching Hour” to go, and there is no obvious solution in sight. It should make for a fun read next week as the crossover continues.

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Wonder Woman #56 Review: The Witching Hour Continues!

October 11, 2018

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In Wonder Woman #56, we get Emanuela Lupacchino drawing Wonder Woman, Zatanna, AND Circe, and if that’s not worth four bucks then I don’t know what is. Luppachino’s drawn a bunch of issues of Wonder Woman over the past year, bringing some visual flair to several subpar stories, but this time she’s paired with writing worthy of her talents. James Tynion IV is putting together something cool here with “The Witching Hour” and I’m really enjoying it. The crossover is the perfect October treat thus far, and the stakes keep getting higher. Our pal Wonder Woman is playing with some dangerous powers here, and I’m worried that things might go sideways on her. We’ll get into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

Look away if you haven’t read this issue yet!

Also, you should buy this issue! And the other parts of the crossover!

It’s pretty rad!

I’m going to start by talking about a small, almost inconsequential part of the book, but it’s something done smoothly and well in a way that deserves recognition. Continuity is in a tricky spot right now in the DC universe. The New 52 relaunch was rocky, and the “Rebirth” books did some good course correction but confusion still remains. This is true most of all for Wonder Woman. Her continuity right now is a dang mess. Elements I thought were changed and sorted keep coming back, and parts of her past remain massive questions marks. It’s chaos.

But sometimes, there’s a simple fix to a problem. Case in point: Circe. In the New 52 era, she appeared in the deservedly maligned Superman/Wonder Woman series in classic scary witch form, wreaking all sorts of havoc. But in the “Rebirth” era, Bilquis Evely did a marvelous redesign of the character that modernized her for Greg Rucka’s more nuanced take. These contrary incarnations both exist in the same universe, so Tynion found an easy workaround. He brought out the first Circe, all pigtailed and black bodiced, to intimidate Wonder Woman and her friends, then when she realized what was happening she morphed into the newer, chiller Circe, explaining that the first look was just for theatrics. It’s an elegant way to clean up a continuity snafu, all while adding a little drama and humour to the story.

Speaking of humour, I really enjoyed the balance of the serious and the silly in this issue. Terrible things are happening for Wonder Woman and the gang, with our Amazon heroine plagued with a powerful curse and Hecate set to destroy all magic, violently and brutally. It’s a bad scene. But the book doesn’t languish in tense planning and argument. There’s a lot of that, sure. Wonder Woman’s got kind of a whacky plan here. But there are enough small, humorous moments to keep everything from feeling too heavy. Detective Chimp is always great comic relief, and it turns out Man-Bat is a good source for some unexpected laughs too. The tone is well managed throughout, maintaining the tension while not drowning in it.

Tynion’s done a nice job crafting an impossible situation, too. Wonder Woman and Zatanna’s argument over what to do in the face of the overwhelmingly powerful Hecate was so well done. It’s hard to craft an argument where both sides have totally valid points, but while reading this I kept flip flopping back and forth over whose side I was on. Diana wants to wield Hecate’s power with Circe’s help, tapping into it without being controlled by it. Zatanna thinks that channeling the power would be impossible and that Wonder Woman would slip under Hecate’s control again. And they’re both right! There’s no other power strong enough to challenge Hecate but her own, but it’s also a power that Hecate can control. It could work, but it could also go terribly awry. It’s also an argument that doesn’t get personal. This isn’t about trust. Zatanna doesn’t think that Diana is weak and Diana doesn’t think that Zatanna is cowardly. They’re facing an awesome power, and they just have different ideas and concerns.

In the end, Wonder Woman goes for it, of course. We’ve been seeing a lot of stories lately about Wonder Woman going above and beyond, taking on the weight of the world because she’s confident she can bear it. It’s a compelling theme, and one that’s especially apt in today’s political climate. And the fact remains that everyone has limits. There’s no one I would rather have try to wield Hecate’s power than Diana, but at the same time, that power is immense. Even Diana might not be able to keep control of it. Watching this all play out has made for great reading thus far, and I’m excited to see where it goes from here now that she’s taken this next step.

As I mentioned at the top, Emanuela Lupacchino drew this issue, with inks from Ray McCarthy, and I am always glad to have her in the pages of Wonder Woman. She’s got such an ease with the character, capturing her power and beauty with aplomb in every panel. It was fun to see her draw some other DC mainstays as well. Lupacchino’s got a knack for female characters, so Zatanna and Circe were super cool, but the rest of the gang were nicely done as well. She captured the growing tension of the issue, while also nailing the smaller comedic moments. And she was joined by colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr., who always brings the heat. I know I go on and on about him all the time, but seriously, flip through this comic book. Look at the textures and the colour choices and see how everything beautifully compliments the line art. The dude is so good.

“The Witching Hour” continues next week in Justice League Dark, so be sure to let your local comic book shop know you’re on board for the entire crossover. These first two issues have been really good, and I think the whole event will be worth picking up. It’s spooky and enjoyable and I honestly have no idea how they’re going to win this one, which is the sign of an excellent story.

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

October 3, 2018

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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.

Wonder Woman #55 Review: The Amazing Amazon vs. The Bana-Mighdall

September 26, 2018

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When we last saw our intrepid heroine, she was standing between two armies, trying to stop a war. Classic Wonder Woman behavior, really. If anyone’s going to jump into a battlefield to end a conflict, it’s gonna be Diana. And, minor spoiler alert, she does it. Of course she does. She’s Wonder Woman. But it’s the how of it all that makes this issue, the last in Steve Orlando’s excellent run, so great. By my count, she shoots one arrow and throws one punch, and that is the extent of the violence on her end. She has to block a bunch of blows, what with several people not being too pleased with her efforts, but Wonder Woman herself barely returns any. Instead, she uses her lasso to help her opponents understand the truth of the situation and lay down their weapons themselves. It’s a fantastic issue, and we’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal even more about this issue now!

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

And if you haven’t, go pick it up! It’s very good!

So Diana ends the war. I think we were all expecting that. But she does it with the lasso of truth instead of fisticuffs. And not in some instantly revelatory way, either. Sometimes with the lasso, we get a scene where a foe gets wrapped in it, she immediately realizes the lies she’s been telling herself, and she surrenders. This isn’t that simple. Truth can be more complicated than that.

After defending herself from Artemis, and refusing to hit her back, Wonder Woman ensnares her in the lasso and they have a conversation. It’s not a straight forward truth/lie situation, but rather a parsing of the truth to get down to the core of what is most important in this situation. Artemis honestly believes in the fight at hand, but at the same time she doesn’t believe Faruka II, queen of the Bana-Mighdall, and her rationale for the war. She’s caught between her fervent desire to stand up for her people and the sneaking suspicion that the threat is a sham. In the end, Diana helps her see that she can still stand up for her people by not fighting and by allowing them to understand the situation so that they can decide for themselves.

With Rustam, it’s a different encounter. First off, Wonder Woman’s got fewer qualms about hitting him. She and Artemis try to shoot him with the Bow of Ra, and then she knocks him back with a solid punch. And while her end goal is the same, to get Rustam in the lasso, their conversation is a bit more forceful. With Artemis, Diana walked her through her complicated feelings, a guide more than a judge. With Rustam, Diana is more direct. She mentions the truth-compelling aspect of the lasso, but also makes a specific reference to the power of loving submission. This is, of course, a callback to the Golden Age Amazons and William Moulton Marston’s belief in submitting to the loving authority of women. But it also informs Diana’s tone. She is very much in charge. While it’s a power she wields with kindness and respect, she is far more commanding with him than with Artemis, and she uses this power to make him understand that he has lost.

The positions of Artemis and Rustam post-lasso underscore their varied treatment. Diana looks at Artemis eye to eye, clasping her on the shoulder before they turn to face the armies, back to back, and end the fighting. They are presented as equals, as partners, as sisters. When Rustam comes out of his lasso trance, he’s kneeling on the ground, with Diana and Artemis standing over him. He is in a position of surrender, a supplicant submitting himself to their judgement. The same lasso leads to two different outcomes. Diana treats each opponent in a way that shows them the truth of the situation while also leaving them in the place she wants them, bolstering Artemis and making low Rustam. This is how a master tactician ends a war, with compassion, cunning, and truth.

It’s a wonderful conclusion to a great story and a great run. Time and again, Steve Orlando has shown his deep, fundamental understanding of Wonder Woman and the heart of the character. As much as I’m excited for G. Willow Wilson to take over the series, I hope that Orlando gets another crack at Wonder Woman in the future, either in her solo book or as part of a team somewhere. He just gets her, and it’s a joy to read.

Also, Orlando’s added some interesting developments to the Bana-Mighdall. First, the re-introduced Atalanta is now an advisor to the crown, keeping Faruka II in check. That’s a cool new status quo for whoever wants to use the Bana-Mighdall next. Second, Artemis has a lasso now! The fiendish Superwoman from “Darkseid War” had a lasso of submission that she used for her evil purposes, and Wonder Woman’s been watching over it since. Now, as a sign of love and respect, she entrusts it to Artemis. It’s a lovely moment after watching their relationship develop over the past few issues, and a fun new weapon for Artemis moving forward.

Raul Allen and Patricia Martin are back as the artists for this issue, with Borja Pindado on colours, and again the work is fine. I still miss Romulo Fajardo Jr., though. His colours really elevate a book. Pindado does a decent job, but it’s still lacking that pop Fajardo brings. Allen and Martin had a lot to do in this issue, with the lasso sequences, a whole war, and a city full of Bana-Mighdall, and they pull it off nicely for the most part. It’s a solid effort all around.

So with Orlando wrapped, we’ve got “The Witching Hour” crossover for all five Wednesdays in October. It’ll span Wonder Woman, Justice League Dark, and a couple of oneshots, and the spooktacular tale will conclude just in time for Halloween! Could be cool. I’m curious to dig into it.

Wonder Woman #54 Review: A Cold Welcome in Qurac

September 13, 2018

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I’m a day late on this review because I’m off visiting my adorable niece and was busy having adventures yesterday. Amusingly, I was available and on the ball all the dang time with my reviews of that last, horrible run of Wonder Woman but now, when the book finally gets good again, I’m busy on half of the release days thus far! I can’t catch a break.

But happily, even though I’m a day late to this issue of Wonder Woman, it was an issue worth waiting for. Orlando just gets Wonder Woman, and it’s been a joy to read his take on her. A lot of folks have trouble with the character, but every time Wonder Woman does or says something in Orlando’s issues so far, it just feels right. I always find myself nodding along, like “Oh yeah, this is totally what Wonder Woman would do. This is awesome.” And this week it looks like Diana is fixing to take on two warring armies at once! Which, of course, is totally what Wonder Woman would do. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

Read this book before you read this review!

I’m going to spoil all of the cool things that happened!

Treat yourself to this fine issue!

The issue begins with Diana, Artemis, and Atalanta flying to the Bana-Mighdall capitol in Qurac. It’s a simple beginning, but one laden with interesting tensions. Atalanta’s been away for centuries, and worries that her fellow Amazons in exile may have forgotten her. Artemis is a loyal warrior, but she’s bringing a Themysciran to the capitol and that could be a difficult situation. And Diana is that Themysciran, of course, there to extend a hand of friendship but unlikely to get one in return. All of this isn’t helped by the fact that the Bana-Mighdall appear to be mobilizing for war when they arrive, either.

Unsurprisingly, things go south pretty quickly. Queen Faruka II has teamed up with Rustam, a Quraci assassin, who has convinced the queen to go to war against Qurac. Before long, Wonder Woman is blasted out of the throne room, Atalanta is shot and locked up, and Artemis is sent to the front lines of the battle.

But you can only keep Wonder Woman down for so long, and the rest of the issue captures everything about why this run is so good. First, when she confronts the queen’s royal entourage, they meet her with guns. Diana’s response is perfection. She says, “Guns? Adapt the tools of patriarch’s world… and inherit their weaknesses.” She deflects all of the bullets, of course, and the entourage quickly surrenders. It’s a scene that gets to a major theme in this issue, namely how the Bana-Mighdall’s embracing of the tools and technologies of the world of men has taken them away from their Amazonian core. I mean, trying to stop Wonder Woman with bullets? That’s just foolishness.

Wonder Woman’s confrontation with Faruka is even more compelling. The fight itself is excellent, with lots of bobbing and weaving so that Diana can ensnare Faruka in the golden lasso. As she does so, she explains that the queen shouldn’t trust Rustam, and that she doesn’t need to fight the Quraci army. But here’s the kicker: Faruka knows this already. The lasso doesn’t lead to some startling revelation of a truth she’d hidden from herself. It reveals that she knows full well what she is doing, that this is some Machiavellian tactic to ensure that the Bana-Mighdall finally have a permanent, secure homeland. Faruka’s not being played. She’s embracing an opportunity, and using Rustam as much as he’s using her.

I love everything about how this throne room battle plays out. Wonder Woman’s trying to change hearts and minds, basically, aiming to show the queen the error of her ways and get Atalanta freed. But nope, Faruka knows exactly what she’s doing. I want to say something like, “This is how you write a villain,” but I’m not sure if I even think she’s a villain. She’s an adversary for Diana, sure, but she’s also a queen putting the security of her people above all else, if in ways Wonder Woman and I aren’t enthused about. I can definitely see her point of view, which is the best way to craft a villain, really.

And of course, we end with Wonder Woman standing between two armies. Because, heck yeah, that’s where she belongs. Diana is a peacemaker, but she’s also not afraid to jump into the fray and bust up some folks to get their attention first. De-escalate the fighting and THEN make peace. She’s totally got this. As does Orlando. It’s so much fun to read a Wonder Woman who does the most Wonder Woman thing she can at every single turn.

We’ve got some new artists in this issue, too, with Raul Allen and Patricia Martin drawing the book and Borja Pindado on colours. First things first, I really miss series MVP Romulo Fajardo Jr. here. Pindado does a decent job, but Fajardo can make a book sing and I don’t think that the colouring here is really showing the linework in the best light. As such, everything comes off just okay. There’s nothing bad about it, really, but nothing terribly exciting either. It’s fine, if a little flat, lacking the depth that great colouring can add to the mix.

I’m very excited to see how Orlando wraps things up in two weeks’ time. Diana is in a difficult spot on several fronts right now, with a queen against her and two angry armies on either side of her. It could all go very badly. But somehow, I think Wonder Woman will figure things out. There might be some fisticuffs in the process, maybe some more sniping with Artemis (which I am all for; their banter in this outing was so good), but it’ll all work out some way or another, I’m sure.

Wonder Woman #53 Review: Aw Yeah, Teamwork!

August 22, 2018

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There’s something about Wonder Woman that just brings people together. Batman doesn’t have that quality. He can be kind of a jerk sometimes, honestly. Superman doesn’t necessarily need that quality. He’s an inspirational figure, sure, but he can handle a lot on his own. But with Wonder Woman, for all of her power and her iconic status, it just feels right when she’s got a group of friends alongside her. Especially when they weren’t friends before the story began, which is often the case. That’s one of the great things about Wonder Woman, her ability to turn a stranger into a friend and an enemy into an ally. She brings out the best in everyone around her, and has the ability to unite people in a common purpose. If you look back on how different writers have handled Wonder Woman over the decades, I think you’ll find that the bad ones have isolated her and the good ones have surrounded her with a team of some sort. Steve Orlando is a dang good writer, and he continues to capture the core of what makes Wonder Woman such a special character with this issue. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

Look away if you haven’t read this issue yet!

Also, go pick up this issue!

We’re in the middle of a GREAT run!

First things first, I’m glad that Wonder Woman and the gang defeated Tezcatlipoca in this issue because that is a very hard name to spell. I have to double check my writing against the comic every time I type it. Using him is a great deep cut from Orlando, but Tezcatlipoca is Urzkartaga all over again. I never feel like I’ve spelled it right.

But the way in which they defeat Tezcatlipoca is what makes this issue great. Fighting a god is hard work, especially a god whose very nature is destruction. Wonder Woman, Artemis, and Aztek do their best against him for the bulk of the issue, taking the fight to him in their own individual ways, but it doesn’t get them anywhere.

And the ways in which they fail are very telling. Aztek is a new superhero, still getting used to her divine power, and Tezcatlipoca is able to get into her head about the supposedly “true” nature of the gods and throw her off her game a bit. Tezcatlipoca doesn’t even have to do anything against Artemis, because her zeal for battle is so strong that she’s willing to potentially destroy herself by using the Bow of Ra. And when she does so, Wonder Woman is concerned about her and gets distracted from her thus far successful fight with Tezcatlipoca, allowing him to land a powerful blow. Their core traits of inexperience, foolhardy fury, and concern for others turn out to be their downfall.

Initially, anyway. The only way to defeat Tezcatlipoca is for all three of them to work together. And the story does a good job of showing us what an unlikely team up this is. Aztek seems overwhelmed, and Artemis has been sniping at her throughout the issue. Artemis has been sniping at Diana as well, and doesn’t seem to trust either woman. But Diana believes in them all. Tezcatlipoca found their individual weaknesses, but by bringing them all together Diana is able to enhance their strengths. With a combination of Aztek hacking the Bow of Ra and them anchoring it with the lasso of truth, the three women are able to use the weapon against Tezcatlipoca together and finally defeat him. It is a perfectly Wonder Woman conclusion. Bring a bunch of ladies together to defeat a loud, overbearing dude? That’s what you want out of Wonder Woman.

Orlando continues to display that he’s got a deep, fundamental understanding of Diana. The single issue story that began his run was stellar, and now he’s delving into the core of what makes the character great in a longer arc. This arc is set to take a turn now as all three women, plus Atalanta, head for the Bana-Mighdall camp in Qurac. The final page suggests they won’t get a warm welcome, though I don’t recognize the queen at first glance.

As I said last week, I have no idea what’s up with Artemis and the Bana-Mighdall in current continuity. I haven’t been reading the books she’s in, and maybe this queen has been a part of them. I do have a couple of guesses, just from my past understanding of the Bana-Mighdall in the pre-New 52 era, but none I’m terribly confident about. If you’ve got a good guess, or better knowledge of the Amazon splinter group’s current situation (it wouldn’t take much to know more than me!), let me know in the comments.

Along with a great story and an ominous cliffhanger, the art was better in this issue, too. I was a bit underwhelmed with ACO and David Lorenzo last time, and felt like they put more effort into the admittedly gorgeous setting rather than the characters. That balance was a bit more even this time, and the addition of Hugo Petrus in the middle of the book gave us a fun, new dimension to everything. He brought a lot of action and expression to the fight, and really communicated the struggles of each woman when the fight went poorly as well as their confident triumph. Plus he continued ACO and Lorenzo’s offbeat layouts in his own way. The style was a bit different, but I thought it melded all together quite nicely, with Romulo Fajardo Jr.’s excellent colours as a great unifier.

All together, this was another fantastic issue of Wonder Woman and I’m very curious to see what happens next. Obviously, things are going to go poorly for our gang. That queen’s not happy to have them, and we’ve got an ominous Quraci terrorist mentioned in the solicits so that will be a problem. One that they can all solve together, hopefully. I love this team-up, and I hope that Wonder Woman is able to keep them all united no matter what dangerous circumstances arise. She’s good like that.

Wonder Woman #52 Review: A Terrific Team Up to Take On Tezcatlipoca

August 8, 2018

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Wonder Woman teaming up with other women to have adventures and fight villains and whatnot is exactly what I want out of Wonder Woman, and with this week’s issue Steve Orlando, ACO, and David Lorenzo have delivered that in spades. What starts as a fun partnership turns into a trio and then ultimately a quartet as Diana and her friends, new and old, battle the evil plans of the Aztec god Tezcatlipoca. It’s an enjoyable start to a new arc, as well as a modern update of some classic tales from across the DC universe. Orlando’s definitely done his research with this one, with very entertaining results. Let’s dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to discuss all of the things that happen in this comic!

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

And seriously, go read it! Wonder Woman is good again!

The book starts with something I always enjoy: Wonder Woman meeting someone new and immediately making a friend. In this case it’s Aztek, a new version of the 1990s hero that Orlando recently introduced in his Justice League of America run. Aztek is a woman named Nayeli Constant now, and she’s inherited her predecessor’s spiky costume and divine powers. When she gets a message that an Amazon is locked in battle with Tezcatlipoca, she immediately seeks out the world’s most famous Amazon, Wonder Woman. And Diana is on board straight away, of course. A new friend and an Amazon in need of help? Diana is up for that adventure any day of the week.

And she brings in a second friend, too. Well, sort of a friend. They tolerate each other. It’s Artemis, famed usurper of Wonder Woman’s mantle in the pre-New 52 days and a warrior of the Bana-Mighdall, a splinter Amazon group. To be honest with you, I have no idea what Artemis is like now. I’m familiar with the old version, but it’s a whole new universe now and I haven’t been keeping up with Red Hood and the Outlaws, Artemis’ primary series. Based on this issue, she does seem like her old self, aggressive and arrogant and generally disdainful of Diana. But Diana seems to respect her, and once she realizes that the trapped Amazon is Atalanta, hero of the Bana-Mighdall, she knows she should bring Artemis with them.

I really like the juxtaposition of the two relationships in this issue. Wonder Woman and Aztek don’t know each other well at all, but they find common ground early on through their similarly divine heritages and become friends almost immediately. Wonder Woman and Artemis do know each other, but their situation is much more fraught. Artemis sneers at Wonder Woman throughout the issue, and joins their group only for the sake of Atalanta. And not only does Wonder Woman invite Artemis along, knowing full well how she’ll behave, but she finds a way to make it all work. She’s able to balance establishing trust with a new friend and working productively with an old adversary, all while battling mythological hounds in an ominously elaborate labyrinth. The issue showcases Wonder Woman’s strengths in a multitude of ways.

The women ultimately find Atalanta, and the issue ends with the four of them as the last line of defense against an invading horde of evil beasts. It should make for another rad outing in two weeks time, but here’s the really fun thing: While this issue sets up Atalanta as Diana’s great-aunt, an earlier version of Wonder Woman already encountered Atalanta more than thirty years ago, and Tezcatlipoca was involved in that as well.

In Wonder Woman #316 from June 1984, written by Dan Mishkin with art by Don Heck, Wonder Woman defeated Tezcatlipoca and freed a group of Amazons the fiendish god had enslaved. In the following issue, they took Diana back to their home on the Amazon river, and introduced her to their queen, Atalanta:

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Much like the Bana-Mighdall a decade later, the Amazonian Amazons were a splinter group. After Hippolyta secluded the Amazons on Paradise Island, Atalanta and her followers grew tired of the isolation, and more specifically the lack of men, so they set out on their own and ended up in South America.

This new Atalanta has a different origin. Instead of being hot for dudes and frustrated at not having any nearby, she is now a travelling warrior who left her royal position millennia ago to impart truth, balance, and justice to the world. Which is a much awesomer origin, in my opinion. I love that Orlando’s dug into the archives and found a deep cut character to revitalize in such a cool way. Now that Wonder Woman’s found her, it will be interesting to see how the two get along in the issues to come, and whether any of the old Atalanta’s frustrations with Hippolyta carry on in this new incarnation of the character.

As much as I enjoyed this story and it’s fresh take on some classic yarns, I must admit that the art didn’t do a lot for me. It wasn’t bad in any way, but the style and layouts left me underwhelmed. ACO and Lorenzo seem better at designs than characters. Their labyrinth was gorgeous and complex, and they did some interesting things with Aztec designs in their page structures, but their depictions of the women fell flat. The characters lacked the details that were so well shown in the settings, and I just didn’t feel like there was a lot of life to them. This combined with their penchant for silhouettes made me think they were less interested in the women than in the fantastical scenes that surrounded them. And the simplicity of their characters didn’t give Romulo Fajardo Jr. a lot to work with when it came to colours. When the line art is this simple, coming in strong with texture and shading just looks weird and so he had to match their simplicity. Fajardo did hit it out of the park with the Aztec imagery and fancy backgrounds, though. Those really shone, for all of the artists involved.

Despite my art quibbles, this was a very fun issue with team ups on top of team ups on top of team ups. A bunch of warrior ladies working together to fight against the evil machinations of a nefarious god is always a good time, and I’m excited to see where this story goes in the weeks to come!


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