Archive for the ‘WW Comics’ Category

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.

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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!

Wonder Woman #51 Review: Capturing the Compassionate Heart of Diana

July 27, 2018

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A new creative team can be a tricky thing, especially with a long running character. Fans have such specific ideas about who a character is and what they stand for, and it must be difficult to try to bring a fresh approach to a book while honouring a character’s lengthy past. All sorts of creators, from new folks to established pros, have been tripped up by this, especially with Wonder Woman. But sometimes, a new team comes on board and they get it right from the very start.

That is what we’ve got with Wonder Woman #51. Steve Orlando and Laura Braga have put together a spectacular standalone issue that showcases the kindness that’s at the core of what I love most about Diana. A lot of people see her as a warrior first and foremost, and I agree that’s part of who she is, but for me the defining characteristic of Wonder Woman is her compassion. She genuinely cares about people, even the villains. Fighting is a last resort. She’ll end a dangerous situation, to be sure, but she’ll always look for a peaceful way out first and try to understand and help her foe after. Diana believes in redemption, in transformation, and she has since her earliest days in the 1940s with William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter. It’s integral to the character. And by exploring this theme, Orlando and Braga have put together an issue that could go down as one of the best single issues of Wonder Woman ever. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to tell you all of the excellent things that happen in this issue!

Go read it first!

It’s very, very, very good!

The issue picks up on a moment from Wonder Woman #28, when our favourite heroine battled Mayfly (among several other would-be assassins). I love this. Shea Fontana and an array of fine artists did a fantastic five issue arc that I think got lost in the shuffle a bit between the big runs that came before and after, and I’m so glad that they’re referencing it here. It was super good, all about Diana and Etta teaming up together for friendship and adventure, and you all should go read it if you haven’t.

Now, months later, Mayfly, a.k.a. Moon Robinson, is in a prison for superpowered villains in Antarctica, and Diana has stopped by to visit. She saw something in Moon, a hidden pain, and she wants to help, if she can. Moon is not interested, but Diana keeps coming back, even when several of their early visits end with Moon trying to kill her. The issue spans years of Diana visiting Moon and developing a deep friendship, fifty-two visits in all, and ends with Diana waiting outside the prison with her invisible jet when Moon is finally released.

It’s all so dang good. From Wonder Woman’s warm insistence to Moon’s reluctance and evolution, every beat is compelling. Of course Diana would visit a supervillain fifty-two times to try to empower her and help her sort herself out. That is a quintessentially Wonder Woman thing to do. She’s not the kind to hold a grudge when someone tries to kill her. She’s the kind who understands that something unfortunate in the villain’s past must have led them to this point. Her side of the conversation in this issue is patient and authentically compassionate, despite Moon’s initial volatility, and the friendship that develops between them is beautifully woven.

There are also warranted moments of pushback. At one point, Diana compliments Moon for being “open to bettering yourself,” and Moon is justifiably upset. It can be a patronizing term, and I think that Moon is right to react angrily. But Diana explains that she has come to respect Moon. Diana isn’t a superpowered Dr. Phil doing some superficial psychological evaluation. She’s gotten to know and understand Moon, and as her friend she sees her deep potential. Diana’s respect for Moon allows her to see the potential in herself, and their friendship grows even stronger from then on.

On top of this issue being an excellent encapsulation of who Wonder Woman is, it’s also filled with great references to Wonder Woman’s history. The entire thing is set in Antarctica, but there are subtle flashbacks to iconic elements like Paradise Island’s purple ray and kangas, among several other glimpses of Diana’s youth. The Amazons can’t really be a part of Wonder Woman right now, but I’m always glad when they show up somehow, and are well illustrated. Braga captures them perfectly, and also showcases a variety of different outfits for Diana over the course of her fifty two visits. On top of her standard costume, we get a casual white wrap dress, what looks like a take on her Gotham City Garage outfit, her Kingdom Come armour (known among fans as the chicken armour), and more.

Braga does a great job with the art throughout the issue. She’s familiar with Wonder Woman from her time on DC Comics Bombshells, and slips into her modern incarnation with ease. The issue has a lot of emotional beats and Braga hits them all with her wonderfully expressive characters. Her flashbacks to action scenes are gorgeous as well, and the entire book is lovely all around. Plus, Braga is joined by series MVP Romulo Fajardo Jr., who colors the book with his usual flair and style. It’s a marvelous pairing that makes this issue soar on every level.

While Braga has only popped by for one issue, Orlando will be back for four more, and I’m excited to see what he brings to a longer arc. If this first issue is any indication, it will make for some very good reading. He obviously understands Diana on a fundamental level, and I’m glad to have a couple months with him writing the character. It’s always a joy when Wonder Woman is in good hands, and she certainly right now. And with G. Willow Wilson just around the corner as well, it’s a swell time to be a Wonder Woman fan!

Wonder Woman #50 Review: IT’S! FINALLY! OVER!

July 11, 2018

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First of all, gang, congratulations. We made it. This has been an overly long, bizarrely terrible run of Wonder Woman comics, and now those dark days are at an end. We’ve got one extra-sized anniversary issue to chat about, and then we are free. Oh, there will be bad writers again. That’s inevitable. And ludicrous narratives that center a male character in a book called Wonder Woman, sure. Superhero comics are a weird game. But for now, let’s enjoy the fact that this particular awful era is over. The franchise is tarnished, but not destroyed. Wonder Woman’s endured some truly horrible arcs over the decades. If anyone can shake off a bad run, it’s her. So let’s dig into this final outing for James Robinson, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal the ending to this foolish, boring arc!

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

Though, good call if you haven’t!

You aren’t missing anything, really!

When last we left our intrepid heroine, her brother had been turned by the Dark Gods and she was facing an uphill battle against her silly, poorly designed foes. But this issue doesn’t pick up there. No, this issue needed an awkward framing device. Something to give us stilted exposition as Wonder Woman looked back on the fight. We learned two things straight away: First, Wonder Woman survived. Big sigh of relief there. And second, Jason’s fate was far less pleasant. But what happened?

Basically, Jason played the Dark Gods by pretending to be in their thrall and using his bevy of divine powers. For some reason, Robinson thought it would be fun to point out each power and which deity it came from every time Jason used one? There were a lot, all of them awkwardly interjected. It’s nice to see some consistency, I suppose. The guy started out his run making some very questionable dialogue choices, and he ended his run doing the same.

In the end, Wonder Woman doesn’t do much of anything but punch some gods while Jason sacrifices himself to save the world. He allows the gods to possess him, and all of his divine powers, on the promise that they will leave Earth and return to their own dimension. Thus is the planet spared from their evil influence, and everything returns to normal.

First off, ugh. This entire run has been terrible at showcasing Wonder Woman, in general but as a hero specifically. She’s been sidelined again and again, and her few victories have been underwhelming to say the least. So to give the win in the SPECIAL FIFTIETH ANNIVERSAY ISSUE OF HER OWN BOOK to her big, dumb brother is just adding insult to injury. Wholly expected, frankly. This era has been far more about him than it has her. But still, gross. Wonder Woman is the last book where we need a man to save the day, and a big celebratory issue is the last place to do it. Robinson tries to frame it as Jason recognizing that Diana would never give up the fight, blah blah blah, but the end result is a) Jason does all the talking, b) Jason controls the narrative, and c) Jason ends up as the hero of the book. Wonder Woman ends up as a side character in her own series once again, and spends a significant chunk of the book having to rhapsodize about her brother’s sacrifice.

Second off, though, hooray! Jason is gone! To a whole other dimension, even. If the folks at DC Comics are smart, we’ll never have to see him again, though after this run I have little to no confidence in the intelligence of anyone at the publisher who thought that this book was worth printing. Still, he’s out of the picture for now, and maybe out of the picture forever. Wonder Woman can be about Wonder Woman again and we can all pretend that this run never happened. Such is the beauty of superhero comics. The good, important arcs live forever as iconic elements of a character’s past, deservedly referenced and celebrated for ages. The bad, pointless arcs just sort of disappear and we never ever bring them up again.

It truly is a shame that the writing on the book has been so bad, because so many artists have been working very hard to make the best of it. Two of my recent favourites, Emanuela Lupacchino and Stephen Segovia, returned for this final issue, and their pages were quite lovely, as always. Lupacchino draws an absolutely gorgeous Wonder Woman, while Segovia’s ability to capture action never fails to disappoint. And of course, the excellent colouring of Romulo Fajardo Jr. held it all together, as it has for months now. I do hope that the work of all of these artists is remembered fondly, even as we all try to forget the writing. It hasn’t been fun to read the words in Wonder Woman for a long while, despite Saida Temofonte laying them out quite nicely for us, but it’s often been a nice book to look at, and I really appreciate that.

So now that it’s all over, let’s do a quick post-mortem. How did this even happen?! We got the tease of a brother in the “Darkseid War” event, presumably planted by Geoff Johns, who is kind of a big deal at DC. The general response was that this was a very bad idea, but I think we all assumed that it must be important since it was one of the big reveals at the end of a major event series. And then we get this. An utterly pointless, inconsequential arc that derailed what had been the strongest run on Wonder Woman in some time. At a time when Wonder Woman has never been more popular thanks to the movie, even! I don’t understand it. Not in the least. This was all so unnecessary. So counter to what fans were clamouring for. So poorly written and put together. So contrary to the renewed spirit of the character and her focus on female strength and power. Honestly, it felt like the folks in charge of Wonder Woman decided to take a nine month vacation and just put out whatever. This run was an embarrassment. DC squandered the perfect opportunity to make Wonder Woman a huge book by churning out this absolute dreck, and I’ll never understand what they were thinking.

But now it’s done with! And we’ve got what looks to be some fun issues on the horizon. Steve Orlando is stepping in to write the book for the next five issues, and he’s always a good time. We’ll see Laura Braga on art in two weeks time, which is an excellent choice. She’s wonderful, and familiar with the character from her fine work on DC Comics Bombshells. Then we’ve got ACO, a solid artist and a frequent collaborator of Orlando’s, and Raul Allen, someone who’s work I’m not familiar with but who a quick Google image search tells me looks to have a cool style. I’m looking forward to all of it. And then, here is some breaking news, G. Willow Wilson of Ms. Marvel fame is taking over the book, with art from Cary Nord! G. WILLOW. WILSON. She’s amazing. This is the best news. What a fantastic announcement to add to the joy of this run being over! Things are going to get good, gang. SO GOOD.

Wonder Woman #49 Review: It’s Almost Over, Gang. Just One More Issue.

June 27, 2018

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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:

SPOILER ALERT!!

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.

Joye Murchison Kelly and Dorothy Roubicek Woolfolk to be Honoured with Bill Finger Award

June 14, 2018

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This is very, very cool. Two of the most important women in the early history of Wonder Woman are going to receive the Bill Finger Award at San Diego Comic-Con this summer. Joye Murchison Kelly was a ghost writer for William Moulton Marston in the early 1940s, while Dorothy Roubicek Woolfolk was an assistant editor on the original Wonder Woman comics and later returned to DC for a fascinating run editing Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane. Heidi MacDonald has a full report at The Beat, and you can read more on the official Comic-Con page.

The Bill Finger Awards honour comic book creators who have not received proper credit for their work and contributions to the industry. Bill Finger was famously screwed over by Bob Kane and DC. He did most of the work creating Batman, but Kane took all the credit. The awards were created by Finger’s friend Jerry Robinson in 2005, and 28 creators have won it since. Kelly and Woolfolk are the first women to do so.

I’ve written about both of these women in my books Wonder Woman Unbound and Investigating Lois Lane, and I’m absolutely delighted that they’re sharing this award. Both women are compelling and important figures in the history of the genre, and their work has been overlooked for decades.

In Kelly’s case, it’s because she was never credited. Marston hired her as a writing assistant in 1944, and she was soon writing full issues by herself as Marston’s health began to fail. Everything was still credited to “Charles Moulton,” Marston’s penname, in the comics, and Kelly’s contributions were long forgotten until DC’s Wonder Woman Archives line gave her due credit many decades later.

Kelly wrote several classic Wonder Woman stories featuring some of her most well known villains, including Dr. Psycho, the Cheetah, Dr. Poison, and more. She also continued Marston’s themes of female strength and power extremely faithfully, including Marston’s preoccupation with bondage imagery (it was a metaphor, but it had its limits). Perhaps most notably, Kelly coined Wonder Woman’s famous catchphrase “Suffering Sappho!” It had ancient Greek roots, of course, but was also a subtle nod to what the Amazons were actually getting up to on Paradise Island.

Woolfolk was an assistant editor on Kelly’s comics back when she was just Dorothy Roubicek. She worked for All-American publisher Max Gaines and was the first female editor at DC Comics, making sure that all the books came out on time. And when critics objected to Marston’s bondage fixation, Woolfolk was tasked with coming up with ways to tone things down. Marston didn’t listen to any of them, but it speaks to Gaines’ high opinion of her that she was his go-to gal on matters concerning his bestselling comic.

(Some sources suggest that Woolfolk wrote a few early Wonder Woman stories, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. She’s not credited as a writer in any of the Archives collections, which are painstakingly thorough).

Woolfolk worked for other publishers for a while, then married writer Bill Woolfolk and took a break from publishing when she had her kids. She returned to DC in the early 1970s as a full editor and revitalized the publisher’s romance line with fresh, relevant stories. Because of her success there, she was given control over Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane, and she brought the same modern, feminist sensibility to everyone’s favourite reporter. In her first issue, Lois dumped Superman and quit her job at the Daily Planet because she was sick of men telling her what to do. This feminist revolution was short-lived, though. The men in DC’s offices didn’t take kindly to having a woman around, and Woolfolk was unceremoniously ousted a few months later. You can read more about that in an excerpt from Investigating Lois Lane over at The Atlantic.

Both women are absolutely fascinating figures in comic book history, and this award is very much deserved. Kelly is 90 years old now, and will be in San Diego to accept the award. Woolfolk passed away in 2000, but her daughter will be there to accept the award on her behalf. This recognition is long overdue, but I’m so happy it’s here. Wonder Woman wouldn’t be the same without Kelly or Woolfolk, and I hope the award encourages fans and comic book historians alike to dig into their great work.


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