Posts Tagged ‘Aphrodite’

Wonder Woman #76 Review: Mother and Child Reunions

August 14, 2019

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After the suitably epic, oversized Wonder Woman #75, this issue takes a break from battle and revelations in favour of something a little quieter. It’s a nice pause after the action and adventure of the past few outings, a well deserved breather as characters adjust to their new realities and the opportunities they present. There are several different reunions, all of them enjoyable, some of them very long awaited. I’m glad to see everyone generally happy for an issue, especially Diana. She’s been through a lot since G. Willow Wilson took over the book, an almost step by step tear down of who she is as a person that’s forced her to re-examine herself and her place in the world. And now she’s back with everyone she loves, and there seems to be a peace in that, a reassurance of her purpose.

It’s a lovely issue until the final pages of the book, when a twist sets us up for the next arc. DC’s really going hard with this “Year of the Villain” stuff, and suffice it to say that the Cheetah is not fooling around. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal all of the heartwarming things that happen in this issue!

Make sure you’ve read it first!

Go warm your heart with the actual comic!

We start with Diana and Hippolyta together again, finally. Their conversation holds no startling revelations or dramatic turns, and I’m glad it doesn’t. As much as I’m sure Hippolyta will play a major role in the story to come, it was good to see the two of them interacting casually, as mother and daughter, with no real stakes or danger looming over them. It’s a respite that was a long time coming for Diana, and I like that Wilson took the time to give them a quiet moment together.

It’s short-lived, of course. Wonder Woman always has things to do, and an entire world to return to. Without one of her team members, too, since Maggie decides to stay on Themyscira. I love this development for several reasons. First, Maggie’s got the heart of an Amazon and will fit right in. Second, her training under Antiope will be super cool, and I’m excited for awesome warrior Maggie in the future. And third, the scene sets up the potential for more mortal women to join the Amazons and learn their ways, which I am all for. That would be such a fun addition to the DCU, and something I would be glad to see not just in Wonder Woman but across the entire line.

Diana’s reunion with Steve is very cute as well. She’s been away for a while and he’s been worried, and his relief and joy at seeing her again is played beautifully here. Having Atlantiades come along also adds a nice comedic element to the scene. He’s not threatened by them, really, but they certainly aren’t impressed with Diana’s choice of beau. While I feel like this could turn into future drama, for now it’s just amusing. Especially combined with what has clearly been a very awkward period for Steve with Aphrodite as his houseguest. I’d like a flashback issue of them being roommates, please.

The heart of the issue, though, involves Diana and Veronica Cale. She’s been Wonder Woman’s arch-nemesis for a while now, but I can’t help but like her. Greg Rucka’s run gave her such depth and motivation that even though she’s a villain who’s always trying to hurt my favourite character, I still feel for her. She’s been through a lot, and while she’s working out her anger in unhealthy and damaging ways, it’s a very justified anger nonetheless. Plus she’s smart and cutting, and fearless in taking on the divine powerhouses of the world. I gotta respect that, and I like her all the more for it.

But there is no fighting this week. (Sure, Veronica pulls a gun on Diana, but that’s a friendly greeting relative to their usual interactions.) I love that Diana’s first move upon returning home is to go to Veronica and tell her she can see her daughter again. It’s such a Wonder Woman thing to do, to bring solace and joy to an enemy who’s done nothing but hate you. You see, I think Diana likes Veronica, too. Well, maybe not “like.” But she feels for her like I do, and understands what’s beneath her villainy. It’s a complicated relationship that I very much enjoy, and it was so lovely to see Veronica and Isadore back together after so much time apart. Pairing their mother/daughter reunion with Diana and Hippolyta looking on was a marvelous touch, and I’m so glad to finally have a resolution to their story.

This issue was heavy on emotional reactions, clearly, and guest artist Lee Garbett did a marvelous job communicating the feelings in each scene. Every moment of joy or anger or relief or disdain was portrayed well, not so big as to be cartoonish or so subtle as to go unnoticed. He brought a great balance to the book, and gave it exactly the tone it needed. I also quite liked the soft style of his linework. The inking wasn’t crisp and sharp like we usually see in superhero comics. It was loose and light, with blacks that weren’t super saturated, and it all felt like it was done in a dark pencil rather than ink. It was likely some sort of digital brush, but whatever it was, it fit the story well and colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr. matched the linework with more muted tones to bring a pleasing harmony to the look of the book.

So everyone was happily together again, until the Cheetah showed up. And now we might have a situation. It appears that the Cheetah, seeking entry to Themyscira, has killed Aphrodite. I’m hoping it’s a fake out, because I really like Aphrodite and how Wilson writes her, but a bloodied god killer sword and a sizeable chest wound is a troubling combination. The fallout from this should be considerable, and based on the solicits we’re going to be going after the Cheetah for the next few issues. Just when things had calmed down again! Isn’t that always the way.

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Wonder Woman #71 Review: A Colossal Discovery

May 22, 2019

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We’ve had a bit of a talky go of it lately with Wonder Woman. Atlantiades is not the sort of villain you stop with fisticuffs, or even a villain at all, really. More an interesting conundrum, a deity in a strange place doing what only comes natural to them, seeking worship. And toying with mortals, of course. The gods are always toying with mortals. It’s brought us an interesting glimpse into Wonder Woman’s love life, along with some cool discussions on free will and happiness, and it’s all been quite excellent. That plot is largely resolved this week, but with little in the way of awesome punching and action fun.

That’s why it’s handy that Maggie and Aphrodite went off exploring and found a new foe. One that’s definitely going to need some punching. There’ll be no thoughtful, introspective discussions with this adversary. Just a classic beat ‘em up. I love that Wonder Woman is a book that can give us both. G. Willow Wilson’s dug into some heavy subject matter since she took over the series, but she’s also made time to have Diana bust up some rock giants and now what appears to be a massive living statue of some sort. That’s just quality comic booking all around. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

We’re going to discuss everything that happened in this issue!

Turn away if you haven’t read it yet!

Also, as always, you should be reading this book!

Before we get into all the fun, I don’t know who keeps telling Terry and Rachel Dodson that Steve Trevor is in the book, but he is not. And yet, he keeps showing up on the covers. He actually popped in for a scene or two a couple weeks back, but wasn’t on the cover then. And now he’s back on the cover once more, with nary a mention of the man inside the book. It’s such a nitpicky thing, I know, but I wonder about the disconnect. Was Steve supposed to be in the book at one point and plans got changed? Are the Dodsons just drawing what they think will look cool? I mean, their covers are always amazing. I’m not even annoyed. Just curious and confused.

Anyway, onto the story. We get a resolution of sorts with Atlantiades, as they realized what they’d hoped to achieve in the town had failed. They thought that letting people be free of the expectations of their ordinary lives and indulge in their desires would bring the town happiness, but it most definitely did not. Actions have consequences, and the weight of these consequences snapped the townsfolk out of Atlantiades’ spell. They got them back momentarily with a display of divine power, but Diana talked them out of continuing the experiment. Atlantiades is clearly dealing with a lot, including a strained relationship with their mother, and hopefully we can see some growth on that front moving forward. They’re a selfish character, but I think they have a good heart. They’re just a bit lost and hurt, and likely have been that way for centuries. I’m excited to see what they make of the opportunities in this new world, having learned from this experience, and I hope Wilson checks in on them from time to time if this town escapade is indeed wrapped up for now.

The only thing I didn’t like about the resolution was that Xermanico didn’t draw the last few pages of it. This is understandable. Bi-weekly comics are an insane grind and you’re going to get some fill-in pages. Tom Derenick and Scott Hanna stepped in to finish the scene, and while the artwork was serviceable, it failed to capture the characters well, especially Atlantiades. Xermanico brought a compelling androgyny to Atlantiades that befit their mythological background. Derenick and Hanna failed to replicate that, leaning much more into the feminine aspects of the character. Atlantiades ended up looking like a twin of Diana rather than the unique take Xermanico had obviously carefully developed.

Xermanico’s work on this arc has been exceptional, from character design to panel layout and beyond, and I’m sad that the strictures of the schedule prevented him from being able to close it out himself. As much as I love getting Wonder Woman twice a month, I deeply hate the onerous demands that bi-weekly books put on artists. This is a run that should be collected for years, even decades to come, and putting out subpar artwork now to fit this unreasonable schedule is a short term compromise that will lead to disappointment long term. I know nobody likes late books, but I feel like editorial could do a better job of planning out the artwork.

But I digress. There was a whole other story to this issue, with a dang colossus in it! At first I thought it was just a giant minotaur, but Aphrodite called it a colossus and the golden head confirms her words. This appears to be a massive statue brought to life somehow, perhaps with the same power that got us stone giants in the Rockies. As far as I can tell, this is an original invention by Wilson and not based on an existing statue or anything. There have been various colossal statues throughout history, most famously the Colossus of Rhodes, which was a statue of Helios, but none of them were a minotaur, I don’t think.

So yeah, we’ve got a fight on our hands now! I love that the sword has emboldened Maggie, and that she was prepared to take on the colossus by herself. She’s been a great addition to the cast, and I’ve enjoyed watching her trepidation give way to courage over the past few issues. Not even Aphrodite dared face off against the colossus, and she’s a dang god! Luckily Wonder Woman arrived just in the nick of time and now they can make a good fight of it. I’m excited to see them throw down in June, and to see what mysteries these underground pathways hold. Well, “underground.” I’m guessing there’s some dimensional travel at play or an underworld sort of situation. Either way, adventure awaits!

Wonder Woman #70 Review: Love is a Battlefield

May 10, 2019

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Our gal Diana has been through a lot recently. Ares is back, and being a real jerk. Veronica Cale is up to her usual tricks. Olympus is destroyed and the Amazons are missing. Giant rock monsters are roaming through the mountains of Colorado. She’s been put through the wringer ever since G. Willow Wilson took over writing the book, and very enjoyably so. She’s Wonder Woman, after all. No one is better suited to handle an avalanche of enemies trying to break her down.

And she’s dealt with it well. Each villain she’s encountered has tried to dig into her a little bit, poking at her insecurities and exposing the complications and even some of the hypocrisies inherent in who she is and what she does. They’ve all made some good points, too, and given Diana a lot to think about it. But she’s held true to herself and continued on.

Until this week, that is. Atlantiades, another Olympian, has thrown her for a loop. Not even intentionally or maliciously this time, just through the sheer force of their unique power. The child of Aphrodite wields the power of truth in some unexpected ways that catch Diana by surprise. The result is a compelling, more introspective issue that examines a relationship that’s been a staple at DC Comics for nearly eighty years. We’ll dig into all momentarily, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

I am about to reveal its many secrets!

Also, go read it! It’s good and gorgeous!

So Atlantiades is an intriguing foe. I’m not sure what their plan is here, or if there even is a plan or purpose to what they’re doing. Having been cast out of Olympus, they find themself with an opportunity to regain some of their past glory, to rekindle the thrill of ancient cults worshipping them, and they go for it. In part to get back at their mother, it seems, and in part because it just felt like a fun thing to do. There is both petulance and cunning to Atlantiades, naiveté and wisdom. Which makes sense, given the dual nature of the character. I’m guessing we’ll never know quite what we’re going to get from them.

As I suspected based on their mythological origins, Atlantiades is presented as non-binary and uses gender neutral pronouns. They are literally two beings combined into one, Aphrodite’s son merged with a female water nymph to make one person. Now, this is not how most non-binary people come to be these days. It’s more to do with not feeling like they fit within the limiting bounds of a traditional binary approach to gender and finding an identity outside of these strictures that better matches their sense of self. Still, it’s very cool to see some non-binary representation in a mainstream superhero comic book. And now that we have Atlantiades, I’d love to see them interact with some more modern non-binary characters. The discussions they could have would be fascinating.

Atlantiades’ mythological origins give them both powers and a special sort of insight into those around them. They’ve captivated this town with ease, promising them freedom and their heart’s desire, and their divine allure quickly got everyone on board. Even Maggie, who has some familiarity with non-earthly folks, is immediately smitten. But not Wonder Woman. She is tempted, to be sure. There is a like calling to like dynamic between Diana and Atlantiades that is quite interesting. The Amazons are all about love and truth, and that is the very core of Atlantiades’ power. The connection between them is palpable.

But then Steve shows up, and the conversation he and Diana have is heartbreaking. They admit their insecurities and fears, with Steve telling Diana that he sometimes thinks he would be happier with a mortal woman and Diana acknowledging that she has thought the same thing. It’s all a ruse of course, but in a clever twist it’s not some attempt by Atlantiades to upset Diana. Instead, it’s her own fears manifesting in the aura of Atlantiades’ truthful power. It’s a nightmare of her own making, a shade created by her own anxieties.

Knowing that, Diana’s able to face it head on. Yes, she feels all of these things. She has concerns and fears about her relationship with Steve. But at the end of the day, she loves him, and that is enough. Love is central to Wonder Woman, and has been since her very first appearance n 1941. It’s why she’s strong. It’s why she’s brave. And it’s why she’s able to tackle her anxieties and work through them.

The scene is viscerally real and beautifully written by Wilson, who presents the complexities of the unusual relationship between Diana and Steve in an honest, gripping way. I was totally sold on the twist, and thought Atlantiades had brought Steve there to mess with Diana. It was a raw, powerful interaction, and one that made even more sense when the truth was revealed. Of course Diana has anxieties about their relationship. There are sacrifices and compromises on both sides, as in any relationship, and that gets exacerbated even further when superpowers and godhood enter the mix. But the conclusion felt just as real and true. She loves Steve enough to work through her concerns and carry on together.

This entire issue was wonderfully illustrated by Xermanico, who is just doing a stellar job on this book. They need to lock him down on Wonder Woman for a while because his artwork is exceptional. Diana’s emotional journey is shown so well, and that scene with Steve is especially strong. He also captures the androgynous beauty of Atlantiades, giving them a unique and captivating look that well suits the character. And of course, the colors of Romulo Fajardo Jr. add so much to the equation, elevating the already lovely linework. Xermanico needs to be the primary artist for this series moving forward. The dude is just too good.

The issue ends with some drama. The townsfolk are not so happy with getting everything they want because it turns out being selfish can backfire after a while. Decisions have consequences, and they’re starting to add up. It looks like we’ve got a revolt coming, and while Diana and Atlantiades are strong enough to handle the angry mortals without any real fear of harm, I’m curious to see how this entire situation gets resolved. Atlantiades has made a real mess, and it’s going to be tough to clean up, if that’s what they even want to do! Should be fun.

Wonder Woman #69 Review: Insert Hilarious Joke Here

April 25, 2019

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Let’s just deal with the obvious right away. This is the sixty-ninth issue of the latest Wonder Woman series, and the story is about a small town that’s gone mad with lust. Well played, everyone. A few other DC books have hit #69 recently, or they will shortly, but I don’t know if they’ve leaned into the joke as well as Wonder Woman has. It’s not a dirty issue by any means. The exuberant lust is largely off-panel, and the story really only addresses its ramifications. But still, they went for it, and I was amused.

Aside from all the lusting, this was a bit of a table setting issue. There was a new character to introduce, a powerful weapon to tease, and the entire story built to a final page reveal that I think we all knew was coming. Still, it was entertaining, and I’m very curious to see what happens in two weeks’ time. The idea that coming to our mortal realm changes the Olympian deities in some way is a fascinating one, and I like how they’ve explored it thus far. We’ll get into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal all of the details from this issue!

A very revealing issue, if you know what I mean!

Wink, wink, nudge, nudge!

Actually, it’s really not like that so much!

I’m just joking around!

I will start with the dumbest nitpick, because it’s a thing that always irks me: Steve Trevor is on the cover and he doesn’t appear in this issue at all. He’s not even mentioned, I don’t think. So sorry to all you Steve enthusiasts out there who picked up this issue excited for some Diana/Steve adventures. There were none. This disconnect may speak to a larger editorial issue, though, in that it looks like the book is the middle of changing hands.

Chris Conroy and Dave Wielgosz have been editing the series for ages now, and the credits suggest it’s now passing on to Brian Cunningham and Brittany Holzher. It’s an interesting switch. On the one hand, Wonder Woman is a book that definitely benefits from a female presence in editorial, I think, and Holzher is a smart, well-respected assistant editor at DC. On the other hand, when I ran the numbers a couple years back, Cunningham hired the fewest number of female creators of any editor at DC except Eddie Berganza (who wasn’t allowed to work directly with women and has since been fired for sexual harassment). So a bit of a mixed bag here. I’ll keep an eye on things to see if there are any noticeable changes to the book once this transition is complete.

But onto the issue itself! So much lusting, lusting. So little trusting, trusting. Antiope’s sword leads the gang to Summergrove, Connecticut, where an entire town has been overcome by a need to act on their deepest desires. And, in a perfectly executed moment, Wonder Woman is totally cool with it. She’s not there to kink-shame anyone, and would be happy to leave them to their bacchanal except for the fact that she has to step in to stop an aggrieved husband from striking his wife. And then the murder cupids show up, and we know something’s gone very wrong here.

(The murder cupids are a fantastic idea, by the way. A+ execution on this amazing concept by the entire creative team.)

It’s largely a light outing, with some jokes in the mix and hilarious villains with the murder cupids, but G. Willow Wilson does dig into some heavier subjects. Domestic violence is touched on briefly, and there’s also a discussion of whether being honest with yourself and following your heart absolves you of your responsibilities or from hurting others. Most of Wilson’s issues thus far have subtly raised deeper questions related to the bombastic superhero antics at hand, which is a move I quite enjoy. And this week’s installment was no exception. These questions also give us a glimpse of Wonder Woman’s mindset. She’s fine with the town’s sexual escapades, so long as everyone is having fun, but once people begin to hurt each other, physically or emotionally, she feels compelled to step in.

Her involvement leads us to the murder cupids, and finally to Atlantiades, the child of Aphrodite (my Comixology issue has them as Antlantiades, but I think that might be a typo?). I’ve been excited for this reveal because, based on the mythology, Atlantiades could be a non-binary character. There’s certainly an androgyny to their appearance here, and Xermanico does a really cool thing with the panel layouts on the pages leading up their introduction. The panels on one page combine into a distinctly female form, while the panels on the next page show a male form. This speaks to Atlantiades’ past, in which their originally male form was merged with the naiad Salmacis to become a being of both sexes. Atlantiades is also known as Hermaphroditus, from whom we get the term hermaphrodite.

We didn’t learn anything about Atlantiades gender preferences in this issue. The solicits refer to them as Aphrodite’s “son” but the comics have been more vague in past issues and used the word “child.” I feel like those panel layouts are telling as well. We’ll probably know more with the next issue, now that they’re officially in the mix. But what we do know now is that Atlantiades is using the murder cupids to be the ruler of lust town, and that their mother is not at all pleased by this. Love is a very powerful force, and to use it in such a coercive and even violent way is blasphemy to her.

The art throughout the issue is great. I’m glad to see Xermanico back. He’s got a classic superhero style but he’s good at not indulging in the hyper-sexualization that style can bring. His Wonder Woman is powerful and kind, his Aphrodite is beautiful and fierce, and he can draw the heck out of a pegasus. He does a good job with the lustful citizens as well, showing a wide range of people and body types and not lingering on the shenanigans in a salacious way. Romulo Fajardo Jr. does an excellent job with the colors, too. It’s a bright issue, generally, outdoors on a sunny day, but he does dark and ominous as necessary with the murder cupids in ways that really sell their menacing traits.

So, Atlantiades is in the mix now! That’s going to be a situation in two weeks’ time. And Antiope’s sword is going to do something cool at some point! They keep talking about how powerful and rad it is, and while Maggie’s not feeling it yet, she’s got to at some point. They’ve got it all teed up for us. Should be fun!

Wonder Woman #68 Review: The Big Friendly Giganta

April 10, 2019

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As often happens with superhero comic books, this cover is not necessarily an accurate reflection of what’s going on inside the book. Yes, Wonder Woman and Giganta get into a bit of a precarious scrap with some rock monsters. That much is true. But the tone here is all wrong. First, I’d say it’s wrong for Wonder Woman generally. She’s not going to be sarcastic like that, especially in a combat situation, no matter who she’s with. I don’t know who did this dialogue, but I feel like it may not have been G. Willow Wilson. Second, at no point in the book is Wonder Woman annoyed with Giganta like this. While there’s a degree of conflict, it’s subtler and far more interesting than this cover conveys. I mean, it’s a fun cover. The Dodsons are always a good time. It’s just not capturing what is compelling and excellent about the insides of the book. Which we’ll dig into now, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

Also, be sure to read it!

This run is very good!

One of the things I like most about this run so far is that G. Willow Wilson didn’t come to play. Yeah, she’s got rad action and some enjoyable comedy and all of the things that make a superhero comic entertaining. But beyond that, she is digging into some heavy stuff. The word I keep coming back to when I review her issues is “interrogation.” The first arc with Ares was an interrogation of what it means to be a hero, and whether answering violence with violence is just perpetuating a damaging system. It was an arc that didn’t land on any firm answer, and it feels like we’re picking up on that theme again here, but with a slight, more specific alteration. Now we’re interrogating what it means to be a superhero.

With the realization that the rock giants aren’t sentient, Wonder Woman doesn’t need to hold back anymore. She can push her strength and her powers further, full on demolishing the creatures without fear of killing someone. And Giganta notices, because Giganta is smart. She’s seen through Wonder Woman from day one, noting the deeper motivations behind her actions. And now she’s got some thoughts. Namely, that Wonder Woman is scared of her own powers, and that if she wanted to she could use her powers to run the world. And, more incisively, in that holding back to supposedly protect the weak, Wonder Woman is lying to herself. Giganta suggests that Wonder Woman’s morality is a smoke screen to hide from her fear of herself, of what she could be if she embraced the depths of her powers. Wonder Woman disagrees, of course, but it’s clear that she’s a bit rattled. The comments resonate with her on some level.

Now, Giganta is hardly trustworthy here. Like Ares and Veronica Cale before her, Giganta is not someone with Wonder Woman’s best interests at heart. This is hardly a critique that is meant to encourage Wonder Woman to be her best self. If anything, it’s a reflection of Giganta’s own sense of powerlessness, of her yearning for what she could do with more power. Being in the Suicide Squad can’t be terribly fun, and seeing someone free yet holding back what they can do must be irksome to her.

And yet, Giganta gets to the heart of things in a way no one else has yet. Ares is all bluster and bloviating. Veronica Cale is all anger and blame. They don’t see Diana for who she is. Giganta does, though, in her own way. When Wonder Woman insists that her morality is not fake, Giganta replies, “Oh yeah? Then why aren’t you happy?” The line made me stop for a second, in part because it was very unexpected but also because it rang surprisingly true. Yeah, Diana’s got Steve and her friends and a swell gig saving the world, but there hasn’t been a lot of joy to this run. Even beyond the drama surrounding the Amazons, there’s a dearth of happiness. She’s not unhappy, really. It’s sort of a neutral. She’s purposeful in her actions, staying true to her beliefs and what makes her who she is. There’s just no buoyancy to it. Not to go all Marie Kondo on her, but Diana’s life doesn’t seem to be sparking a lot of joy for her right now.

What that means for her, I have no idea. And again, Giganta’s most definitely not trying to help Wonder Woman here. This may not be an observation Diana needs to take to heart. I thought it resonated, though, and I’m curious to see how it plays out. The finding of Antiope’s sword seems to have lifted Diana’s spirits, and we’ve got a fun new quest ahead of us now. But Giganta’s comments run deeper than the Amazon issue. Diana doesn’t need to find her family so much as she needs to find herself. And maybe finding her family is a necessary step on that journey.

We’ve got Cary Nord and Mick Gray back on art to start out the issue, but just when I was getting into their style and starting to enjoy their work, we only get them for half the book. Ronan Cliquet takes over in the second half, and his work is generally unremarkable. If he’s trying to do a Cary Nord impression, he’s not great at it. And what we end up with is run of the mill superhero fare. We’ve got Xermanico back in two weeks, however, and he was great last time around.

Also, a fun team up with a triumvirate of awesome ladies! There’s Wonder Woman leading the charge, Aphrodite and her cool swan, and Maggie with Antiope’s sword atop the pegasus Cadmus. They look super cool, and I can’t wait to see what kind of adventure they’re about to get into. Plus, Antiope’s got to show up sometime soon now! You can’t give us her sword and then no Antiope. She’s not been a huge part of Wonder Woman comics in the past, and I’m excited to see how G. Willow Wilson and the art team bring her to life in the wake of Robin Wright’s spectacular take on the character in the Wonder Woman movie. Should be fun!

Wonder Woman #65 Review: The Nemesis of My Nemesis is My Friend

February 28, 2019

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I’m a day late on this review after being out and about yesterday, but I’ll be honest with you all and admit I wasn’t hugely looking forward to this issue regardless. The art two weeks back was pretty rough, with Jesus Merino and Andy Owens giving me a distinctly mid-90s vibe, and they’re back for this outing as well. Predictably, things look the same. As much as I’m enjoying G. Willow Wilson’s writing, this throwback art is bringing me down.

To stay in Wilson’s wheelhouse, Ms. Marvel always looks fresh and special and different, meant for readers of all sorts but not your standard comic book fare. There was care put into the selection of artists to achieve that look. These past two issues of Wonder Woman scream “fill-in artist on a generic superhero comic” to me. There’s nothing visually that sets it apart, nothing that makes it compelling or different. Which is a shame, because Wilson’s writing is great and it deserves artwork that can keep up with it. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

Look away if you have not read this comic yet!

I am about to delve into its various plot points!

I don’t want to keep harping on the art for too long, but I’m struck by the juxtaposition this series presents. Months back, when James Robinson was writing the book and it was a tough slog to read, there were some good artists that made the book enjoyable. As much as I hated the story, at least when Emanuela Lupacchino or Stephen Segovia was drawing the pictures there was something interesting to focus on and engage with. I could skim the terrible text and enjoy the artwork. Comics are a visual medium after all. Good art can make up for bad writing, at least to some degree.

However, it doesn’t work as well the other way. Wilson’s writing is solid, but instead of soaring above the poor art, the artwork drags it down. Emotional beats that should read well suddenly fall flat when the text is next to artwork that’s not conveying that emotion well. Action that should be exciting becomes boring when poorly executed by the artist.

There’s a panel in this issue where Wonder Woman, upset over the revelation that the Amazons could be gone forever, flies through the rain weeping. It’s not the most original idea, but there are ways to make it work. As executed, though, it’s almost laughable. The pained expression on her face borders on the ridiculous. The pose, with her fists clenched, doesn’t help matters. Plus her body is positioned in such a way that we’re looking down her chest and thus her breasts dominate the frame. It’s just poorly done on every level, and there are so many other panels throughout the issue that are in the same boat. Aphrodite’s weird throwback bikini, for example, which seems to aim for titillation and lands on boring when neither choice would be ideal. Or Veronica Cale, angrily pointing at Diana in a pose that is the epitome of cliché. Or everything about Nemesis’ design. It’s just a rough outing the whole way through that distracts from what is an interesting story.

So let’s get into that story. Wonder Woman starts out the issue pretty down, what with Cale suing her and the Amazons perhaps gone, but after a bit of a pep talk from Aphrodite she takes off to confront Nemesis. That’s where we get the twist! Veronica Cale isn’t controlling Nemesis. Nemesis is controlling Veronica Cale! The weird angry venom angle wasn’t my favourite, but I did like the turn as a whole. I’ll admit I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Veronica Cale. I mean, yeah, she’s pretty much evil on the best of days. But she lost her daughter to some jerk gods and she’s got a right to be upset with anything associated with the divine.

I also like a conflict that resolves in a hug. Sure, a big old brawl is a good time, but with Wonder Woman specifically I’m always happy when she can end a conflict in a kind, loving way. The fact of the matter is, Diana’s got a soft spot for Veronica Cale too. She doesn’t want to fight her. And a story in which Wonder Woman shakes off the effects of a nefarious venom AND breaks that venom’s hold on someone else through sheer love is the sort of Wonder Woman story I am all about. Wilson wrote the scene beautifully, too. It could have easily been corny, and the lack of subtlety in the art was no help, but the strength of the writing makes it work. It’s a lovely scene that ties well into the larger history that these characters share.

With Cale and Nemesis sorted, the issue ends with the set up for what comes next: The search for Aphrodite’s child, Atlantiades! First off, great name. That’s super fun to say. Give it a try at home: at-lan-tie-ah-dees. Ancient Greek names are a good time. Second, it looks like we’re going to have a non-binary character in Wonder Woman shortly.

Aphrodite refers to Atlantiades as them, a gender neutral pronoun, and that checks out mythologically. As the comic points out, Atlantiades is also known as Hermaphroditus, from which we get the term hermaphrodite. Atlantiades was born male, but then the female nymph Salmacis fell in love with him and they were united together by the gods in one body, male AND female, forever. I’m curious to see how Wilson rolls with this all, merging this ancient story with the language and growing understanding we have today about non-binary gender identity. I trust she’ll handle it well. Also, the design could be fun. Atlantiades is traditionally an androgynous character, with much of the artwork of them reflecting that, and I hope the comic book design comes up with a cool way to incorporate that. I’m excited to see where it all goes in the weeks to come!

Wonder Woman #62 Review: Making Peace with the God of War

January 16, 2019

ww62

The first arc of G. Willow Wilson’s run on Wonder Woman draws to a close this week, bringing the war in Durovnia to an end while leaving us with a lot of unanswered questions for our heroine and her divine associates moving forward. This was a storyline that raised a lot of heavy issues, for Wonder Woman herself but also for us as readers as we all grappled with the troubling shades of grey that characterize modern warfare. No matter how good someone’s intentions are, they can still cause harm when they decide to step in with force, and this is especially true in the arena of war. It’s almost impossible not to cause harm in a war, and Wonder Woman comes out of the conflict in Durovnia carrying the weight of that truth. We’ll get into the arc’s conclusion momentarily, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to tell you all of the important things that happened in this issue!

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

Also, read it! This run has been GREAT so far!

Remember when Diana was the god of war? Oh, the New 52 days. So beautiful in its art, so increasingly troubling in its story choices. For all of that past run’s focus on Diana becoming the embodiment of war, it never really dug into the implications of what that could mean in a deeper, compelling way. War is inherently destructive and damaging. It harms innocents and profits the powerful. In short, it’s everything Wonder Woman hates. And yet, she often finds herself at the center of them. Fighting for peace, yes, but fighting nonetheless.

This arc dug into these contradictions, and fascinatingly so. By the end of this issue, Diana is shook. Yeah, she’s got some other stuff going on with the gods returning, a longing for home and a hope that the Amazons might be accessible again. But the war in Durovnia seems to have thrown her for quite the loop. Ares fashioning himself as a twisted version of her brand of heroism was disconcerting enough, and then the peace talks hit her hard. The president condemned the gods and empires that entered the fray, meaning Ares on the side of the rebels and American military assistance on the side of the government. Diana saw herself as beyond these sides, perhaps even above them, an impartial hero committed to protecting those caught in the middle. When she’s asked to leave with them, painted as part of the problem that exacerbated the conflict rather than part of the solution, it clearly stings.

Now, when an old, white dude whose government has been actively oppressing an ethnic minority calls you out like that, it’s a chastisement worth ignoring. I mean, that guy sucks. He’s blaming his own problems and the failings of his government on outside forces, admitting to past mistakes only once the entire nation nearly fell into chaos. This fool could have nipped all of this in the bud ages ago by not being such a terrible president. I feel like Diana should just brush off his dismissal of her and her efforts because, again, he sucks.

Also, so does Ares! Here’s another old, white dude misusing his power. And because of these two jerks, Diana is feeling a bit down on herself, a bit lost even. Not that there weren’t some interesting points raised over the course of their interactions. War is deeply, deeply terrible and it’s hard to be involved in it without hurting someone. But consider the source here. I’m very curious to see how Wonder Woman processes her feelings over the next few issues. It’s interesting that both men have her questioning herself, while Aphrodite and Etta are both telling her that she did a good job. Friggin’ patriarchy. Dudes tearing down women to make themselves feel better are the worst. What Diana needs right now are some more awesome ladies in her corner.

Which leads us to: AMAZONS. Wilson is teasing us at the end of this issue too much for this not to be happening, right? They’ve gotta be coming back! And I am very on board. First, the Amazons are the best and I miss them. And second, it feels like Diana is in a place where she could use some Amazon guidance. She’s been in man’s world for a while now. Their wars and aggressions are wearing on her, so much so that she’s starting to question herself. What she needs is some rad warrior women to remind her who she is, and to help her grapple with the disquieting questions that the harsh realities of modern warfare have raised for her.

Xermanico was back on art duties for this issue, and I liked it even better than his last one. I don’t know if it was him or Romulo Fajardo Jr. that brought in that Ben-Day Dot shading, but it looked super cool, especially in the night scenes with the battle. There was a bit of that two weeks back, but they really leaned into it here, for a nice effect. Xermanico is a good fit for this book, and I’ve enjoyed his two issues more than Cary Nord’s. His Diana feels more powerful and substantial, which is always good to see. And his art has actually improved from issue to issue, which we didn’t get with Nord owing to what appeared to be the time constraints of a bi-weekly book. I was wary when editorial had to swap artists so soon into the run, but they made a good choice here and I hope that we’ll see more of Xermanico in future issues. He carries on some of the cool style choices that Nord established, melding them well with his more conventional superhero comic style. I’m into it.

So we’re back in two weeks with Diana trying to deal with the successful but somewhat demoralizing outcome in Durovnia. Will there be Amazons? I sure hope so. And I’d love to see more of Aphrodite. That lady knows FAR more than she’s telling anybody, and that is definitely going to come into play in the issues to come. Plus, the search for Athena! She was name dropped this week and now I’m eager for her to join the mix as well. Something is up with the gods, and I’m keen for Wonder Woman to get to the bottom of that mystery. And find her mom! We have so much fun ahead of us, gang.


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