Posts Tagged ‘Carlo Pagulayan’

Wonder Woman #37 Review: Thunderbolts of Jove, This Book is Bad

December 27, 2017

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For Christmas this year, Santa Claus left me some Funko Pops in my stocking, both of them from the Wonder Woman movie. One was Antiope in mid-leap, holding a bow and about to fire three arrows in a recreation of an iconic scene from the film. The other was Etta Candy, holding Wonder Woman’s shield and sword. They’re both awesome and adorable, and they also encapsulate what was so great about the movie. Wonder Woman was the star, of course, but the film was packed full of amazing female characters. Between the Amazons on Themyscira and Etta in England, Diana had female allies everywhere. Sisterhood was a core theme of the movie, and it showcased female strength in a variety of forms.

The film was a massive hit, and yet for some reason, DC Comics has decided to ignore everything that made it successful. We’ve got an arc focusing on Wonder Woman’s brother, Wonder Woman herself has been little more than an afterthought in several issues, and there are no female allies to be found. The only other woman in the book is Grail, a villain, and now Wonder Woman’s father has come to the fore with this issue. On top of all of that, the book is terribly written and just painful to read. So yeah, let’s talk about it, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal everything that happened in this issue!

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

But also, do yourself a personal favour and maybe don’t read it!

It’s quite awful!

The bulk of this issue centered on Zeus fighting Darkseid, a battle of two titans that could have been interesting but turned out rather humdrum. The men bloviated the entire time, crowing about their own superior power as they traded blows. I don’t buy Wonder Woman to see two dudes duking it out while bragging about how big and strong they are, so I didn’t particularly care for this focus. I also don’t buy Wonder Woman to see a man fighting Diana’s battles for her, as Zeus did here, so that angle wasn’t great either. The battle itself was drawn capably, but there was nothing really interesting or compelling about the depiction of it all. The choreography was pretty straight forward superhero brawling, really. I do still enjoy Zeus’ glowing cape, though; that’s a nice stylistic touch that colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr. makes look super cool. The rest was generally unexciting.

Also, I found it odd that Diana seemed so accepting of having her father back. She’s never met the man, ever, apart from perhaps in animal form during Year One. He’s not been a part of her life in any meaningful way, and owing to Rucka’s revamp we don’t know how she learned that Zeus was her father or what her perspective on her parentage is. Yet here, she’s instantly on board with him, calling him “Father” from the get-go. I understand her trying to save him from Darkseid; she’s Wonder Woman, after all, and would do her best to save anyone from Darkseid. But her instant acceptance of him felt very unearned to me.

I suppose they had to fast forward the relationship, seeing as Darkseid kills Zeus by the end of the issue in an entirely unsurprising twist. Turns out, Darkseid was killing Zeus’ kids partly to get their slices of divine power but partly to get Zeus to show up so that he could take his immense power and regain all of his strength. With Zeus not long for the world, there wasn’t much time to create a relationship with Diana or delve into their complicated past.

The execution highlights a key flaw of the book right now: None of this is really about Diana. The return of Zeus could have brought up a lot of stuff for her, and let her reckon with her past, her power, and her currently estranged relationship with her Amazon family. This development was potentially full of fascinating angles to examine and ways to dig into Wonder Woman’s character. But instead, it had nothing to do with her. Zeus’ return served as a shocking cliffhanger for the last issue, and a means to bring Darkseid back to his full strength in this issue. Diana’s feelings about her father’s return got minimal attention, and now he’s gone.

The issue also left me wondering where this arc is going. Darkseid is repowered back to his former self, and he and Grail escaped at the end of the issue. The solicits suggest that they’ll be back after the Silver Swan arc that’s set to begin in two weeks time, returning to vex the Amazons, but to what end? I’m still hoping that Darkseid will Omega Beam Jason and rid us of his pointless presence, but now that Darkseid’s back to full strength I can’t see him ending up defeated or captured. He’s not a normal villain. He’s a major player in the larger comic book universe. Grail could end up properly defeated, but Darkseid is.

Ultimately, this is another bad issue in a terrible arc that has failed to center Wonder Woman in any meaningful way. It’s also a bizarre sequel to an event no on particularly cared for, tied into outdated continuity, and it just doesn’t make a lick of sense in general. And now we’re letting James Robinson have a crack at the Silver Swan too? Who okayed that plan? Silver Swan is a classic Wonder Woman villain, and she deserves to be in the hands of someone who’s actually demonstrated an understanding of Diana and her world. At least Grail won’t be around for a while? That’s something to look forward to. I’ll take that break.

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Wonder Woman #36 Review: Can We Just Not, With Any Of This?

December 13, 2017

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Let’s begin with a story. Last Wednesday, I woke up prepared to begin my usual bi-weekly Wonder Woman review routine. Buy the comic. Read it a couple of times. Think about it a bit and formulate some opinions. Then sit down and write out my review. However, I was mistaken. Yes, it had been two weeks since the last issue of Wonder Woman came out, but November was a five-Wednesday month. The issue wouldn’t be out until the following week, because Wonder Woman comes out on the second and fourth weeks of each month. I was amused at my error, and tremendously relieved. I didn’t have to read Wonder Woman! It felt like a reprieve.

Anyway, now it’s the correct week and here we are. Let’s dig into this nonsense, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

This review reveals key plot points from this issue!

Don’t read this if you haven’t read the comic yet!

Though I can’t in good conscience recommend that you read this comic book!

So we’re in a bit of a catch-22 here!

Here’s a positive thing to start with: I like the new corner box on the cover. It’s an old school affectation brought back with a modern feel. I’m into it. That “Rebirth” bar was getting tiresome after a year and a half, and this is a lot cleaner and more compact. I think it might hint at some coming changes for the line, too. DC’s been doing a lot of multiverse stuff lately, and that “Universe” designation might be significant. Spinning out of “Metal,” I wouldn’t be surprised to see new books set in different universes, with corner boxes that marked them as such. Could be cool. But whether that’s coming or not, I think it’s a good look.

And here’s even more good news: Wonder Woman is actually in this issue of Wonder Woman! On nearly every page, even. You wouldn’t think that’d be something we’d even have to celebrate, but there’s been a substantial lack of Wonder Woman in this run thus far.

That’s where the good news ends, though. The book is still really bad. The story is still really dumb. There are a few twists in this issue, none of them good or particularly unexpected. I will say, the art is nicer than it’s been lately. While Emanuela Lupacchino’s done fine work on her villain backstory issues, a misuse of her talents but excellent art nonetheless, the main story has been decidedly subpar. Carlo Pagulayan’s pencils with inks from Jason Paz and Sean Parsons are a definite step up, and of course Romulo Fajardo Jr.’s colours are fantastic, as always. While the story remains a trash fire, at least it’s nicer to look at this time around.

So let’s dive into the story itself. Grail and Jason have Wonder Woman trapped, and the issue begins with them all yelling at each other. Jason is bitter about his upbringing for no good reason, Grail just wants to kill folks, and Diana wants her brother to see reason. No one really breaks through with anyone, largely because all the speechifying is just there to lay the groundwork for Wonder Woman busting free and starting a big fight scene. I will say this for Robinson: I did enjoy the reveal that Diana could have broken out of her bonds at any time, but she stayed trapped and took Grail’s abuse to try to reach Jason. I mean, Jason sucks and all, but that’s a very Wonder Woman thing to do.

The fight takes a turn with the inevitable arrival of Darkseid, who has now grown to be a young man. Grail’s god killing seems to be feeding him well. Then we get the not at all shocking turn in which Jason finds out that Grail has been lying to him. Combined with Darkseid’s brutal treatment of his sister, Jason’s no longer sure he’s on the right team here and tries to stop him. This will likely lead to Diana and Jason teaming up to defeat Grail and Darkseid later on which, ugh, of course it will. I don’t know about you all, but I was cheering for Darkseid to blast Jason with an Omega Beam and free us from his tedious presence. No such luck this time around, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for future outings.

Then finally, the twistiest twist of them all! Hercules’ weirdo lawyer is actually Zeus in disguise! Gasp. A story about two children of Zeus features an appearance from Zeus. Who saw that coming? Anyway, he’s in the mix now, threatening Darkseid to close out the issue. And he’s got an all new design, too. It’s not great, though I do enjoy the glowing white cape. That’s kind of cool. His armour bits are a little too Magogy for me, and I don’t care for him copying Wonder Woman’s bracelets. Also, that crown could be better. Still, on the larger spectrum of Zeus designs in Wonder Woman, I’d say this is one of the better ones. Zeus has never looked particularly cool. I mean, the dude showed up in a space unitard at one point

(HOT TIP: For an excellent take on Zeus, and the Greek gods in general, go read the Olympians series by George O’Connor! They are excellent comic books with really smart, clever takes on all of the gods, and it’s got far and away my favourite Zeus ever.)

So a bunch of things happened, none of them particularly interesting, all of them poorly written. The art was a little bit nicer, at least. And it looks like we’ve got a big fight coming, with Zeus and Darkseid set to battle it out in an Old God versus New God showdown. That could be a good thing, if only because the brawl might take up a lot of the next issue and thus cut down on the words therein. I’m all for anything that will make this book a quicker read and spare me from Robinson’s horrible dialogue.

Anyway, there’s some encouraging news for us to end on: We’re halfway through, gang. This ridiculousness is scheduled to last for twelve issues, and this was this sixth. By this time in March, we’ll have reached the grand finale and will be eagerly anticipating whoever is set to take over next. Will we get returning favourites? Will it be an up and coming team with a fresh voice for Wonder Woman? Will it be some random people they just grab off the street? Whoever they choose, it can’t be worse than this run.

Wonder Woman #31 Review: It’s Going To Be A Long Six Months

September 27, 2017

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I just don’t understand why this is happening, gang. DC finally has Wonder Woman back on track after the New 52 reboot took her increasingly off course for five years, and her popularity is sky high following the massive success of the movie this summer. Greg Rucka, Bilquis Evely, Nicola Scott, and Liam Sharp re-established her beautifully with the first year of “Rebirth” and then Shea Fontana, Mirka Andolfo, David Messina, and Inaki Miranda made the most of the new status quo with their excellent, compelling “Heart of the Amazon” arc. And now we’ve got a story about Diana’s brother, tied to a pre-“Rebirth” event no one particularly cared about, with several elements that are technically no longer part of Wonder Woman’s continuity. It is the opposite of accessible, and it’s also the opposite of what anyone who’s loved the first thirty issues of the new Wonder Woman and/or the movie is looking for. I’m utterly flabbergasted that DC is dedicating six months and twelve whole issues to this story that next to no one is clamouring for.

Plus, most damningly, it’s just not good. This first issue is rough in a lot of ways, but here’s the big thing you need to know about it: It’s an issue of Wonder Woman in which Wonder Woman only appears on six pages. If Wonder Woman isn’t the star of your Wonder Woman, you’ve done screwed up. I was really hoping that, as much as I didn’t love the idea of this arc, it would turn out to be surprisingly good and interesting, but this first issue has squashed that hope considerably. It’s bad and dumb and seems destined to try my patience. Let’s dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

It’s a first issue so I won’t be too spoilery moving forward!

However, a couple of plot points will be discussed!

Continue to read at your own discretion!

So let’s start with the elephant in the room that is James Robinson. Once a legend in the business because of Starman, his fame has dimmed in recent years after some gruesome and grotesque superhero outings and his transphobic indie book. His work over the past few years seems generally at odds with the message and tone of Wonder Woman, especially in her re-established “Rebirth” form. Furthermore, after Rucka’s fine work on the book, a lot of folks, myself included, were hoping that the writing reins would get passed on to one of the many amazing female writers working in the business today. Robinson taking over the book for an extended run is an all around bizarre choice by DC.

And one that has resulted in a very bad first issue. There’s the fact that Wonder Woman is barely in it, of course, but more than that it’s a clumsy, awkwardly expository outing. The book takes twelve pages to set up the villain, with more than half of the story dedicated to a character who’s quickly taken off the board. I don’t want to get too into the details for folks who haven’t read it, but essentially Grail is taking the power of gods to repower Darkseid, and a huge portion of the book is dedicated to setting that up. The execution of this both sidelines Wonder Woman and drags on with shrug-inducing reveals and painful dialogue.

The dialogue especially is a constant problem throughout the issue. Not only are characters over explaining everything, but there’s no natural flow to any of it. It’s stilted and drawn out, laden with rough transitions, and it all combines to take the reader out of the story again and again. It’s so clunky that I kept thinking, “Nobody talks like this. Why is this so awkward?” and it makes for an unpleasant read.

The art, however, was quite strong throughout. Penciller Carlo Pagulayan and his inkers Sean Parsons, Jason Paz, and Scott Hanna do a nice job with every aspect of the book, bringing some life to the weak script and saving the issue from being a complete disaster. Wonder Woman’s fight with Giganta is particularly well done, and they’ve got an excellent handle on Wonder Woman herself. I can see some of Nicola Scott’s take on the character, with a little bit of Gal Gadot mixed in too, all rendered in Pagulayan’s own style to add up to quite a good Wonder Woman. Their action scenes are enjoyable as well, and quite compelling if you ignore the dialogue and just focus on the visual storytelling. I’m curious to see more from them, and have my fingers crossed that they’ll end up with fun things to draw as the story progresses. Also, shout out to Romulo Fajardo Jr.! He’s back again colouring the book, and doing an amazing job as always. The man has an uncanny ability to pair seamlessly with any artist he works with in a complimentary way that elevates the art even higher, and he’s at it again with this issue. I’m so glad to see he’s sticking with the book.

So we’ve got good art and terrible writing, but the scales tip decidedly to the negative all together when we consider the ridiculous premise. The primary antagonist Grail is a product of the New 52 Amazons who have since been revealed as a fabrication by the gods, so basically she should not exist. But because of her prominent role in “The Darkseid War” event and the fact that she’s Darkseid’s daughter, she somehow carries on to plague Wonder Woman. And Wonder Woman’s brother, which is also a thing that is happening. He was teased in the “Rebirth” special, but seemingly forgotten for the next 15 months and never mentioned at all in the new Wonder Woman as much better stories were told instead. But here we are, picking up on some very dumb loose threads and tying it all together. At a time when everyone is in love with Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman and wants more Diana, more Amazons, more bad ass female characters generally, and more women in charge of these feminist icons, the comic’s got a male writer telling a story centered on Wonder Woman’s brother. And, if the first issue is any indication, a really bad story at that. I have no idea why DC is doing this. All I know is that it looks like it’s going to be a very long six month for Wonder Woman enthusiasts.


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