Posts Tagged ‘Emanuela Lupacchino’

Wonder Woman #45 Review: “Amazons Attacked” Stumbles to a Poor Conclusion

April 25, 2018

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Let’s start with some happy news: This run is going to end. We’ve always known this in the abstract, of course. Creative teams at the Big Two never last forever. But now we’ve got a date. On July 11, 2018, Wonder Woman #50 will come out and mark the end of James Robinson’s tenure writing the book. While it’s kind of a downer that they’re letting him write such a landmark issue after months of churning out terrible work, the bigger news is that it’s finally over. Steve Orlando and Laura Braga are taking over for a brief arc starting with Wonder Woman #51, and then a new, yet unnamed creative team will come in.

I’d be excited for anyone not named James Robinson to be writing the book, but Orlando is an especially good choice. I’ve enjoyed his work for a while now, and from his few comments on what’s to come it sounds like he’s got a good handle on Wonder Woman and why she’s amazing. Braga is a great choice, too. She’s done fantastic work on DC Comics Bombshells, and I’m looking forward to her drawing Wonder Woman in a more modern setting. It should all be a lot of fun. We’ve just got to slog through five more issues to get there!

Speaking of a slog, Wonder Woman #45 came out today, bringing the “Amazons Attacked” storyline to a close. The issue was bad, the arc was dumb, and damn near everything about this book continues to suck. So let’s talk about it, I guess? But first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to ruin the conclusion of this foolish arc!

Look away if you don’t want to know how Darkseid loses because… love?

It doesn’t make any sort of sense.

As I just mentioned, in this grand finale to months of painful storytelling, Wonder Woman defeats Darkseid with love. More specifically, she uses her love for her brothers, sisters, and other divine relatives killed by Darkseid in his quest to repower himself, loving them so fiercely that she somehow pulls their souls from his body. Darkseid, now weakened, burns up and disappears.

So, yeah. The thing is, Wonder Woman and love go hand in hand. Her compassion and her kindness have been hallmarks of the character from the very beginning. When William Moulton Marston created her, he made her the embodiment of the loving authority of women. If any superhero is going to use love to defeat a villain, it’s going to be Wonder Woman. The problem is, it still has to make sense. There’s need to be a degree of logic. You can’t just say that Diana’s love is “bright and true” and then ta-dah, Darkseid is done. Wonder Woman is not some sort of loving necromancer. She cannot draw out the souls of the dead through sheer affection alone.

And even if Robinson and co. wanted to make this a new superpower for her, then okay, explain it. It’s a bad, silly idea, but make it work. Set it up in some fashion. Do a little bit of foreshadowing and table setting so it doesn’t come off like a bizarre deus ex machina. Love is a wonderful, powerful thing, but to use it to such a degree, entirely out of the blue, kind of ruins the entire ending. Well, “ruin” is the wrong word. That implies that there was something good to begin with. But it’s cheap, and unearned, and generally dumb.

On top of that foolishness, this issue continues one of my main frustrations with this run: Robinson’s focus on male characters. I’ve said it a million times, but this book is called Wonder Woman. She should be the main character. And, almost as importantly, women should play an important role in the series, across the board. In this issue, we start with opening narration from Steve Trevor. Then Jason, a man, goes to Themyscira to save the Amazons from Grail’s attack. And finally Grail, once captured by the Amazons, is imprisoned with Ares so that HE can teach her the values of love and peace that he has learned. Learned from women, I might add; his wokeness comes from submission to Aphrodite and the Amazons. That’s too many dudes doing too many things. All while Wonder Woman defeats Darkseid in the dumbest of ways.

This issue is basically the culmination of so many terrible ideas. Bringing back Grail. Giving Diana a brother. Ignoring every rad female supporting character in the Wonder Woman mythos. Letting James Robinson write a comic book after, I’m guessing, he traded his skills at storytelling to some sort of evil leprechaun for magic beans? I’m not exactly sure how his writing turned so bad so quickly, but the larger point stands: The dude is doing garbage work here. And all of that combines into this boring, nonsensical conclusion that lacks any excitement, heart, or reader investment.

At least it looks pretty good. So long as you’ve got Emanuela Lupacchino drawing Wonder Woman, even if it’s just for some of the pages, it’s going to be a book worth looking at. She captures the character so well, and Ray McCarthy does a great job inking her work. Marco Santucci is solid, too. I prefer Lupacchino, but he carries off his pages nicely. And of course, series MVP Romulo Fajardo Jr. holds everything together with his coloring. The dude’s a magician. When books go off the rails like Wonder Woman has as of late, often times it shows up in the artwork. You see rushed drawing, and everyone down the production line starts phoning it in. While we’ve had some instances of hasty linework over the past few months, Fajardo Jr. has been making everyone look better with every single issue he colors. Give the man a dang raise, DC.

So, Darkseid is done, and now we’ve just got to get through some sort of Metal tie-in for the next five issues. Then we get a new creative team and maybe we can enjoy the book again? Gosh, I hope so. I’m real tired of hating what should be my favourite book.

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Wonder Woman #44 Review: The Fight Rages On! And Remains Terrible/Nigh Unreadable!

April 11, 2018

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I had a really nice weekend, gang. I went to Chicago for C2E2, had a great time at the show, tried a poke bowl for the first time (it was DELICIOUS). It was excellent all around, and the fun started with a panel discussion about Catwoman at The Book Cellar with some super smart comic critics. Angelica Jade Bastien, Lauren Burke, Caitlin Rosberg, Katie Schenkel, and I spent the bulk of the time discussing Catwoman, of course, but every now and again the conversation would turn to the current run of Wonder Woman. And with that turn came utter bewilderment at what a mess the book is right now, partly in relation to its brilliant “Rebirth” relaunch and partly just on its own, entirely lacking merits. Everyone was utterly flabbergasted at the horrible depths the series has sunk to as of late. It was a cathartic conversation, with the general consensus being that James Robinson should perhaps consider a different career path entirely.

Anyway, there’s a new Wonder Woman out this week, so let’s talk about it. But first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal the secrets of yet another painfully subpar issue of Wonder Woman!

They don’t make a lick of sense in terms of current continuity, though!

This book is dumb.

So this issue is mostly fighting, which I appreciated. The brawling meant that there weren’t long, drawn out conversations that lacked any semblance to normal human speech and simply regurgitated previously established facts. I’ve had enough of that with the past few issues. Now, the fighting wasn’t particularly good, nor were the quips and banter therein. The structure of the battle on the page jumped around a lot, seemingly at random, and the core brawl between Wonder Woman and Darkseid was the only one that actually mattered. Jason and Grail’s faceoff didn’t really go anywhere, while Steve and his Howling Commandos appeared to be entirely ineffective.

Like most of Robinson’s run, the battle was largely filler to get us from Point A to Point B without actually adding anything new or interesting to the story, revealing anything about the characters, or otherwise enhancing our reading experience. It was just a bunch of punches to burn through pages until Darkseid’s machine could be powered enough to open a portal to Themyscira. I do like a good fight. This is a superhero comic book, after all. But I like the fights to say something beyond “oh, this will fill up the issue until the dramatic reveal at the end.” This fight was entirely perfunctory. Any reader with any sense of how the story was unfolding would know that there were no stakes here at all. Darkseid’s plan was going to work, and no amount of brawling was going to change that.

And about this dramatic reveal. So Grail gets to Themyscira and turns some Amazons into parademons. I have two big thoughts about this. First, those Amazons would have DESTROYED Grail. I know she’s half Darkseid or whatever, but Amazons are Amazons and there were a bunch of them. Even with a surprise attack, the gal would have been taken down and hastily so. You don’t mess with the Amazons.

Second, this was framed as a homecoming for Grail after leaving the island years earlier, but here’s the thing: THIS IS NOT GRAIL’S PARADISE ISLAND. Remember when the New 52 relaunch messed up Wonder Woman and the Amazons so badly that DC brought in Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott to fix it? And that their solution was to explain that the New 52 Amazons were a fiction? Grail was created before this fix. She is a product of the fake Amazons, not the real Amazons. This Themyscira is not her home. Technically, her home doesn’t even exist and she is some sort of bizarre anomaly. The folks behind Wonder Woman don’t seem to care about any of this, and have decided to ignore the change in continuity entirely.

Continuity needn’t be a prison, of course, but these things were changed for a reason. The Wonder Woman mythos was fundamentally broken, and Rucka and Scott set in right in a way that resonated with scores of fans. But now, this run is undoing all of that. Rucka and Scott danced around Wonder Woman’s New 52, daughter of Zeus origin, giving DC an out for ever mentioning it again. This arc has made it a centerpiece of the story. Rucka and Scott wiped away the New 52’s terrible depiction of the Amazons, and this arc has brought back one of its oddest, dumbest choices with Grail. It’s mind boggling. Everyone did a very good thing with Wonder Woman: Year One. It’s easily one of the best Wonder Woman stories ever told! And now DC is letting this trash fire of an arc toss it all aside.

One bit of good news from this issue is that Emanuela Lupacchino is back. Even when she’s working on a tight schedule, which I suspect she may have been here, her art is always dynamic and enjoyable. She’s got a great grasp on Wonder Woman herself, and it was very fun to see her draw the Amazons, however briefly. It’s a shame that someone with such an obvious penchant for Wonder Woman and her world is being used for such a terrible storyline. I hope that she’ll get another shot at the book with a writer that actually understands and appreciates Diana. Romulo Fajardo Jr. remains on top of his game as well, like always. The richness of colour and the breadth of texture he brings to his work is just remarkable. It’s all so subtle and seamless, and remains the one thing keeping this entire run afloat. Luckily with Lupacchino he’s got some nice line work to enhance, but he’s definitely elevated several lesser artists in past issues and has maintained a consistent look for the title.

So yeah, we’ve got Amazon parademons now and more fights ahead, I assume. Good grief. There’s a few more issues of this foolishness, and then Robinson is starting yet another storyline. When will the horrors end?! Not anytime soon, it seems. Ugh.

 

Women & NB Creators at DC Comics Watch, May 2018 Solicits: 23 Creators on 20 Books

March 6, 2018

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May looks to be another pedestrian month for female and non-binary creator representation at DC Comics. Despite a lot of big changes and new initiatives, the numbers have been sitting in the mid-20s for several months now. While it’s not the worst we’ve seen from the publisher, they’ve shown themselves to be capable of far higher totals. And unfortunately, the future isn’t looking very bright at the moment, either. Let’s take a look at who’s doing what at DC Comics this May:

  • Amanda Conner: Harley Quinn: Harley Loves Joker #1 (cover), Harley Quinn: Harley Loves Joker #2 (cover)
  • Becky Cloonan: Shade, The Changing Woman #3 (cover)
  • Carmen Carnero: Green Arrow Annual #2 (interior art)
  • Cecil Castellucci: Shade, The Changing Woman #3 (writer)
  • Emanuela Lupacchino: Wonder Woman #46 (cover), Wonder Woman #47 (cover)
  • Hope Larson: Batgirl #23 (writer)
  • Jenny Frison: Wonder Woman #46 (variant cover), Wonder Woman #47 (variant cover)
  • Jill Thompson: Action Comics Special #1 (interior art)
  • Jody Houser: Mother Panic: Gotham A.D. #3 (writer)
  • Joelle Jones: Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #5 (variant cover)
  • Julie Benson: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #22 (co-writer), Green Arrow Annual #2 (co-writer)
  • Kamome Shirahama: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #22 (variant cover)
  • Magdalene Visaggio: Eternity Girl #3 (writer)
  • Marguerite Bennett: Batwoman #15 (writer), Bombshells United #17 (writer), Bombshells United #18 (writer)
  • Marley Zarcone: Shade, The Changing Woman #3 (interior art)
  • Nicola Scott: Mera, Queen of Atlantis #4 (cover)
  • Paulina Ganucheau: Bombshells United #17 (cover)
  • Rachael Stott: Motherlands #5 (interior art)
  • Rachel Dodson: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #22 (cover), Bombshells United #18 (cover)
  • Sandra Hope: The Silencer #5 (cover)
  • Shawna Benson: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #22 (co-writer), Green Arrow Annual #2 (co-writer)
  • Siya Oum: Bombshells United #17 (interior art)
  • Yasmine Putri: Nightwing #44 (variant cover), Wonder Woman Annual #2 (cover)

All together, there are 23 different female creators set to work on 20 different books at DC Comics in May, the same number of creators as in April though on 3 fewer books. As best I can tell, there are no non-binary creators listed in the solicits this month. These totals are among the lowest DC has posted in a while, though they remain in the ballpark of where the publisher has been lately. A range of 23-27 women and non-binary creators has been the norm, and it’s been that way despite some big creative changes. Losses somewhere were met with gains elsewhere, keeping things about the same for a while now.

But this could change very soon. A couple of big cancellations were announced recently that are going to have a significant effect on the numbers. First, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey is shipping its final issue in May. That book has been a powerhouse for female creators. It accounts for four of the names listed above, and has done so more or less steadily for the past year and a half. On top of that, Bombshells United is set to wrap up soon. From DC Comics Bombshells through Bombshells United, the book has been a bastion of female representation at DC for years now. Not only were women working on it at all levels of production, it also double shipped frequently, adding a slew of names to the list each month. It was a showcase for female artists as well, with creators like Mirka Andolfo, Laura Braga, Carmen Carnero, and many more doing fantastic work there before moving on elsewhere in the DC universe. Without it, not only are the numbers going to take a hit, but an important pipeline for female creators will be lost.

So that’s going to be a lot for the rest of the line to have to overcome. Batgirl and the Birds of Prey will be gone in the June solicits, and Bombshells has maybe a month or two left. And we’ve yet to see any news on what female and non-binary creator-led titles could replace them. Things are ramping up for a lot of big changes at DC, with Brian Michael Bendis taking over the Superman line and Scott Snyder tackling the Justice League. But from the looks of things, they’re bringing a lot of dudes with them to draw those books. Unless DC’s got some exciting new announcements up their sleeve, and several of them, I fear the numbers are going to start to drop very soon.

Wonder Woman #40 Review: Still With This Foolishness?

February 14, 2018

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There’s a line in today’s issue of Wonder Woman that perfectly captures the quality of writing we’ve been dealing with for the past several months. The woefully underdeveloped villain Silver Swan is flying through the night sky, stinging from her recent battle with Wonder Woman, and as she sees the moon shining she notes, “The moon reflects the cold silver of my dead heart.” Friends, I laughed out loud. The unfortunate thing is, I don’t think writer James Robinson was trying to be funny here. He’s constructed what he must imagine is a serious villain, given the swath of bodies left in her wake, yet her internal monologue reads like a bad goth parody. And, unsurprisingly given how poor this run has been, the rest of the writing in this issue is not much better. I remain flabbergasted that DC Comics is allowing such a terrible story for one of their marquee characters. We’ll get into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

Do not read this review unless you want to know all of the big reveals from this issue!

I mean, most of these reveals are very dumb!

And badly written!

But still!

Reviewing this series lately just feels like making a list of complaints, which is something I do not care for. And yet, here we are again. I’d much rather be celebrating a fine comic book than criticizing a bad one, but this book just keeps finding new ways to be unpleasant every other week. It’s like compounded interest, except with terribleness instead of money. And I’m not at all shocked to see a new array of dumb decisions in this issue, on top of the already asinine storyline.

Let’s start with the art. It was fairly solid, as always. Emanuela Lupacchino and Carmen Carnero are quite good at their craft, and there was a lot of nice work in this outing. Throughout this run, the art has been the one decent thing we can count on, even when these fine artists are drawing the dumbest of stories. However, there was an odd choice that I didn’t much like. Lupacchino drew Jason towering over Diana, making him a full head taller than her in several panels. She often looked like a little pixie when next to his imposing frame. First, this is new. Jason was drawn only slightly taller than Diana initially. And second, Wonder Woman is tall. She is an imposing figure herself. To make her look small, you have to be a dang giant, or at the very least some sort of basketball star.

Moreover, the juxtaposition made her look not weak, but lesser, to a degree. There’s nothing at all wrong with being shorter, of course. Strength is not relative to size. But Diana and Jason are twins, and I think it’s a poor choice to make the male twin so much bigger. Especially in a genre where the men are typically behemoths and the women are tiny. They should be equals, and they’ve not been drawn as such here.

We’ve also got a condescending Steve Trevor moment in this issue that felt very out of character. If you’re not writing Steve Trevor as a good dude, you’re not writing him well. He is a fundamentally decent, respectful person, especially when it comes to women. So I found it a bit during when, during his battle with the Furies, he patronizingly called Lashina “sweetheart.” It’s a small thing, to be sure. But it’s a small thing that’s indicative of a writer who’s just doesn’t seem that interested in getting the characters right. That’s not something Steve would say. And since he’s only in two pages this issue, and has been an afterthought for a lot of this run, such a glaring error stands out especially sharply.

This outing also sees the introduction of another villain, and I’m not excited about it. Why would DC give Robinson the chance to screw up another classic Wonder Woman villain? It’s mind boggling. The revelation comes near the end of the issue, when a reflection reveals that the kindly Dr. Edward Carne looks to in fact be Dr. Psycho. Now, I’m not great at predicting plots and twists, in part because I don’t like to. I’d rather just follow along with where the story’s going. But the second the book introduced a short, friendly doctor talking about “the power of the mind,” my immediate thought was “well, that’s probably Dr. Pyscho then.” I was very amused when the next page revealed just that. It’s a weak twist, and I really don’t want Robinson to screw up this character too. Haven’t we been subjected to enough already? I have zero faith that he’ll do something interesting with him.

Elsewhere, the arc continued in its usual underwhelming way. Diana and Jason argued about proper heroing. There was another fight with the Silver Swan, and ultimately Wonder Woman captured here. Then Jason decided to run away because he’s so bad at being a superhero. Except that when he went to leave, he was swept up in some type of malevolent purple force. My fingers are crossed that he’d dead and gone, but that seems unlikely. Chances are, Grail and Darkseid have him now and we’ll see him again sooner than later.

So the overarching story is still plodding along. The Silver Swan tale is done for now, and it sounds like we’ve got Darkseid vs. the Amazons coming up next. And then, hopefully, a new creative team that knows what they’re doing. But after all of this complaining, let’s take a moment to recognize something amazing about this series. Jenny Frison has been doing variant covers for Wonder Woman for well over a year now, and they are consistently fantastic. I usually put up the main cover at the start of my review, but DANG did Frison outdo herself this week and I had to post that instead. That cover is stunning, and one of her best yet. I don’t know why DC isn’t making her covers the main ones, because they are gorgeous. Though really, I don’t know why DC isn’t doing a lot of things differently with Wonder Woman these days. Nonetheless, what a stellar piece of art. She’s been doing phenomenal work.

Women & NB Creators at DC Comics Watch, April 2018 Solicits: 23 Creators on 23 Books

February 6, 2018

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April looks to be another subpar month for female and non-binary creator representation at DC Comics. Not only has the publisher posted their lowest numbers of the year thus far, the total also leaves them well below their past highs. For several months now, DC’s been operating at about 2/3 of the level they’ve shown themselves to be capable of achieving in the past, with few signs that this is going to change any time soon. Let’s take a look at who is doing what at DC Comics this April:

  • Amanda Conner: Harley Quinn #41 (cover), Harley Quinn #42 (cover), The Jetsons #6 (cover)
  • Aneke: Bombshells United #15 (interior art)
  • Becky Cloonan: Shade, The Changing Woman #2 (cover)
  • Cecil Castellucci: Shade, The Changing Woman #2 (writer)
  • Emanuela Lupacchino: Bombshells United #15 (cover), Wonder Woman #44 (interior art), Wonder Woman #45 (interior art)
  • Hope Larson: Batgirl #22 (writer)
  • Jenny Frison: Wonder Woman #44 (variant cover), Wonder Woman #45 (variant cover)
  • Jill Thompson: Scooby Apocalypse #24 (cover)
  • Jody Houser: Mother Panic: Gotham A.D. #2 (writer), Supergirl #20 (co-writer)
  • Joelle Jones: Batman #44 (interior art)
  • Julie Benson: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #21 (co-writer)
  • Kamome Shirahama: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #21 (variant cover)
  • Louise Simonson: Action Comics #1000 (writer)
  • Magdalene Visaggio: Eternity Girl #2 (writer)
  • Marguerite Bennett: Batwoman #14 (writer), Bombshells United #15 (writer), Bombshells United #16 (writer)
  • Marguerite Sauvage: Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #4 (variant cover)
  • Marley Zarcone: Shade, The Changing Woman #2 (interior art)
  • Nicola Scott: Mera, Queen of Atlantis #3 (cover)
  • Rachael Stott: Motherlands #4 (interior art)
  • Rachel Dodson: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #21 (cover), Bombshells United #16 (cover)
  • Sandra Hope: The Silencer #4 (cover)
  • Shawna Benson: Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #21 (co-writer)
  • Yasmine Putri: Nightwing #42 (variant cover), Nightwing #43 (variant cover)

All together, there are 23 different female creators scheduled to work on 23 different comic books at DC in April, 3 few creators than in March and 1 fewer book. To the best of my knowledge, there are no non-binary creators in DC’s solicits this month. While the drop from last month isn’t disastrous, it does leave DC with their lowest combined total of female creators and books since August 2016. That’s not encouraging news. The numbers have been flat for a while now, and DC doesn’t seem to be doing much to change that right now. What’s more, all of their recent announcements for what’s to come through the spring and into the summer have predominantly featured male creators.

Everyone listed above is someone we’ve seen before, which is part of the reason the numbers aren’t growing. Bringing in new talent is important. We haven’t seen Louise Simonson in some time, though, and it’s great that she’s going to be a part of Action Comics #1000! Less great that she’s the only female creator who’s been announced on the book thus far, however.

Also troubling is how the gigs break down this month. Of the 23 women writing or drawing DC’s books, 10 of them are solely doing covers. While covers are key, of course, the bulk of the storytelling happens inside the pages, where only 13 women have work in April. That’s 13 women across DC’s monthly line of 80+ comic books. It’s some paltry representation.

April looks to be a quiet month for new titles as well. The only flashy new thing is the thousandth issue of Action Comics, and while I’m hoping that it will turn out to be a good showcase for Lois Lane, who is celebrating this milestone alongside Superman, I’m not holding my breath. Everything else is the usual fare, though it sounds like we’ll be getting a lot of new stuff and some major creative changes across the board in May and beyond as spinoffs from DC’s “Metal” event begin and the publisher moves pieces around to adjust to Brian Michael Bendis’ prominent new role.

Overall, April is not a particularly good month for female and non-binary creator representation at DC. While the publisher’s not been as atrociously poor as Marvel lately, that doesn’t mean that their numbers are good. Both of the Big Two are underachieving right now, Marvel’s just doing especially poorly. DC appears to be stuck in a bit of a rut. Their current bench of female creators is excellent, but they’re not doing anything to expand the ranks. It’ll be interesting to see what the next few months brings as big creative upheavals hit the lineup, but given how things have been going so far in 2018, signs don’t yet point to a major female and non-binary creator renaissance on the horizon.

Wonder Woman #39 Review: Let’s Talk About The One Good Thing This Book Has Going For It

January 24, 2018

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It’s tough to come up with new and creative ways to say a comic book is terribly written every two weeks, and James Robinson is doing me no favours by continually churning out one of the worst Wonder Woman runs in recent memory. And that’s saying something. Remember the Finches? This might be even worse than that. Point being, I can only talk about this horrendous storyline so much before I lose my mind. It’s just too terrible. So today, let’s turn a negative into a positive. Yes, today’s new issue of Wonder Woman is still hot garbage and everyone at DC should feel bad about themselves for putting out such a bad book. However, today is also Colorist Appreciation Day, when comic book fans take to social media to celebrate the pivotally important, criminally overlooked artists who make the comics look good (#ColoristAppreciationDay). So let’s do that instead! But first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I’m gonna run through the stupid contents of this issue real quick first!

But then I’m going to tell you how rad Romulo Fajardo Jr.’s coloring is!

So basically, Wonder Woman is still fighting Silver Swan, the most underdeveloped villain in the history of villains. Apparently there’s some sort of nanobot situation behind her transformation? Anyway, she’s evil and angry and spending most of her time rehashing literally everything we learned last issue, in typical Robinson fashion. Also, Darkseid and Grail are hanging out in the Amazon rain forest, and Darkseid sends the Female Furies after Steve Trevor and his knockoff Howling Commandos. Oh, and Jason tries to get into the fighting mix and uses some dumb wind power or something. Surprising no one, it proves ineffective. So yeah, it’s all very bad.

Apart from the art! Before I get to the colorist, I should again praise the fine work of Emanuela Lupacchino and Ray McCarthy, who are making some horrible writing at least nice to look at. This week they’re joined by Carmen Carnero, who does some fine work as well. It’s a good looking book. You’d be better served to look at the pretty pictures and make up your own story and dialogue, really.

The lovely art is, of course, brought to life by the marvelous coloring of Romulo Fajardo Jr. He’s been the only real constant on Wonder Woman since it’s “Rebirth” relaunch, and has been doing great work on the title for over a year and a half now. After sharing duties with Laura Martin, who colored Liam Sharp’s art, for the first year, he’s been the sole colorist since. It’s been a remarkable run for several reasons.

First, by my count, he’s worked with over eleven different line art teams during that span. That’s a lot of change, and with each new artist he’s adapted his style to fit their artwork. Fajardo Jr. could have just colored them all exactly the same, but he doesn’t. When the art is more realistic, his colors are more subtle and textured to bring out the realism. When the art is more cartoonish, he goes a bit brighter and bolder and sells the style. There’s definite consistency throughout his work, too. The man’s blending in his shading, especially with skin tones, is impeccable, and the dude does amazing work with different textures. His ability to adapt to his artists while putting out high quality work is impressive, and it gives the series a cohesiveness that counters the constant upheaval of the line art changes.

Second, it’s hard to be a colorist under the best of circumstances. If a script is late or the artist gets behind, the colorist is the last line of defense to ensure that the book comes out on time. This often involves working on crazy deadlines to pick up the slack for everyone else. It’s a thankless, high pressure job, and is doubly so on a bi-weekly series like Wonder Woman. The book is coming out every two weeks come hell or high water, and Romulo Fajardo Jr. is the person that has to carry the baton for the final stretch of the race with each and every issue. And he nails it! Every two weeks, we get a gorgeously colored comic book. No matter who’s writing or drawing it, the coloring is smooth and uniform and pulls the whole issue together.

With every issue of Wonder Woman, whether I’m engrossed in the story and devouring it or appalled at the story and trudging my way through, there’s always at least one moment where I stop and marvel at something Fajardo Jr. has done. Often it’s something small, like the texture of a rock. An inconsequential bit that you could slap a bit of grey on and be fine, saving your time to make sure Wonder Woman herself looks good and fancy. But he always adds a little something to it to make it feel a bit more real, to make the comic book reading experience more immersive. I mean, look at this splash page from the last issue:

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The linework is gorgeous, but he takes it to new heights. The smooth skin tones, the shine on the metal armor, the glow of the lasso, the texture in the stone, the grit on the girl trapped in the rubble. Everything pops. The man’s got an epic arsenal of skills at his disposal, and he uses them with aplomb. His attention to detail adds so much to the book.

Romulo Fajardo Jr. has been a key part of Wonder Woman’s comic book adventures for years now, not just with Wonder Woman itself but dating back to Wonder Woman ’77 as well. His coloring really brought Lynda Carter to life in the early issues of that series, and it’s been exciting to follow his career since then. I’m glad he’s remained part of the Wonder Woman family, and it’s been so fun to see him color some of my favourite artists, including Mirka Andolfo, Bilquis Evely, Emanuela Lupacchino, and Nicola Scott. The man is going to go down in history for “Year One” alone; Scott killed it, obviously, but his colors paired with her linework beautifully, and that collection is going to be a classic for as long as comic books exist. So my thanks go out to Romulo Fajardo Jr., the MVP of Wonder Woman! I hope he gets to color her and her adventures for years to come!

Wonder Woman #38 Review: This Silver Swan Tale is an Ugly Duckling

January 10, 2018

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It’s a New Year, gang, and after spending the latter part of last year slogging through some truly horrendous Wonder Woman comic books, this first issue of 2018 offers us an opportunity for a fresh start. James Robinson remains the writer of the book, of course, for reasons no one seems to completely understand. But still, we’ve got the beginning of a brand new arc! Wonder Woman’s brother and all of the shenanigans with Darkseid and Grail are so 2017. Now it’s time for a different story, courtesy of the introduction of Silver Swan. Will it be a fun, new start for the book? (Spoiler alert: No). Will Robinson leave the sins of the past behind and tell a compelling story? (Spoiler alert: Also no). Will Wonder Woman finally get to take center stage in her own title? (Spoiler alert: Still, no). Let’s dig into it all and find out, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal the major plot points of this issue!

Look away if you have not read it yet!

But also, just don’t read it. It’s still so bad. I’ve read it for you. Spare yourself the pain.

I have to say, the first eight pages of this issue aren’t terrible. They aren’t good by any means, but there’s potential. We’ve got Emanuela Lupacchino pencilling the book, with inks from Ray McCarthy, and that’s a very fine start indeed. Lupacchino draws a great Wonder Woman, and the book opens with a lovely full page spread of our favourite heroine, beautifully coloured as always by Romulo Fajardo Jr. The fight scene with Major Disaster that follows is nicely done as well, even as the girl Diana saved, a new version of Vanessa Kapatelis, takes over the narrative. The writing’s still iffy, laden with Robinson’s bizarre punctuation choices and his utter inability to craft words that Wonder Woman would conceivably say. But the story as a whole is decent. Wonder Woman saves Vanessa, who is paralyzed during Major Disaster’s attack, visits her regularly in the hospital, and the two become friends. It’s a nice start. Easily the best eight pages of Wonder Woman we’ve seen since Robinson became the book’s writer.

Then he drives the issue right off a cliff. Wonder Woman visits Vanessa less and less, because she’s busy, you know, saving the dang world, and Vanessa gets bitter and angry. The senseless death of her mother compounds these feelings, and hate begins to set in. Meanwhile, Jason throws a party at Diana’s beach house and she has to give him a talking to, which means a) that her dope of a brother is still around, and b) Diana’s role in the back half of this issue consists solely of scolding the dope.

Let me just pause for a second here. WHO WANTS TO READ THAT?! I cannot understand how the writer and editors in charge of Wonder Woman thought that it would be a good idea to dedicate FIVE PAGES, a full QUARTER of the book, to Diana chastising her brother for partying it up and not properly dedicating himself to heroism. Granted, they’ve been making terrible story decisions for several months now. But still, NOBODY WANTS THIS. Nobody wants to read about her brother in the first place, much less her having to babysit him and try to keep him in line. When people buy Wonder Woman, they expect some Wonder Woman fun. Superheroing. Saving the world. Fun sisterhood. Smash the patriarchy a bit. Not this foolishness. Argh.

So after the scolding, a family Wonder Woman recently saved ends up dead. It turns out that Vanessa has become the Silver Swan and, fueled by her anger at Wonder Woman for abandoning her, flies into a jealous rage and murders them, then waits for Wonder Woman to show up so she can make a dramatic proclamation that she is her worst enemy.

This is all terrible, for several reasons. First, can Wonder Woman get a decent female friend at some point please? This is Wonder Woman. Sisterhood is kind of a big deal. We spent the last arc with her battling Grail, now she’s going to be battling Silver Swan, all the while the only people she talks to are Steve and her brother. Where’s Etta Candy? Where are her female superhero pals? Why is this book a sea of dudes, evil women, and occasionally, but only occasionally, Wonder Woman? It makes no sense.

Second, this is a very quick turn for Vanessa. To have her go from loving Wonder Woman to hating Wonder Woman in the span of an issue feels entirely unearned, doubly so because this is a revamp of a key character in the Wonder Woman mythos. During the George Perez relaunch in the late 1980s, Julia Kapatelis was Diana’s first friend in America, and she and her daughter Vanessa became like family to her. Vanessa’s relationship with Diana was lengthy and well fleshed out, and they went through a lot together. When Vanessa eventually became a new version of the villainous Silver Swan, it was after well over a decade of stories, and various fiendish machinations from other villains to brainwash her into the role. There was a deep history there by the time it occurred.

Here, Robinson bypasses all of that. He borrows the name but not the backstory, manufacturing a slapdash relationship between Diana and Vanessa that does no justice whatsoever to her past prominence. And then he turns it entirely halfway through, making her a villain because she was angry that Wonder Woman was too busy to visit her. That origin is a) weak sauce, and b) quite the change. Going from a brave teen persevering through her injuries to a stone cold murderer all in one issue is too fast a turnaround for it to have any emotional impact.

Also, we’ve had three villain origin stories in this run: Grail, Jason, and now Silver Swan. Each one featured a scene in which they see Wonder Woman on television and get angry over her being out and about and saving the day. It’s such lazy writing. All three villains thus far have been rage-fueled, jealous narcissists. Now, this could be interesting if the book served as a reflection on these traits and why Wonder Woman in particular sparks such anger, perhaps delving into how both men and women are conditioned to try to tear down strong women in our patriarchal society. That might be compelling. But this is not that. This is just lazy, hacky writing, recycling the same few notes and doing nothing new or interesting with any of it.

So basically, things aren’t any better now despite the new arc and the New Year. Shocking, I know. Being negative all the time brings me down; seriously, I’d much prefer to be gushing over how great Wonder Woman is and all of the little things I love about it. But the fact is, this run is awful and it’s just not going to get any better. We have to wait it out and hope for a better creative team and better editors when it’s done.


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