Posts Tagged ‘Greg Rucka’

My Top 10 Superhero Comic Books of 2017

December 20, 2017

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It’s been an interesting year for superhero comic books. DC’s been trucking along with “Rebirth,” telling a lot of fun stories in the mix. Marvel’s been more split, with half the line spending a considerable part of the year embroiled in weird Nazi/Hydra antics while several of the titles that avoided Secret Empire put out some very enjoyable adventures. When I sat down to figure out my favourite superhero comics of the year, I was amused to see my list split down the middle, half DC and half Marvel! While I’d definitely say that DC had the better year overall, qualitywise, Marvel’s good books were VERY good.

Before we get to the list, though, I should point out that it’s been a great year for non-superhero comics, too. The cape books are my main focus here, of course, but I’ve been enjoying all sorts of other titles. More specifically, Bitch Planet: Triple Feature was excellent, as was the latest “season” of Sex Criminals from Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. I’ve also been enjoying Goldie Vance by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams, the latest volume of George O’Connor’s Olympians was fantastic as always, and Paper Girls from Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang remains gorgeous if all over the place, storywise. I’m always down for Cliff Chiang art! There’s no lack of wonderful comics out there right now across all sorts of genres and styles.

But now, onto my favourite superhero comic books of the year! Check out the list, and let me know your favourites from the past year in the comments:

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10) Batman by Tom King, Mikel Janin, Joelle Jones, and more

I’m reading Batman in trade so I’m a little bit behind, but I’m enjoying the heck out of it. I was leery of it initially, since the premises didn’t grab me. Superpowered heroes in Gotham? More Bane shenanigans? I didn’t think it’d be for me. Then I read the books and was quickly proved wrong. King and his excellent array of artists make it all work beautifully. And of course, I love the prominent role that Catwoman has in the run. She’s become a major player here, and while she and Batman are bad ass and cool, as always, compassion seems to be the core of both characterizations. It’s good stuff, and often beautifully drawn.

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9) Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson

This book has been amazing for a while now, and it showed no signs of slowing down on that front in 2017. Is Ryan North still writing it? Is Erica Henderson still drawing it? Is Squirrel Girl still eating nuts and kicking butts? Then it’s going to remain great. And it has! North and Henderson bring so much heart and humour to the comic. It’s just a joy to read, and served as a most welcome counter to the bleak storylines that took over a lot of Marvel books this year. If you like delightful things, then go start reading Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.

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8) Green Arrow by Benjamin Percy, Otto Schmidt, and more

I’ve enjoyed the stories in Green Arrow over the past year well enough, but I’ll be honest: The book made my Top 10 for Otto Schmidt alone. His art is SO GOOD. His pages just sing. The art isn’t terribly out there for a superhero book, but it’s absolutely unique and different and stands out from everything else on the stands right now. I think part of it is that he colors it himself, and everything on the page feels so cohesive and complimentary. It’s really remarkable stuff. Green Arrow cycles through a variety of artists, like most DC books right now, and while they’re all pretty solid, Schmidt’s work is just next level. I want him to draw every superhero now.

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7) All New Wolverine by Tom Taylor, Leonard Kirk, Nik Virella, and more

Step aside, old Wolverine. You were fun while you lasted, but the new Wolverine is so much better. She’s got everything we expect from a Wolverine: claws, ferocity, a propensity for going after anyone who threatens her friends with a berserker rage. But instead of being a mopey guy who’s been around forever, she’s a cantankerous yet endearing young woman. Plus she’s assembled a great supporting cast over the course of this run. It’s a fun, exciting book, and I’m completely fine with never seeing the old Wolverine again now.

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6) Detective Comics by James Tynion IV, Eddy Barrows, Marcio Takara, and more

Team books can be a tricky thing. There are a lot of characters to manage, and a few always end up taking a backseat while a handful come to the fore. Tynion and his rotating teams of artists have struck an impressive balance here, largely by backseating the character you’d expect to see more than anyone else: Batman. He’s a key figure, but doesn’t dominate the book. Instead, Batwoman leads the team and the spotlight gets shared by Azrael, Batwing, Clayface, Orphan, and Spoiler. The degree of attention ebbs and flows, but no one goes too long without a good storyline or an important role. The book also manages to tell its own stories while weaving in and out of the bigger events at DC over the past year. It’s a solid Bat-team book that I always find myself looking forward to.

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5) Mighty Thor by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and more

I’m a big fan of the classic Thor, but what Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman have done with Jane Foster as Thor is far and away my favourite take on the character yet. It’s been a huge year for her, with an intergalactic war and darkness spreading through the nine realms, not to mention the return of Odinson and the emergence of the War Thor. But amid all of the epicness, the story of Jane battling cancer and sacrificing her well-being to be the hero the world, nay, the universe needs has been so beautifully told. The heart Aaron and Dauterman bring to their crazy action and adventure is what makes this one of the best books on the stands.

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4) Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka, Shea Fontana, Mirka Andolfo, Bilquis Evely, and more

Not right now, obviously. Wonder Woman has been garbage since James Robinson et al. took over a few months ago. But before that, the book was having a great year. The wrap up of the “Godwatch” and “The Truth” arcs was a powerful, well-executed conclusion to an excellent run that provided a much needed revitalization of Wonder Woman after a rough few years. Then we got “Heart of the Amazon,” which was an awesome team up between Diana and Etta Candy that pitted them against superpowered assassins and evil scientists. Now the book is about Wonder Woman and her brother and it suuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks, but up until then it was a really great year of stories.

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3) Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads

People were raving about this book before the first issue even came out, and with all of that buzz building and building, I came into this with high expectations. Mister Miracle beat those expectations with ease. The first issue especially is just masterful storytelling. It’s intentionally disorienting yet it pulls you along, and when you finally realize what’s happening it’s a gut punch that is heartbreaking yet so perfect for the character. Subsequent issues have been fascinating in their own right. It’s a unique, compelling book that is a worthy vehicle for Mister Miracle and Big Barda, two of Jack Kirby’s best creations.

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2) Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson, Marco Failla, Takeshi Miyazawa, and more

Ms. Marvel has been stellar for years now. Introducing a Muslim, Pakistani-American, teen heroine was no mean feat, and yet the book has never taken a step wrong. And this year was no exception. Kamala went through a lot, both professionally and personally, and as the year went on the book began to echo a lot of the issues facing America as a whole in 2017. Ms. Marvel is grounded in our reality in a way most superhero books aren’t, and that led to some incisive storytelling that still paired beautifully with all of the usual fun and action we expect from the series.

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1) Hawkeye by Kelly Thompson, Leonardo Romero, Michael Walsh, and more

The Fraction/Aja/Wu era of Hawkeye is easily one of the best superhero runs of the past decade, and set a massively high bar for any and all Hawkeye stories moving forward. Thompson, Romero, and Walsh have reached that bar and more with Kate Bishop’s new solo series. The book is an absolute joy, from Thompson’s sharp and hilarious dialogue to Romero and Walsh doing an amazing job with all of the archery action and comedic beats packed into each issue. Plus there’s some serious heart and pathos beyond all of the fun, with Kate dealing with some heavy stuff. Things are rarely cool and chill for a Hawkeye, as much as they may pretend otherwise. The book is a dang delight, each and every month, and I love it to bits.

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Wonder Woman #25 Review: The Grand Finale for Rucka, Sharp, Evely, and the Rest!

June 28, 2017

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As someone who is absolutely steeped in Wonder Woman, who’s written a book about her and has read every single issue of Wonder Woman, you can take it to the bank when I say this: I don’t think there’s ever been a better 25 issue run of Wonder Woman than what we’ve been enjoying for the past year since the “Rebirth” relaunch. Wonder Woman has had some amazing runs over the years, and I could see arguments for other eras; the first two years of the Perez era, perhaps, or the fantastic bizarreness that was the Golden Age. But for me, what Greg Rucka, Bilquis Evely, Nicola Scott, and Liam Sharp have put together takes the top spot. This is in part because it’s amazing on its own, but even more so because it so successfully reoriented the character after her increasingly disastrous five year New 52 run. The team managed to fix a bad situation and tell an expansive, fantastic story at the same time. It’s really quite a remarkable feat. And now we’re at the end of it! We’ll discuss it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

Also, go read it! It’s very, very, very good!

This finale brings together all of the elements from this entire run, tying up the loose ends on some while leaving other plotlines open ended for future creators to explore. There are lots of references to past issues, including Wonder Woman’s first meeting with Batman and Superman from the recent Wonder Woman Annual #1; what seemed at the time like a fun, inconsequential one-off tale came into play here at the end. It’s a good example of what Rucka’s writing has done over the past year. Small beats had big ramifications down the road, and what seemed like tangents all added up to something bigger. I remember being frustrated with “The Lies” early on because it focused so much on the Cheetah, a character I’d just assumed was included as a quick initial foe for Wonder Woman, and took it’s time getting to the actual lies. But it turned out, of course, that the Cheetah was a pivotal player in this book, and that the slow burn at the start of “The Lies” laid a lot of the groundwork for everything to come. The master plan became visible only months later.

So the finale begins with Wonder Woman in a bad mood, and understandably so. Her family remains lost to her, the Cheetah has escaped, her lasso is gone, and worst of all, her gods have been lying to her. She’s got some anger about it all, so much so that she’s punching villains extra hard and ignoring Steve. But some straight talk from her pals Batman and Superman sends her on a quest to find her gods, and they honour her anger. A speech from a mysterious woman who turns out to be Athena sets things right; she acknowledges that Diana is right to be angry, but that even with all of the manipulations of the gods, “The truth of you has never changed, Diana. Even the gods themselves could not take that away from you.” It fits in text, a nod to Wonder Woman’s steadfast heroism during the trials of the past 25 issues. But I think the moment stands as a larger statement about Wonder Woman, that no matter how many different incarnations of the character there are, some of them good and some of them bad, there is a core to her that shines through, an essential truth about her strength, compassion, and heroism that was imbued in her from her earliest days. The gods then return her lasso as a sign that they love her, and she leaves with a renewed belief in herself and her larger mission.

She then finds Steve Trevor, and amorous activities ensue. I could be wrong, but I think that this might be the first time they’ve actually hooked up in text? It’s been implied at various times, but I can’t recall seeing them in anything like the heartwarming last page of this issue, with them in each other’s arms in bed. There was their kiss and the implication of something more during that night in the village in the Wonder Woman movie, but in the comics they dated from the 40s through the 80s, when they couldn’t show anything like that, and then Steve wasn’t a romantic factor for the next 25 years. With the New 52 relaunch, the romance was back but past. Now they’re actively together again, in ways I think we’ve never seen before. It works as a lovely end to the book, as a much deserved moment of love and happiness for Diana. Plus, Steve shaved for the occasion, getting rid of that god awful goatee, so it was a good scene all around!

The finale leaves the rest of the cast in several interesting, open ended spots. Etta Candy, who’s been an absolute delight in this run, is going after the Cheetah, her former girlfriend Barbara turned crazed feline foe. This is a story I need to see. Their relationship was a background element that became increasingly important in terms of the Cheetah’s connection to her humanity. I hope that Etta getting Barbara back is a priority for a future creative team. The Cheetah’s a much more interesting character now as well, and I very much hope that DC stays true to Rucka and Sharp’s revamp of her in the future.

And finally, my evil favourite, Veronica Cale. She’s the worst and I love her. Her backstory was so well established that we totally understand her full embracing of villainy now, and as much as it’s sad that she didn’t turn away from it, damn she’s a good villain. I’m going to miss Bilquis Evely drawing her so much. She brought such heart to the character throughout “Godwatch” and really sold the story through her take on Veronica. And here, Evely’s depiction of Veronica’s confrontation with Wonder Woman is just perfect. Her sneer when she refuses to help Diana is spectacular. Veronica Cale could be an epic villain for years to come, and I hope that DC embraces that and does her justice in the future.

So we’ve reached the end of the run, and while I’m sad it’s over, I’m glad that Wonder Woman has been so well reoriented. I’m also sort of happy that Rucka and everyone decided to end things here. I’d have been down for more, but everything has wrapped up well and they’ve accomplished what they set out to do beautifully. Diana is in a good place, and is well positioned for new teams to tell exciting stories with her moving forward. I’m looking forward to Shea Fontana and Mirka Andolfo taking over the book for the next few issues, though I’m considerably less keen on James Robinson coming in after that. However, I’m optimistic that his run is just a bit of “Rebirth” housekeeping and that the New Year will bring a new team with a fresh perspective to the book. Rucka, Evely, Scott, and Sharp have demonstrated how amazing Wonder Woman can be, and it will be fun to see new voices picking up the baton from here on.

Wonder Woman #24 Review: Tragedies on Multiple Fronts in the Run’s Penultimate Issue

June 14, 2017

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We’re nearing the end of this current, excellent run of Wonder Woman, and everything has come together. After four disparate arcs, connected with small moments but kept separate by time, everything’s now merged. Wonder Woman #24 picks up where Wonder Woman #23 left off, a common occurrence for most comic books but an oddity for the dual narratives that have been so key to Wonder Woman since the “Rebirth” relaunch. And now, after 24 issues of surprises and revelations, the full run has taken its toll on everyone. Pretty much every major player in the series is facing tragedy, a crucible that has revealed the true nature of each of them in their responses to these trying circumstances. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal all of the key events of this issue!

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

Also, if you haven’t read it yet, you should!

This has been one of the best runs of Wonder Woman ever!

So let’s run through where everyone is at, and how recent events have affected them. The last issue revealed that Wonder Woman must remain permanently separated from her home and her family, and the shock of that is clear initially. She leaves the island gate to Themyscira without tracking down the Cheetah, an uncharacteristic decision for her that suggests she was emotionally drained and perhaps overwhelmed by all she’d been through. She seems almost in shock when she returns to America, somewhat quiet and withdrawn, until Etta chastises her for leaving Barbara behind. Etta’s words hit her hard and shake her out of her fog, putting her back on track. Despite the weight of her tragic separation, Wonder Woman always cares for others more than herself and goes after Barbara.

She finds her attacking Veronica Cale, which puts Wonder Woman in a difficult spot. She wants to help Barbara and she has so reason to care about Veronica Cale, who’s spent years trying to ruin both her life and the life of her friend. And yet, when Barbara promises she’ll go with Wonder Woman if she lets her kill Veronica, Wonder Woman refuses. She won’t let anyone die, no matter how guilty they may be. While tragedy shook Wonder Woman for a moment, she quickly returned to her heroic form, even though it meant another tragic loss for herself as her friend Barbara refused to go with her willingly.

As for Barbara, her tragic loss consumes her entirely. And really, justifiably so. She’s had an awful time of things. She was restored to her true self, leaving her Cheetah identity behind, but then returned to her Cheetah form to help her friends in a noble sacrifice. Her rejection from Themyscira is the breaking point for her. She’d searched for the Amazons for her entire life and was close to them, finally, only to have the gate disappear. So she lets all of her anger and the sorrow over the many things she’s lost consume her. She goes after Veronica, aiming to kill her, and very nearly succeeds. Had Wonder Woman not intervened, Veronica would have been a goner. Then, even in the face of Wonder Woman offering her help and a return to her life with Etta, she refuses. We’ve seen a lot of Barbara as the Cheetah in these 24 issues, and while her feral identity often dominated her, Etta was the one thing that always gave her pause. But not now. The mention of Etta barely dissuades her at all, and she refuses to go with Wonder Woman unless she’s allowed to kill Veronica. The series of tragedies she’s endured were too much in that moment and overcame her true nature, though perhaps we’ll see things turn around for her in two weeks time with the grand finale.

I’m not expecting a turnaround for Veronica. We’ve gotten to know her well this year, especially in “Godwatch” with Bilquis Evely bringing such life and emotion to the character. She was a woman who lost her daughter, an understandable motivation even though it took her to very dark places. But now her daughter is gone for good, and the weight of both her loss and her actions over the past year lie heavy on her. She’s lost her daughter, her company is in shambles, and she’s isolating herself further from the few friends she has. When the Cheetah calls her a villain, she doesn’t even flinch, as if she too knows what she’s become and is perhaps beginning to accept that this is who she is now. Tragedy has brought her emptiness, rightly so in many respects; she’s earned what’s coming to her. But however justified a punishment may be, the attack from Cheetah is especially brutal. Evely illustrates the horror of it well, from the gashes on her back to the violent action of the scene. And the most brutal moment of it all is the very end of the issue, with Veronica left all alone. Wonder Woman’s compassion and moral code saved her life, but her torn up body, left in solitude, stands as a monument to her inevitable tragic end.

Well, the end for now. There’s one more issue to come, with Greg Rucka, Bilquis Evely, and Liam Sharp teaming up for a grand finale that will tie up all of the loose threads. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Veronica involved in some way, though if we don’t then this was a fitting conclusion for the character. It looks like Cheetah will be a big focus, since Wonder Woman knocks her out and takes her away at the end of this issue. With all of the mysteries solved and so much wrapped up already, I’m curious to see what the final issue will dig into. The conclusions of both the “The Truth” and “Godwatch” have been excellent and satisfying, so I’m excited to see how the creative teams decides to leave everyone moving forward.

The Comic Books To Read After You See Wonder Woman This Weekend

June 1, 2017

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Wonder Woman is hitting theaters tomorrow, with early showings tonight (I’M GOING TO SEE IT TONIGHT AND I’M SO EXCITED I CAN’T EVEN DEAL WITH IT), and soon lots of new Wonder Woman fans are going to be wondering what to read next. While I definitely suggest my book Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine, I’ve also put together this list of comic collections that I think best capture the history and the spirit of the character. Start here, new Wonder Woman enthusiasts! You’ve got so many fun comic book adventures head of you.

Here is the list, in chronological order:

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The Wonder Woman Chronicles, Volume 1, written by William Moulton Marston, art by H.G. Peter

It’s always good to start at the very beginning. While Wonder Woman’s early outings are also collected in Archive and Omnibus formats, the Chronicles line is the cheapest option. Marston and Peter imbued Wonder Woman with a unique brand of feminism that was central to the character from day one, and a lot of the core cast and elements in these comics have remained key to Wonder Woman for more than 75 years. The stories are often wacky and fantastical, but that’s part of the charm.

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Wonder Woman by George Perez, Volume 1, written and drawn by George Perez with others

We’re jumping a few decades here, but while Wonder Woman comics were interesting at times in the Silver and Bronze Age, they’re more deeper cuts than Wonder Woman 101. Perez’s relaunch of the character, though, was hugely influential, and remains a touchstone today. Even though it was a total reboot, in many ways it was a modern update of the original Wonder Woman that stayed true to her feminist core. And with fantastic art by Perez, these stories still hold up thirty years later.

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Wonder Woman: Paradise Lost, written and drawn by Phil Jimenez with others

While there were lots of good arcs in Wonder Woman in the 1990s and 2000s, this collection is my personal favourite. The “Gods of Gotham” storyline is just good fun; Batman, the Joker, and Poison Ivy get taken over by gods and Wonder Woman has to sort things out. It’s great. “Paradise Lost” is strong as well, but “She’s a Wonder!” is the best of the bunch, teaming up Diana and Lois Lane in a story that highlights the strengths of each character and shows the respect DC’s two leading ladies have for each other.

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DC: The New Frontier, written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke

This isn’t a Wonder Woman comic specifically; pretty near everyone in the DC universe stars in this story, which is set in the 1950s and explores the dawn of a new era of heroism. But Wonder Woman’s scenes in the book are ALL spectacular. She confronts both Superman and President Eisenhower, assembles a female army in Vietnam, and comes back from a major injury to lead the charge against a foe that threatens the entire Earth. Every single moment with Wonder Woman is fantastic and the rest of the book isn’t too bad either.

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Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman, Volume 2, by too many folks to list but they’re all great

We’re getting into recent stuff now, because the past few years have been an embarrassment of riches in terms of great Wonder Woman stories. Any volume of Sensation Comics could be on this list, really. They’re all standalone stories by different creative teams, and the majority of them are great. But this volume is probably the best one. Standouts include James Tynion IV and Noelle Stevenson’s tale of a young Wonder Woman visiting the outside world for the first time, and Lauren Beukes and Mike Maihack’s adorable tale of make believe. They’re all pretty fun, though.

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DC Comics Bombshells, Volume 1: Enlisted, written by Marguerite Bennett, art by Marguerite Sauvage and more

This is another ensemble book, and it’s just so much fun. The series is a retelling of World War II with DC’s female superheroes fighting the evil magical forces of the Nazis. No male superheroes are involved at all, and heroines like Batwoman, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman take center stage. It’s empowering and action packed and true to the characters, especially Wonder Woman, while being something totally unique and different. It’s also super queer, in all of the best ways. Few books capture the spirit of Wonder Woman as well as this.

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The Legend of Wonder Woman, Volume 1: Origins, written and drawn by Renae De Liz with Ray Dillon

I’m doubling up on recent World War II retellings here, but it can’t be helped. Both are just too good to pick only one. And this one is all about Wonder Woman, starting with young Diana growing up on Paradise Island and following her as she eventually leaves the island to save the world. It spends a lot of time with the Amazons, which is always fun, plus Etta Candy is a key player in the book, too. Also, it’s absolutely stunning. The art is lush and gorgeous and perfect for the era and the story. Do yourself a favour and check out this outstanding book.

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Wonder Woman, Volume 2: Year One, by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott

Greg Rucka has penned several excellent Wonder Woman stories, but this is far and away his best. It’s a modern retelling of Wonder Woman’s origins that draws from past incarnations of the character while simultaneously doing something fresh and exciting. And it’s straight up gorgeous, too. Nicola Scott was born to draw this book, and the heart and beauty she puts in every panel is an amazing thing to behold. This volume is the perfect gateway to the current Wonder Woman series, and is one of the best Wonder Woman stories ever told.

So definitely dig into all of these great collections! Most are still easy to find in print, and anything that’s not is available digitally (plus the bulk of them are on sale right now at Comixology!). And after you’ve checked out these books, keep digging! Wonder Woman’s got a fascinating history with more than 75 years of great comic books, and there are so many other fantastic volumes out there.

Wonder Woman Annual #1 Review: A Delightful Assortment of Tales!

May 31, 2017

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Annuals are tricky comic books. They cost more than a regular issue, so readers expect some extra bang for their buck. They also tend to be disconnected from the ongoing arc(s) in the main series, so it’s easy for readers to question their relevance. An annual is an expensive collection of standalone stories, most of which aren’t by the usual creative team, and it’s never a surprise when they invariably sell fewer copies than the series’ regular issues do. I know I’ve skipped all sorts of annuals over the years. But this one I was excited for. It’s a “Year One” reunion¬† with Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott back together, and that alone is worth the price of admission. So much so that I’d completely forgotten who else was in the book, to be quite honest. Those stories turned out to be fun as well, though! I mean, there’s one where Wonder Woman plays fetch with a kaiju. That’s quality entertainment. We’ll get to it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal important details from this very enjoyable comic book!

Do yourself a favour and go buy it now!

The first story is “And Then There Were Three” by Rucka and Scott. It was nice to have them back together after their stellar “Year One” run, and it was also great to have Rucka writing Batman and Superman again. He’s done fantastic work with both characters in the past, and in his hands they just felt right. DC’s trinity has been a little off kilter for me since the New 52 relaunch in 2011, and Rucka writing all three of them took me back to the characters as I know them best.

While the story tied into “Year One,” it didn’t have anything in the way of surprising revelations or information that added a key piece to the larger mysteries that have swirled throughout the “Rebirth” run. It was tangential, the story of Wonder Woman’s first meeting with Batman and Superman, but wow is it good. There are no big fights or drama, just great banter and a perfect distillation of their group dynamic. Superman teasing Batman is a dang delight, Alfred and Lois Laneare in the mix and amusingly so, and the end of the story, with Batman in awe of the pure heroism and love for the world at the core of Wonder Woman, is a great moment.

Plus it’s absolutely gorgeous. I wish Nicola Scott could draw Wonder Woman forever, and that Romulo Fajardo Jr. would be her eternal colorist. Scott has such a good handle on Wonder Woman, and captures her beautifully. She’s no slouch with Batman or Superman either! The entire story is exquisitely drawn from start to finish, from Metropolis to the Batcave to the Nevada desert, and makes for a wonderful opener to the annual.

Up next is “In Defense of Truth and Justice” by Vita Ayala and Claire Roe with colors by Jordie Bellaire. Ayala is an up an coming write at DC, and Roe is fresh off a run on Batgirl and the Birds of Prey. Their story pits Wonder Woman against the forces of Markovia as she works to save King Shark from an undeserved execution. I always love when Wonder Woman defends a villain who, though guilty of various crimes, is being treated an unfairly and needs help. These tales capture the compassionate core of the character, and Ayala and Roe do that well here, with some excellent action in the mix too. It’s a well executed story all around, with a great ending in which Wonder Woman tries to set King Shark on the right path moving forward with the help of one of her aquatic friends.

“The Curse and the Honor” by Michael Moreci and Stephanie Hans is just so pretty. The story itself is fine; the location is unnamed, but it looks like Wonder Woman is in a Japanese village, where she gives a warrior who has absorbed vengeful spirits the honourable death he deserves. But the art is stunning. Stephanie Hans always delivers amazing visuals, and this story is no exception. It’s a heavy tale, set in the winter so that Wonder Woman and her red cape appear in stark contrast to her surroundings. The art is lush and pretty, not so much finely detailed as atmospheric and moody. It is lovely all around; bringing in Stephanie Hans on this one was a very smart move from DC.

Continuing the Japanese influence, the final story is “The Last Kaiju,” written by Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing with art by David Lafuente and colors from John Rauch. As a giant kaiju approached a city on the Pacific coast, A.R.G.U.S. wants to light it up but Wonder Woman swoops in to deal with it directly. After a bit of fisticuffs, she ties it up in her golden lasso and learns that it’s not some mindless monster but a lost and lonely creature. Wonder Woman then defends the creature, flies it to Dinosaur Island where it can make friends, and they all play catch with a giant log. It’s cute and fun and again captured Wonder Woman’s compassionate core. Just like with King Shark, Wonder Woman willingly put herself in harm’s way to defend someone that no one else thought was worthy of defending. That’s always a great message for a Wonder Woman comic, and it’s nicely executed here.

All together, this was a pretty swell annual and definitely worth picking up. I came for Rucka and Scott’s take on DC’s trinity, but everything else was enjoyable as well. Plus it was great to see a wide variety of art styles and tones in the stories. It was an eclectic mix that all worked together to celebrate Wonder Woman’s heart and heroism. With the Wonder Woman movie coming just days from now, this is a fitting book to have on the shelves for new or returning fans.

Wonder Woman #23: The Truth is Finally Revealed

May 24, 2017

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With Greg Rucka’s time writing Wonder Woman nearing its end, all of the threads are starting to come together now. This week was the finale of “The Truth,” then we’ve got an annual next week, the finale of “Godwatch” two weeks later, and then one last issue that wraps everything up in Wonder Woman #25 two weeks after that. So basically, we’re a month away from the conclusion of one of the best Wonder Woman runs ever. It’s sad, but at the same time it’s always felt like a story that has a definite end. There were questions to be answered, and now that we’re getting the answers it’s clear that things will wrap up in a satisfying way that adds fascinating new dimensions to the Wonder Woman mythos. We’ll dig into the finale of “The Truth” momentarily, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to discuss EVERYTHING that happens in this issue!

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

Wonder Woman #21 left us somewhat puzzled. The issue ended with Wonder Woman and Veronica Cale finding Ares, but he didn’t at all seem like the Ares we’d encountered in “Year One.” That first Ares was all angry bluster, decked out in armor while talking in fiery proclamations and demanding respect and obedience. This new Ares just looked like a pretty chill, friendly dude, so what was up? That mystery, and several others, were solved with this issue.

We quickly learned that the first Ares was Phobos and Deimos impersonating their father, and that the second Ares was the true Ares, who’d been imprisoned beneath Themyscira all along. After he was consumed by war and driven mad, Aphrodite had locked up Ares in chains forged by Hephaestus and tasked the Amazons with watching over his prison. This was the first step in what became “The Lies,” or Diana’s false memories of her home after she left Themyscira; the location of Ares’ prison was such an important secret that the gods not only wiped away all memories of her true home but also created a false reality lest she seek to understand the hole in her memory. Ensuring that Ares was never freed again was paramount, and keeping the location of Themyscira hidden was key to that, thus the deception.

But Wonder Woman isn’t a normal mortal, so of course she eventually realized that something was up. I like that despite all of the gods working together to create this elaborate ruse, Wonder Woman still found the truth. The gods feared her strength of purpose from the beginning and did their damnedest to keep her in the dark, and even against these odds she figured it out. Or, in short, nevertheless she persisted. Sounds like Diana to me.

The revelations in this issue brought everything from the past year of Wonder Woman together tremendously well, and looking back we can see Rucka’s full plan unfolding. The truth behind the lies was a clever, intricately plotted mystery, and I can appreciate why it took so long to finally get the answers we were so hungry for when the book began. All four arcs weave together to get us to this point where finally everything makes sense. It was very well executed and smartly done, but beyond all of that it’s a conclusion that pays respect to Wonder Woman’s history and sets her on a new path that embraces key elements of her past.

With Ares’s imprisonment and Wonder Woman’s handling of Phobos and Deimos, we see the Marston era’s focus on love and submission. Ares didn’t find peace through the binding of some magical chains; he found it through Aphrodite and her ability to see through his madness and love his true self. So too did love help Wonder Woman, as her compassion and forgiveness allowed her to overpower Phobos and Deimos, the embodiments of terror and panic. They came expecting a fight, and instead found an acceptance that they’d never known, which overwhelmed them and eventually freed them. And, just like their father wearing Aphrodite’s chains, this freedom came through binding, via the lasso in this instance.

Meanwhile, the notion of Themyscira as a gateway and the Amazons as its guardians dates back to the Perez era. Liam Sharp underscored this reference when he drew the Amazons coming out of the water, just as they were created in the second Wonder Woman #1 way back in 1987. Both Nicola Scott’s and Sharp’s take on Ares were clearly inspired by Perez’s designs as well, and we can see similar touchstones with both of their takes on the Amazons.

So we can see the Marston and see the Perez, yet at the same time this take on Wonder Woman is something new as well. Rucka’s borrowed old elements and reshaped them into a new status quo for Wonder Woman, the Amazons, and the mythos as a whole. We’ve still got a few issues to go, but at present it looks like the Amazons will remain separate and hidden from the outside world to keep Ares at bay. Phobos and Deimos may be defeated, but there is no shortage of fools who wish to unleash war upon the world. If the interaction between Diana and Hippolyta at the end of the issue is the last we see of them together for some time, it’s a heartbreaking and powerful moment to close on.

And yet, there is hope. Because she was split between our world and Ares’ prison, Veronica’s daughter Izzy can’t re-enter the world. But since Themyscira is connected to Ares’ prison, she can live there among the Amazons. The daughter of Wonder Woman’s greatest enemy living with her family when she can’t is a brilliant stroke on several levels: On the one hand, she has what Wonder Woman desires most, but on the other hand she’ll be away from her mother and raised by her mother’s nemesis’ family. It’s a move that stings both Wonder Woman and Veronica, yet at the same time one they seem to know is for the best. Wonder Woman knows that Themyscira must stay hidden, and it seems that Veronica knows that perhaps she’s not the best influence. Furthermore, having a human girl among the Amazons maintains a link to the outside world, one that could conceivably lead to a larger reconnection some day.

Overall, Rucka and Sharp have wrapped up “The Truth” very well and explained the major mysteries behind their run on Wonder Woman in an excellent fashion. There’s still a lot of story left to tell here, but the core question of the run has been solved in a clever, satisfying manner. I’m curious to see how everything shakes out over the next few issues before this run concludes. If this issue is any indication, Rucka and his fine artists will stick the landing nicely.

Wonder Woman #22 Review: A Modern Take on an Iconic Character

May 10, 2017

ww22

I got a big surprise when I sat down to read Wonder Woman #22: Mirka Andolfo drew this one! I had no idea she was doing the issue. Andolfo is set to draw a couple of issues in July when Shea Fontana takes over writing the book, but as far as I knew, we were getting Bilquis Evely for the duration of “Godwatch.” Now, I LOVE Bilquis Evely. She’s been killing it so far. But I also love a fun surprise, and I’m a huge fan of Andolfo from her artwork on DC Comics Bombshells (a fantastic book with a great take on Wonder Woman that you should be reading if you’re not already). I was really looking forward to seeing her on Wonder Woman in July, and now we’re getting a peek at her take on a modern Wonder Woman a couple of months early. And good news, gang: It’s fantastic. We’ll dig into it all momentarily, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to delve into all of the details of this issue!

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

Also, go read the comic! It’s very pretty!

The last installment of “Godwatch” was a real corker, with Veronica Cale teaming up with Circe to use Wonder Woman to defeat Phobos and Deimos and get one step closer to getting her daughter back. This issue picks up a year and a half later, and explores the first meeting between Wonder Woman and Veronica. For some reason, I’d assumed that they’d met before; maybe it was all of the stories set in the present in which Wonder Woman knows about Veronica and her nefarious plans. I mean, they were hanging out in “The Truth” two weeks ago. My mental timeline probably got a bit screwy with all of the back and forth. Regardless, this is their actual first meeting, and it’s a very enjoyable one.

Between Veronica losing her daughter and the travails of Barbara/the Cheetah, there have been some very heavy moments recently in Wonder Woman. This is a much lighter outing, with a comedic set up, some excellent banter, and a nicely executed action scene. The heavy issues remain; Veronica’s daughter is still in peril and Barbara is the Cheetah. But the focus narrows in on Veronica and Diana engaging with each other for the first time on almost friendly terms. I loved that their meeting began at an auction in which Veronica outbid the likes of Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor to nab a date with Wonder Woman (all for charity, of course). I also enjoyed that the extravagant event was followed by a more casual outing between the two as they got burgers in their street clothes. It was all quite cute. Well, as cute as a meeting between a heroine and her secret arch nemesis can be, I suppose.

The issue also further fleshed out Veronica Cale, who Rucka is turning into an absolutely fascinating villain. Generally speaking, Veronica seems like kind of an amazing person. She’s a big supporter of the DC universe’s version of Amnesty International, a philanthropist generally, and a champion for the poor as well as gender and sexual equality. The more we learn about her, the more she becomes a fascinating tragic figure, a good woman turned to darkness because of the meddling of the gods. Before that, she was a tough businesswoman and not a big fan of Wonder Woman, but Phobos and Deimos interfering in her life and taking away her daughter is what turned her into a villain. Everything she’s doing is to get her daughter back, and it’s hard not to sympathize with that, even when she’s facing off against our favourite heroine. I’m hoping that she gets a happy resolution by the time “Godwatch” and “The Truth” wrap up. I know she’s done terrible things, but I feel like Wonder Woman would understand her motivations and try to help her fix them and start a new path rather than punish her. Time will tell.

Now, onto Mirka Andolfo. The art in this issue is just great. Much like Bilquis Evely, Adolfo is excellent at crafting expressive characters, albeit with a very different style. There’s a lot of heart in this issue, and that works extremely well with the story it tells. “Two people getting to know each other when one is a secret adversary yet they both have an odd respect for each other” is a hard thing to communicate, but it comes across. Wonder Woman and Veronica’s issue-long conversation is a complicated dance from start to finish, and Andolfo hits all of the notes needed to make it work.

Furthermore, she finally gives a modern take on Wonder Woman that feels young and fresh. We haven’t seen a lot of Diana in everyday clothes since “Rebirth” launched, and when we have it’s been fairly bland. Andolfo doesn’t go for anything extravagant or trendy here either, but by simply putting Wonder Woman in a tank top, jeans, and sneakers, her incarnation of the character feels like the most modern version of her we’ve seen in ages (and it’s of course beautifully colored by Romulo Fajardo Jr.; the guy just slays it with every single issue). Her outfit is what young women look like today, and that’s something I’d really like to see in Wonder Woman properties moving forward. Yes, she’s a superhero and that’s awesome, but when she’s not I think it’s good to see her as a modern woman so that fans, young and old, can better identify with her. As much as I am over the moon excited for the Wonder Woman movie, Gal Gadot’s fancy dresses in Batman v Superman and 1910s garb in Wonder Woman hardly scream “identifiable.” Part of making Wonder Woman modern and relevant is having her look modern and relevant, and I hope we see more of that soon, both in comics and on the big screen.

Overall, this was an entertaining issue all around that sets us up well moving forward. First, the stage is set for the climax of “Godwatch” as the last page shows that Wonder Woman knows about Veronica’s more nefarious dealings. Second, the layers the issue adds to Veronica should make the climax of Rucka’s larger story all the more interesting; she’s a villain, but it’s hard to be too mad at her! And third, when Fontana and Andolfo take over Wonder Woman in July, I think we’re in for a treat. I can’t wait to see more of Andolfo drawing Wonder Woman! She’s a great talent, and the book looks to be in very good hands moving forward.


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