Posts Tagged ‘Hecate’

Justice League Dark and Wonder Woman #1 Review: The Witching Hour Draws to a Close

October 31, 2018

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The spooktacular conclusion of “The Witching Hour” crossover has come on the most apt of days. Happy Halloween, everyone! I hope that you’re having some creepy fun today, and that you bought good treats to give out to the kiddies tonight. Don’t cheap out! “Fun-sized” is a lie. And of course, give double the treats to anyone who dresses up as Wonder Woman. Those children are wise treasures with excellent taste and should be rewarded accordingly.

But while the kids (and let’s be honest, the grownups too) are digging into some tasty fun today, the treats were few and far between for the Justice League Dark team. “The Witching Hour” is over now, more or less, as we knew it would be. Crossovers can’t go on forever. And of course all of our intrepid heroes are richer for the experience and all of that. But it was an ending that came with a cost. Several, really. And the ramifications of this event look like they’re going to reverberate through the DC Comics universe for some time. Let’s dig into it all, but first:

SPOOKY SPOILER ALERT!!

Look away if you haven’t picked up today’s special issue!

It’s a good book! You should get it!

So, the heroes won. Shocking nobody. This is a superhero comic book, after all. Some things are a given. But a lot of things got wrecked along the way. I’m guessing a few of them won’t last, like the destruction of Nanda Parbat and the Parliament of Trees. Whenever DC wants to do a new Deadman or Swamp Thing book, they’ll figure out a way to bring both of those back and get rid of the Hecate replacements. “The Witching Hour” isn’t some sort of Crisis level event. It’ll affect the Justice League line for a while, certainly, but I feel like a few of the larger changes to the canon will be easily undone down the road. But some are clearly going to stick. The weakening of the veil between the world of the heroes and the world of those creepy magic eaters is definitely going to be a problem. Plus, Circe. Bad ass, crafty Circe. I’m very curious to see what she has planned for all of this power. Especially after Hecate tried to destroy and then recreate magic entirely. How’s Circe going to top that? I’m sure that James Tynion IV has something suitably epic cooking up in that brain of his.

In another non-shock, Wonder Woman survived the event after last week’s dramatic cliffhanger. Turns out, she wasn’t dead. Just sort of stuck. So she’ll be ready to go next month when G. Willow Wilson and Cary Nord take over Wonder Woman. But as inevitable as all of that was, it still played out enjoyably in the comic. I loved that Diana embraced the idea of her moon trap being a metaphor, and thus something she could escape because it wasn’t actually real. Her internal struggle as she swam into the depths of the moon, with her fighting against her own urges and making herself realize that the water she was “drowning” in was no threat, was such a cool set up. It was a clever escape all around.

And one that led us to Hecate’s fascinating backstory. It was a bit of an info dump, yes, and perhaps a lot to introduce us to at the end of a crossover. But still, I found it effective. We’d learned a bit about Hecate over the first four issues, and these scenes fleshed that all out even more. Plus we got a lot of mythological fun, which I am always on board for.

We also got my favourite moment of the entire issue, when the maiden and mother aspects of Hecate talked about the power of belief and showed Diana that her teammates were using her name as a rallying cry for their last, potentially doomed stand against the crone-dominated Hecate. Their belief in Diana allowed her to break through and take control of her body, and thus ultimately defeat Hecate. We often see comics where Superman is positioned as an inspirational symbol, a sort of beacon for others to rally around, but I feel like Wonder Woman is just as potent an icon. Perhaps even more so, in certain situations. Superman inspires hope. Wonder Woman inspires a fighting spirit, a defiance, a recognition of our own strength and power. Where Superman soars above us, Wonder Woman always tries to lift us up. Both are marvelous icons, but the inspiration Wonder Woman can provide is something special, and I think this issue captured that very nicely.

We’ve got Jesus Merino back with us on art for the finale, and he does a solid job with the bulk of the issue. He’s joined by Fernando Blanco, who takes on several of the Wonder Woman sequences here to wonderful effect. It’s not an easy gig either. Blanco has to go from the moonscape to the hidden Hecates to a tour through pantheon after pantheon of deities, and it all looks great. I really enjoyed his recent work on Batwoman, and it was cool to see him take on Wonder Woman here. He’s got a simpler, sometimes raw style that reminds me a bit of Cliff Chiang, and I’m a big fan of his stuff. Plus everyone’s work was looking extra good with some colours from Romulo Fajardo Jr. on top of the line art. Watch how he switches his approach subtly between Merino and Blanco. It’s all cohesive, but he’s got a different style for each artist. Dang, Fajardo is so good!

And so was “The Witching Hour.” Kudos to James Tynion IV for masterminding a crossover that was actually worth reading. All of us comic fans have been burned so many times by drawn out, unexciting events that are just trying to sell us more books. This was a well told and well timed outing, perfect for October. And perfect for raising Wonder Woman’s profile a bit before the new creative team takes over. This was a smart move all around by DC Comics, and that is not something I get to say very often. Only two weeks until Wilson and Nord, too! I can’t wait. It’s been a fun few months for Wonder Woman fans, and it looks like the fun is going to continue.

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Justice League Dark #4 Review: The Witching Hour Comes to Nanda Parbat!

October 17, 2018

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Well, I think we all saw that ending coming. It’s been telegraphed since the crossover began two weeks ago. That turn was on the way. And the fun thing is, I was looking forward to it! Superhero comics can be formulaic, to say the least. When done poorly, you can see the whole story stretching out in front of you from the get-go and then drop four bucks a month to watch your predictions come true. But good writers play with the formula, and that’s where things get fun. The cliffhanger of this issue was always coming. It had to! And we all knew it. So while this ending isn’t that much of a shock, there’s still some tension because dang, what comes next? The gang is in a serious predicament here. That thing we knew (and they knew, to some extent) was coming has happened, but NONE of us have any idea how they’re going to deal with it now, the team least of all. It’s an unsurprising cliffhanger that leaves me very eager for the next issue, and that is quite an impressive feat. We’ll dig into it all momentarily, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I have nimbly danced around a major spoiler thus far, but will do so no longer!

Look away if you haven’t read this comic yet!

Also, go pick it up! It’s good!

With that taken care of, we can stop beating around the bush in terms of details. Circe helped Wonder Woman channel the power of Hecate in an attempt to defeat the goddess of witchcraft’s evil plans but, surprise surprise, the goddess of witchcraft is super powerful and now Wonder Woman is under her control. This is exactly what Zatanna was worried about last week, and rightly so it turns out. But this was also their only play. Magic is on the fritz, and this was a chance to channel some major power and maybe stop Hecate. “Maybe” being the key word here.

I’m really enjoying James Tynion IV’s depiction of Zatanna in this crossover. She’s a great character that never gets the attention she deserves, and she’s really taking the spotlight here in a fun way. I loved how she disagreed with Wonder Woman’s plan in the last issue, and how Tynion took care to show that yeah, they were both absolutely right. It was a very dangerous plan, and it was also the only plan they had. And now, with Diana controlled by Hecate, we’re getting to see Zatanna step up as a leader. I haven’t read the first few issues of Justice League Dark, but my understanding was that Wonder Woman was in charge of the team. Now Zatanna’s got the reins, and that should make for a fun time. She seems to have a close connection with everyone and they all defer to her already, which is another dynamic I quite like. Having the other characters respect Zatanna so much is yet again a good move by Tynion. She deserves to be treated as such.

But she’s in a tight spot now. Hecate is tearing through everything, including Nanda Parbat. I always like to dig into the mystical side of the DC universe, and Nanda Parbat is its quintessence. I mean, it’s a secret, magical city in the mountains of Tibet where time moves differently and the dead aren’t quite dead. It’s the hub of weird magic fun. Also, I love that it’s this super secret, mysterious place and yet pretty much every superhero has been there at one point or another. That’s just classic comic booking.

However, not even Rama Kushna, the goddess who makes Nanda Parbat her home, can stand against Hecate. While Hecate tears the place apart via Manitou Dawn, she simultaneously possesses Black Orchid half a world away and starts a new campaign against the Parliament of Trees, a key component of the Swamp Thing mythos who monitor and guard all plant life on Earth. This crossover is BIG, and I am into it. We’ll pick up with the Parliament of Trees next week in Wonder Woman #57 as Hecate continues her destructive tour across the planet, but for now we’ve got Nanda Parbat in ruins. Not for the first time, but still. It’s a big deal. Plus, far more significantly, Wonder Woman wasn’t able to stop it with her additional powers, and now she is under Hecate’s thrall. Things could not be going worse.

The issue is nicely drawn by Alvaro Martinez Bueno and Raul Fernandez. They’ve worked with Tynion before on his excellent Detective Comics run, and the familiarity shows here.  Everything flows smoothly, and you can tell that the art team is playing to their strengths. They also manage to achieve something that the previous artists didn’t quite reach, and that’s making Hecate look interesting and menacing. Hecate’s appearances in the past two issues were serviceable but underwhelming, though, as I said then, this is understandable. It’s hard to design an iconic villain look. But Martinez Bueno and Fernandez have built nicely on these earlier attempts, and while the overall look for Hecate is still a bit clunky, there’s a simplicity here that was lacking before and, even better, an ominous, threatening quality. If Emanuela Lupacchino’s art last week was lovely where it should be lovely, Martinez Bueno and Fernandez’s work here is creepy where it should be creepy. Brad Anderson’s colours go well with the linework as well. Big destructive scenes like this can get brown and muddled sometimes, but he does a nice job mixing up the colours and creating distinctive palettes for each setting.

So yeah, the worst has happened. The team’s lost Wonder Woman and Hecate is besting them at every turn. And the best part is, I’ve got no idea how they’re going to get out of this one! We’ve got two more issues of “The Witching Hour” to go, and there is no obvious solution in sight. It should make for a fun read next week as the crossover continues.

Wonder Woman/Justice League Dark: The Witching Hour #1 Review: What The Hecate?

October 3, 2018

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It’s a big month for us Wonder Woman enthusiasts, with DC releasing a five-part crossover story that is tailor made for some spooktacular October fun. A quick note on the schedule, so you can all keep up: “The Witching Hour” begins in today’s special, part two is next week in Wonder Woman #56, part three is the week after in Justice League Dark #4, part four is the week after that with Wonder Woman #57, and finally we wrap it all up with one last special at the end of the month, on Halloween day itself. So yeah, something a little different! Wonder Woman has been largely self-contained for a while now, with a few tie-ins to other DC events but not much in terms of actual crossovers. This could be fun.

“The Witching Hour” has some solid creative bona fides, too. James Tynion IV is writing all five issues, and he’s been a mainstay at DC for a while now. I quite enjoyed his recent Detective Comics run, and while I’m out of the loop on his current Justice League Dark run, I’ve heard decent things. He’s joined on art by Emanuela Lupacchino, Alvaro Martinez, and, in this issue, Jesus Merino, which is a nice lineup all around. So let’s dig into all of the creepy and kooky fun, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

If you have not read this issue yet, look away!

Go enjoy the chills and thrills of this comic book first!

There’s a lot going on in this first outing of “The Witching Hour” so maybe we should start with a little background. The team in Justice League Dark recently defeated an inter-dimensional magic eater called the Upside-Down Man, but in doing so it seems that Wonder Woman manifested some unusual powers. So not only is the magical world of the DC universe in a state of chaos right now, Wonder Woman’s got something weird going on. It’s precarious all around.

That something weird is a brand from Hecate, the ancient Greek goddess of magic and witchcraft. Thanks to secret rituals by some Hecate-worshipping Amazons, young Diana was branded with the mark of Hecate back when she was a girl on Themyscira and now Hecate has the power to control her and make her turn all pale and evil. This is obviously a very big problem. Moreover, Hecate is displeased with modern witchcraft, thinking the kids these days waste their power, so she wants to burn magic away and make something new. And by “burn magic away” I mean literally burn a bunch of witches. She’s on quite the a rampage.

The last thing you want when the goddess of witchcraft is on a rampage is for one of the most powerful superheroes on the planet to be under her control, but here we are. Oh, also, Zatanna can’t use much magic either lest it pull back the Upside-Down Man. And Hecate has blinded the rest of the Justice League to magical goings on, so they don’t know what’s happening. It’s a pretty good set up all around. Huge supernatural threat, compromised heroines, magic on the fritz, and no superhero support? That’s a real pickle.

This first issue does a good job of setting the table for those of us who weren’t up on Justice League Dark. I think my enjoyment of the issue was helped by the fact that I know all the characters from other, older books, even if I’m unfamiliar with their current situations. As much as it’s weird bordering on sacrilege that Zatanna isn’t wearing a tuxedo and a top hat, it’s still Zatanna. I know her. Same with Swamp Thing, Detective Chimp, Man-Bat, and the rest. For folks not familiar with these characters, though, things might be a little more confusing. It’s a lot at once, without much in the way of explaining who everyone is.

The general idea comes through, however. Even if you don’t know Detective Chimp, chances are you know Wonder Woman and realize that her being controlled by a witch goddess is going to be a bad scene. And the book does a good job of setting up the aforementioned pickle of a story. You don’t need to take a master class in the history of Dr. Fate or some such to understand the big threat and the stakes here. And I like I said, it’s a cool set-up. I’m excited to see how the gang gets out of this one, because it’s looking real grim right now.

Jesus Marino does some good work throughout the issue, with the always excellent Romulo Fajardo Jr. on colours keeping the book looking extra sharp, but the issue is saddled with a problem I see in a lot of superhero books: The villain doesn’t look that cool. And hey, I get it. Creating instantly iconic designs is HARD. And I see what Marino is going for here. Hecate is often depicted in triple form, and he tries to capture that, but the design itself, with its cloaks and chains and bangles and glowing lights, is all a bit much. It’s too busy, and just not compelling.

Far more effective are the possession looks, both with Witchfire and Wonder Woman. The stark white skin and black tears streaming down their faces is really creepy, and the white, fire-like hair is a cool touch. I don’t love the purple forehead brand and the armour elements so much, but the basic look works very well. I’m curious to see how the other artists adapt and build on both of these designs moving forward.

Overall, I thought this was a fun beginning and I’m keen to read the next issue. Crossovers like this can really burn you sometimes, making you buy five issues instead of your usual two, and when they’re not great it’s not just disappointing, it’s actively aggravating. Comics aren’t cheap. But I think we might have a good one here. Based on this first outing, “The Witching Hour” has a lot of potential, both as a suitably eerie Halloween treat and a cool story all around. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.

Wonder Woman #52 Review: Finally, It’s Over

May 18, 2016

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It’s finally here, you guys. We made it to the end. This is the Finches’ last issue of Wonder Woman, and Greg Rucka, Liam Sharp, and Nicola Scott are waiting in the wings to relaunch the title. Arguably the worst run in the history of Wonder Woman is now over, and we can move on, embrace the new creative team, and never ever speak of this era again. Not just the Finches, but any of it, really. Wonder Woman’s romance with Superman, her becoming the god of war, the rapist and murderous Amazons, the death of Hippolyta; all signs point to these horrible story choices going out in the window in favour of a new run much more in keeping with a traditional, heroic, inspiring Wonder Woman.

For those of you who, like me, stuck it out through all 52 issues of this series, what were we thinking? Why did we do this to ourselves? It’s been awful. The first few years of Wonder Woman were decent overall, largely because Cliff Chiang is like unto a god, but there were some ROUGH moments. Plus Wonder Woman was not well written anywhere else in the DC universe (RIP Superman/Wonder Woman, mercifully ending today as well, thank goodness). And then Meredith and David Finch took over Wonder Woman and turned the series into one of the worst comics on the stand for the past year and a half. Why did we keep reading it? I know I write about Wonder Woman professionally so I probably needed to keep abreast of current events, but I could’ve just waited, got trades from the library, and just not supported a book that I loathed reading each month. Valuable lesson learned, I suppose. If you don’t like a book, don’t read it even if it’s your very favourite character. That’s how I’m going to roll from now on. I predict a far happier life for myself moving forward.

However, since I’ve made it through this hellacious marathon all the way to the very last issue, I suppose I should say a few words about it. But first:

SPOILER ALERT!!!

I am about to reveal everything that happened in this grand finale!

None of it is particularly good and/or interesting!

But still, if you don’t want it spoiled for you, look away!

So, this issue was a mess. It leaves everyone in an unpleasant spot, and undoes some of the good things about this era. First, shocking twist, Hera is the actual big bad. She’s been the one trying to kill Zeke, wanting to off him before he grows up to become Zeus again so that she can remain the Queen of Olympus and keep all of her new power. Hera’s evolution was one of the best things about the Azzarello/Chiang era; her friendship with Zola helped her grow as a person and learn compassion, and she went from the book’s villain to a key ally for Wonder Woman. It was all really beautifully done, an impressively orchestrated turn around that took three years of solid writing and art. And now that’s totally undone and Hera’s the bad guy again, so that’s irksome.

This made Hecate only a semi-villain, and her motivations were cringeworthy. She hooked up with Zeus way back and he’s the only one who saw the beauty beneath her frightening exterior, blah blah blah, so she tried to kidnap Zeke and return him to his original form so that they could be together again. It was all very clichéd and lame, and rather juvenile, “He’s the only one who understands me!” is a pretty weak motivation for a powerful witch and goddess who’s been around for millennia. Give the gal some depth, please.

The very best part of the early years of the new Wonder Woman was Zola, the gal who got caught up in the chaos of the gods after Zeus seduced her and essentially impregnated her with himself. She was hilarious and fun and tough, and always called everyone on their foolishness. Zola was a great character to have in the midst of all of these powerful beings. During the Finches’ tenure, she’s barely been featured, and as the book ends she’s still alive (last issue’s ending was a fake out) but ultimately devastated by the loss of her baby after Zeus returns, a move that snuffs out the light of what had been the series’ brightest character for some time.

As for Wonder Woman, well, she got duped again. This has been the hallmark of the New 52 era; Wonder Woman will fall for anyone’s lies and go along with any dumb plan that plays on her heart strings, and then have to deal with the fallout when she is inevitably betrayed. She’s been a wholly reactive, passive character for five years now, bounced around by the whims and machinations of others instead of driving the action herself. And this finale is no different. Hecate betrayed her a couple issues back, and Hera betrays her in this one, leaving her to protect Zeke all by herself as a temple comes crashing down around her. Plus, in the end she doesn’t save Zeke; Zeke turns into Zeus and saves her, because the power of her love or whatever causes him to return to his original form and save her from the rubble.

The issue ends with Wonder Woman weeping over the loss of Zeke, who she calls “the closest I may come to a child of my own.” First, why? If she wants to have kids, she can have kids. Right now she’s focusing on her superhero career, but if she decides that she wants to be a mother at some point there’s no reason that she can’t do so. Second, ugh. Another dang cliché. To slot Wonder Woman into this maternal role when she’s basically just been a Cool Aunt feels so forced. I get her loving the kid, but this whole baby she’ll never have angle is both dumb and hacky.

And so it ends. Zeus is back on the throne of Olympus, order is restored, and please dear god let us move on from all of this with the greatest of haste. I’m hoping that the upcoming “Rebirth” special explains how and why everything is about to take a sharp left turn, and when Wonder Woman relaunches a couple of weeks later we can just jump right in with some cool new stories. The sooner we forget this era, the better. All I want to remember from the past five years is the pretty Cliff Chiang art, how rad Hermes looked, and maybe keep Zola around because she’s delightful. Pitch the rest of it and move on, please.

Wonder Woman #49 Review OR What the Hecate is Wrong with Zeke?

February 17, 2016

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Here’s the good news: “Rebirth” is coming. If the rumours prove true, DC is going to relaunch a bunch of their books in June or July, and apparently the top contender for taking over Wonder Woman is Marguerite Bennett. I am all for it. Bennett is a fantastic writer who’s been doing great work on a variety of different series lately, including writing Wonder Woman in DC Comics Bombshells, and I think she’d be a great fit. No artists have been announced yet, and nothing’s been officially confirmed in any way other than that “Rebirth” is some sort of thing that is going to happen this summer, but it seems like Wonder Woman will be heading in a new direction with new creators at the helm.

Until then, Meredith and David Finch are still on the book, running out the clock with a new storyline about Zeke, i.e. Zeus in the form of a child, suffering from a mysterious ailment caused by the chaos surrounding the Olympian gods. If this first issue is any indication, it’s not going to be a great arc. It may, however, be a fitting end to the Finch’s tenure, a nonsensical tale with offputting art and the lamest of twists and turns. We’ll discuss the issue momentarily, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to tell you everything that happened in this issue!

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

Or if you hate reading about poorly crafted stories!

So here’s the scoop on what’s happening. Zeke is sick, and Hera sends Wonder Woman to find Gaia to try to get her to cure him. But Gaia won’t respond, and instead Hecate shows up; she’s a goddess of magic and witchcraft who’s all creepy looking with weird spikes coming out of her head. Despite Hecate being the sketchiest looking character ever, Wonder Woman decides to secretly work with her to help Zeke, and agrees to steal some orbs from the bottom of Hera’s pool, after which she gets knocked out by a cyclops and the issue ends with the one-eyed monster carrying her away.

There’s some other stuff in the mix, too: Hera seems to be doping Zola magically and may be up to something mysterious and/or nefarious, Ares and Eirene are maybe back together, and Apollo is on the prowl for a new lady. None of it is particularly interesting.

Wonder Woman working with Hecate AND not telling her friends about it is just straight up dumb. Stories like these drive me crazy; I hate it when characters who are supposed to be smart, sensible people do stupid things to add drama to the narrative. Such stories always reflect a lack of understanding of the character. Wonder Woman would never team up with such an obvious villain, much less keep her closest friends in the dark about it, no matter the circumstances. I get that she’s trying to save Zeke, but she’s not an idiot. It’s obvious that this team up isn’t going to end well for her, yet she launches herself into it and steals from Hera, who’s become one of her closer allies over the years. And now she’s captured by a cyclops and no one even knows because she was skulking through Olympus on the sly. This is why you always go with the buddy system, gang.

Also, Wonder Woman could take a cyclops, even if it snuck up on her. Cyclops are hardly good sneakers, anyway. They’re huge! She’d hear him coming and take him out accordingly. I mean, she’s Wonder Woman.

So the plot is silly and makes Wonder Woman look bad, which is uncool. Even worse, the design of Hecate is just pure David Finch. He’s actually done a solid job through this run of reining in his art some; his Diana started out looking like a weirdly sexualized teen, and he evolved her look so that she’s now more mature. Kudos to him for that. But before Wonder Woman, Finch was known for some bad, super sexualized artwork. His Catwoman in Justice League of America had her zipper undone to her navel. He created a character in Batman: The Dark Knight who was basically a playboy bunny. Historically, his work with female characters hasn’t been great.

Such is the case with Hecate. First off, the gal is barely covered, which is irksome. Any new female character design that is basically just some version of a bikini is hot garbage. It’s 2016; give her an actual costume. Also, this hot girl with evil tweaks aesthetic is played out. Finch draws Hecate’s face in his usual style; his range with female faces isn’t great, so her features are generically attractive. On top of this, he adds weird horns and tattoos and snake eyes to make her more gruesome, but it just doesn’t come together. It’s not a complete design. It’s a standard Finch face with evil accoutrement. Finch is actually really good at drawing monsters and creepy creatures, and I’d be mildly curious to see what direction he’d take a more monstrous version of Hecate that embrace the evil bits a little more. But a pretty gal with spiky horns is just boring.

Frankly, “boring” is a good word for this issue as a whole. The Finches are setting up lots of things, putting a bunch of balls in the air as the arc begins, but it’s all so dull. Nor does any of it feel true to the character, nor is any of it particularly well drawn. It’s yet another issue of this run where I find myself asking who thought that this story was a good idea, on any level but particularly with editorial. It’s just such a poor product all around.


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