Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Merino’

Wonder Woman #75 Review: The Battle for Themyscira

July 24, 2019

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I don’t usually start my reviews with a spoiler, but if you read last week’s issue then you knew this was coming: Diana, princess of the Amazons, has returned to Themyscira. Which at first glance doesn’t seem like a huge deal until you remember that, apart from “Year One,” she hasn’t been to her real home since the New 52 reboot nearly eight years ago. The Paradise Island of the Azzarello/Chiang run and the Finches’ tenure was an elaborate ruse, and she’s been kept apart from the true Themyscira ever since she discovered the truth in Rucka, Scott, and Sharp’s run. I’ve not figured out the numbers in any official capacity, but as a Wonder Woman historian I think I can confidently say that this is the longest she’s been separated from the Amazons, and probably by a wide margin. The mod era, with the Amazons departing to a different dimension, was only four years! And they’ve otherwise been a constant presence in Diana’s history.

So this was long overdue. The Amazons are a big part of what makes Wonder Woman such an amazing character, a powerful matriarchy that exudes female strength, power, and sisterhood. She’s amazing on her own, of course, but everything she is comes from this background and they’ve always been an essential part of her world. The community makes her stronger. To keep the true Amazons sidelined for so long was a mistake, one that’s finally been righted. We’ll dig into it all in detail, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

Yes, the Amazons are back but you knew that was coming!

Other things happened as well, and I’m about to spoil them!

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

So, quick recap, amid all the chaos in the divine realms, Grail escaped, took over Themyscira, and captured Hippolyta. She also turned some of the Amazons to her side, but Antiope escaped with a small band to Dimension Chi, where Wonder Woman met up with them last issue. In this outing, Wonder Woman leads her forces against Grail and ultimately defeats her. It’s a big, long issue, with extra pages on account of it’s Wonder Woman #75, but that’s the core of it.

The battle was pretty darn good, too. G. Willow Wilson and her artists Xermanico, Vicente Fuentes, and Jesus Merino have pulled off an impressive feat here. This wasn’t a quick skirmish. This was a lengthy combat sequence, with a whole host of characters. There were entire armies on both sides, of course, but we were also following multiple characters through the fight. The end result was clear, legible, and exciting, which is not something I can say about a lot of huge comic book battles. Usually it’s just chaos, and this was not. It was well-executed, and fittingly epic for an anniversary issue. If you’re gonna charge an extra buck for the book you better make it worth it, and they definitely did.

The reunion was lovely as well. Seeing Diana and Hippolyta together at the end of the issue was all kinds of heartwarming. I love their relationship and hate that it’s been sidelined for so long, so having them back together was a long awaited moment of joy for me. Plus it got me excited for what’s to come. We only see them together briefly, but I know there are conversations to be had and perhaps many adventures ahead. Hopefully this marks the beginning of a new era for them, and the Amazons will be brought into the DC universe again. It’s been poorer for their absence.

However, as much as this issue was generally well-executed and had some great moments, it was lacking in surprises and twists for me. Everything that I thought was going to happen ended up happening, making the whole experience feel a little flat. I don’t think I’m not some sort of Nostradamus either. At the end of the last issue, it was clear that Wonder Woman and Antiope were going to go back to Themyscira and fight Grail, and I was pretty sure they were going to win. There were some other obvious bets too, like that Hippolyta would be threatened and Isadore Cale would come into play. I suppose I was a little surprised that Nubia sided with Grail initially, but I was suspicious of that throughout the issue and then not terribly shocked when she eventually turned on Grail. The issue is technically a game changer in that the Amazons are back, and that’s great! But it changed the game in exactly the ways I expected it to, without any big shocks or unexpected turns along the way.

It was very well drawn, though. Three artists can be a bad sign sometimes, and a few of the transitions from one to the other were a bit bumpy. They really scattered all three throughout the issue seemingly at random. But it hung together pretty well, and was strong throughout. I’ve been raving about Xermanico for months now, so I’ll not spend too much time on him other than to say that he’s a spectacular fit on the book and should draw every issue. Cifuentes was solid as well, matching the style of the book and fitting seamlessly into this world with some lovely pages. And finally, Jesus Merino. I’ve been very critical of his work lately. Underwhelmed, to say the least. But he was decent here! This is definitely the best art I’ve seen from him in some time, and he handled the bulk of the battle to good effect. Fingers crossed that this bodes well for future outings, because he’s scheduled on a lot of issues coming up. Also, shout out to Romulo Fajardo Jr. for his always amazing coloring! Tying three different artists together so the book feels cohesive is tricky work, and he did a fantastic job, as always. The dude’s a legend, and has been with the book for most, if not all, of the last 75 issues. It’s dang impressive.

So the Amazons are back! In expected ways, but that’s okay. I’m glad to have them back in the fold regardless. And now we’ve got that to explore, plus “Year of the Villain” shenanigans on the horizon. The Cheetah’s got a nasty sword, and that will of course mean trouble for Wonder Woman and her pals. But with her mother and her sisters at her side again, I’m more than confident that Diana can handle whatever comes her way.

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Wonder Woman #74 Review: Reunited, And It Feels So Good

July 10, 2019

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Some major things are happening in this week’s issue of Wonder Woman, leading to even more major things for Wonder Woman #75 in two weeks’ time, presumably. Quarter century issues are a big deal these days, maybe because so few comic books make it to a 25th issue, much less a 50th or a 75th. Publishers like to save up big moments for these books and make them special, and the ending of this issue is definitely promising that. Significant developments are afoot.

Also, if you follow G. Willow Wilson on Twitter, she’s been teasing this month’s issues lately. Apparently Wonder Woman #75 is going to be 38 pages long, with an assortment of artists and a lot of double page spreads. Plus, various twists and reveals! It sounds like it’s going to shake up the status quo of Wonder Woman’s world quite a bit, and we’ll dig into what that could mean, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

Look away if you have not read it yet!

Also, you should be reading this book!

Hit your LCS or get it on Comixology! It’s a dang good series!

So should we do the big reveal first? Sure, let’s dive right in. The Amazons are back! Or rather, some Amazons are back. General Antiope and Philippus lead an escaped band of Amazons hidden in Dimension Chi, because Themyscira has fallen to its foes. The prisoners on the island escaped and took over, and now Grail is in charge and Hippolyta is in chains. I could happily live the rest of my life without ever seeing Grail again, but the good news is, the veil between the worlds is torn. Diana can go rescue her mother and save her sisters, which is what I assume the Wonder Woman #75 mega-issue will be all about.

With some surprises, of course. I doubt it’s going to be a straight forward beat the bad guys, save the good guys situation. There will probably be complications. But I’m even more interested in what comes next. If Diana can save Themyscira AND keep a path open to it, will the Amazons finally be part of her world again? Because I would love that. It’s been so long since we’ve had proper Amazons able to interact with the DC universe as a whole. The New 52 Amazons were trash, and the Rebirth Amazons have been sequestered. I miss the old days, when Themyscira was part of the United Nations and the Amazons could join in on major comic events. Remember in the Perez run when they opened Themyscira to the world and Lois Lane was among the first group of visitors? That was so cool. The DC universe is a better place with an awesome matriarchy in it, and I really hope that they come back in some capacity. Preferably a full on, move Themyscira into this plane of existence sort of thing.

Returning to this issue, though, I will say that the lead up to the Amazon reveal was a bit underwhelming. Part of it was the art. Jesus Merino just doesn’t do it for me. His stuff is straight forward, average superhero art. There’s no interesting flair or style to it. When Xermanico took over for the last six pages, things improved dramatically. Merino’s stuff was flat before that, and Xermanico brought everything to life just in time for the big reveal.

But another part of it was that the story wasn’t very compelling. The fight with Empress Hippolyta (the villainous Hippolyta from the last issue) seemed rote and uninspired. Again, the art didn’t really make anything cool of it, but I don’t know that there was a lot to it in the first place. It felt like fifteen pages of filler leading to Antiope. While there was some stuff about having a goddess as a mother that gave us a bit of bonding between Diana and Atlantiades, that was about it. Also, Maggie figuring out how to defeat Empress Hippolyta instead of trained Amazon warrior Diana was hard to buy. As much as I get that Maggie is rad, and that the sword is maybe imparting some sort of skill or knowledge to her, she’s not Wonder Woman. Figuring out how to stop the bad guys is Wonder Woman’s job.

I’ve got a theory that Wonder Woman’s world is too small right now. When Wilson was on Ms. Marvel, there was a huge cast of characters with different plotlines on the go. Not a single page felt wasted. There was so much to do and so many people to check in with! But with Wonder Woman, it’s really just Diana. Atlantiades and Maggie are cool, but there’s not a lot to them apart from coming along on Diana’s journey. Or rather, they’re compelling characters in want of subplots that aren’t so intertwined with Diana. Maybe bringing the Amazons back will change this dynamic and give Wilson more to work with. I’m used to far more engaging storytelling from her than a ten page fight that doesn’t really add anything to the book.

One last note on the art, because those final few pages are just top notch stuff. Xermanico puts so much texture into his drawings to start with, which is awesome, especially on the costumes, but with the shading I don’t know if it’s him or colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr. but there’s this Ben-Day dot shadow technique that I love. It’s an old school style on Xermanico’s modern artwork and it looks so good. I want Xermanico to do every issue. He and Fajardo Jr. work beautifully together.

So we’ve got a big fight ahead of us in two weeks’ time! And Antiope in the midst of it all, which is super cool. She’s never been a major player in the comics before, but after Robin Wright’s amazing depiction of her in the Wonder Woman movie I’ve been waiting for someone to bring her into the comics in a big way. Now it’s happened, and between Diana, Antiope, and Philippus, the foes of the Amazons should be very frightened indeed.

Wonder Woman #72 Review: A Colossal Minotaur, Laser Swords, and More!

June 13, 2019

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We’ve got lots of action and a potentially interesting cliffhanger in Wonder Woman this week, but I’ve gotta be honest, gang, and say this issue fell a little bit flat for me. The art certainly didn’t help matters, with some fill-in artists failing to reach the heights recently established by the series’ more regular pencilers. But the writing wasn’t all that exciting either. It was an issue that needed to get Wonder Woman, Maggie, and Atlantiades from Point A to Point B, which it did. Just not in a very engaging manner, and without the thoughtfulness and depth I’ve come to expect from the book since G. Willow Wilson became the writer.

This issue is technically the finale to the “Love is a Battlefield” arc, and it didn’t feel much like a finale at all. If anything, the last issue wrapped up most of that plotline quite nicely, and this one found us in a new space with new adventures. There were no further conclusions, and nothing really connected to the arc apart from a brief conversation between Aphrodite and Atlantiades and a quick reference to Atlantiades’ romantic fascination with Wonder Woman. It was an in-between story, needing to bridge the gap between “Love is a Battlefield” and Steve Orlando and Aaron Lopresti’s upcoming guest issue, and it very much felt like that. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

It wasn’t a whole lot, really!

But still, be wary nonetheless!

So when we last left our intrepid heroine, she and Maggie were facing off against a colossal minotaur statue brought to life. In my last review, I wondered about what it could be and what deeper mythological ties it had. Turns out, it was largely irrelevant, there for Maggie to defeat with ease thanks to Antiope’s sword. The battle was swift, and the importance of the sword was emphasized when the ground gave way and the weapon fell into an abyss. Maggie was distraught to lose it, but Atlantiades swooped in and grabbed it, their wings coming in very handy there. This led to another fight with some subterranean baddies that again served to showcase how awesome the sword is and how much Maggie likes wielding it.

It’s great to see Maggie growing in confidence, and emerging as a hero in her own right. Her rapid progression with the sword is starting to make me think something bigger is going on, that she isn’t just some random gal the mythological characters befriended but that she’s got some larger connection to the Amazons. We’ve certainly seen stories where the Amazons have been unknowingly hidden among the general population before. Perhaps there’s something similar happening now, with the collapse of the divine realm transporting so many people to the mundane plane of Earth? Time will tell. Maggie may very well be a perfectly normal person who’s just got an aptitude for swords. But that the sword is growing in power so quickly with her wielding it has me suspicious that something more may be at play.

In showcasing Maggie and the sword, though, I feel like the story took a bit of a misstep. The handling of the subterranean monster horde struck me as out of character for Wonder Woman. They all could have flown away with ease and avoided the battle, but Maggie insisted on fighting them. Then Wonder Woman joined her, and together they killed dozens if not hundreds of living creatures. It just felt wrong. Wonder Woman wouldn’t jump into a fight when there was a peaceful resolution available, nor would she wantonly kill these creatures, however nasty they may be, if she didn’t absolutely have to. Yes, they were mean and ugly and terrible all around, but they were quasi-sentient beings at the very least. This was all entirely avoidable, and everything about the scene seemed off to me. Not intentionally off either, like “Oh, maybe Wonder Woman’s under some sort of spell!” or some such. It just felt poorly thought out.

Like I said at the top, the art wasn’t much help in improving this issue either. Jesus Merino has done some fill-ins on the book recently, and while he’s a serviceable artist, he rarely wows me. His work in this outing was generally fine, and he did a nice job capturing the androgyny of Atlantiades in a way that was true to Xermanico’s stellar design of them. The early pages of this book are definitely better than the later ones, and Romulo Fajardo Jr. does a great job with some creative coloring and shading choices to make everything pop a bit more. But all together, the art is just okay.

Then Tom Derenick and Scott Hanna take over, and the quality drops noticeably. All the problems we saw two weeks ago continue here, starting with a decidedly feminine take on Atlantiades that really bugs me. Xermanico established the character SO WELL and Merino did such a nice job with them, and Derenick just doesn’t even seem to be trying here. No one else looks great either, the creature design is bland, and the fight’s not that exciting. None of it works, and not even Romulo Fajardo Jr. can save these pages from feeling dull and pedestrian.

We end on a bit of intrigue, though. The light of the sword, shining like a laser, leads them to Dimension Chi, and I have no idea what that is. I’ve read every issue of Wonder Woman, and while she’s been in all manner of weird dimensions, especially in the Silver and Bronze Ages, this one isn’t ringing a bell at first glance. The solicit for the next issues suggests Diana visited Dimension Chi when she was younger, and I’m very curious to see what Steve Orlando has cooked up. His brief few issues on the series a few months back demonstrated a deep appreciation for Wonder Woman lore, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s dug up something cool and obscure here that I’ve forgotten. I’m looking forward to checking it out!

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

February 28, 2019

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

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

SPOILER ALERT!!

Look away if you have not read this comic yet!

I am about to delve into its various plot points!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wonder Woman #64 Review: Angry Neighbourhood Spider-God

February 13, 2019

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This run of Wonder Woman has been excellent so far, bringing back some old divine favourites while asking interesting questions about the nature of heroism in the modern world. Plus it’s been all sorts of entertaining, with high drama, cool action, and comic relief from a crew of mythological creatures. There’s also been a mystery running through these issues, the question of where did the gods come from, and what happened to Olympus? And, more importantly for our heroine, what happened to Themyscira? We get some answers this week, but I don’t know that I trust the source. If I’ve learned anything in my decades of reading superhero comics, it’s to never believe what a villain tells you. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

We are about to discuss its revelations!

In great detail!

I’ll be honest with you, gang, this is the weakest issue of the current run thus far. Now, this run has been super good, so it’s a high bar, but even setting aside that comparison, this issue is okay at best. A lot of it is due to the art. What I’d feared a few weeks back has come to pass. Fill-in artists are a hit or miss game, and Jesus Merino and Andy Owens have missed with this one. The entire issue falls flat visually, with bland design choices that left me feeling like I was reading a comic from the mid-90s. Wonder Woman was drawn inconsistently, the design for Nemesis was uninspired (she’s a spider, I guess?), and everything just seemed out of sync with the rest of the run.

So many little things were noticeably off. Veronica Cale’s hair, for example. It’s a small, insignificant matter, really, but she didn’t have bangs two weeks ago and now she does. It’s a continuity failing that’s exacerbated by the fact that Merino and Owens are not particularly good at drawing bangs, either. Her hair looked terrible, and there was nothing else in the book to counter the many poor artistic choices.

I wish the editors would put more effort into the book’s art, especially with G. Willow Wilson writing such a good run. Double shipping has been the bane of the artistic world for years now at DC, with so many books looking subpar because of the breakneck schedule. But DC makes it work for some titles! Batman always looks good. If it’s not Mikel Janin, it’s Joelle Jones, or Tony Daniel, or Clay Mann, or Lee Weeks. They find artists who fit each step of the story, and clearly plan things out well.

There doesn’t seem to be that level of planning with Wonder Woman. Cary Nord obviously got overwhelmed by the schedule quickly, and we haven’t seen him in a while now. Xermanico was a great fill in, and Emanuela Lupacchino’s issue was a delight, but this outing has some bad art that just doesn’t match the caliber of what we’ve seen before, nor does it feel like it’s part of the same story.

The writing this week wasn’t as enjoyable either. It was better than the art made it look, certainly, but the story felt a bit repetitive. We’ve got Wonder Woman fighting a god, again. We’ve got a villain trying to make her feel bad for being a superhero while making some interesting points, again. As much as I love the interrogation of heroism we’ve seen in this run so far, Veronica Cale’s angle was less compelling than Ares’ approach earlier on. Also, we know how angry Cale is. With Ares, there was a bit of mystery. We didn’t know why he was there or what his angle was. Cale’s just super mad at Wonder Woman, and trying to tear her down because of the powerful grudge she’s held since her daughter was taken from her. Knowing all of that, it’s hard to put much stock in her critique.

Nemesis reveals that the realm of the gods has been destroyed as well, which is why Cale is extra upset. No gods means no Amazons means no daughter, so she’s understandably angry. Both Nemesis and Cale tell Wonder Woman that the Amazons are gone, and for some reason she just accepts it? I know we need to end the issue on a dramatic moment, and Diana flying off with tears streaming down her face offers us that, but I feel like our gal is smarter than this. Wonder Woman’s all about hope and, more importantly, the truth. I don’t think she’d just take the word of two villains at face value, even if one was wrapped up in the lasso of truth. What Nemesis believes to be true isn’t necessarily what happened, and Wonder Woman should be wise enough to know that. Instead, she seems to be shaken to her core.

I’m no Wonder Woman, but I do know that if Veronica Cale told me anything, I’d automatically believe the opposite to be true. So from my perspective, the goods news here is that the Amazons must still be around. Themyscira might be in trouble, but the Amazons are resilient. I think they’re somewhere, if not in Themyscira than elsewhere, with Veronica’s daughter, too. If Wonder Woman won’t have hope, then I will!

The story continues in two weeks’ time, with Jesus Merino and Andy Owens on art again. I’m not terribly excited for that after seeing this issue, but Cary Nord is set to be back in March. After a couple months off, I’m optimistic that he’ll return with some high quality art. And I’m confident that Diana will shake off her sadness and resume her search for the Amazons. Veronica Cale can’t be right! They’re somewhere, and Wonder Woman will find them, I’m sure.

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.

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.


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