Posts Tagged ‘Mick Gray’

Wonder Woman #68 Review: The Big Friendly Giganta

April 10, 2019

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As often happens with superhero comic books, this cover is not necessarily an accurate reflection of what’s going on inside the book. Yes, Wonder Woman and Giganta get into a bit of a precarious scrap with some rock monsters. That much is true. But the tone here is all wrong. First, I’d say it’s wrong for Wonder Woman generally. She’s not going to be sarcastic like that, especially in a combat situation, no matter who she’s with. I don’t know who did this dialogue, but I feel like it may not have been G. Willow Wilson. Second, at no point in the book is Wonder Woman annoyed with Giganta like this. While there’s a degree of conflict, it’s subtler and far more interesting than this cover conveys. I mean, it’s a fun cover. The Dodsons are always a good time. It’s just not capturing what is compelling and excellent about the insides of the book. Which we’ll dig into now, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to tell you all of the things that happen in this comic!

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

Also, be sure to read it!

This run is very good!

One of the things I like most about this run so far is that G. Willow Wilson didn’t come to play. Yeah, she’s got rad action and some enjoyable comedy and all of the things that make a superhero comic entertaining. But beyond that, she is digging into some heavy stuff. The word I keep coming back to when I review her issues is “interrogation.” The first arc with Ares was an interrogation of what it means to be a hero, and whether answering violence with violence is just perpetuating a damaging system. It was an arc that didn’t land on any firm answer, and it feels like we’re picking up on that theme again here, but with a slight, more specific alteration. Now we’re interrogating what it means to be a superhero.

With the realization that the rock giants aren’t sentient, Wonder Woman doesn’t need to hold back anymore. She can push her strength and her powers further, full on demolishing the creatures without fear of killing someone. And Giganta notices, because Giganta is smart. She’s seen through Wonder Woman from day one, noting the deeper motivations behind her actions. And now she’s got some thoughts. Namely, that Wonder Woman is scared of her own powers, and that if she wanted to she could use her powers to run the world. And, more incisively, in that holding back to supposedly protect the weak, Wonder Woman is lying to herself. Giganta suggests that Wonder Woman’s morality is a smoke screen to hide from her fear of herself, of what she could be if she embraced the depths of her powers. Wonder Woman disagrees, of course, but it’s clear that she’s a bit rattled. The comments resonate with her on some level.

Now, Giganta is hardly trustworthy here. Like Ares and Veronica Cale before her, Giganta is not someone with Wonder Woman’s best interests at heart. This is hardly a critique that is meant to encourage Wonder Woman to be her best self. If anything, it’s a reflection of Giganta’s own sense of powerlessness, of her yearning for what she could do with more power. Being in the Suicide Squad can’t be terribly fun, and seeing someone free yet holding back what they can do must be irksome to her.

And yet, Giganta gets to the heart of things in a way no one else has yet. Ares is all bluster and bloviating. Veronica Cale is all anger and blame. They don’t see Diana for who she is. Giganta does, though, in her own way. When Wonder Woman insists that her morality is not fake, Giganta replies, “Oh yeah? Then why aren’t you happy?” The line made me stop for a second, in part because it was very unexpected but also because it rang surprisingly true. Yeah, Diana’s got Steve and her friends and a swell gig saving the world, but there hasn’t been a lot of joy to this run. Even beyond the drama surrounding the Amazons, there’s a dearth of happiness. She’s not unhappy, really. It’s sort of a neutral. She’s purposeful in her actions, staying true to her beliefs and what makes her who she is. There’s just no buoyancy to it. Not to go all Marie Kondo on her, but Diana’s life doesn’t seem to be sparking a lot of joy for her right now.

What that means for her, I have no idea. And again, Giganta’s most definitely not trying to help Wonder Woman here. This may not be an observation Diana needs to take to heart. I thought it resonated, though, and I’m curious to see how it plays out. The finding of Antiope’s sword seems to have lifted Diana’s spirits, and we’ve got a fun new quest ahead of us now. But Giganta’s comments run deeper than the Amazon issue. Diana doesn’t need to find her family so much as she needs to find herself. And maybe finding her family is a necessary step on that journey.

We’ve got Cary Nord and Mick Gray back on art to start out the issue, but just when I was getting into their style and starting to enjoy their work, we only get them for half the book. Ronan Cliquet takes over in the second half, and his work is generally unremarkable. If he’s trying to do a Cary Nord impression, he’s not great at it. And what we end up with is run of the mill superhero fare. We’ve got Xermanico back in two weeks, however, and he was great last time around.

Also, a fun team up with a triumvirate of awesome ladies! There’s Wonder Woman leading the charge, Aphrodite and her cool swan, and Maggie with Antiope’s sword atop the pegasus Cadmus. They look super cool, and I can’t wait to see what kind of adventure they’re about to get into. Plus, Antiope’s got to show up sometime soon now! You can’t give us her sword and then no Antiope. She’s not been a huge part of Wonder Woman comics in the past, and I’m excited to see how G. Willow Wilson and the art team bring her to life in the wake of Robin Wright’s spectacular take on the character in the Wonder Woman movie. Should be fun!

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Wonder Woman #67 Review: Swords, Stones, and an Arthurian Twist

March 27, 2019

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This issue was everything I wanted it to be. Fun banter between Wonder Woman and Giganta? Yes. Busting up rock giants in awesome fight scenes? Yes. Enemies becoming friends as they worked together toward a common purpose? YES. It was all such a good time, epic in scope yet intimate in terms of its subtle relationship building. Road trips with Wonder Woman should be a thing from now on. Like a requirement for every run. Have her team up with one of her foes against a bigger foe, go off on an adventure, and before you know it they’re pals sharing a meal at a diner in Colorado. Make it a thing, DC! It doesn’t have to be rock monsters or Colorado every time either. Though the rock monsters were cool. Big things that Wonder Woman and her pals can beat on make for enjoyable comic books.

Let’s dig into all of the friendship fun, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

Look away if you have not read this excellent issue!

It’s a delight, and you should go in unspoiled!

Invest your $3.99 in a good time!

So, the titans are a big problem. Or rather, not the titans? As Wonder Woman observes by the issue’s end, they’re not acting like gods, or even properly sentient beings. They certainly don’t have the faculties one would expect from the world’s original deities. Something else seems to be happening, something involving the sword that Maggie finds in the lake. Which I loved. Any time a story veers into lady + lake + sword, things are going right up my alley. I’m all about Arthurian lore, and I’m curious to see how much G. Willow Wilson is steering into it here. I suspect not too much, since we’ve got enough going on with the Olympians all cast down to Earth. But a little taste and a touch of borrowed iconography could definitely be a nice additional to this already great storyline.

But the sword wasn’t the focus of this issue. We’ll get into that in two weeks time. This week was about friendship! And it came together in a very cool way. The last issue was all about setting the parameters. Giganta was up front about her desire not to be friends, and Diana said that’s not why she brought her (though we all know it was, even if Diana doesn’t fully realize it). It was discussed directly and, apart from a nice moment at the end of the book, Giganta was adamant they were not going to become pals.

What I especially liked about this issue is that they don’t really talk about being friends. It just sort of happens through what they’re experiencing together and by the end they’ve developed a degree of trust and camaraderie that can’t help but bring them closer together. Things start off with Giganta still a bit snarky, being sarcastic about their situation and making fun of Diana’s attempts at humour. Then the fights start, and things quickly get out of hand, as battles with rock giants are wont to do. Giganta is a valiant warrior, but she can’t handle the rock giant alone. And when she needs help, Diana is there, instantly and with all her might, even if she is tiny and little more than an annoyance to these massive creatures.

Between the lines of all of this is where their relationship starts to grow. By working together they begin to trust each other, especially on Giganta’s end. She knows she’s there to be the muscle, since she’s the only one big enough to have any effect against the rock giants. And yet, Diana is there alongside her, totally outclassed but rushing in nonetheless to help her out and buy her the time she needs to get back into the fight. That’s how everyone makes friends, really. Not in rad fights against rock giants usually, but in that you meet someone with a common interest or goal and you have each other’s backs and learn to trust and appreciate each other.

Another great thing about this issue is that I felt like the art was much improved from the last outing. Not that Cary Nord and Mick Gray did a bad job by any means two weeks back, but I felt like the art and the writing weren’t meshing together well. Nord just wasn’t capturing the spirit of the script, or adding much to help tell the story apart from the essentials. This issue felt much more engaged and connected. For one thing, his characters were expressive in a whole spectrum of ways. Last time, I had to get everything from the dialogue. The art wasn’t telling me much at all. This time, I could see what the scene felt like before I even got to the words. He was communicating the emotions of each moment very clearly.

Also, the fights were nicely done. Everything felt suitably epic and cool. The scope of it was clear, with the massive rock giant against Giganta’s sizeable frame, and a little Wonder Woman darting in and out. Plus smaller moments like the way Giganta towered over the trees sold the scale of it beautifully. There was one small moment in particular that I loved, a panel where Giganta had been knocked down and Wonder Woman rushed in to help. She zooms in and punches the giant repeatedly, to no real damage. But you can get that sense of her racing in to assist her new friend, trying to do something to slow it down and help her out:

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It’s not the clearest, most detailed panel ever, but it communicates so much. I know I’ve been down on Nord a lot during this run, but he and Gray really hit it out of the park with this issue. It’s the best we’ve seen of them so far, for sure. And of course, series MVP Romulo Fajardo Jr. makes it all just sing. That dude is the best in the biz.

So in two weeks we’ve got the mystery of the sword to dig into! The rock giants are after it, so that could be a pickle for Maggie and the gang of Olympian creatures. And if it’s an Olympian sword of some sort, I’m wondering if it will give her special powers or abilities? That could be fun. We’ll see how it all unfolds!

Wonder Woman #66 Review: Go Big or Go Home

March 14, 2019

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I’m a day late on my Wonder Woman review again. Making a movie is a lot of work, gang! There’s so much on the go. And incidentally, you can check out my short film’s Kickstarter if you want to learn more! But back to the book. When I was late to the party two weeks back, I wasn’t too sad about it. As much as I love the writing, the art for the recent two-parter was decidedly subpar. I was excited for this one, though! Cary Nord is back, and I was curious to see how things would look as he tries to adapt to a bi-weekly schedule. The first attempt went south on him pretty quick.

And the results are fine, I guess. Nord’s Wonder Woman is still a bit scrawny and inconsistent. I don’t think he’s quite got a handle on the character yet. At times, it feels like he’s trying to channel Frank Miller (not a compliment). And other times, it feels like a cartoon, but one of the cool new ones, like She-Ra (this one’s a compliment). I don’t know if it’s the hasty schedule or Wonder Woman herself, but I came away from the issue thinking that Nord’s art was okay but that he might not be the right fit for this book.

Luckily, the writing is still excellent, even if the art isn’t all that exciting. We’ll dig into all the details, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

But you should read it, even though I’m down on the art!

The writing is really good!

Whatever’s happened to Olympus and the divine realm continues to have reverberations on Earth, and this time quite literally so. Two giant rock monster titans duke it out in the Rockies, causing all manner of concussive destruction. And of course Wonder Woman arrives on the scene to sort it out, thanks to our mythological creature friends who have relocated to the wilderness. I’m glad to have Cadmus, Damon, and Eirene back in the mix. A little comic relief is always welcome, plus I just like them. G. Willow Wilson’s done a nice job integrating them into the series and giving them distinct personalities, allowing them to be an amusing diversion while also key to the larger plot.

Now, titans are very, very big. And Wonder Woman, while quite powerful, is very small, relatively speaking. No matter her strength, the mass just isn’t there to make her effective against towering rock monsters. The physics doesn’t work. Luckily, she’s got a friend. Or rather, not a friend at all, as Giganta makes quite clear. But she knows a gal, and she gets Giganta out of prison to help with the fight.

I love this relationship already. Wonder Woman’s got a history with Giganta, though not as much in this current continuity. Gail Simone wrote some good stuff with her and Wonder Woman back in the day if I’m recalling correctly, but the universe has been rebooted since then. Here, Giganta is leery of Wonder Woman, fearing that her entire plan is “some kind of earnest, dewy-eyed trick to get us to become best friends.” And honestly? Fair enough. That’s totally the sort of move that Diana would pull.

She swears she’s not, and that she just needs Giganta’s help to bust up the titans. And I believe her! She’s Wonder Woman. She’s not going to lie. Actually, let me amend that. I believe that Diana believes this isn’t some friend making scheme and that the mission is all that matters. But deep down, maybe so deep that she doesn’t even realize it, she wants to make friends with Giganta. It’s just in her nature. First off, she loves being pals with awesome, powerful ladies. And second, she loves getting to know a villain and helping them find a better path. Especially female villains. She totally wants to be besties with Giganta. She just hasn’t realized it.

But Giganta’s not having any of it. She’s glad to be out of prison, but if they’re going to keep titan hunting, she wants to get paid. Like, half a million dollars paid. Which seems like a lot, but fighting titans is a dangerous game. I can understand the high quote. Wonder Woman doesn’t have that kind of money, though. In this issue she’s basically just living this John Mulaney bit:

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And once Wonder Woman admits her general exasperation with her circumstances, not just the titans but EVERYTHING that’s going on in her life right now, Giganta decides to help. Because friendship?! Not quite yet, probably, but it’s totally on the way. And I look forward to watching it develop. These two are a fun pair. And now they’re on a road trip to track down more rock monsters. That’s just a recipe for enjoyable, relationship building hijinks.

So yeah, the story is a dang delight. I loved the writing in this issue. The artwork is just, I don’t know. It’s not objectively bad or anything. Nord and Mick Gray are telling the story in a clear, readable way. It’s just not enhancing the story, or showcasing it in a compelling way. It doesn’t capture the heart of it all, both in terms of the action and fun but also with emotion. Like when Diana admits to Giganta that she’s feeling a bit overwhelmed, Nord and Gray have her in silhouette. We can get the emotion from the text, because it’s well written, but the art isn’t conveying it. The pictures aren’t complementing the words, basically. They’re not bringing things down, but they’re not working together as well as this excellent writing deserves.

We have lots to look forward to nonetheless. Rock punching. Road tripping. Friendship! It’s going to be a good time. Whenever Wonder Woman teams up with another rad lady, even if she’s a villain, you know it’s going to be fun.

Wonder Woman #60 Review: With War on the Sidelines, Will Love Enter the Fray?

December 12, 2018

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We’ll get to Wonder Woman in a moment but first, let’s talk about the new She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. When Netflix announced that they were bringing back She-Ra with Noelle Stevenson as showrunner, I instantly had an idea of what the show could be. I’m a big fan of Stevenson, from Nimona to Lumberjanes to her early days of hilarious Tumblr comics. She’s got a delightful yet slightly dark sensibility that always comes through in her work. And when She-Ra debuted, it was everything I wanted it to be. It’s charming and hilarious and surprisingly heavy at times, and as queer as they let kid’s TV be these days. Basically, it was what I expected to get in a Noelle Stevenson project, in all of the best ways.

I feel the same way about this run of Wonder Woman. I’m a huge fan of G. Willow Wilson too, and I’ve enjoyed all of her comics and prose work. Her strengths lie in telling fun, action-packed stories that simultaneously dig into deeper, timely themes. I thought that he was the perfect choice to take over Wonder Woman right now, and she’s bringing everything I thought she would to the book. It’s an exciting story with lots of cool fights, but it’s also a deeper meditation on a whole host of issues, from the nature of war and heroism to the limitations and disappointments of supposed allies in these fraught times. Basically, it’s great, and exactly what I hoped it would be. Also, how awesome is it that we’ve got G. Willow Wilson on Wonder Woman in our comics and Noelle Stevenson on She-Ra on our televisions? Truly we live in a golden age of entertainment.

Let’s dig into the issue, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal all of the rad things that happened in this issue!

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

And make sure you do read it! It’s so good!

So, Ares sucks. I think we all knew that deep down, but I was hoping he’d come around, that he would learn something from Wonder Woman and channel his newfound quest for justice into something actually productive. But no, he’s just a dope. And even when Wonder Woman shows him the error of his ways in the most blatant, impactful way, he still takes the wrong lesson from it. Instead of fixing his mistakes and finding a better way forward, he just decides to leave. Even though he started the war, even though all of these deaths are his own doing, he’s decided he wants no part of it any longer and just steps away.

It’s a fascinating turn. There are so many ways to read it, all of them compelling. The book has felt like it’s about the nature of war and justice over the past few issues, asking whether answering violence with violence is wise or if it’s just perpetuating a vicious cycle. We get more of that here, with a critique of the power structures behind war. So often, those who start wars leave them unfinished, walking away unscathed while scars and lingering tensions remain for those caught in the middle of it. Ares is a global superpower in and of himself, igniting a conflict for his own selfish reasons and then leaving it behind when it gets to bothersome. We’ve seen this too many times in the real world over the past few decades.

But I think there’s another interesting angle here as well. With Ares so inspired by Wonder Woman, I can’t help but see him through the lens of male feminists who position themselves as allies to the cause, only to ultimately prove themselves to be self-serving above all else. Ares wanted to be like Wonder Woman, but not only did he fundamentally misunderstand her from the beginning, he balked when she pushed back and then left full of anger and spite. How often have we seen this with allies for all sorts of causes? These white male saviors who saunter in and spout the lingo only to turn away when the people who have actually been doing the work deign to challenge them in any way? It’s painfully common, unfortunately, and I think we see something similar here with Ares. He’s trying to help a worthy cause, but in the wrong ways and only to make himself feel good. When it feels good no longer, he leaves. It’s a biting critique of male allyship.

And also, the fights are cool! It’s a comic book, after all. Between all of the deep philosophizing, Wonder Woman is battling Ares, deflecting a bunch of bullets, and just generally being her awesome self. It’s a fun read.

Plus Steve’s adventures with the mythological creatures continue, and lead us to a fun surprise. We meet the leader of these Olympian exiles, and it’s none other than Aphrodite. This should be VERY interesting. First, Aphrodite is key to Wonder Woman’s own history. In her earliest adventures, love was the core of the Amazonian worldview, and Aphrodite was its embodiment. I’m curious to see if Wilson delves into that. Second, the goddess of love is an obvious contrast with the god of war, and having them so near, with conflict abounding, should prove to be compelling. And third, Aphrodite and Ares have quite the history. They were lovers, and in Rucka’s run it was the love of Aphrodite that led Ares to accept his imprisonment in the first place. So yeah, now that he’s free there might be some serious drama here. I’m excited to see where this all goes.

The art, however, remains a bit underwhelming for me. Cary Nord’s work here seems even sparser than the last issue, and the detail is lacking. We see this a lot when people take on a book that ships twice a month. A lovely first issue leads to a rougher second issue and then a bit of a slapdash third. It’s a ludicrous schedule for artists, and editorial would be wise to consider other approaches to ensure that the quality stays high. I got a distinct later Frank Miller vibe from a lot of these pages, and not in a good way. Nord is successfully telling the story and is not bringing down the writing here, but he’s not exactly elevating it either, which is disappointing.

Still, the book remains a great read overall. Wilson is doing some fascinating things, and I can’t wait to see where it all goes next, especially with Aphrodite in the mix. She could be a very fun wild card moving forward.

Wonder Woman #59 Review: A Twisted Reflection

November 28, 2018

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In this issue of Wonder Woman, Steve Trevor kicks a griffin in the face then gets head-butted by a satyr. So yeah, this run has been pretty dang fantastic so far. Also, that griffin is the best. She calls Steve a “beakless idiot,” which is a sick burn coming from a griffin. Then she talks about how she doesn’t trust human males at all and only trusts “egg layers.” And sure, fair point, awesome griffin. Plus she’s a key member of some sort of renegade group of mythological creatures. There’s the aforementioned satyr, a minotaur, a dryad, and more. It’s a cool crew. I’m all about whatever these creatures are up to.

Also, this issue raises compelling questions about war and justice, and if we are complicit in perpetuating a destructive cycle when we answer violence with violence. But first and foremost, Steve tries to fight some mythological beasts and it’s hilarious and great. Let’s dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to discuss the events in this very fine comic book!

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

And go pick it up if you haven’t! It’s super good!

G. Willow Wilson isn’t screwing around here, gang. She didn’t take over Wonder Woman just for a lark. She’s not that kind of a writer at all. If you’ve read Ms. Marvel (and if you haven’t, what are you even doing?! Go get on it! It’s phenomenal!), you know that Wilson has a knack for tackling big, complicated ideas through fun superhero adventures. Ms. Marvel is rip roaring fun, to be sure, but there’s always a lot of thoughtful, relevant themes at play.

And now Wilson is bringing a similar approach to Wonder Woman. Ares is back on Earth, and he’s styled himself as a hero, drawing inspiration from Wonder Woman herself. He’s defending an oppressed ethnic minority group in Durovnia from violent government forces, which is a noble stance. Definitely something Wonder Woman would do. Except that when they spot a Durovnian missile headed for them, instead of redirecting it into an empty field, Ares sends it to a home of Durovian government supporters, killing them all. Wonder Woman is furious, of course, but Ares is perplexed. Doesn’t she carry a sword? Hasn’t she killed her enemies?

Then the tables turn even more. American fighter jets streak overhead, allied with the Durovnian forces. Ares wants to destroy them, but Wonder Woman saves them. Now it’s Ares who feels angry and betrayed. Those fighter jets were targeting the oppressed people he was defending. In not stopping them, Wonder Woman essentially sided against him and his cause.

Wonder Woman vs. Ares should be the most black and white confrontation ever. A warrior for peace against the god of war and destruction. The right and wrong of it all should be clear as day. Except that now, it’s not. Modern warfare isn’t that simple. So much of it is shades of grey, and now Wonder Woman and Ares find themselves mired in this grey. As much as Wonder Woman is outraged at Ares’ actions, there’s an argument to be made that they are more the same than they are different. They’re not exactly the same, of course. Wonder Woman wouldn’t kill civilians, no matter who they supported. But she works with the Americans, who support the Durovnian military. She uses weapons of war against her foes. Her hands are not entirely clean.

Ares still sees things in black and white, but from the side of the oppressed now. Instead of glorying in military might above all else, he takes a moral stance and glories in turning that might against the tyrants who wield it. And yeah, tyrants are bad, right? Ares is doing some sketchy stuff, but he’s not entirely wrong here. Is he going too far, or is he just being realistic?

I’m still on Wonder Woman’s side, because of course. She’s Wonder Woman. And killing civilians is a step too far for me. But dang if this book isn’t raising some fascinating questions about war and where we decide to draw the line when it comes to defending what we believe in. There’s not a simple answer here either, and I’m excited to see how this arc continues to dig into it all. From her earliest days, Wonder Woman has been associated with war. She left Paradise Island in 1941 to go fight the Nazis, after all! But war has gotten far more complicated over the decades, and I’m glad to see the book diving into the messy complexities of it all.

Plus, there’s a cool griffin! The series is digging into heavy stuff with Wonder Woman and Ares, so the comic relief and intriguing mysteries of these mythological creatures is a welcome contrast. I’m intrigued by the cliffhanger, which suggests that the leader of the beasts is a woman of some sort. Perhaps a goddess? It looks like Olympus might be back, if in a rather damaged state. And if there’s a goddess in charge, is this divine return connected to Ares’ recent escape? There’s a lot of cool stuff at play here.

While the writing is great, I did find the art a bit hit and miss in this issue. Some of the pages are really nice; Cary Nord and Mick Gray are talented dudes, and they can do exciting action. But some of the pages feel super rushed. There’s a lack of detail in certain panels, with proportions that are off and simplistic linework that looks like it was hastily cobbled together. And honestly, that’s just how it goes these days with bi-monthly books. It’s hard to keep up a high level of quality at that pace. We’ve seen it several times before. Still, there are some rough moments in this issue. Writing this good deserves good, consistent art, and I hope that editorial can figure out a way to keep everyone on track and putting out quality work.

But this is a stellar issue nonetheless. The story is dealing with some big ideas in intriguing ways, plus it brings a huge dose of superhero spectacle and fun with each outing. I can’t wait to see where this story goes.

Wonder Woman #58 Review: A New Era Begins with G. Willow Wilson and Cary Nord

November 14, 2018

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I’m not even going to pretend to be chill about this. I LOVE G. Willow Wilson. Her Ms. Marvel has been my favourite comic on the stand for years now, her graphic novel Cairo is amazing, and her prose novel Alif the Unseen is spectacular. She’s not just one of the best writers working in comics today, she’s one of the best writers today, full stop, across multiple mediums. I’d be hard pressed to think of anyone I’d rather have writing Wonder Woman. So yeah, I’m pretty excited for this run.

I’m less familiar with Cary Nord. I know his name and I’ve undoubtedly seen his work over the years. You can’t consume as many comics as I do without seeing everybody’s work at some point or another. But I don’t remember the specifics of it, which is kind of fun. Going into a book without any artistic expectations is exciting, and rare for a comics nerd like me. And I certainly found a lot to like here.

So let’s dig into the first issue of this new era for Wonder Woman, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

Trust me, it’s good, you’ll want to buy it first!

G. Willow Wilson wrote it, for goodness sake!

That should be an automatic buy!

I can’t decide if bringing in Ares at the start of a new Wonder Woman run is a cliché or tradition, though I’m leaning toward tradition right now. Perez did it, Azzarello did it, Rucka did it, Patty Jenkins did it with the movie. Ares is Diana’s arch nemesis in a lot of ways, representing the antithesis of everything she stands for, plus he ties so well into her mythological heritage. It’s just a good fit.

And here we’ve got that same fit, with a twist. Ares is back once again, surprise surprise. But with a new mission. He is no longer focused on destruction, at least not for the its own sake. Now his focus is on justice. When he comes face to face with Wonder Woman at the end of the issue, he explains that he’s returned “to battle alongside you against tyranny and injustice.” And he’s kind of doing it, too.

The issue sets up an interesting conflict. The nation of Durovnia is a democratic country, allied closely with the United States and generally respected on the world stage. However, the government is actively suppressing an indigenous ethnic minority and their independence movement. That’s the tricky thing about democracy. It represents the will of the majority of the people, but when this majority has an unfavourable view of minorities, things can get bad. No obvious parallels spring to mind immediately, but it would be like if racist white people in America elected a demagogue who spouted false claims about African Americans and Latinos to rally his base. Can you even imagine? That would be terrible.

But back to the comic book. The independence movement in Durovnia has a new leader, one committed to a more aggressive, violent course of action, and now the nation is at war. When Steve gets caught in the conflict, Wonder Woman swoops in to save him. And, in pitch perfect Wonder Woman fashion, she ends up fighting both sides. Because of course. Wonder Woman doesn’t care what you’re fighting for. If you’re putting innocent people in danger, she’s going to bust you up. That bit, and Diana’s refusal to listen to Etta telling her to stay out of it, was all especially nicely done by Wilson.

Turns out, Ares is the new leader of the independence movement, which is fascinating. We’re used to him being evil, so of course our first instinct is to assume that these revolutionaries are bad guys. But once you think about it for a second, it gets real murky real quick. The Durovnian government clearly aren’t the good guys here, what with a majority suppressing a minority. And an ethnic minority’s desire for independence is an enormously sympathetic cause. So maybe Ares is on the right side here?

Even more interesting, he’s got this new dedication to justice and appears to be standing up for a noble cause, but he’s still the dang god of war. As much as he’s all about this new ideology, he’s using his old tricks, relying on conflict and bloodshed to accomplish change. And wow, I cannot wait to read Wonder Woman navigating this entire scenario. Ares making good choices in bad ways is going to present a real conundrum for Diana, and I’m curious to see how she proceeds. And doubly so how he reacts if she decides to take him under her wing and tries to teach him alternatives to violence. There’s so much to dig into with this new twist on Ares.

Cary Nord’s pencils and Mick Gray’s inks throughout the issue were solid, if perhaps middle of the pack relative to other artists we’ve seen in the post-Rebirth era. Wonder Woman has been blessed with some amazing artistic talent over the years, and Nord’s approach here has some ups and downs. I love how dynamic his Wonder Woman is. She hits a lot of cool poses at interesting angles, and he captures both her grace and fierceness. She seems a tad scrawny and doe-eyed, though, and is drawn a bit inconsistently. It feels like Nord’s maybe not quite settled into the book yet, and fair enough. It’s his first issue. There’s certainly a lot of nice stuff here, across the board, and I’m excited to see how he grows with the character as the run progresses.

Also, our favourite friend Romulo Fajardo Jr. is still on the book! With excellent colour work, yet again. As always, Fajardo shows that he’s able to adapt his colours to the style of the artist and melds flawlessly with Nord’s linework. They’re a good pair, with Fajardo adding depth to the background work and life to the characters where called for, but also pulling back a bit when Nord chooses to be more sparse.

Ultimately, I’m so looking forward to the next issue of this run. Wilson and Nord have set up quite an interesting situation for our amazing Amazon. Also, there’s more than just Ares going on here! Steve is captured, and we’ve got mythological creatures on the loose in Durovnia. This first issue has laid out a lot of fun and compelling elements, and I can’t wait to see where it all goes.

Wonder Woman #34 Review: The Worst Family Reunion, On Multiple Levels

November 8, 2017

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Although this is the 34th issue of the current incarnation of Wonder Woman, it’s also something more: When you add up all of the issues from past volumes together, this is actually the 700th issue of Wonder Woman! It’s a massive achievement. Apart from a few short breaks here and there, Wonder Woman has been published continuously since 1942, one of only a handful of titles with such a legacy. It’s fun to think back to all of the different versions of Wonder Woman we’ve seen in the series over the years, how she’s evolved and grown, overcome various setbacks, and continued to be an inspirational heroine for so many. While Wonder Woman’s status as a cultural icon often supersedes the ups and downs of her comic book adventures, those stories showcase one of the most fascinating and compelling journeys in the history of the medium. Hitting 700 issues is remarkable, and I’m glad that DC noticed the numbers and marked the occasion.

It’s too bad that the story inside is absolutely terrible. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal the foolish twists and turns inside this issue!

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

Or really, just read this instead! The issue is awful!

I’m going to start with something really nitpicky, because for some reason I just can’t stand bad versions of Wonder Woman’s tiara. Sergio Davila penciled this issue, and we saw him a couple issues back in Wonder Woman #32. His art wasn’t great then, but it was serviceable and he had the tiara about right. We’ve got a few versions of the tiara going across DC’s line right now so there’s really not a definitive take on it currently, and Davila was in the ballpark of these various designs. Then, in this issue, it got wonky. The red star seemed to get smaller as the issue progressed, while the tiara itself grew wider and bulkier. It just looked wrong. And I know it’s a small thing, but when the writing is so bad, you look to the art for a little bit of spark. Unfortunately, in this issue the art just annoyed me further.

Not as much as the writing, though. Good lord. I mean, DC Comics is a professional comic book company. They’ve been publishing a comic called Wonder Woman for 75 years and 700 issues now! You would think they’d all know how to put together an enjoyable issue by now. But no. This arc has been absolutely painful thus far, and it’s not any better here. Diana’s reunion with her brother Jason was beyond corny. So sappy and over the top and just cringeworthy most of the time. Their conversation took up the bulk of the book, and while it was nice to actually have Wonder Woman show up in Wonder Woman for a change, their mutual fawning and getting to know each other was not pleasant.

And then we got a shocking turn of events. All of those insipid, boring pages we just sat through? They were a fake out! Jason is secretly evil, hates Wonder Woman, and has been working with Grail the whole time! Then Grail showed up and there was a big old fight and oh dear, a startling cliffhanger with Wonder Woman in a real bind. IT. WAS. SO. STUPID.

Here’s the thing: If you’re going to dedicate half an issue to setting up a twist that then invalidates everything that came before, make those pages good. Make them interesting or fun or compelling in some way so that the reader gets emotionally invested. Sell me on this burgeoning sister/brother relationship! Give them an engaging dynamic, a connection that has me rooting for them and glad to have him be a part of a book! Whatever you do, don’t make these pages absurdly boring, because when you do that and your new good guy turns out to be a bad guy the only reaction you’re going to get is, “Well, that’s the first interesting thing he’s ever done.”

When the turn came, part of me was very much underwhelmed, but the other part of me was just glad that Diana’s bland, dull twit of a brother wasn’t going to be hanging around being a bore for the next few months. He’ll still be boring, I suppose. Being evil doesn’t make him any more interesting. But at least we don’t have to sit through another droning, hackneyed heart to heart conversation.

Anyway, this arc continues to be generally horrible. And the teaser at the end of the issue promised that the next outing is “The Story of Jason,” so please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I prepare for this time of trial and tribulation. If I have to sit through another issue of Wonder Woman without Wonder Woman dedicated to the tedious backstory of some dumb ass side character I couldn’t possibly care less about, I’m going to lose my mind. Also, I know Jason’s backstory already. He blathered on about it in this issue, and while I’m sure some of it was lies, I’m guessing that the bulk of it is the same plus a couple of dark twists and some whiny brooding over his famous sister. And I don’t want to read 20 pages of that. Ugh.


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