Posts Tagged ‘Review’

Wonder Woman #26 Review: Diana Meets Her Destiny

July 12, 2017

ww26.jpg

After a year of stellar comic books from Greg Rucka, Bilquis Evely, Nicola Scott, and Liam Sharp that restored Diana and the Amazons to their proper status in the DC universe, Wonder Woman‘s new creative team has some big shoes to fill. And I’m pleased to report that Shea Fontana and Mirka Andolfo are off to a fantastic start! I had a good feeling about this team; Fontana’s been doing great stuff with the DC Super Hero Girls comics, and I absolutely love Mirka Andolfo’s work on DC Comics Bombshells as well as her recent fill-in issue on Wonder Woman. Together they’ve crafted a story that moves Wonder Woman forward from all of the drama surrounding her origins and her past. That drama made for compelling comics, of course, but Rucka and co. wrapped it up perfectly and now it’s nice to see the new status quo carrying on in a new tale. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

Well, less spoilery than usual; more of a broad strokes overview!

Reading this probably won’t ruin the comic for you!

But regardless, go read the comic! It’s super good!

First off, before I get to how good this comic was, I’ve got to say that the cover is not great. Andolfo’s art has a stylized, cartoonish element that is so expressive and good, and pairing it with such generic, standard superhero art feels like a bad decision. It’s a poor advertisement for what’s inside the book, which is so much better. I don’t mind a book having different cover artist than interior artist, but the cover art should give some sort of indication of the tone and style of the interior. This does not, and I wish it had a fun, bad ass Andolfo cover instead.

That’s partly because Mirka Andolfo is GREAT and I’m never not excited to see more of her art. She’s got a style that’s clearly her own; I always know that I’m reading an Andolfo book from page one. Her work is gorgeous, and captures the characters wonderfully, almost exaggeratedly. There aren’t a lot of subtle emotions here. Instead, every feeling is displayed across each character’s face clearly, and I find their expressiveness so compelling and fun. Andolfo’s also got an amazing eye for style, and Diana and Etta’s outfits when they attend a wedding at the end of this issue are so darn good. Her work always feels fresh and modern to me, and I love when Wonder Woman has that sensibility.

Plus, here’s some amazing news: While the bulk of Wonder Woman‘s creative team over the past year has moved on, colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr. is still on board! This dude is a wizard. He adds depth and texture to every panel in a way that brings so much to every page without overwhelming the line work at all. I’m so glad he’s still on Wonder Woman. He’s one of the best colorists in the game today, and his stuff just gets better and better. He pairs well with Andolfo, too, highlighting her character work beautifully.

In terms of the story itself, this issue hits a lot of the elements that will make me love a Wonder Woman book. We’ve got Wonder Woman helping those who need it most, here dealing with an attack at a UN refugee camp in Greece. It always feels right to see Wonder Woman dealing with international issues, and never more so than when they are timely topics. We’ve also got young Diana on Themyscira, which I’m a sucker for. It feels like Fontana is drawing from the opening of the Wonder Woman film a bit here, and I’m all for it. Little Diana is so entertaining. We’ve got Etta Candy as well, i.e. Wonder Woman’s greatest supporting character of all time. And even better, we’ve got them hanging out at a wedding. I love Diana as a superhero, of course, but it’s also nice to see her having a life beyond that, hanging out with her friends outside of the costume. The costume is such a powerful symbol that it’s always interesting to see Diana away from it, partly because the gal deserves a break and partly because she can’t help but still be Wonder Woman to some degree, regardless of what she’s wearing, as her adventure with Destiny, a little girl at the wedding, shows.

So all of these elements are great, but I also really like what Fontana seems to be digging into in terms of the psychological cost of being a superhero. The flashback to Themyscira gives us a good look at Diana’s mindset, as her younger self tearfully locks away her beloved doll to toughen herself up and become the warrior that Amazons are supposed to be. Wonder Woman is very well adjusted as far as superheroes go, but the story effectively points out that she has to deal with seeing so many terrible things, all the time. Moreover, it suggests that this could be taking a toll on her mental health, despite her insistence that she can handle it all. There’s a scene where she says that she doesn’t want to put the burden of her experiences on someone else, and I think that’s going to be key moving forward. That’s a very heroic, self-sacrificing notion, but while Wonder Woman can handle a lot, much more than most, trying to deal with everything on your own can only work for so long. I’m curious to see how Fontana explores this with Wonder Woman as the story continues.

Also, there’s a big crazy cliffhanger at the end! That’s just fun comic booking. It’s a bit of a doozy, too, that leaves Wonder Woman in a very difficult spot. I know she’s Wonder Woman and all, but she’s really up against it with this one. It’s going to be hard to get out of it without any collateral damage. We’ll find out what she does in two weeks time, and I can’t wait! This was an excellent, gorgeous first issue for this new creative team, and I’m very excited for more.

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

June 28, 2017

ww25.jpg

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

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 14, 2017

ww24

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

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wonder Woman Film Review: A Movie Worthy of its Heroine

June 2, 2017

wwposter

Well it’s finally happened, gang. After decades of watching the boys get movie after movie, we’ve finally got a Wonder Woman solo film. And here’s the good news: It’s really, really good. Great even. Full of heart and action and excitement. It’s far and away the best film from the DC cinematic universe so far and, more importantly, it does Wonder Woman justice and captures the heart of the character well. Let’s dig into it all, first with some spoiler-free general thoughts, and then with full on spoilers after a jump so anyone who hasn’t seen it yet won’t have anything ruined for them.

So gosh, where to start? With Wonder Woman herself, probably. Gal Gadot is pretty much a perfect Wonder Woman. We got to see her for a few minutes in Batman v Superman and she totally stole the show, and now with a show all of her own, she absolutely shines. Gadot captures the heroism and compassion of Wonder Woman so well; she’s fierce when she needs to be, kind when she needs to be, and just has so much heart. She smiles a lot, which is a lovely contrast with the grim darkness that’s dominated other DC movies, and it’s the most earnest and charming smile. It’s Wonder Woman’s smile, really. It’s something that could easily turn corny, but Gadot makes it utterly genuine, sincere, and believable. And while Diana’s got an interesting journey throughout the film, a sort of loss of innocence as she leaves her utopian home and experiences the horrors of war, Gadot does a fantastic job playing this evolution and it’s darker, questioning moments without losing the heart of the character. She’s just so good. I want to see her continue to play Wonder Woman again and again and again.

Holding his own with such a stunning take on Wonder Woman was a tall order for Chris Pine, but his Steve Trevor was excellent. I’m steeped in Wonder Woman comics and very familiar with every incarnation of Steve Trevor, and this was my favourite version of him ever, by a considerable margin. He was written really well; it’s a sidekick/love interest role that keeps the focus squarely on Wonder Woman, and Pine plays it spot on. He’s a tough guy with some skills, but he very quickly realizes he’s no Wonder Woman and is totally okay with that, in part because he’s just kind of in awe of her. Gadot and Pine’s chemistry together is delightful, Pine’s got charm to spare and is also hilarious, and the two of them made for a really winning partnership.

The supporting cast is pretty solid, too. Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright do great work as Hippolyta and Antiope, guiding the film well through it’s early scenes with young Diana. Wonder Woman’s crew in Europe are all fun too, but Lucy Davis’ Etta Candy is a total scene stealer. She’s so funny and enjoyable, albeit underused. I could have done with a lot more Etta Candy! The bad guys were suitably evil, as they should be, if somewhat underdeveloped, but such is the case with most superhero films.

In terms of the directing, Patty Jenkins did a remarkable job. While Wonder Woman had a lot of the beats you expect from a superhero movie, it also had its own unique style and tone. The action was especially spectacular; I’ve never seen fighting like that in a superhero movie, particularly some of the amazing acrobatics we got from the Amazons. They were astonishingly good. I also loved the little touches throughout the film, like the gorgeous, sweeping establishing shots we got for Themyscira, London, and the front. There was a real flair to the film that set it apart from other superhero movies. Jenkins also smoothly married the action and stunning visuals with the emotional aspects of the film. All of the humourous, romantic, and quiet reflective moments rang true, and everything flowed together nicely.

It was just fun to look at, too. Themyscira was so epic and cool, uniquely ancient and breathtaking in its scenery. I want to go to there. A lot of the movie was spent in the cramped confines of London or on the front, all of which was nicely done, but there was a good amount of time spent outdoors in lovely, natural settings that were shot exquisitely. On top of the settings, the costumes were quite striking. Wonder Woman wore an updated version of her Batman v Superman outfit, one that actually had colour this time, and it looked fantastic. All of the Amazons got cool costumes, with everyone wearing something a little bit different but yet thematically similar to the each other. The costumes in the outside world were a little bit drab in comparison, of course, but all of the major supporting characters had their own special look that suited them well.

If I wanted to nitpick, there are a few things I would change. For me, the final fight scene wasn’t quite as cool as the earlier ones and got a bit messy with all of the fire and chaos and CGI. Also, some of the supporting characters got outshone by the leads. To be fair, Gadot and Pine were ridiculously good, but a few folks did fall a bit flat. And there were a few changes to the Wonder Woman mythos I didn’t love, but we’ll save that for the spoilers section.

All in all, though, it was a great movie. Well executed on every level, so much fun, and most importantly, true to who Wonder Woman is and what she means to so many fans. I loved it. Now, that being said, I’m not sure that this is the movie they should have made. Setting the film in World War I was a big change that made a lot of elements very different from what we usually get with Wonder Woman, and while it was all done well and a lot of those changes were interesting, I don’t think it was the best showcase for what is great about Wonder Woman. Don’t get me wrong, it was an excellent showcase for Wonder Woman, but in an intriguing alternate universe way rather than a relevant, modern way. An origin set in the present day could have been more resonant and more reflective of the character, her past, and what she means, especially in terms of tackling modern women’s issues rather than poking fun at sexist attitudes that are a century past. I get that the film is what it has to be given the existing framework of the DC cinematic universe, and it succeeds triumphantly at that, capturing the heart of the character beautifully. I just think that setting up Wonder Woman as this older, wise superhero who predates Batman and Superman limits her in certain ways, and I’d rather see this young, plucky Wonder Woman dealing with the modern world, rather than the more experienced, somewhat world-weary Wonder Woman we seem to be getting with Batman v Superman, the framing device of Wonder Woman, and what we’ve seen from Justice League thus far. But so long as Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman, it’s absolutely a Wonder Woman worth watching, and Patty Jenkins and the whole team did an amazing job making this new setting and backstory work for the character and stay true to who she is.

Let’s move on to some spoilers now, after the jump!

(more…)

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

May 31, 2017

wwannual1

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

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

Do yourself a favour and go buy it now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wonder Woman #23: The Truth is Finally Revealed

May 24, 2017

ww23

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

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 10, 2017

ww22

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

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


%d bloggers like this: