Posts Tagged ‘Review’

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.

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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.

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 #57 Review: Exorcising The Witching Hour

October 24, 2018

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I know I usually go with the main cover to start my review, but this Jenny Frison variant cover was too amazing to ignore. Look at that! It’s so creepy and menacing and gorgeous. While Frison has done consistently fantastic work with her Wonder Woman variants, this is one especially excellent. And perfectly spooky!

But onto the story. This Justice League Dark team certainly comes up with a lot of big ideas. Last week, it was Wonder Woman trying to channel Hecate’s powers and use them against her. That went sideways pretty quickly, though. Hecate is the goddess of witchcraft, after all. She knows what she’s doing with this whole magic thing. This week, the big plan was courtesy of Zatanna and Constantine. Since Wonder Woman is possessed by Hecate now, why not bring in the best exorcist in the game to try to cast Hecate out? Much like Wonder Woman’s plan from last week, it was basically a hail Mary. The old ways of magic aren’t working, Hecate is defeating them all, and the apocalypse is more or less nigh. They have to try something. And it works, sort of, before it takes a surprising turn at the end of the issue. We’ll dig into that big cliffhanger momentarily, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I’m not going to tell you what happens on the last page in the first paragraph of my review!

Read on only if you’ve read the entire issue!

Which you should do, because this is a fun crossover!

So let’s backtrack a little bit. The issue opens with Wonder Woman on the moon, except not really. For our ancient ancestors, the moon was the first mystery and they saw a sort of magic in it. Hecate, as the goddess thereof, thus adopted this magical concept of the moon as her domain, what Witchfire calls “the primal dominion of magic.” Her power exists not on the real moon, but within the metaphor of what the moon represents. It’s all super weird, and I love it.

First off, waking up with a shock is a bit of a trope, sure, but one that can be a lot of fun when handled well. And in a spooky story like “The Witching Hour,” the surprise wake up was an excellent choice, especially since when we last left Diana she was fully possessed by Hecate and straight up destroying Nanda Parbat. Second, to have her wake up on the moon is enjoyably unexpected. And third, then everything gets all tricky, what with her being trapped on a metaphor of the moon and all, and I was so into it. This is a big crossover with all sorts of characters and locations, and this moon section, while important, will only be a small part of the overall story. It could have been simpler. Vaguer. Easier. But James Tynion IV took the time to make it unique, to come up with a big, interesting idea to make the scene extra cool. You gotta respect that level of commitment to telling a fun story.

Everything about this opening was delightful, the art especially. Emanuela Lupacchino always does excellent work, but I tend to focus on her lovely female characters. While she’s still slaying on that front here, she also does a gorgeous job with the lunar landscape, making it feel like the moon but not quite the moon. It looks like a metaphor for a magical representation of the moon, basically, which I’m guessing was very hard to pull off. And Romulo Fajardo Jr. colours it beautifully. It’s a pale, silvery world but it never feels flat, and Wonder Woman’s pop of colour is just enough of a contrast to stand out without being garish or out of place. The whole sequence is gorgeous.

And the issue stayed strong from then on. While it wasn’t as action packed as last week’s, it had some good moments for everyone, a few payoffs and twists on past events in the crossover, and some major developments. In terms of character growth, we learn that Constantine is gravely ill and, with magic not working correctly, beyond help. If this doesn’t get sorted in the finale next week, I’m guessing this will play out in future issues of Justice League Dark. On the story side of things, we have the exorcism. I came into this issue having no idea how the team was going to deal with a possessed Wonder Woman, and dang if this isn’t an enjoyably elegant solution. Of course they try an exorcism! They’ve got John friggin’ Constantine. Why wouldn’t they? It’s played wonderfully as well, with neither Constantine nor Zatanna terribly confident it will work but yet keen to try it nonetheless because they have literally no other options at this point.

Of course, it all takes a terrible turn. Black Orchid and Manitou Dawn are freed from Hecate’s control, but Constantine miscalculated things and all of their power races into Diana. It’s a lot of power. Too much power, it seems, because the issue ends with Witchfire telling Diana that she has died.

Now, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I don’t think that Wonder Woman is dead. DC’s got G. Willow Wilson and Cary Nord coming on in a couple weeks in what is a pretty big deal for the publisher. I’m quite confident that Wonder Woman is going to survive this crossover. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t in a pickle right now. If she is dead, they’re gonna have to bring her back, and if she isn’t then she’s certainly not in a good way. Whatever is going on, it’s going to need sorting in the finale next week. Diana’s still trapped in the lunar metaphor, and I presume the wrath of Hecate is going to be swift and violent. Nothing’s coming easy for the team in this run, and I’m excited to see what hare-brained scheme they come up with next week in the crossover’s grand finale.

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

October 17, 2018

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

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

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

Also, go pick it up! It’s good!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wonder Woman #56 Review: The Witching Hour Continues!

October 11, 2018

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In Wonder Woman #56, we get Emanuela Lupacchino drawing Wonder Woman, Zatanna, AND Circe, and if that’s not worth four bucks then I don’t know what is. Luppachino’s drawn a bunch of issues of Wonder Woman over the past year, bringing some visual flair to several subpar stories, but this time she’s paired with writing worthy of her talents. James Tynion IV is putting together something cool here with “The Witching Hour” and I’m really enjoying it. The crossover is the perfect October treat thus far, and the stakes keep getting higher. Our pal Wonder Woman is playing with some dangerous powers here, and I’m worried that things might go sideways on her. We’ll get into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

Also, you should buy this issue! And the other parts of the crossover!

It’s pretty rad!

I’m going to start by talking about a small, almost inconsequential part of the book, but it’s something done smoothly and well in a way that deserves recognition. Continuity is in a tricky spot right now in the DC universe. The New 52 relaunch was rocky, and the “Rebirth” books did some good course correction but confusion still remains. This is true most of all for Wonder Woman. Her continuity right now is a dang mess. Elements I thought were changed and sorted keep coming back, and parts of her past remain massive questions marks. It’s chaos.

But sometimes, there’s a simple fix to a problem. Case in point: Circe. In the New 52 era, she appeared in the deservedly maligned Superman/Wonder Woman series in classic scary witch form, wreaking all sorts of havoc. But in the “Rebirth” era, Bilquis Evely did a marvelous redesign of the character that modernized her for Greg Rucka’s more nuanced take. These contrary incarnations both exist in the same universe, so Tynion found an easy workaround. He brought out the first Circe, all pigtailed and black bodiced, to intimidate Wonder Woman and her friends, then when she realized what was happening she morphed into the newer, chiller Circe, explaining that the first look was just for theatrics. It’s an elegant way to clean up a continuity snafu, all while adding a little drama and humour to the story.

Speaking of humour, I really enjoyed the balance of the serious and the silly in this issue. Terrible things are happening for Wonder Woman and the gang, with our Amazon heroine plagued with a powerful curse and Hecate set to destroy all magic, violently and brutally. It’s a bad scene. But the book doesn’t languish in tense planning and argument. There’s a lot of that, sure. Wonder Woman’s got kind of a whacky plan here. But there are enough small, humorous moments to keep everything from feeling too heavy. Detective Chimp is always great comic relief, and it turns out Man-Bat is a good source for some unexpected laughs too. The tone is well managed throughout, maintaining the tension while not drowning in it.

Tynion’s done a nice job crafting an impossible situation, too. Wonder Woman and Zatanna’s argument over what to do in the face of the overwhelmingly powerful Hecate was so well done. It’s hard to craft an argument where both sides have totally valid points, but while reading this I kept flip flopping back and forth over whose side I was on. Diana wants to wield Hecate’s power with Circe’s help, tapping into it without being controlled by it. Zatanna thinks that channeling the power would be impossible and that Wonder Woman would slip under Hecate’s control again. And they’re both right! There’s no other power strong enough to challenge Hecate but her own, but it’s also a power that Hecate can control. It could work, but it could also go terribly awry. It’s also an argument that doesn’t get personal. This isn’t about trust. Zatanna doesn’t think that Diana is weak and Diana doesn’t think that Zatanna is cowardly. They’re facing an awesome power, and they just have different ideas and concerns.

In the end, Wonder Woman goes for it, of course. We’ve been seeing a lot of stories lately about Wonder Woman going above and beyond, taking on the weight of the world because she’s confident she can bear it. It’s a compelling theme, and one that’s especially apt in today’s political climate. And the fact remains that everyone has limits. There’s no one I would rather have try to wield Hecate’s power than Diana, but at the same time, that power is immense. Even Diana might not be able to keep control of it. Watching this all play out has made for great reading thus far, and I’m excited to see where it goes from here now that she’s taken this next step.

As I mentioned at the top, Emanuela Lupacchino drew this issue, with inks from Ray McCarthy, and I am always glad to have her in the pages of Wonder Woman. She’s got such an ease with the character, capturing her power and beauty with aplomb in every panel. It was fun to see her draw some other DC mainstays as well. Lupacchino’s got a knack for female characters, so Zatanna and Circe were super cool, but the rest of the gang were nicely done as well. She captured the growing tension of the issue, while also nailing the smaller comedic moments. And she was joined by colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr., who always brings the heat. I know I go on and on about him all the time, but seriously, flip through this comic book. Look at the textures and the colour choices and see how everything beautifully compliments the line art. The dude is so good.

“The Witching Hour” continues next week in Justice League Dark, so be sure to let your local comic book shop know you’re on board for the entire crossover. These first two issues have been really good, and I think the whole event will be worth picking up. It’s spooky and enjoyable and I honestly have no idea how they’re going to win this one, which is the sign of an excellent story.

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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