Posts Tagged ‘Romulo Fajardo Jr.’

Wonder Woman #76 Review: Mother and Child Reunions

August 14, 2019

ww76.jpg

After the suitably epic, oversized Wonder Woman #75, this issue takes a break from battle and revelations in favour of something a little quieter. It’s a nice pause after the action and adventure of the past few outings, a well deserved breather as characters adjust to their new realities and the opportunities they present. There are several different reunions, all of them enjoyable, some of them very long awaited. I’m glad to see everyone generally happy for an issue, especially Diana. She’s been through a lot since G. Willow Wilson took over the book, an almost step by step tear down of who she is as a person that’s forced her to re-examine herself and her place in the world. And now she’s back with everyone she loves, and there seems to be a peace in that, a reassurance of her purpose.

It’s a lovely issue until the final pages of the book, when a twist sets us up for the next arc. DC’s really going hard with this “Year of the Villain” stuff, and suffice it to say that the Cheetah is not fooling around. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal all of the heartwarming things that happen in this issue!

Make sure you’ve read it first!

Go warm your heart with the actual comic!

We start with Diana and Hippolyta together again, finally. Their conversation holds no startling revelations or dramatic turns, and I’m glad it doesn’t. As much as I’m sure Hippolyta will play a major role in the story to come, it was good to see the two of them interacting casually, as mother and daughter, with no real stakes or danger looming over them. It’s a respite that was a long time coming for Diana, and I like that Wilson took the time to give them a quiet moment together.

It’s short-lived, of course. Wonder Woman always has things to do, and an entire world to return to. Without one of her team members, too, since Maggie decides to stay on Themyscira. I love this development for several reasons. First, Maggie’s got the heart of an Amazon and will fit right in. Second, her training under Antiope will be super cool, and I’m excited for awesome warrior Maggie in the future. And third, the scene sets up the potential for more mortal women to join the Amazons and learn their ways, which I am all for. That would be such a fun addition to the DCU, and something I would be glad to see not just in Wonder Woman but across the entire line.

Diana’s reunion with Steve is very cute as well. She’s been away for a while and he’s been worried, and his relief and joy at seeing her again is played beautifully here. Having Atlantiades come along also adds a nice comedic element to the scene. He’s not threatened by them, really, but they certainly aren’t impressed with Diana’s choice of beau. While I feel like this could turn into future drama, for now it’s just amusing. Especially combined with what has clearly been a very awkward period for Steve with Aphrodite as his houseguest. I’d like a flashback issue of them being roommates, please.

The heart of the issue, though, involves Diana and Veronica Cale. She’s been Wonder Woman’s arch-nemesis for a while now, but I can’t help but like her. Greg Rucka’s run gave her such depth and motivation that even though she’s a villain who’s always trying to hurt my favourite character, I still feel for her. She’s been through a lot, and while she’s working out her anger in unhealthy and damaging ways, it’s a very justified anger nonetheless. Plus she’s smart and cutting, and fearless in taking on the divine powerhouses of the world. I gotta respect that, and I like her all the more for it.

But there is no fighting this week. (Sure, Veronica pulls a gun on Diana, but that’s a friendly greeting relative to their usual interactions.) I love that Diana’s first move upon returning home is to go to Veronica and tell her she can see her daughter again. It’s such a Wonder Woman thing to do, to bring solace and joy to an enemy who’s done nothing but hate you. You see, I think Diana likes Veronica, too. Well, maybe not “like.” But she feels for her like I do, and understands what’s beneath her villainy. It’s a complicated relationship that I very much enjoy, and it was so lovely to see Veronica and Isadore back together after so much time apart. Pairing their mother/daughter reunion with Diana and Hippolyta looking on was a marvelous touch, and I’m so glad to finally have a resolution to their story.

This issue was heavy on emotional reactions, clearly, and guest artist Lee Garbett did a marvelous job communicating the feelings in each scene. Every moment of joy or anger or relief or disdain was portrayed well, not so big as to be cartoonish or so subtle as to go unnoticed. He brought a great balance to the book, and gave it exactly the tone it needed. I also quite liked the soft style of his linework. The inking wasn’t crisp and sharp like we usually see in superhero comics. It was loose and light, with blacks that weren’t super saturated, and it all felt like it was done in a dark pencil rather than ink. It was likely some sort of digital brush, but whatever it was, it fit the story well and colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr. matched the linework with more muted tones to bring a pleasing harmony to the look of the book.

So everyone was happily together again, until the Cheetah showed up. And now we might have a situation. It appears that the Cheetah, seeking entry to Themyscira, has killed Aphrodite. I’m hoping it’s a fake out, because I really like Aphrodite and how Wilson writes her, but a bloodied god killer sword and a sizeable chest wound is a troubling combination. The fallout from this should be considerable, and based on the solicits we’re going to be going after the Cheetah for the next few issues. Just when things had calmed down again! Isn’t that always the way.

Advertisements

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

July 10, 2019

ww74

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

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

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

Look away if you have not read it yet!

Also, you should be reading this book!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wonder Woman #73 Review: Through a Glass Darkly

June 26, 2019

ww73

I love an alternate universe. Whether it’s slight changes in a different dimension or a full on evil mirror universe, I’m instantly intrigued. I am here for bizarre multiverse fun all day long. However, alternate universes haven’t been great for Wonder Woman. I’ve never been a big fan of the evil Earth Three, the Crime Syndicate, or Superwoman. The characters are so evil as to not be interesting. And Flashpoint Wonder Woman wasn’t much fun either, what with the weird design and the Amazons’ unnecessary invasion of the UK. It just didn’t live up to the exciting potential an alternate universe represents.

This issue does, though. It’s great to have some past Wonder Woman favourites back for this issue, and Steve Orlando and Aaron Lopresti do smart work by keeping things small. An alternate universe is a big idea, and the impulse always seems to be to make the story huge and expansive, even cosmic at times. But here, the alternate universe is contained. It’s not part of a massive multiverse, it’s a manifestation of Queen Hippolyta’s imagination as she observes the sort of queen she could be if she gave into her darker inclinations. It’s all internal, meant only as an opportunity for self-reflection until a young Diana gets curious and stumbles into it. Then things get messy. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

Look away if you have not yet read this issue!

Also, you should read it!

You don’t even need to be caught up on the current arc!

It’s largely a standalone tale!

Hippolyta’s dark universe comes with an evil version of herself and a group of Amazons bent on conquest and aggression rather than peace and love, so it’s no wonder that the two queens don’t get alone. Or rather, the queen and the empress. These Amazons appear to rule an empire. When the queen’s attempts at diplomacy fail, unsurprisingly, we then get a series of trials to decide who is the superior Hippolyta. It’s all super fun.

And exactly what I expected from Steve Orlando. His past issues of Wonder Woman have demonstrated a deep appreciation for the history of the Wonder Woman mythos and an understanding of how what is powerful and meaningful about the character can intertwine with the sometimes outlandish aspects of her comic book past. This issue gives us so many classic references, from an awesome chariot race with kangas to an invisible jet contest to an iconic bout of bullets and bracelets. Then, just as the last trial is set to begin, Themyscira is invaded by Atomia, the Queen of Atom World.

Atomia is not one of Wonder Woman’s better known villains. She’s only appeared in a couple of regular issues, and was part of Kurt Busiek and Trina Robbins’s 1986 The Legend of Wonder Woman mini-series. But she’s a classic Golden Age foe who debuted in Wonder Woman #21 way back in 1947. This was a period in which Wonder Woman’s creator William Moulton Marston was quite ill and the bulk of his writing was being done by his assistant, Joye Murchison, and she wrote this issue. We can see Atomia here drawn by H.G. Peter, with Wonder Woman and the Holliday Girls all tied up, as per usual in the Golden Age:

ww73a

It’s another great deep cut from Orlando, and Lopresti and inker Matt Ryan bring the scene to life with a very cool update of Atomia and her various minions. Together they all capture a wonderful, modern take on old school Golden Age fun.

And more importantly, it’s all in service of a good story that digs into the heart of Diana and Hippolyta. Diana is locked up for most of the issue, but when she hears the battle and people screaming she’s compelled to break free and go help. Even at this young age, she’s still the hero we all know and love, and by saving the imperial Amazon realm she not only earns freedom for her and her mother, she also gets to offer Atomia mercy where Empress Hippolyta would have only offered destruction. Defending others and understanding your enemy are values Diana learned from her mother, and that she’s able to hold to them in the dangerous crucible of this evil dimension speaks to how well Hippolyta taught her.

For Hippolyta, we get a sense of her dedication to her role, and how she struggles to do what is best for her people. Empress Hippolyta is her mirror, a way for her to analyze her own actions and see how her choices would play out if she went a different direction. The empire is violent and cruel, yet one key divergence still seems to weigh on the queen. Empress Hippolyta has no daughter, and lives only for her Amazon sisters. As her opposite, Queen Hippolyta wonders if she was selfish to have Diana, and whether that choice was best for the Amazons. Then Diana swooping in to save the day demonstrated the wonder that she has become, and how she embodies everything that is right and good about the Amazons. It’s a nice moment of reflection that captures the bond between Hippolyta and Diana while also underscoring the loneliness Diana must be feeling in the current ongoing arc and explaining the desperation she has to find her lost family.

Lopresti and Ryan do good work throughout the issue, making the Chi Dimension feel different than the standard take on Themyscira. And whoever decided that Empress Hippolyta should be blonde made the right call. Otherwise, this issue could have been very confusing! It’s fun to have Lopresti pop by Wonder Woman again. He paired well with writer Gail Simone back in the day, and earned himself a spot in the pantheon of modern Wonder Woman artists. It was also enjoyable to have an issue drawn by the same art team throughout after the mishmash we’ve had over the past couple of issues. Double shipping, gang. It’s the pits.

I’m curious to see how this tale of Diana’s past will influence the present. We know if this dimension exists, then Hippolyta is still alive. But what will our intrepid heroes find when they enter this dark alternate universe? Is this where the Amazons are hiding? We’ll know more in two weeks’ time!

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

June 13, 2019

ww72

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

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

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

It wasn’t a whole lot, really!

But still, be wary nonetheless!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wonder Woman #71 Review: A Colossal Discovery

May 22, 2019

ww71

We’ve had a bit of a talky go of it lately with Wonder Woman. Atlantiades is not the sort of villain you stop with fisticuffs, or even a villain at all, really. More an interesting conundrum, a deity in a strange place doing what only comes natural to them, seeking worship. And toying with mortals, of course. The gods are always toying with mortals. It’s brought us an interesting glimpse into Wonder Woman’s love life, along with some cool discussions on free will and happiness, and it’s all been quite excellent. That plot is largely resolved this week, but with little in the way of awesome punching and action fun.

That’s why it’s handy that Maggie and Aphrodite went off exploring and found a new foe. One that’s definitely going to need some punching. There’ll be no thoughtful, introspective discussions with this adversary. Just a classic beat ‘em up. I love that Wonder Woman is a book that can give us both. G. Willow Wilson’s dug into some heavy subject matter since she took over the series, but she’s also made time to have Diana bust up some rock giants and now what appears to be a massive living statue of some sort. That’s just quality comic booking all around. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

We’re going to discuss everything that happened in this issue!

Turn away if you haven’t read it yet!

Also, as always, you should be reading this book!

Before we get into all the fun, I don’t know who keeps telling Terry and Rachel Dodson that Steve Trevor is in the book, but he is not. And yet, he keeps showing up on the covers. He actually popped in for a scene or two a couple weeks back, but wasn’t on the cover then. And now he’s back on the cover once more, with nary a mention of the man inside the book. It’s such a nitpicky thing, I know, but I wonder about the disconnect. Was Steve supposed to be in the book at one point and plans got changed? Are the Dodsons just drawing what they think will look cool? I mean, their covers are always amazing. I’m not even annoyed. Just curious and confused.

Anyway, onto the story. We get a resolution of sorts with Atlantiades, as they realized what they’d hoped to achieve in the town had failed. They thought that letting people be free of the expectations of their ordinary lives and indulge in their desires would bring the town happiness, but it most definitely did not. Actions have consequences, and the weight of these consequences snapped the townsfolk out of Atlantiades’ spell. They got them back momentarily with a display of divine power, but Diana talked them out of continuing the experiment. Atlantiades is clearly dealing with a lot, including a strained relationship with their mother, and hopefully we can see some growth on that front moving forward. They’re a selfish character, but I think they have a good heart. They’re just a bit lost and hurt, and likely have been that way for centuries. I’m excited to see what they make of the opportunities in this new world, having learned from this experience, and I hope Wilson checks in on them from time to time if this town escapade is indeed wrapped up for now.

The only thing I didn’t like about the resolution was that Xermanico didn’t draw the last few pages of it. This is understandable. Bi-weekly comics are an insane grind and you’re going to get some fill-in pages. Tom Derenick and Scott Hanna stepped in to finish the scene, and while the artwork was serviceable, it failed to capture the characters well, especially Atlantiades. Xermanico brought a compelling androgyny to Atlantiades that befit their mythological background. Derenick and Hanna failed to replicate that, leaning much more into the feminine aspects of the character. Atlantiades ended up looking like a twin of Diana rather than the unique take Xermanico had obviously carefully developed.

Xermanico’s work on this arc has been exceptional, from character design to panel layout and beyond, and I’m sad that the strictures of the schedule prevented him from being able to close it out himself. As much as I love getting Wonder Woman twice a month, I deeply hate the onerous demands that bi-weekly books put on artists. This is a run that should be collected for years, even decades to come, and putting out subpar artwork now to fit this unreasonable schedule is a short term compromise that will lead to disappointment long term. I know nobody likes late books, but I feel like editorial could do a better job of planning out the artwork.

But I digress. There was a whole other story to this issue, with a dang colossus in it! At first I thought it was just a giant minotaur, but Aphrodite called it a colossus and the golden head confirms her words. This appears to be a massive statue brought to life somehow, perhaps with the same power that got us stone giants in the Rockies. As far as I can tell, this is an original invention by Wilson and not based on an existing statue or anything. There have been various colossal statues throughout history, most famously the Colossus of Rhodes, which was a statue of Helios, but none of them were a minotaur, I don’t think.

So yeah, we’ve got a fight on our hands now! I love that the sword has emboldened Maggie, and that she was prepared to take on the colossus by herself. She’s been a great addition to the cast, and I’ve enjoyed watching her trepidation give way to courage over the past few issues. Not even Aphrodite dared face off against the colossus, and she’s a dang god! Luckily Wonder Woman arrived just in the nick of time and now they can make a good fight of it. I’m excited to see them throw down in June, and to see what mysteries these underground pathways hold. Well, “underground.” I’m guessing there’s some dimensional travel at play or an underworld sort of situation. Either way, adventure awaits!

Wonder Woman #70 Review: Love is a Battlefield

May 10, 2019

ww70

Our gal Diana has been through a lot recently. Ares is back, and being a real jerk. Veronica Cale is up to her usual tricks. Olympus is destroyed and the Amazons are missing. Giant rock monsters are roaming through the mountains of Colorado. She’s been put through the wringer ever since G. Willow Wilson took over writing the book, and very enjoyably so. She’s Wonder Woman, after all. No one is better suited to handle an avalanche of enemies trying to break her down.

And she’s dealt with it well. Each villain she’s encountered has tried to dig into her a little bit, poking at her insecurities and exposing the complications and even some of the hypocrisies inherent in who she is and what she does. They’ve all made some good points, too, and given Diana a lot to think about it. But she’s held true to herself and continued on.

Until this week, that is. Atlantiades, another Olympian, has thrown her for a loop. Not even intentionally or maliciously this time, just through the sheer force of their unique power. The child of Aphrodite wields the power of truth in some unexpected ways that catch Diana by surprise. The result is a compelling, more introspective issue that examines a relationship that’s been a staple at DC Comics for nearly eighty years. We’ll dig into all momentarily, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

I am about to reveal its many secrets!

Also, go read it! It’s good and gorgeous!

So Atlantiades is an intriguing foe. I’m not sure what their plan is here, or if there even is a plan or purpose to what they’re doing. Having been cast out of Olympus, they find themself with an opportunity to regain some of their past glory, to rekindle the thrill of ancient cults worshipping them, and they go for it. In part to get back at their mother, it seems, and in part because it just felt like a fun thing to do. There is both petulance and cunning to Atlantiades, naiveté and wisdom. Which makes sense, given the dual nature of the character. I’m guessing we’ll never know quite what we’re going to get from them.

As I suspected based on their mythological origins, Atlantiades is presented as non-binary and uses gender neutral pronouns. They are literally two beings combined into one, Aphrodite’s son merged with a female water nymph to make one person. Now, this is not how most non-binary people come to be these days. It’s more to do with not feeling like they fit within the limiting bounds of a traditional binary approach to gender and finding an identity outside of these strictures that better matches their sense of self. Still, it’s very cool to see some non-binary representation in a mainstream superhero comic book. And now that we have Atlantiades, I’d love to see them interact with some more modern non-binary characters. The discussions they could have would be fascinating.

Atlantiades’ mythological origins give them both powers and a special sort of insight into those around them. They’ve captivated this town with ease, promising them freedom and their heart’s desire, and their divine allure quickly got everyone on board. Even Maggie, who has some familiarity with non-earthly folks, is immediately smitten. But not Wonder Woman. She is tempted, to be sure. There is a like calling to like dynamic between Diana and Atlantiades that is quite interesting. The Amazons are all about love and truth, and that is the very core of Atlantiades’ power. The connection between them is palpable.

But then Steve shows up, and the conversation he and Diana have is heartbreaking. They admit their insecurities and fears, with Steve telling Diana that he sometimes thinks he would be happier with a mortal woman and Diana acknowledging that she has thought the same thing. It’s all a ruse of course, but in a clever twist it’s not some attempt by Atlantiades to upset Diana. Instead, it’s her own fears manifesting in the aura of Atlantiades’ truthful power. It’s a nightmare of her own making, a shade created by her own anxieties.

Knowing that, Diana’s able to face it head on. Yes, she feels all of these things. She has concerns and fears about her relationship with Steve. But at the end of the day, she loves him, and that is enough. Love is central to Wonder Woman, and has been since her very first appearance n 1941. It’s why she’s strong. It’s why she’s brave. And it’s why she’s able to tackle her anxieties and work through them.

The scene is viscerally real and beautifully written by Wilson, who presents the complexities of the unusual relationship between Diana and Steve in an honest, gripping way. I was totally sold on the twist, and thought Atlantiades had brought Steve there to mess with Diana. It was a raw, powerful interaction, and one that made even more sense when the truth was revealed. Of course Diana has anxieties about their relationship. There are sacrifices and compromises on both sides, as in any relationship, and that gets exacerbated even further when superpowers and godhood enter the mix. But the conclusion felt just as real and true. She loves Steve enough to work through her concerns and carry on together.

This entire issue was wonderfully illustrated by Xermanico, who is just doing a stellar job on this book. They need to lock him down on Wonder Woman for a while because his artwork is exceptional. Diana’s emotional journey is shown so well, and that scene with Steve is especially strong. He also captures the androgynous beauty of Atlantiades, giving them a unique and captivating look that well suits the character. And of course, the colors of Romulo Fajardo Jr. add so much to the equation, elevating the already lovely linework. Xermanico needs to be the primary artist for this series moving forward. The dude is just too good.

The issue ends with some drama. The townsfolk are not so happy with getting everything they want because it turns out being selfish can backfire after a while. Decisions have consequences, and they’re starting to add up. It looks like we’ve got a revolt coming, and while Diana and Atlantiades are strong enough to handle the angry mortals without any real fear of harm, I’m curious to see how this entire situation gets resolved. Atlantiades has made a real mess, and it’s going to be tough to clean up, if that’s what they even want to do! Should be fun.

Wonder Woman #69 Review: Insert Hilarious Joke Here

April 25, 2019

ww69

Let’s just deal with the obvious right away. This is the sixty-ninth issue of the latest Wonder Woman series, and the story is about a small town that’s gone mad with lust. Well played, everyone. A few other DC books have hit #69 recently, or they will shortly, but I don’t know if they’ve leaned into the joke as well as Wonder Woman has. It’s not a dirty issue by any means. The exuberant lust is largely off-panel, and the story really only addresses its ramifications. But still, they went for it, and I was amused.

Aside from all the lusting, this was a bit of a table setting issue. There was a new character to introduce, a powerful weapon to tease, and the entire story built to a final page reveal that I think we all knew was coming. Still, it was entertaining, and I’m very curious to see what happens in two weeks’ time. The idea that coming to our mortal realm changes the Olympian deities in some way is a fascinating one, and I like how they’ve explored it thus far. We’ll get into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal all of the details from this issue!

A very revealing issue, if you know what I mean!

Wink, wink, nudge, nudge!

Actually, it’s really not like that so much!

I’m just joking around!

I will start with the dumbest nitpick, because it’s a thing that always irks me: Steve Trevor is on the cover and he doesn’t appear in this issue at all. He’s not even mentioned, I don’t think. So sorry to all you Steve enthusiasts out there who picked up this issue excited for some Diana/Steve adventures. There were none. This disconnect may speak to a larger editorial issue, though, in that it looks like the book is the middle of changing hands.

Chris Conroy and Dave Wielgosz have been editing the series for ages now, and the credits suggest it’s now passing on to Brian Cunningham and Brittany Holzher. It’s an interesting switch. On the one hand, Wonder Woman is a book that definitely benefits from a female presence in editorial, I think, and Holzher is a smart, well-respected assistant editor at DC. On the other hand, when I ran the numbers a couple years back, Cunningham hired the fewest number of female creators of any editor at DC except Eddie Berganza (who wasn’t allowed to work directly with women and has since been fired for sexual harassment). So a bit of a mixed bag here. I’ll keep an eye on things to see if there are any noticeable changes to the book once this transition is complete.

But onto the issue itself! So much lusting, lusting. So little trusting, trusting. Antiope’s sword leads the gang to Summergrove, Connecticut, where an entire town has been overcome by a need to act on their deepest desires. And, in a perfectly executed moment, Wonder Woman is totally cool with it. She’s not there to kink-shame anyone, and would be happy to leave them to their bacchanal except for the fact that she has to step in to stop an aggrieved husband from striking his wife. And then the murder cupids show up, and we know something’s gone very wrong here.

(The murder cupids are a fantastic idea, by the way. A+ execution on this amazing concept by the entire creative team.)

It’s largely a light outing, with some jokes in the mix and hilarious villains with the murder cupids, but G. Willow Wilson does dig into some heavier subjects. Domestic violence is touched on briefly, and there’s also a discussion of whether being honest with yourself and following your heart absolves you of your responsibilities or from hurting others. Most of Wilson’s issues thus far have subtly raised deeper questions related to the bombastic superhero antics at hand, which is a move I quite enjoy. And this week’s installment was no exception. These questions also give us a glimpse of Wonder Woman’s mindset. She’s fine with the town’s sexual escapades, so long as everyone is having fun, but once people begin to hurt each other, physically or emotionally, she feels compelled to step in.

Her involvement leads us to the murder cupids, and finally to Atlantiades, the child of Aphrodite (my Comixology issue has them as Antlantiades, but I think that might be a typo?). I’ve been excited for this reveal because, based on the mythology, Atlantiades could be a non-binary character. There’s certainly an androgyny to their appearance here, and Xermanico does a really cool thing with the panel layouts on the pages leading up their introduction. The panels on one page combine into a distinctly female form, while the panels on the next page show a male form. This speaks to Atlantiades’ past, in which their originally male form was merged with the naiad Salmacis to become a being of both sexes. Atlantiades is also known as Hermaphroditus, from whom we get the term hermaphrodite.

We didn’t learn anything about Atlantiades gender preferences in this issue. The solicits refer to them as Aphrodite’s “son” but the comics have been more vague in past issues and used the word “child.” I feel like those panel layouts are telling as well. We’ll probably know more with the next issue, now that they’re officially in the mix. But what we do know now is that Atlantiades is using the murder cupids to be the ruler of lust town, and that their mother is not at all pleased by this. Love is a very powerful force, and to use it in such a coercive and even violent way is blasphemy to her.

The art throughout the issue is great. I’m glad to see Xermanico back. He’s got a classic superhero style but he’s good at not indulging in the hyper-sexualization that style can bring. His Wonder Woman is powerful and kind, his Aphrodite is beautiful and fierce, and he can draw the heck out of a pegasus. He does a good job with the lustful citizens as well, showing a wide range of people and body types and not lingering on the shenanigans in a salacious way. Romulo Fajardo Jr. does an excellent job with the colors, too. It’s a bright issue, generally, outdoors on a sunny day, but he does dark and ominous as necessary with the murder cupids in ways that really sell their menacing traits.

So, Atlantiades is in the mix now! That’s going to be a situation in two weeks’ time. And Antiope’s sword is going to do something cool at some point! They keep talking about how powerful and rad it is, and while Maggie’s not feeling it yet, she’s got to at some point. They’ve got it all teed up for us. Should be fun!


%d bloggers like this: