Posts Tagged ‘Romulo Fajardo Jr.’

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

May 10, 2017

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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.

Wonder Woman #18 Review: Who Watches the Godwatch?

March 9, 2017

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I’m a day late to this review after being busy all day yesterday with some family things, but I got to read the issue yesterday and having an extra day to think back on it has only increased my appreciation of it. “Godwatch” is clearly a different kind of story than “The Lies,” “Year One,” or “The Truth,” and I like that about it very much. The arc is keeping a dual focus on Veronica Cale and Wonder Woman, having them circle each other without meeting yet as they both grow into their new roles, Wonder Woman as a superhero and Veronica as the woman trying to learn her secrets. It’s made for some excellent storytelling so far, and we’ll dive into it all momentarily, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

Read no further if you haven’t picked up this issue yet!

First things first, we’ve got a time jump. I love a good time jump. It can be a really effective storytelling technique when done well, and I think it was nicely executed here in a very sensible way. At the end of Wonder Woman #16, everything had gone wrong for Veronica; Deimos and Phobos had her daughter, her best friend was dead, and her plan to capture Wonder Woman had failed on every level. This issue begins a year later, with Veronica having festered in this defeat for a year. Wonder Woman’s reknown and power has only grown, meanwhile Veronica’s daughter remains creepily faceless, Deimos and Phobos are still around, and she’s only just figured out how to bring back Adrianna’s consciousness as Dr. Cyber. The time jump gives us a sense of Veronica’s pain, and shows us the steps to her becoming the hard-edged villain we see in the present day arcs. All of this horror has been her life for a full year, a crucible forging her into what we know she’ll become.

The story almost shouldn’t work. We already know Veronica Cale is a villain who hates Wonder Woman. This arc adds backstory to that, but not a lot else as of yet, and it would be really easy for this to be a flat, unessential tale. Luckily for us, Greg Rucka and Bilquis Evely know what they’re doing. The characterizations are so strong and the emotions so clear that it makes for a very compelling read. I even feel sorry for Veronica and the terrible situation she’s in, and I’m Team Wonder Woman a billion percent! Seeing the joy of her getting her friend back and the sorrow of not having her daughter, it’s hard not to have some sympathy for the difficult spot she’s in, even though she does horrible things to characters we love.

Barbara Ann Minerva is both a good example of Veronica’s terrible acts and of presenting backstory in a powerful way. We all know she’s going to become the Cheetah, and that Veronica has something to do with that. That’s been well established earlier in the series. But getting a glimpse into how Barbara’s relationship with Diana has developed in the year since she became Wonder Woman adds more emotional heft to the story, and seeing the ways Veronica manipulates the situation so Wonder Woman can’t save her friend is genuinely upsetting. The scene when Wonder Woman finally arrives to find a bitter Barbara in her new Cheetah form is just heartbreaking. And we all knew it was coming!

Also, kudos to Rucka for his symmetry. Having Barbara become the Cheetah again in an emotionally brutal scene two weeks back in “The Truth” in Wonder Woman #17 and following it with her original transformation this week is quite the one-two punch. Tough on my poor heart; I’ve really grown to love Barbara. But so well executed and structured.

A key part of this arc being so effective is Bilquis Evely’s stellar artwork and what she’s able to bring to all of the characters. We know the broad strokes of this story already, and while Rucka’s doing a swell job writing the book, it’s all on Evely to communicate the emotions of the scenes that make filling in this backstory worthwhile. And she’s hitting it out of the park. The look of horror on Diana’s face when she realizes that she was too late to save her friend is so powerful that it sells the entire scene from the get-go. Similarly, she brings so much to Veronica, humanizing someone we could easily see as a monster. Again, Rucka’s writing her well, but it could feel hollow in the wrong hands. With Evely, each beat plays out true. The final page of the issue, in which Veronica is ashamed of the magnitude of horror she’s perpetrated to save her daughter, is particularly compelling. Evely captures the human side of her so well that you can’t help but sympathize with her despite all she’s done.

Evely’s helped by Scott Hanna on inks, and I’m glad to see that they were able to have just one inker for this outing. It was much stronger than last month’s issue, when several different inkers contributed to the books and the differences were clear and somewhat jarring. Romulo Fajardo Jr.’s colours remain stellar as well. That man has a deft touch. Evely’s linework pairs best with a muted colour palette, which could be limiting, but he’s able to find vibrancy and contrast within this somewhat subdued range that makes the book look absolutely gorgeous. It’s a different set of skills that Fajardo showed us with “Year One” and it’s just as lovely.

Overall, this issue was a heartbreaker, and a very well executed one at that. We knew the bulk of what was coming and it not only still hurt, it conjured up some sympathy for the villain of the piece! That’s kind of remarkable. This arc has been great so far, and I can’t wait to see how Rucka and Evely toy with our emotions again in a month’s time.

Wonder Woman #16 Review: A Calamitous Chimera Conflict

February 8, 2017

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The new “Godwatch” arc began in Wonder Woman #16 today, with Greg Rucka returning to write the book along with new artist Bilquis Evely (and some ink assists from Mark Morales, Andrew Hennessy, and Raul Fernandez). You’ll probably remember Evely from Wonder Woman #8, a special oneshot starring Barbara Ann Minerva that tied into “Year One.” It was a gorgeous book, and the news that she’d be taking over for Nicola Scott on the series’ even numbered issues has certainly lessened the blow of Scott’s departure somewhat. “Year One” will go down as one of the best Wonder Woman stories of all time, giving “Godwatch” a lot of live up to, but this debut issues suggests that we’ve got another enjoyable arc ahead of us. We’ll dive into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I’m about to reveal ALL OF THE THINGS from this issue!

Make sure you’ve read it first!

The main thing I was wondering about with “Godwatch” was when exactly it would take place. “The Lies” and “The Truth” are set in the present, while “Year One” was five years ago. With this first issue of “Godwatch,” it turns out the story starts six months after Wonder Woman left Themyscira, so shortly after “Year One” and well before “The Lies.” After this issue, I’m curious to see if we stay this deep in the past and slowly see how the Godwatch organization is formed, or if we jump ahead a bit. This first issue has certainly laid the groundwork for why Godwatch was created, and it’ll be interesting to see if Rucka goes for a slow build or not. Knowing Rucka, my money’s on slow build, but I wouldn’t be surprised by a time jump next month.

So the issue starts out with Veronica Cale being a semi-evil industrialist with a deep dislike of Wonder Woman, but she’s hardly a super-villain. But her path seems to change when Ares’ sons Phobos and Deimos steal her daughter and force her to use the technology she’s developing to fight Wonder Woman and try to find out the location of Themyscira. Things go sideways from there; Veronica’s chief scientist Adriana uses the dangerous Cyberwalk system to confront Wonder Woman, and gets defeated by both Wonder Woman’s chimera pal and the machine’s deadly imperfections. Cradling her seemingly deceased friend, Veronica promises, “You will all burn.”

This, we have to assume, is the beginning of Godwatch. As we saw back in “The Lies,” Veronica is still trying to figure out how to get to Themyscira, so I can see this going one of two ways. Either Phobos and Deimos still have Veronica’s daughter and she’s been working for years to free her OR they’ll be sorted in the next few issues but she’ll keep trying to find its location out of a hatred for Wonder Woman and anything divinely related in general. Either could be an interesting journey.

Also, I don’t know whether this is intentional or not, but a trapped daughter is classic Wonder Woman villain motivation. Back in the Golden Age, Paula von Gunther worked for the Nazis because they has her daughter as a hostage, and after Wonder Woman learned of this and freed her, they became friends and allies and worked together to fight the Nazis from then on. Maybe Rucka is going in a similar direction, or is playing on this story in some way.

We also know that Adriana is still alive since we saw her in “The Lies.” Only in electronic form, though. My guess is that whatever happened at the end of this issue trapped Adriana in some king of machine, and while her body might be “dead” her mind lives on in a computer as Dr. Cyber. And perhaps in some sort of android, like we saw in this issue but one better suited for battles for battles in mythical beasts, because that would make for much cooler fight scenes down the road, of course.

Now, this is an issue of Wonder Woman without a lot of Wonder Woman, which usually irks me. But I thought it worked here. It set up Veronica Cale and her motivations very nicely, plus the brief moments we got of Wonder Woman were very good. The montage at the beginning was fun and nicely put together, and the battle between her, the chimera, and Cyberwalk showcased the best of Wonder Woman. I loved her talking to the chimera, trying to get her to calm down by connecting with her and explaining that she was new to this world too and yes, it’s a very strange place. I also liked that she tried to save everyone, both the chimera and Cyberwalk, not wanting either of them to harm the other. That’s how Wonder Woman should roll.

The art was quite good for most of the issue, but some of the inking let down Evely’s excellent pencils at times. Four different inkers rarely offers a cohesive look for a book, and is usually a sign that things were a bit rushed. I don’t know who did which pages, but a few of them were much rougher and lacked the detail that characterized the best of what the book had to offer. Still, the layouts were great, and I’ve seen some of Evely’s pencils for the issue online and they’re spectacular. If they can figure out the inking situation, it should be a gorgeous arc. I was also glad to see that Romulo Fajardo Jr. is staying on as colorist, because that dude is ridiculously good at what he does. I so enjoy the texture, smoothness, lushness, and light touch he brings to his work. It really makes the linework shine.

All together, this was a strong beginning to “Godwatch” and I’m excited to see where things go from here. It’d be nice to have more Wonder Woman in the future, but for this first issue the focus on the villains made a lot of sense and it set up a lot to deal with for our Amazon heroine. Wonder Woman‘s got a really nice one-two punch going right now, with intriguing new plotlines in both the odd and even numbered issues, and that makes for some fun reading.

Wonder Woman #14 Review: The Grand Finale of “Year One”

January 11, 2017

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It’s been so long since we’ve had an in-continuity Wonder Woman story that was this good. Outside of continuity, there have been some great Wonder Woman tales over the past few years; The Legend of Wonder Woman was amazing, while there were some absolutely stellar issues of Sensation Comics over the course of its run. But in terms of the proper mainline Wonder Woman title itself, things haven’t been great for a while now. There were cool moments here and there, but the book has lacked a sustained start to finish arc that tells a good story and captures the essence of who Wonder Woman is, what she means, and why she’s important. Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott have given us such a tale, and it’s been a joy to read each issue. Today’s finale was a fitting close to the arc, one that stands on its own as a distillation of the heart of the character while also tying into everything else going on in “The Lies,” “The Truth,” and “Godwatch.” Let’s dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal all of the details in this exciting conclusion!

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

Also, go read it! It’s really good!

When we last left our intrepid heroine, the god of war had appeared at the military installation where Wonder Woman was staying, and he seemed to be in a bad mood. His poor attitude wasn’t terribly surprising; Ares is known to have a rather foul disposition. But now we know what he was after: He wanted the location of the home of the Amazons, and he was going to take it by force if he had to.

Wonder Woman wasn’t interested in force, however. She battered Ares around a bit initially, but then took a different tack, and the scene that ensued captured everything I love about Rucka and Scott’s approach to Wonder Woman. First, she realized that fighting the god of war WITH war, i.e. confronting him directly and violently, wasn’t going to end well for anyone. He’s war incarnate, after all. He’s very good at it. So instead, she decided to talk to him, and supplicated herself before him.

Second, she then appealed to what is best in Ares. She didn’t insult him or try some kind of trickery. Instead, she gave him an honourable out when she told him, “Show us thine courage in mercy.” Wonder Woman recognized his power and offered him a way to use it that would make him look good while avoiding any bloodshed. It was a tactical move on her part, to be sure, but it also showed how Wonder Woman sees the best in everyone, understands their potential for good, and tries to help them achieve that. She met Ares on his own terms, and tried to turn him onto a path that would be for the good of all, himself included. And she was willing to humble herself to do so.

Third, Wonder Woman gave herself up for her friends. Kneeling before Ares is kind of a terrible idea. Exposing herself to the god of war, defenseless, could easily have taken a grisly turn. But she was willing to take that risk, put herself on the line, and trade whatever she could in order to find a peaceful solution to what could have been a violent conflict that endangered her friends. Her new friends, at that, and beyond. She barely knew Steve, Etta, and Barbara, and she’d been exposed to the evils of this outside world, and still she was willing to give herself up to keep them, and the wider world, safe.

Fourth, when all else failed and Ares didn’t get what he wanted, Wonder Woman knew how and where to hit him. She didn’t punch him, thus avoiding playing the game on his terms. Instead, she wrapped him in the lasso of truth and used its power to defeat him. Interestingly, while the lasso has retained its classic truth revealing elements in this incarnation of Wonder Woman, its added something new: Understanding. Wrapping themselves in the lasso is how Diana, Steve, Etta, and Barbara overcame their language barrier. It united them in a manner that allowed them to understand each other perfectly, despite their many differences. It may seem a little corny, but I absolutely love a story in which truth and understanding is the weapon the hero uses to defeat hate and war.

The rest of the issue was fun as well. Athena stepped in and revealed Ares’ fiendish master plan, so Wonder Woman and Steve went off and took care of that with ease. This resulted in another great scene for Diana; she was overcome with anger while fighting a group of terrorists and almost gave into a murderous impulse, but then she wrapped herself in her own lasso and the truth steeled her against the power of Ares’ lies. The fun continued in other ways as well, with the Etta/Barbara romantic subplot developing nicely, and for readers interested in some male eye candy, Nicola Scott had a lot of shirtless Steve Trevor in this issue. There was something for everyone, really. And the issue ended with a nice nod to Wonder Woman’s past, with an array of newspapers naming her “Wonder Woman” using different fonts that harkened back to the scripts used on the covers of Wonder Woman over the course of the series’ history.

All together, it was an excellent conclusion to a fantastic run that will go down as one of the best Wonder Woman stories of all time. It was well written and absolutely gorgeous, and it set the tone for who Wonder Woman is and what she means in today’s world. With such a good beginning, I can’t wait to see what’s next. Bilquis Evely, who drew the wonderful Barbara Ann Minerva standalone issue, is taking over the art for Scott on the new arc, “Godwatch,” a transition so perfect that it lessens the blow of Scott’s departure considerably. Wonder Woman‘s going to be good for a while, gang. It’s exciting times.

Wonder Woman #12 Review: The Penultimate Issue of “Year One”

December 14, 2016

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Unsurprisingly, “Year One” continues to be a joy to read. Between the four previous main issues and the special Barbara Ann Minerva outing, this storyline has resulted in one of the best Wonder Woman runs in recent memory, and perhaps of all time. Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott are in top form, and they’ve captured something in Diana that’s been missing for several years, even before the New 52 relaunch. While Wonder Woman #12 is perhaps the least exciting or interesting issue of “Year One” thus far, that’s only because it’s been preceded by such amazing issues; it’s still extremely good. Let’s dig into it, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

Go read it first!

You’ll like it!

Let’s start with how this issue didn’t work as well as past outings for me. It was chock full of discussions of the Sear Group, what their objective might be, and who is behind them. Like, in depth. It took up most of the issue. Wonder Woman even interrogated the terrorists with her lasso to find the real truth of what was going on. It was all fine, but it was also a lengthy, involved set up. Then the book ended with the reveal that Ares and his destructive ways were behind it all. The thing is, of course he was. Dudes are wantonly killing innocent people in a Wonder Woman origin comic book? It’s going to be Ares.

Also, and more annoyingly, he’s on the cover. That’s what you call a dead giveaway. I don’t mind the cover revealing who the issue’s villain is going to be; it’s nice to know who your hero will be facing off against. But when you’ve got 19 pages of your characters wringing their hands over who this villain could possibly be and then you set up you final page like it’s some kind of shocking reveal, maybe don’t put the bad guy on the cover. Because when you put him on the cover, the issue’s investigation becomes less of a compelling putting together of the puzzle pieces and more of a “Dang, when are these dopes going to figure this out. We already know it’s Ares.” Devoting an entire issue to characters figuring out something the reader already knows and making it seem like this is a rad cliffhanger is not the best storytelling.

But despite the anticlimactic conclusion, this was still a good, enjoyable issue. I mean, it’s as gorgeous as ever. Nicola Scott is doing the best work of her career, and Romulo Fajardo Jr.’s color work is just spectacular. I’ve enjoyed his work for years; he brings such texture and depth to the page. And with this detailed coloring on top of Scott’s fantastic, clean linework, the pages just sing. In particular, the double page spread of Wonder Woman flying, lifting tanks, and deflecting bullets is so joyous and lovely. It all looks amazing.

Scott excels at expression as well, especially in subtle moments. There’s a scene in which Barbara Minerva and Etta Candy discuss the poetry of Sappho, an ancient Greek poet from the island of Lesbos who is the root of the terms “sapphic” and “lesbian.” When Etta mentions that she’s “quite familiar” with this poetry, there’s a glance between the woman that is small but so telling. There’s a sense of a secret being communicated between them, along with a hint of flirtation. The text suggests it, but the looks we get from Etta really sell it.

Also, I think we’ve got a queer Etta Candy? How fantastic! And perhaps a queer Barbara Minerva, if her flustered response to Etta’s flirtation is any indication. But a queer Etta seems pretty clear here. Which is very cool, and fitting for the character. If you go way back to the Golden Age, Etta was the head of a bondage-heavy sorority that, given William Moulton Marston’s association of bondage with sexual pleasure, had queer implications between the lines. She was straigt throughout the Modern Age, and was with Steve Trevor for most of it, but the New 52 Etta is a completely different character and they seem to be taking her in a new direction.

We also get a confirmation of Wonder Woman’s queerness that was very good to see. Much has been made of the article in which Greg Rucka confirmed that his Wonder Woman was queer, but many fans, myself included, noted that while it’s great to publicly say so, it needs to be in the text as well. If it’s not canon, it can easily be ignored or undone. This issue gives us that canonical confirmation when Steve asks Diana if she left anyone “special” behind when she left her home, and Diana responded that she’d left someone named Kasia. It’s not the bold confirmation that some folks were hoping for, but the implication is pretty clear. Still, great as this is, I hope that Rucka continues to keep Wonder Woman’s queerness part of her story. Something a bit more direct wouldn’t hurt to help cement this aspect of her character.

Overall, this was an enjoyable outing that, while not perfectly executed, was still a delight to look at and a fun read despite its overly telegraphed conclusion. It also sets the arc up for what should be an exciting finale next month. Ares seems to be spoiling for a fight, and Wonder Woman’s been exploring her powers with Steve, so this could be quite a battle. I’m curious to see what form as takes. As much as the issue dug through the Sear Group and what they were up to, we still don’t know much about Ares other than that he doesn’t care for Amazons. Perhaps there’s something larger at play that will tie into “The Lies” and “The Truth” or perhaps the dude’s just a straight up hater and Wonder Woman will punch him out. Whatever the case, we’ll find out next month!

Wonder Woman #8 Review: Barbara Ann Minerva’s Archaeological Adventures

October 12, 2016

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“Year One” by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott has been running in the even-numbered issues of Wonder Woman since the book’s “Rebirth” relaunch in June, but we’ve got a brief interlude this month with Wonder Woman #8. Scott is taking a breather while Rucka and guest artist Bilquis Evely delve into the pre-Cheetah days of Barbara Ann Minerva in an issue that ties into both arcs of Wonder Woman. The Cheetah is a major player in “The Lies,” which has focused on freeing her from the clutches of the evil god Urzkartaga, while Barbara debuted in “Year One” last month to help translate the language of the newly arrived Wonder Woman. A spotlight issue makes a lot of sense, and adds some valuable backstory to the two main arcs. Let’s dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

If you hadn’t read the issue yet, look away!

All of the goings on therein are about to be revealed!

Don’t spoil yourself! It’s a really good issue!

I loved this issue top to bottom. We’ll get to the story and whatnot in a moment, but DANG Bilquis Evely killed it. I was excited when I heard about this issue because I’ve enjoyed her work elsewhere, and she did not disappoint. She brought so much to Barbara. I love the joy and determination she captured. As the Cheetah, Barbara is often fairly one note, just fiercely villainous without much in the way of interesting motivation. Honestly, I’ve never been a big fan of this incarnation of the character; I’m an old school, Priscilla Rich guy. But Evely’s rendition of nerdy archaeologist Barbara is a lot of fun. Rucka writes her well, of course, but Evely really brings her to life.

The rest of the art beyond Barbara is great as well. Evely captures a variety of locales with aplomb, all of the other characters are distinct and expressive, and she’s got some clever layouts in the mix, including a cool map/location montage. Romulo Fajardo Jr. adds a lot with the colours, too; he’s the regular colorist on “Year One” and he continues his fantastic work here. He always adds so much texture and depth to the page, and he and Evely pair beautifully throughout the issue.

But onto the story itself. Archaeologist Barbara Ann Minerva is trying to track down the home of the ancient Amazons, even though everyone around her thinks she’s crazy. And by “everyone” I mean dudes. Her stern, cold father tries to forcefully dissuade her from her interest in mythology, and her older co-worker at a dig in the Ukraine is a sexist ass who refuses to believe her when she makes a huge discovery that is subsequently buried in a landslide. Barbara continues on nonetheless in one of my favourite types of stories: women doing things after men tell them they can’t. And while the issue ends with disappointment for Barbara, as a reader we know she’s absolutely on track because we’re very much aware that the Amazons are real.

Also, shout out to Greg Rucka for the lengthy discussion of the potential historical reality of the Amazons and the different schools of thought therein. I could have read an entire issue of that; I love all of the theories that surround the Amazons, and I’m definitely with Barbara when it comes to side-eying the Greek accounts of the Amazons. The shutting down of the breast amputation was delightful as well. Those pages were great all around.

The issue also ties into some key aspects of “Year One.” First, we’ve got the mysterious tree from Wonder Woman #2 that housed the snake that almost killed Diana. It appears on the chest of an ill-fated man who steals Barbara’s research and goes after the Amazons, and shows up again at the issue’s end when Barbara thinks she’s found the home of the Amazons. That tree is clearly going to play a big role, and we got another clue from the dead guy: The tree was marked on his chest, and the word “sear” was marked on his arm. What that means remains to be seen. We’ve also got at least one goddess in the mix, with Athena secretly helping Barbara on her quest. We saw Athena last month in “Year One” and it seems like she may have some involvement in exposing whatever is going on in “The Lies.”

Ultimately, the issue is a fantastic showcase for Barbara Ann Minerva. It adds a lot of depth to a character that rarely has any. Originally, Barbara was kind of the worst. The basic elements were the same when George Perez created her 30 years ago; she was a wealthy heiress and an archaeologist, but she was a total jerk. She was arrogant and cruel and jealous of Wonder Woman. She just wasn’t pleasant at all. This rehabilitation of Barbara is still a wealthy heiress and an archaeologist, but she’s a lot of fun. She’s also a woman who’s clearly put in the work and effort to be where she is, and her trappings are in no way opulent. She’s out in the wilderness, roughing it and doing whatever she has to do to find what she’s looking for. This Barbara is motivated buy a love of mythology and the Amazons rather than jealousy, and as we’ve learned from the past few issues of Wonder Woman, she was friends with Diana before Urzkartaga screwed everything up. It’s a different, far more compelling take on the character.

In short, I would read a series about this Barbara, preferably with Bilquis Evely on board because she kills it. Barbara travelling the globe doing rad archaeological research and sticking it to dumb dudes would be amazing; she could be a female Indiana Jones, but with way more discussions of the patriarchal biases in our beliefs about ancient history. I fully realize that like 12 people would read it every month, but I would be ALL OVER IT. I absolutely loved this issue, and I love this new version of Barbara Ann Minerva. I know we’ll get more of her when “Year One” continues next month, but I’m very intrigued by her pre-Wonder Woman adventures. Go pitch it, Rucka and Evely! I’ll tell everyone I know to buy it!

Wonder Woman #4 Review: This Comic Is So Dang Good I Want To Hug It

August 10, 2016

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Wonder Woman #4 is pretty much perfect. Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott retell a key moment of Diana’s history, the tournament that leads to her becoming Wonder Woman, and it’s iconic while making a few key changes to the classic narrative that add a lot to the story. The issue is well written and gorgeous and captures the heart of who the Amazons are in ways we haven’t seen in a long time. It’s just delightful from start to finish. We’ll dig into it all momentarily, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

If you haven’t read the issue yet, do yourself a personal favour and go buy it!

Then read the review AFTER you’ve read the comic!

Almost every version of the contest component of Wonder Woman’s origin has included a degree of conflict. In the classic 1940s origin, Queen Hippolyte forbids her daughter from participating in the contest, and this has been a common occurrence in most of the versions of it that we’ve seen since. There’s also been a lot of jealousy and rivalry, Amazons who are envious of Diana’s strengths, irked about past conflicts, or mad at her for leaving them. For a supposedly utopian society, the selection of Wonder Woman often comes with some strife.

Rucka and Scott retell the story without conflict, but not without intrigue. Hippolyta and her council of advisors debate what the arrival of Steve Trevor means, and while there are differing opinions in the room, they are respectful and all ultimately yield to the queen’s wisdom. Philippus, ever the general, fears that he is the forerunner of a military strike. Castalia, more in tune with the gods, notes that Steve can only be on the island through the will of the gods and that there must be a bigger plan. The discussions are well-written and fascinating; it’s cool to see the Amazons debate what Steve’s uniform insignias and weaponry mean from the perspective of total outsiders. It’s also great to see a multi-racial group, with every woman a different hue, representing a variety of different ethnicities.

Ultimately, Hippolyta decides that Steve must be here for a reason and should be returned by an Amazon, and decides that this champion will be chosen through a tournament. In other versions, goddesses appear to Hippolyta to tell her what to do, but here she carefully examines the evidence and decides her own course. It’s a smart change that illustrates the self-sufficiency of the Amazons. They don’t need deities to tell them what to do. They can figure out what signs mean for themselves, especially when they work together.

Instead of forbidding Diana to enter the contest, Hippolyta suggests to her daughter that if she’s still not fully recovered from the snake bite she got in the last issue, no one would fault her for sitting out the tournament. It’s a caring plea, delivered with futile hope, that illustrates Hippolyta’s love for her daughter in hoping she’ll stay but her respect for her daughter in knowing that she likely won’t. Nicola Scott’s depiction of this scene, and all of the Hippolyta/Diana scenes thus far, captures the love between them so well. You don’t even need the text to understand the warmth and depth of their relationship.

They hold the tournament and of course Diana wins, and Rucka goes the classic bullets and bracelets route with a fun twist. Usually writers have to come up with some convoluted reason why the Amazons have a gun in the first place; the Perez relaunch was particularly over the top with this and had a lengthy backstory that unfolded several issues later. Here, Hippolyta simply decides that if an Amazon is to go out in the world of men, she should be able to defend against the weapons men carry, and brings out Steve’s gun. It’s an elegant solution that works flawlessly within the story. A couple of other Amazons get shot before Diana deflects the bullets to win the day.

Diana’s debut as Wonder Woman is spectacularly done. It’s a full page spread beautifully rendered by Nicola Scott, with Romulo Fajardo Jr.’s colours really making it sing; I mean, his stonework alone is amazing. Scott draws a powerful, purposeful Diana, with maybe just the hint of something else in her eyes; sorrow, perhaps, or maybe a hint of trepidation before she leaves her home for good. She’s striding forward, embracing her destiny, but that note of something slightly melancholic on her face tells an interesting story that adds a lot of depth to the scene Scott has set. She draws the Amazons in celebration mode, raising their swords and throwing flowers, cheering on their champion. And the text is so good it made me tear up: Hippolyta declares, “Behold, our gift to the world!”

Alongside all of the fantastic Amazon stuff, Steve is well presented in this issue as well. His sorrow for his dead fallen soldiers says a lot about him, as does his appreciation to the Amazons at the end of the issue when they bring him their bodies so that he can take them home. It also makes an impression on Diana, who sees the same love in Steve’s sadness for his brothers that she feels for her Amazon sisters. Diana’s explanation of this to her mother is both touching and funny, because she can’t remember the word “brother” on account of the Amazons never having to use it. She calls it, “Like sisters but of men,” which cracked me up. Steve provides some comic relief through the issue as well. He has no clue what’s going on around him, but the tall women seem nice so he just rolls with it. The regular looks of bewilderment that Scott gives him are spot on.

I’ll say it again: this issue is pretty much perfect. It gets the Amazons so right, has Diana become Wonder Woman in a beautifully written and rendered manner, and showcases great character work for everyone involved. Rucka and Scott are doing an amazing job with “Year One,” and although I’m sad to leave the Amazons behind because they’ve been so well done, I’m excited to see what adventures Diana and Steve are about to get into in the world of men. My fingers are crossed for Etta Candy! For me, this storyline is the best of DC’s entire “Rebirth” line so far, and one of the best comic stories of the year, anywhere.


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