Posts Tagged ‘Steve Orlando’

Wonder Woman #73 Review: Through a Glass Darkly

June 26, 2019

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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:

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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!

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Wonder Woman #55 Review: The Amazing Amazon vs. The Bana-Mighdall

September 26, 2018

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When we last saw our intrepid heroine, she was standing between two armies, trying to stop a war. Classic Wonder Woman behavior, really. If anyone’s going to jump into a battlefield to end a conflict, it’s gonna be Diana. And, minor spoiler alert, she does it. Of course she does. She’s Wonder Woman. But it’s the how of it all that makes this issue, the last in Steve Orlando’s excellent run, so great. By my count, she shoots one arrow and throws one punch, and that is the extent of the violence on her end. She has to block a bunch of blows, what with several people not being too pleased with her efforts, but Wonder Woman herself barely returns any. Instead, she uses her lasso to help her opponents understand the truth of the situation and lay down their weapons themselves. It’s a fantastic issue, and we’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal even more about this issue now!

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

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

So Diana ends the war. I think we were all expecting that. But she does it with the lasso of truth instead of fisticuffs. And not in some instantly revelatory way, either. Sometimes with the lasso, we get a scene where a foe gets wrapped in it, she immediately realizes the lies she’s been telling herself, and she surrenders. This isn’t that simple. Truth can be more complicated than that.

After defending herself from Artemis, and refusing to hit her back, Wonder Woman ensnares her in the lasso and they have a conversation. It’s not a straight forward truth/lie situation, but rather a parsing of the truth to get down to the core of what is most important in this situation. Artemis honestly believes in the fight at hand, but at the same time she doesn’t believe Faruka II, queen of the Bana-Mighdall, and her rationale for the war. She’s caught between her fervent desire to stand up for her people and the sneaking suspicion that the threat is a sham. In the end, Diana helps her see that she can still stand up for her people by not fighting and by allowing them to understand the situation so that they can decide for themselves.

With Rustam, it’s a different encounter. First off, Wonder Woman’s got fewer qualms about hitting him. She and Artemis try to shoot him with the Bow of Ra, and then she knocks him back with a solid punch. And while her end goal is the same, to get Rustam in the lasso, their conversation is a bit more forceful. With Artemis, Diana walked her through her complicated feelings, a guide more than a judge. With Rustam, Diana is more direct. She mentions the truth-compelling aspect of the lasso, but also makes a specific reference to the power of loving submission. This is, of course, a callback to the Golden Age Amazons and William Moulton Marston’s belief in submitting to the loving authority of women. But it also informs Diana’s tone. She is very much in charge. While it’s a power she wields with kindness and respect, she is far more commanding with him than with Artemis, and she uses this power to make him understand that he has lost.

The positions of Artemis and Rustam post-lasso underscore their varied treatment. Diana looks at Artemis eye to eye, clasping her on the shoulder before they turn to face the armies, back to back, and end the fighting. They are presented as equals, as partners, as sisters. When Rustam comes out of his lasso trance, he’s kneeling on the ground, with Diana and Artemis standing over him. He is in a position of surrender, a supplicant submitting himself to their judgement. The same lasso leads to two different outcomes. Diana treats each opponent in a way that shows them the truth of the situation while also leaving them in the place she wants them, bolstering Artemis and making low Rustam. This is how a master tactician ends a war, with compassion, cunning, and truth.

It’s a wonderful conclusion to a great story and a great run. Time and again, Steve Orlando has shown his deep, fundamental understanding of Wonder Woman and the heart of the character. As much as I’m excited for G. Willow Wilson to take over the series, I hope that Orlando gets another crack at Wonder Woman in the future, either in her solo book or as part of a team somewhere. He just gets her, and it’s a joy to read.

Also, Orlando’s added some interesting developments to the Bana-Mighdall. First, the re-introduced Atalanta is now an advisor to the crown, keeping Faruka II in check. That’s a cool new status quo for whoever wants to use the Bana-Mighdall next. Second, Artemis has a lasso now! The fiendish Superwoman from “Darkseid War” had a lasso of submission that she used for her evil purposes, and Wonder Woman’s been watching over it since. Now, as a sign of love and respect, she entrusts it to Artemis. It’s a lovely moment after watching their relationship develop over the past few issues, and a fun new weapon for Artemis moving forward.

Raul Allen and Patricia Martin are back as the artists for this issue, with Borja Pindado on colours, and again the work is fine. I still miss Romulo Fajardo Jr., though. His colours really elevate a book. Pindado does a decent job, but it’s still lacking that pop Fajardo brings. Allen and Martin had a lot to do in this issue, with the lasso sequences, a whole war, and a city full of Bana-Mighdall, and they pull it off nicely for the most part. It’s a solid effort all around.

So with Orlando wrapped, we’ve got “The Witching Hour” crossover for all five Wednesdays in October. It’ll span Wonder Woman, Justice League Dark, and a couple of oneshots, and the spooktacular tale will conclude just in time for Halloween! Could be cool. I’m curious to dig into it.

Wonder Woman #54 Review: A Cold Welcome in Qurac

September 13, 2018

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I’m a day late on this review because I’m off visiting my adorable niece and was busy having adventures yesterday. Amusingly, I was available and on the ball all the dang time with my reviews of that last, horrible run of Wonder Woman but now, when the book finally gets good again, I’m busy on half of the release days thus far! I can’t catch a break.

But happily, even though I’m a day late to this issue of Wonder Woman, it was an issue worth waiting for. Orlando just gets Wonder Woman, and it’s been a joy to read his take on her. A lot of folks have trouble with the character, but every time Wonder Woman does or says something in Orlando’s issues so far, it just feels right. I always find myself nodding along, like “Oh yeah, this is totally what Wonder Woman would do. This is awesome.” And this week it looks like Diana is fixing to take on two warring armies at once! Which, of course, is totally what Wonder Woman would do. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

Read this book before you read this review!

I’m going to spoil all of the cool things that happened!

Treat yourself to this fine issue!

The issue begins with Diana, Artemis, and Atalanta flying to the Bana-Mighdall capitol in Qurac. It’s a simple beginning, but one laden with interesting tensions. Atalanta’s been away for centuries, and worries that her fellow Amazons in exile may have forgotten her. Artemis is a loyal warrior, but she’s bringing a Themysciran to the capitol and that could be a difficult situation. And Diana is that Themysciran, of course, there to extend a hand of friendship but unlikely to get one in return. All of this isn’t helped by the fact that the Bana-Mighdall appear to be mobilizing for war when they arrive, either.

Unsurprisingly, things go south pretty quickly. Queen Faruka II has teamed up with Rustam, a Quraci assassin, who has convinced the queen to go to war against Qurac. Before long, Wonder Woman is blasted out of the throne room, Atalanta is shot and locked up, and Artemis is sent to the front lines of the battle.

But you can only keep Wonder Woman down for so long, and the rest of the issue captures everything about why this run is so good. First, when she confronts the queen’s royal entourage, they meet her with guns. Diana’s response is perfection. She says, “Guns? Adapt the tools of patriarch’s world… and inherit their weaknesses.” She deflects all of the bullets, of course, and the entourage quickly surrenders. It’s a scene that gets to a major theme in this issue, namely how the Bana-Mighdall’s embracing of the tools and technologies of the world of men has taken them away from their Amazonian core. I mean, trying to stop Wonder Woman with bullets? That’s just foolishness.

Wonder Woman’s confrontation with Faruka is even more compelling. The fight itself is excellent, with lots of bobbing and weaving so that Diana can ensnare Faruka in the golden lasso. As she does so, she explains that the queen shouldn’t trust Rustam, and that she doesn’t need to fight the Quraci army. But here’s the kicker: Faruka knows this already. The lasso doesn’t lead to some startling revelation of a truth she’d hidden from herself. It reveals that she knows full well what she is doing, that this is some Machiavellian tactic to ensure that the Bana-Mighdall finally have a permanent, secure homeland. Faruka’s not being played. She’s embracing an opportunity, and using Rustam as much as he’s using her.

I love everything about how this throne room battle plays out. Wonder Woman’s trying to change hearts and minds, basically, aiming to show the queen the error of her ways and get Atalanta freed. But nope, Faruka knows exactly what she’s doing. I want to say something like, “This is how you write a villain,” but I’m not sure if I even think she’s a villain. She’s an adversary for Diana, sure, but she’s also a queen putting the security of her people above all else, if in ways Wonder Woman and I aren’t enthused about. I can definitely see her point of view, which is the best way to craft a villain, really.

And of course, we end with Wonder Woman standing between two armies. Because, heck yeah, that’s where she belongs. Diana is a peacemaker, but she’s also not afraid to jump into the fray and bust up some folks to get their attention first. De-escalate the fighting and THEN make peace. She’s totally got this. As does Orlando. It’s so much fun to read a Wonder Woman who does the most Wonder Woman thing she can at every single turn.

We’ve got some new artists in this issue, too, with Raul Allen and Patricia Martin drawing the book and Borja Pindado on colours. First things first, I really miss series MVP Romulo Fajardo Jr. here. Pindado does a decent job, but Fajardo can make a book sing and I don’t think that the colouring here is really showing the linework in the best light. As such, everything comes off just okay. There’s nothing bad about it, really, but nothing terribly exciting either. It’s fine, if a little flat, lacking the depth that great colouring can add to the mix.

I’m very excited to see how Orlando wraps things up in two weeks’ time. Diana is in a difficult spot on several fronts right now, with a queen against her and two angry armies on either side of her. It could all go very badly. But somehow, I think Wonder Woman will figure things out. There might be some fisticuffs in the process, maybe some more sniping with Artemis (which I am all for; their banter in this outing was so good), but it’ll all work out some way or another, I’m sure.

Wonder Woman #53 Review: Aw Yeah, Teamwork!

August 22, 2018

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There’s something about Wonder Woman that just brings people together. Batman doesn’t have that quality. He can be kind of a jerk sometimes, honestly. Superman doesn’t necessarily need that quality. He’s an inspirational figure, sure, but he can handle a lot on his own. But with Wonder Woman, for all of her power and her iconic status, it just feels right when she’s got a group of friends alongside her. Especially when they weren’t friends before the story began, which is often the case. That’s one of the great things about Wonder Woman, her ability to turn a stranger into a friend and an enemy into an ally. She brings out the best in everyone around her, and has the ability to unite people in a common purpose. If you look back on how different writers have handled Wonder Woman over the decades, I think you’ll find that the bad ones have isolated her and the good ones have surrounded her with a team of some sort. Steve Orlando is a dang good writer, and he continues to capture the core of what makes Wonder Woman such a special character with this issue. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

Also, go pick up this issue!

We’re in the middle of a GREAT run!

First things first, I’m glad that Wonder Woman and the gang defeated Tezcatlipoca in this issue because that is a very hard name to spell. I have to double check my writing against the comic every time I type it. Using him is a great deep cut from Orlando, but Tezcatlipoca is Urzkartaga all over again. I never feel like I’ve spelled it right.

But the way in which they defeat Tezcatlipoca is what makes this issue great. Fighting a god is hard work, especially a god whose very nature is destruction. Wonder Woman, Artemis, and Aztek do their best against him for the bulk of the issue, taking the fight to him in their own individual ways, but it doesn’t get them anywhere.

And the ways in which they fail are very telling. Aztek is a new superhero, still getting used to her divine power, and Tezcatlipoca is able to get into her head about the supposedly “true” nature of the gods and throw her off her game a bit. Tezcatlipoca doesn’t even have to do anything against Artemis, because her zeal for battle is so strong that she’s willing to potentially destroy herself by using the Bow of Ra. And when she does so, Wonder Woman is concerned about her and gets distracted from her thus far successful fight with Tezcatlipoca, allowing him to land a powerful blow. Their core traits of inexperience, foolhardy fury, and concern for others turn out to be their downfall.

Initially, anyway. The only way to defeat Tezcatlipoca is for all three of them to work together. And the story does a good job of showing us what an unlikely team up this is. Aztek seems overwhelmed, and Artemis has been sniping at her throughout the issue. Artemis has been sniping at Diana as well, and doesn’t seem to trust either woman. But Diana believes in them all. Tezcatlipoca found their individual weaknesses, but by bringing them all together Diana is able to enhance their strengths. With a combination of Aztek hacking the Bow of Ra and them anchoring it with the lasso of truth, the three women are able to use the weapon against Tezcatlipoca together and finally defeat him. It is a perfectly Wonder Woman conclusion. Bring a bunch of ladies together to defeat a loud, overbearing dude? That’s what you want out of Wonder Woman.

Orlando continues to display that he’s got a deep, fundamental understanding of Diana. The single issue story that began his run was stellar, and now he’s delving into the core of what makes the character great in a longer arc. This arc is set to take a turn now as all three women, plus Atalanta, head for the Bana-Mighdall camp in Qurac. The final page suggests they won’t get a warm welcome, though I don’t recognize the queen at first glance.

As I said last week, I have no idea what’s up with Artemis and the Bana-Mighdall in current continuity. I haven’t been reading the books she’s in, and maybe this queen has been a part of them. I do have a couple of guesses, just from my past understanding of the Bana-Mighdall in the pre-New 52 era, but none I’m terribly confident about. If you’ve got a good guess, or better knowledge of the Amazon splinter group’s current situation (it wouldn’t take much to know more than me!), let me know in the comments.

Along with a great story and an ominous cliffhanger, the art was better in this issue, too. I was a bit underwhelmed with ACO and David Lorenzo last time, and felt like they put more effort into the admittedly gorgeous setting rather than the characters. That balance was a bit more even this time, and the addition of Hugo Petrus in the middle of the book gave us a fun, new dimension to everything. He brought a lot of action and expression to the fight, and really communicated the struggles of each woman when the fight went poorly as well as their confident triumph. Plus he continued ACO and Lorenzo’s offbeat layouts in his own way. The style was a bit different, but I thought it melded all together quite nicely, with Romulo Fajardo Jr.’s excellent colours as a great unifier.

All together, this was another fantastic issue of Wonder Woman and I’m very curious to see what happens next. Obviously, things are going to go poorly for our gang. That queen’s not happy to have them, and we’ve got an ominous Quraci terrorist mentioned in the solicits so that will be a problem. One that they can all solve together, hopefully. I love this team-up, and I hope that Wonder Woman is able to keep them all united no matter what dangerous circumstances arise. She’s good like that.

Wonder Woman #52 Review: A Terrific Team Up to Take On Tezcatlipoca

August 8, 2018

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Wonder Woman teaming up with other women to have adventures and fight villains and whatnot is exactly what I want out of Wonder Woman, and with this week’s issue Steve Orlando, ACO, and David Lorenzo have delivered that in spades. What starts as a fun partnership turns into a trio and then ultimately a quartet as Diana and her friends, new and old, battle the evil plans of the Aztec god Tezcatlipoca. It’s an enjoyable start to a new arc, as well as a modern update of some classic tales from across the DC universe. Orlando’s definitely done his research with this one, with very entertaining results. Let’s dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

Look away if you haven’t read it yet!

And seriously, go read it! Wonder Woman is good again!

The book starts with something I always enjoy: Wonder Woman meeting someone new and immediately making a friend. In this case it’s Aztek, a new version of the 1990s hero that Orlando recently introduced in his Justice League of America run. Aztek is a woman named Nayeli Constant now, and she’s inherited her predecessor’s spiky costume and divine powers. When she gets a message that an Amazon is locked in battle with Tezcatlipoca, she immediately seeks out the world’s most famous Amazon, Wonder Woman. And Diana is on board straight away, of course. A new friend and an Amazon in need of help? Diana is up for that adventure any day of the week.

And she brings in a second friend, too. Well, sort of a friend. They tolerate each other. It’s Artemis, famed usurper of Wonder Woman’s mantle in the pre-New 52 days and a warrior of the Bana-Mighdall, a splinter Amazon group. To be honest with you, I have no idea what Artemis is like now. I’m familiar with the old version, but it’s a whole new universe now and I haven’t been keeping up with Red Hood and the Outlaws, Artemis’ primary series. Based on this issue, she does seem like her old self, aggressive and arrogant and generally disdainful of Diana. But Diana seems to respect her, and once she realizes that the trapped Amazon is Atalanta, hero of the Bana-Mighdall, she knows she should bring Artemis with them.

I really like the juxtaposition of the two relationships in this issue. Wonder Woman and Aztek don’t know each other well at all, but they find common ground early on through their similarly divine heritages and become friends almost immediately. Wonder Woman and Artemis do know each other, but their situation is much more fraught. Artemis sneers at Wonder Woman throughout the issue, and joins their group only for the sake of Atalanta. And not only does Wonder Woman invite Artemis along, knowing full well how she’ll behave, but she finds a way to make it all work. She’s able to balance establishing trust with a new friend and working productively with an old adversary, all while battling mythological hounds in an ominously elaborate labyrinth. The issue showcases Wonder Woman’s strengths in a multitude of ways.

The women ultimately find Atalanta, and the issue ends with the four of them as the last line of defense against an invading horde of evil beasts. It should make for another rad outing in two weeks time, but here’s the really fun thing: While this issue sets up Atalanta as Diana’s great-aunt, an earlier version of Wonder Woman already encountered Atalanta more than thirty years ago, and Tezcatlipoca was involved in that as well.

In Wonder Woman #316 from June 1984, written by Dan Mishkin with art by Don Heck, Wonder Woman defeated Tezcatlipoca and freed a group of Amazons the fiendish god had enslaved. In the following issue, they took Diana back to their home on the Amazon river, and introduced her to their queen, Atalanta:

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Much like the Bana-Mighdall a decade later, the Amazonian Amazons were a splinter group. After Hippolyta secluded the Amazons on Paradise Island, Atalanta and her followers grew tired of the isolation, and more specifically the lack of men, so they set out on their own and ended up in South America.

This new Atalanta has a different origin. Instead of being hot for dudes and frustrated at not having any nearby, she is now a travelling warrior who left her royal position millennia ago to impart truth, balance, and justice to the world. Which is a much awesomer origin, in my opinion. I love that Orlando’s dug into the archives and found a deep cut character to revitalize in such a cool way. Now that Wonder Woman’s found her, it will be interesting to see how the two get along in the issues to come, and whether any of the old Atalanta’s frustrations with Hippolyta carry on in this new incarnation of the character.

As much as I enjoyed this story and it’s fresh take on some classic yarns, I must admit that the art didn’t do a lot for me. It wasn’t bad in any way, but the style and layouts left me underwhelmed. ACO and Lorenzo seem better at designs than characters. Their labyrinth was gorgeous and complex, and they did some interesting things with Aztec designs in their page structures, but their depictions of the women fell flat. The characters lacked the details that were so well shown in the settings, and I just didn’t feel like there was a lot of life to them. This combined with their penchant for silhouettes made me think they were less interested in the women than in the fantastical scenes that surrounded them. And the simplicity of their characters didn’t give Romulo Fajardo Jr. a lot to work with when it came to colours. When the line art is this simple, coming in strong with texture and shading just looks weird and so he had to match their simplicity. Fajardo did hit it out of the park with the Aztec imagery and fancy backgrounds, though. Those really shone, for all of the artists involved.

Despite my art quibbles, this was a very fun issue with team ups on top of team ups on top of team ups. A bunch of warrior ladies working together to fight against the evil machinations of a nefarious god is always a good time, and I’m excited to see where this story goes in the weeks to come!

Wonder Woman #51 Review: Capturing the Compassionate Heart of Diana

July 27, 2018

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A new creative team can be a tricky thing, especially with a long running character. Fans have such specific ideas about who a character is and what they stand for, and it must be difficult to try to bring a fresh approach to a book while honouring a character’s lengthy past. All sorts of creators, from new folks to established pros, have been tripped up by this, especially with Wonder Woman. But sometimes, a new team comes on board and they get it right from the very start.

That is what we’ve got with Wonder Woman #51. Steve Orlando and Laura Braga have put together a spectacular standalone issue that showcases the kindness that’s at the core of what I love most about Diana. A lot of people see her as a warrior first and foremost, and I agree that’s part of who she is, but for me the defining characteristic of Wonder Woman is her compassion. She genuinely cares about people, even the villains. Fighting is a last resort. She’ll end a dangerous situation, to be sure, but she’ll always look for a peaceful way out first and try to understand and help her foe after. Diana believes in redemption, in transformation, and she has since her earliest days in the 1940s with William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter. It’s integral to the character. And by exploring this theme, Orlando and Braga have put together an issue that could go down as one of the best single issues of Wonder Woman ever. We’ll dig into it all, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

Go read it first!

It’s very, very, very good!

The issue picks up on a moment from Wonder Woman #28, when our favourite heroine battled Mayfly (among several other would-be assassins). I love this. Shea Fontana and an array of fine artists did a fantastic five issue arc that I think got lost in the shuffle a bit between the big runs that came before and after, and I’m so glad that they’re referencing it here. It was super good, all about Diana and Etta teaming up together for friendship and adventure, and you all should go read it if you haven’t.

Now, months later, Mayfly, a.k.a. Moon Robinson, is in a prison for superpowered villains in Antarctica, and Diana has stopped by to visit. She saw something in Moon, a hidden pain, and she wants to help, if she can. Moon is not interested, but Diana keeps coming back, even when several of their early visits end with Moon trying to kill her. The issue spans years of Diana visiting Moon and developing a deep friendship, fifty-two visits in all, and ends with Diana waiting outside the prison with her invisible jet when Moon is finally released.

It’s all so dang good. From Wonder Woman’s warm insistence to Moon’s reluctance and evolution, every beat is compelling. Of course Diana would visit a supervillain fifty-two times to try to empower her and help her sort herself out. That is a quintessentially Wonder Woman thing to do. She’s not the kind to hold a grudge when someone tries to kill her. She’s the kind who understands that something unfortunate in the villain’s past must have led them to this point. Her side of the conversation in this issue is patient and authentically compassionate, despite Moon’s initial volatility, and the friendship that develops between them is beautifully woven.

There are also warranted moments of pushback. At one point, Diana compliments Moon for being “open to bettering yourself,” and Moon is justifiably upset. It can be a patronizing term, and I think that Moon is right to react angrily. But Diana explains that she has come to respect Moon. Diana isn’t a superpowered Dr. Phil doing some superficial psychological evaluation. She’s gotten to know and understand Moon, and as her friend she sees her deep potential. Diana’s respect for Moon allows her to see the potential in herself, and their friendship grows even stronger from then on.

On top of this issue being an excellent encapsulation of who Wonder Woman is, it’s also filled with great references to Wonder Woman’s history. The entire thing is set in Antarctica, but there are subtle flashbacks to iconic elements like Paradise Island’s purple ray and kangas, among several other glimpses of Diana’s youth. The Amazons can’t really be a part of Wonder Woman right now, but I’m always glad when they show up somehow, and are well illustrated. Braga captures them perfectly, and also showcases a variety of different outfits for Diana over the course of her fifty two visits. On top of her standard costume, we get a casual white wrap dress, what looks like a take on her Gotham City Garage outfit, her Kingdom Come armour (known among fans as the chicken armour), and more.

Braga does a great job with the art throughout the issue. She’s familiar with Wonder Woman from her time on DC Comics Bombshells, and slips into her modern incarnation with ease. The issue has a lot of emotional beats and Braga hits them all with her wonderfully expressive characters. Her flashbacks to action scenes are gorgeous as well, and the entire book is lovely all around. Plus, Braga is joined by series MVP Romulo Fajardo Jr., who colors the book with his usual flair and style. It’s a marvelous pairing that makes this issue soar on every level.

While Braga has only popped by for one issue, Orlando will be back for four more, and I’m excited to see what he brings to a longer arc. If this first issue is any indication, it will make for some very good reading. He obviously understands Diana on a fundamental level, and I’m glad to have a couple months with him writing the character. It’s always a joy when Wonder Woman is in good hands, and she certainly right now. And with G. Willow Wilson just around the corner as well, it’s a swell time to be a Wonder Woman fan!


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