Posts Tagged ‘Strife’

Wonder Woman #43 Review OR Donna Troy On The Lam!

August 20, 2015

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I was out of town yesterday so I’m a day late getting to read this month’s Wonder Woman, but going through the issue today tells me I really didn’t miss much of anything. This issue is kind of a mess, and honestly at this point I’m not sure how the editors at DC Comics think this book is something worth putting on the shelves. It’s harsh to say, I know, but this is such sub-par comic booking. I know DC puts out a ton of books each month and some of them are going to fall through the cracks, but this is WONDER WOMAN. She’s the most famous female superhero ever, plus she’s going to play a key part in the upcoming film universe. You might want to put her in a book that’s not so aggressively bad each month. Before we dig into the issue, first I need to say:

SPOILER ALERT!!

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

If you haven’t read it yet, look away!

If you have read it, my condolences! It’s rough stuff!

Let’s start with the writing. The writing on the series hasn’t been great as a whole since Meredith Finch took the helm, but this issue is a special kind of bad. It just doesn’t work on any level at all. First, her use of space is bizarre. The book opens with four pages of Wonder Woman finding out Donna Troy has escaped and trying to figure out what’s happened when Strife is RIGHT THERE. It’s so drawn out, and largely unnecessary. The book could have started with Wonder Woman meeting Milan to look for Donna and added a quick paragraph explaining Donna is gone and she can’t find her and the book wouldn’t lose anything. We know from last issue that Strife was getting into Donna’s head. There’s absolutely no new information presented in these pages.

Speaking of which, when we finally catch up with Donna in London, we’re met with three pages where Donna recounts her entire life story. Literally, all of it. Granted, she’s only a few weeks old at this point, but it’s nonetheless a lengthy recounting of things we already know. I understand the need to remind people of what happened, and even to make the book accessible for new readers; every issue is someone’s first issue. But three pages is beyond excessive and, yet again, adds nothing new to the story.

Donna is in London to find the Fates, and Finch writes them like Yoda but more incomprehensible. I had to read several of their panels more than once because in her attempt to make them sound mystical and mysterious, Finch made their dialogue just a straight up mess. One of the lines is, “Your thread, spun not have these hands.” What the Fate is trying to say here is, “These hands have not spun your thread,” and putting the words in a blender to make them sound fancier just doesn’t work.

After Donna’s visit with the Fates, Wonder Woman shows up, but here’s how she found them: Milan explained his vision to her and it was all vague and such, and Wonder Woman picked up on one of the words, “fate”, and made a list of all of the places in London with the word “fate” in the name. She then checked them out, and wouldn’t you know it, she found them at the very last place on the list. It’s so dumb. She literally flies to this place, holding the dang list. What this means is that Wonder Woman went to the trouble to get this mystical vision from Milan, sat down with the London phonebook, and wrote out every place with the word “Fate” in the name. At least that wasn’t a three page scene in the book. It’s all such a bizarrely basic and silly way for the god of war to interpret a divine vision.

Then a random street urchin shows up, followed by Aegeus (we know it’s Aegeus because he tells Wonder Woman “and the name’s Aegeus”) and his golden arrows. He shoots Wonder Woman and causes her to bleed out of the eyes before she collapses in the street. Cliffhanger! Oh, plus someone kills the Fates and in a classic Frasier-style mix up, Wonder Woman thinks it was Donna when it was actually someone else who has yet to be revealed to us. What hijinks that misunderstanding should cause. It’s all just such bad writing.

I also read Superman/Wonder Woman #20 today and while I really don’t enjoy that series in the slightest, it was a well constructed issue. The story flowed logically, it wasn’t mired in redundant information, there was a dual narrative that worked well and unobtrusively, and no one did anything blatantly ridiculous. Peter J. Tomasi knows how to put together a story that makes sense and doesn’t make me shake my head every other page. Even if I don’t like the story he’s telling, he knows how to construct the bones of a story in a way that works and isn’t structurally problematic. This is probably because he’s written a ton of comics. With this issue, her tenth on Wonder Woman counting the annual, Meredith Finch has written a grand total of eleven comic books, and it really shows.

I expected that this review would be more about the art, because Ian Churchill replaces David Finch for this issue, but then the writing was so bad that I had a lot to say about that. The art doesn’t help the writing, though. There’s a lot of pursed lips and tall hair; it all felt very early 2000s to me, more so than some of Churchill’s previous work that I remember from the actual early 2000s. The whole thing seemed very dated. Also, all of the women looked about the same. The pursed lips and big hair was part of this, but even with the Fates, who were supposed to be old, it just looked like Churchill drew his usual female facial structure and added a bunch of wrinkle lines on top of it. This was most telling with the Fate with the mad cleavage. This busty Fate wore a revealing dress, and it was wrinkle lines all the way down until her balloonish, smooth breasts. It was a bizarre artistic choice in a variety of ways. I did like Churchill’s Donna Troy, though. He nailed the costume, which I love anyway, and because her hair is a little different he couldn’t draw her quite in the same way he drew everyone else, and the result was some decent work.

Overall, this is a very bad comic book. I hoped that Wonder Woman would get better at some point, but it’s just treading water at this point. Thus far, this second arc has presented a less terrible take on Wonder Woman herself, at least, but the structure of the book is such a redundant mess that it’s just painful to read. Also, I’ve been hard on Meredith Finch here, but the editorial team really needs to step up and help shape this book into something more readable. They’re falling down on the job massively, because with some tweaks this book could be a lot more bearable. Not good, but better. Inoffensively bland instead of full on awful. A lot of this stuff is fixable at the script stage. When there’s an unnecessary three page flashback, maybe someone should say, “There are perhaps better ways to spend our time.” That might help things.

Wonder Woman #43 Preview OR Ian Churchill Replaces David Finch For An Issue

August 17, 2015

Wonder Woman #43 is out this Wednesday, and things are going to look a little bit different. David Finch is taking the month off and Ian Churchill is in to take his place as the first fill-in artist to appear in the book since the Finches took over. I honestly expected it a lot sooner; David Finch isn’t the best at keeping a regular schedule, but he did eight straight issues of Wonder Woman and part of an annual. Say what you will about the quality of his art, but that’s a solid streak for a guy not known for his speed.

Let’s take a look at what we’ll get in Wonder Woman #43 this month, courtesy of Comic Vine:

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I haven’t seen Ian Churchill’s work in a long time. I think the last issue of his I read was maybe an early issue of Supergirl when they relaunched it after the Michael Turner run in Superman/Batman? That must be almost a decade ago now. His style here looks more cartoonish than I remember. Also, everyone sort of looks like they’re eating lemons; there’s a lot of puckering going on here. At first glance I’m not loving Churchill’s take on things, but I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve read the whole issue.

The story seems to be continuing to plod along at a glacial pace. If Donna Troy is gone and Strife is there, it really shouldn’t take four pages for Wonder Woman to but two and two together and go off looking for her. “Do you know anything about this?” is perhaps the dumbest possible response to finding Strife at the scene of a suspicious incident. She’s Strife. Of course she was involved.

Anyway, after months and months of subpar comic booking we’ve got something a little bit different with this new issue of Wonder Woman. Whether it will be better remains to be scene, but the look will be changed up at least. Look for Wonder Woman #43 in comic shops and online this Wednesday!

Wonder Woman #42 Review OR It’s Got A Dang Pegasus In It And It’s Still Not Very Good

July 22, 2015

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Remember when Wonder Woman Annual #1 came out and it wasn’t terrible, and I was mildly optimistic that the Finches’ second arc might be not too bad? Well, that optimism was ill placed. We’re two issues in and while this new arc isn’t as aggressively terrible as the first, it doesn’t have a lot going for it. It’s traded being offensively bad for just being boring, which isn’t much better. The Finches have fixed a lot of the problems of the first arc; the Justice League isn’t around, Wonder Woman isn’t complaining all the time, and she isn’t drawn like a sexy adolescent anymore. But the poor storytelling remains, and that’s really the most important element. Let’s discuss the issue, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal ALL OF THE THINGS that happen in this comic!

If you haven’t read it, turn away!

Okay, carrying on. We’ve got a couple of new developments in this issue. The first ten pages are devoted to Diana and Hessia living it up at a dance club and Diana then chasing that new dude who’s trying to kill her through London. Nothing actually happens; the dude tries to kill her, misses, and ultimately gets away. He rides a pegasus, which is pretty rad, I suppose.

SIDENOTE: Pegasus is the classic winged horse, but I don’t know if this is THE Pegasus or another winged horse, or if we call all winged horses pegasuses or just Pegasus. I’m going to go with calling it a pegasus for now, and you can correct me in the comments if I’m wrong.

Anyway, not a lot goes on in the first half of the issue, but then we get a flashback and learn that the mysterious would-be assassin is Aegeus, a descendant of Thesus and thus Poseidon, and he’s trying to claim what he thinks is his rightful place as a god. We still don’t know who he’s working with, but there are hints that it might be Strife. Speaking of Strife, she shows up a little later to free Donna Troy after Wonder Woman has a long and boring conversation with her imprisoned sister about forgiving herself. Strife convinces Donna to go see the Fates.

And that’s about all that happens. In terms of changes from where we were at the end of last month’s issue, Wonder Woman knows Aegeus is after her, we know Aegeus’ backstory, and Donna Troy is free.

Rather than dig into various aspects of a story I don’t particularly care about, I’m going to focus on one scene to try to articulate why I find this comic so bland. It’s the opening scene, with Diana and Hessia at a dance club. When I posted the preview for this issue on Monday, I talked a bit about the cliché of the woman who’s harassed by a guy and then decks her harasser. It’s been done a bunch of times, with diminishing returns, and this is one of the most clichéd versions I’ve seen. The actual scene in the book is longer than the preview, with the dude hitting on Diana for a page beforehand and Diana clearly stating she’s not interested. The guy is a walking caricature, Diana’s reaction is exactly what you’d expect, and her speech afterwards aims for empowered anger but just reads as tacky. I understand what Meredith Finch was going for here, but it all just comes off as stale.

Apart from the harassment bit, the writing in the scene feels incredibly flat on several levels. There are more clichés with Diana spouting the usual “This was just what I needed”, dancing her troubles away line that you can see in pretty much any scene sat at a dance club in any form of media. Moreover, the club is in London, and you can’t tell at all. Nothing captures the locale in the slightest. I’m not saying that there should be Union Jacks everywhere and that Diana’s fellow dancers should be talking about tea and crumpets and the queen, but there should be some sense of setting and instead there’s none. It’s all just generic. In Azzarello and Chiang’s run, when Diana needed to blow off steam she went to a punk club. It had atmosphere and a sense of place and said something about the character. Meanwhile, this scene is just completely nondescript.

The art doesn’t help matters. David Finch dresses Diana and Hessia in generic club dresses. There are no designs, no textures, nothing unique about them. They are a red and a grey dress of the same construction. Also, Diana’s only got one move: hands in the air, hips sticking out to one side or another. She does it over and over. Plus there are actual music notes in the background to let the reader know that music is playing:

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It is all so very bland and nonspecific. Finch is not good at investing clothing and settings with any kind of mood or characterization. Because of this, he fails to set a scene properly, and also fails to communicate anything about the character and who she is through his art. This scene is like the clip art version of a dance club, everything boiled down to a simple, dull, non-detailed version of things.

I suppose we should be thankful that Finch didn’t try to come up with more creative outfits for Diana and Hessia, because he does so for Hera later in the issue and the result is a belly top and a loin cloth. It’s not great. His Zola is much improved, though! I’ll give him credit for that. He’s got her back in plaid and looking a bit more like herself.

Ultimately, this hopelessly bland and generic club scene is indicative of the Finches’ run as a whole. They’re not investing the characters with unique attributes that make them more than cardboard cutouts, and they’re not putting them in situations that speak to who they are in some way. Plus, they’re spending four pages on a clichéd dance club scene that really adds nothing to the book when they’ve got a dang pegasus in the mix. Pegasuses are SO COOL. How do you not have four pages of rad pegasus fun instead?

I feel like everyone in this book needs to push a little more. Dig into each scene, figure out why it’s in the book, what it’s saying about the characters, how you can bring out a bit more of everyone, add some excitement to the book, or do something unexpected. It all just feels boringly surface level and shallow, without much thought put into it. A pointless club scene, unfruitful chase, hints of backstory, and a moderately shocking ending is a really dull formula, doubly so when poorly executed. It’s hard to get invested in a book when there’s so little to get invested in.

Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman #42 Review: “Nine Days, Part 1” by Karen Travis, Andres Guinaldo, and Raúl Fernández

July 9, 2015

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First off, things got busy last week and I didn’t have a chance to write a review of Sensation Comics #41, the finale to “Our Little Dance” by Adam Beechen and José Luis Garcia-López. It was fine. If you read the first issue, the second issue concluded about how you would expect. Wonder Woman had a big fight with the Cheetah, things got crazy for a bit, and ultimately Wonder Woman won. The tone at the end was perhaps a bit more cynical than you’d expect in a Wonder Woman comic, but the fight played to Garcia-López’s strengths and ultimately it was all a decent enough story.

Now we’re back on track, review-wise, with a new three-parter by Karen Travis, Andres Guinaldo, and Raúl Fernández. Three-parters are always tricky because if you don’t love it, you’re stuck with it for three weeks either way. With a bad one-shot, you’ll get something new next week. Not so with the lengthier tales. Unfortunately for me and my next two Thursdays, the first issue of “Nine Days” didn’t do much for me.

This issue had a lot of set-up, as one would expect from a part one, but it was lengthy and involved and barely showcased Wonder Woman at all. This version of Wonder Woman has a day job as the Themysciran ambassador at the United Nations, and she’s been asked to help settle a conflict between two bickering neighbour countries because Themyscira is a neutral party. Both countries have different things going on, and it’s even more complicated by an oddly dual Strife/Eris secretly getting involved in the process for yet to be disclosed reasons. This isn’t the whacky, cruel, yet delightful Strife from Azzarello and Chiang’s recent Wonder Woman run, but instead a completely different take on the character. I don’t know that it was wise to go this route with the fantastic job Azzarello and Chiang did with their Strife still fresh in everyone’s mind.

The structure of the book was a little offputting as well. Narration from the goddess Nyx runs through the entire story, often creating a bothersome back and forth where you read a panel’s narration, then the dialogue, then it’s a new panel and you’re now wrapped up in the dialogue and you go back to the narration and have to remember what she was talking about, and then back to the dialogue and you’ve got the same problem again. I find dual storytelling like that irksome unless very well handled, and this all came off a bit muddled.

The art was fine, with hints of something better that never really went anywhere. There were big, cosmic scenes with lovely bits to them, but they didn’t add up to anything particularly wowing. Also, how an artist draws Wonder Woman is usually a big factor in how I judge their work, seeing as she’s the star of the book, and while we got a fair amount of Diana, Wonder Woman didn’t have a lot to do here. I did like what little I saw, and I’m hoping that we’ll get to see Wonder Woman in action next week.

The art wasn’t at all helped by the colouring, which alternated between flat and sort of garish. The everyday scenes were dully coloured, while anything more colourful often involved unpleasant contrasts and a colour palette that just didn’t work. Excellent colour work can often elevate average art, but bad colouring can really bring down a book, and there was too much of that here.

Ultimately, nothing was really terrible in this issue, but nothing was particularly good. There are two more issues to come in this storyline, and while I hope that things pick up I’m also somewhat concerned that it’ll all play out rather expectedly. I feel like the first issue telegraphs how the rest of the plot will unfold; things will go bad for Wonder Woman in the second issue and probably end in a dramatic cliffhanger, and then she’ll fix everything up in the finale. Fingers crossed for twists and turns and some fun surprises, though. Two issues is a lot of space to turn things around after a ho-hum start.

Wonder Woman #38 Review OR Dreams, Darkness, And Diana Deposed

January 21, 2015

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Well, I’ll say this for Wonder Woman #38: It’s probably the least bad issue of the Finches’ run thus far. It’s not good by any means, but it’s less aggressively bad than the last two. Still, the issue is rife with problems, starting first and foremost with the depiction of Wonder Woman herself and cascading down from there. We’ll discuss it all momentarily, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am about to reveal EVERYTHING that happened in this comic book!

If you haven’t read it yet, leave now!

Unless you’re skipping the book and just reading this instead, in which case, here we go!

Let’s start at the beginning. Literally the first half of the book is a dream sequence; it’s ten pages long. A hydra attacks Paradise Island, and kills scores of Amazons before Diana arrives to stop it. When the hydra sees Diana, it bows down to her because she is the god of war and the beast is now her pet. Then Diana is confronted by a version of herself who’s fully embraced her god of war status and the two fight for a bit before Diana wakes up in her bed, covered in blood.

From a storytelling perspective, this dream sequence went on for WAY too long, and had a bunch of double page spreads and splash pages that were generally unnecessary, the original art for which should sell for a bonkers amount of money. And really, a lot of the art is quite good. David Finch draws an excellent hydra, and while I still don’t care for his Wonder Woman he’s definitely doing a better job of making her look like a grown woman instead of a curvaceous adolescent. For example, look at this face from this issue:

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As compared to this face from Wonder Woman #36 in November:

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The first looks like a woman, the second looks like a girl. Proportionally as well, her head fits her body better now. He’s definitely improving, and deserves some credit for that.

However, the dream sequence as a whole is pretty on the nose in terms of Diana’s anxieties about her role among the Amazons, and goes on for much too long for something that communicates feelings and anxieties we already know she’s dealing with.

Also, here’s something to look forward to and/or dread: The dream sequence ends with Strife watching Wonder Woman, and hints at her involvement in the story down the line. Strife was sort of a breakout character during Azzarello and Chiang’s run, a wild and enigmatic goddess who twisted the story in unpredictable ways. While she was a lot of fun in the hands of the old team, I’m worried about her with the Finches at the helm. They’ve botched up pretty much everything thus far, and that doesn’t bode well for their take on Strife.

The second half of the book, ie. the part of the story where things actually happen, isn’t great. Diana has a conversation with Hessia, a former Amazon who now lives in the world of men. Hessia makes some excellent points about how being the god of war will affect her, but Diana is petulant and angry, and doesn’t want to listen to her at all. David Finch may be drawing Wonder Woman to look more like an adult, but Meredith Finch still has her behaving in a very childish manner.

I understand what they’re going for in this storyline, trying to communicate the pressures of being Wonder Woman and the difficulties of managing it all. They’re trying to give her some emotion and problems that she’ll eventually overcome, of course. The thing is, they’re making Wonder Woman look like a childish idiot in the process. She’s an emotional wreck, she’s being a jerk to her friends, her attitude and issues are obviously affecting her performance of her myriad duties, and she doesn’t seem to notice. This Wonder Woman is in no way self-aware, and Wonder Woman has always been a character who knows herself and what she represents. It’s just an entirely off base characterization. Wonder Woman should be far smarter and more in control than they are making her, and this frazzled, irritable take on the character is wearing very thin.

After the Hessia meeting, Wonder Woman shoots off with the Justice League to investigate another odd occurrence. Wonder Woman gets snippy with Batman, and Superman gets attacked by a swarm of weird bugs, and we’re left hanging on what’s happening there until next issue. My best guess is that it’s another god of war situation, much like the birds that attacked Paradise Island in the last issue, but we’ll have to wait until next month to find out.

Finally, we return to Paradise Island, where the old witch-looking Amazon presents her new heroine, Donna Troy, to her fellow Amazons and proclaims her as their new queen. First off, as a I said last week, Donna Troy’s costume is pretty rad. I’m saying a lot of nice things about David Finch’s art today, and it’s weirding me out, but it’s a fun outfit.

Second, how are the Amazons on board for this? The creepy old Amazon lady shows up with a new champion, and everybody’s going to be, “Okay, cool. Let’s all be ruled by this gal we’ve never met before”? The Amazons can’t be that dumb. I’m hoping that there’s some more debate next issue and Donna Troy isn’t just automatically the queen, because that would be ridiculous. That any real Amazon would accept some new, random lady as their queen is a silly enough idea, but that a majority would be on board seems completely unlikely to me. The Amazons have not been coming off well AT ALL in the New 52, though. They’re pretty much unrecognizable at this point, so my idea of smart, rational Amazons may be an antiquated one.

All together, there were actually some decent moments in this comic. The art is improving. The hydra was cool. Donna Troy’s costume is spiffy. But overall, it’s still a mess with a half-baked storyline and an entirely out of character Wonder Woman. Also, it remains entirely joyless. It’s just dark, all of the time, with no fun and no jokes and no levity. Wonder Woman is traditionally one of the happier characters in the DC universe, even when things are bad, but here she’s just perpetually dour and upset. It’s all getting very old, and we’re only three issues in.

Wonder Woman #26 Review OR Wonder Woman And Greek Tragedy

December 18, 2013

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Wonder Woman can never win.  That seems to be the constant theme of the series under Brian Azzarello.  Even when she saves someone’s life, or a city, or the world, it comes with a cost that undermines her victory.  Every decision she makes leads to further complications, putting her constantly on the defensive.  I don’t think the woman’s had a moment to relax for two years now without some past action coming back to haunt her.  We’ll talk about all of this in relation to Greek tragedy momentarily, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am going to spoil this entire comic book!

Reading further will rob you of joy if you haven’t read the issue yet!

Bad things happening to people for no good reason is a staple of Greek tragedy, and of Greek myth generally.  Past decisions and actions, however virtuous and well-intentioned, tend to have unforeseen consequences that ruin lives.  Even things entirely beyond human control, like parentage, come around to destroy people.  It’s tough to be a Greek hero.  Victories are pyrrhic and fleeting, and are only followed by more troubles.  Odysseus helps the Greeks win the Trojan War, but he has to fight for ten years and then spend another ten years trying to get home.  Oedipus unwittingly fulfills a damaging prophecy despite his parents’ best efforts to avoid it.

Basically, the gods will always screw you over.  The fates are aligned against you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  The ancient Greeks were kind of a dark group.

Greek tragedy is different from Shakespearean tragedy because it’s completely unavoidable.  In Shakespearean tragedy, you bring your downfall upon yourself.  Your tragic flaw leads to your doom.  In Greek tragedy, you’re hosed to begin with.  You can be the best, most heroic person in the world and tragedy will still befall you.

Which brings us to Wonder Woman.  Wonder Woman is relentlessly heroic, always doing everything she can to help not just her friends but also her enemies.  In this current run, she doesn’t really have a tragic flaw.  We could perhaps view her constantly jumping into the fray, often without a plan, to protect others as a semi-tragic flaw, but really that’s just altruism.  She’s not Lady Macbeth.  She’s a hero.

And yet, even when things go right for her, they go wrong.  She, Hermes, Siracca, and Orion all converged on Cassandra’s base in Chernobyl to rescue Milan, and they did.  However, she gave Cassandra the information Milan refused to divulge about the First Born’s location, making Milan feel useless in his own heroism:

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Plus, they didn’t get there soon enough; Cassandra attached a bomb to Milan, and Orion shot off to New Genesis with Milan to try to defuse it.  Milan’s life still hangs in the balance, and Wonder Woman has lost a valuable member of her team.

Her heroism came back to bite her in another way as well.  When she hastily set off after Milan last issue, she left Strife with Zola and Zeke.  When she returned from Chernobyl, Zola was gone because Strife had talked her into leaving, convincing her that she was responsible for the deaths their group had incurred.  The issue ended with Wonder Woman finding Zola’s goodbye letter and Zola meeting up with Dionysus, Apollo’s lap dog.

Throughout this entire run, Wonder Woman’s victory’s have been hollow.  At the end of the first year, she defeated the gods on Mount Olympus and saved Zeke, only to be betrayed by Hermes and lose the baby.  At the end of the second year, she defeated the First Born, but at the cost of killing Ares and getting saddled with the mantle of the god of war.  In almost every single issue, some decision or action goes awry and things go sideways for her.  We can easily read Wonder Woman as a tragic hero in the Greek tradition.

Even though she’s now a god, Wonder Woman’s connection to humanity furthers this reading.  Greek tragic heroes are mortals, the playthings of the gods and the fates, pawns in their games.  Even the demigods can’t escape their fiendish machinations so long as the walk the Earth.  By eschewing her title as the god of war and remaining with her friends on Earth, Wonder Woman becomes just as subject to the inherent, cruel fatalism of the world.

If this is what Azzarello is going for, it’s an interesting idea.  It’s somewhat fitting, considering Wonder Woman’s origins in Greek mythology, but ultimately I don’t think it works, either in concept or execution.

Superheroes are our new legendary heroes.  In the same way the ancient Greeks told stories of Heracles and Perseus, so do we tell stories of Superman and Batman.  The problem is, our universe is so much bigger.  Heracles cleaned stables and stole a belt, and briefly held up the sky for Atlas, but Superman can fly through the air and throw planets.  The superhero cosmogony is so much bigger.  In the DC Comics universe, the Olympian gods are but one of several families of gods, paling in comparison to the epic powers of the New Gods, or beings like the Spectre.  The sway of their manipulations and the powers of their fates are small potatoes now.  Our modern mythology has superseded the scope of Greek myth.

In terms of execution, what we’ve got is 26 issues of Wonder Woman where Wonder Woman can’t catch a break, where characters regularly point out the ways she’s failed, and where the reader is forced to constantly questions her decisions and actions because we’ve learned that they never go well.  There’s a lot of good stuff in Azzarello’s Wonder Woman run, some fantastic new characters and fun re-interpretations of old favourites, but ultimately his treatment of Wonder Woman, whether it’s a Greek tragedy conceit or something else, frequently undermines the character.  Wonder Woman should get a win sometimes without the rug being pulled out from under her.  She’s the hero of the book, after all.

So yeah, this issue was okay.  The Chernobyl stuff was cool, and it sets up some big problems for Wonder Woman moving forward.  I just wish she could get a clean win at some point, without the gut punch of Milan’s reaction or Zola taking off, because when we keep getting things like that ALL the time it weakens the character.  Give the woman a break, man.

Wonder Woman #25 Review OR Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh

November 20, 2013

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This probably won’t be the most in depth review I’ve ever written, because one panel ruined the entire book for me.  I’m not particularly interested in dissecting the rest of the issue on account of I’m busy being rather perturbed with Brian Azzarello yet again fundamentally misunderstanding Wonder Woman.  It’s getting so old.  This is a series with a lot of good things going for it, but none of those good things are Wonder Woman herself.  Anyway, let’s get to it, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I’m going to tell you everything that happened in this issue!

Briefly, but still!

Go read it first!

So let’s do a quick rundown first.  Strife got some sort of pin from Hephaestus for killing Wonder Woman.  Cassandra’s taking her kidnapped brother, Milan, to a secret base in Chernobyl.  Apollo and Dionysus have a creepy meal.  Orion and Hermes fight, then Strife shows up with gifts for everyone, then Siracca pops in and everyone runs out to save Milan.

After all of the setup in last month’s issue, I expected a lot more to happen here, but it was little more than a lot of posturing and several scenes that didn’t seem to serve much of a purpose.  Cassandra, Milan, and her weird airplane get four pages of the book, in which we learn absolutely nothing new.  The only thing we do learn about her plot, that she’s got a base in Chernobyl, comes from Siracca with the main gang in London.

There are two pages set in the very modern kitchen of Olympus, where Dionysus is serving up chunks of the still alive First Born to his brother, Apollo, for dinner that are similarly pointless.  We know that the gods are brutal, and the only thing achieved by these two pages is a hint that Apollo is going to bring Dionysus into the fold a bit more.  I will say that it’s an impressively twisted scene, but that’s a lot of space for such a small takeaway.  I like the idea of the scene, but it would have been far better served with some dialogue and circumstances that actually mattered.

Back in London, the gang is sitting around gabbing for most of the book, and herein lies the panel that ruined the issue for me.  Strife has brought gifts for everyone, returning Hera’s peacock clock and bringing a blanket for Zeke, but for Wonder Woman she has Ares’ helmet.  Strife makes a snide comment while giving it to her, and Wonder Woman calls her a bitch:

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Seriously?  How far off the mark is Brian Azzarello’s idea of Wonder Woman that he thinks she would ever call anyone a bitch?  Not to mention that it’s 2013 and the only person who calls anyone a bitch anymore is Jesse Pinkman.  He may have come up with some cool takes on the gods and a fun supporting cast, but I think that fundamentally Brian Azzarello doesn’t have a good handle on Wonder Woman at all.

It’s bad enough that she’s the least interesting character in the book, and that she’s lucky to grace half of the pages in her own series.  But now she’s calling another woman a bitch, and this is a real problem for me.

Bitch is a gendered insult, one that’s been used for ages to demean women.  By its original definition, there’s nothing wrong with the word.  It’s a female dog.  But in turning that word into an insult, what we have is a situation whereby womanhood IS the insult.  Our modern use of the word bitch perpetuates the idea that there is something inherently less good about womanhood.  The gender is the insult.  It’s a word with some seriously sexist baggage, and to have it come out of Wonder Woman’s mouth is just ridiculous.

The word has been reappropriated in some feminist circles, turned into a badge of honour instead of an insult.  Bitch Media, for example, proudly embraces the term as a symbol of their outspoken nature.  There was a great “Weekend Update” sketch a few years back where Tina Fey and Amy Poehler talked about how Hillary Clinton is a bitch, and so are they, and that that’s a good thing because “bitches gift stuff done.”  Wonder Woman calling Strife a bitch was not such a reappropriation.

Wonder Woman lashed out at Strife with a gendered insult, one that a strong, Amazon princess should be loathe to use.  It was lazy, hacky writing, perhaps meant to make Wonder Woman look tough or bad ass, but here’s the thing: Wonder Woman doesn’t need to insult someone to look like a bad ass.  Insults, especially gendered ones, are for people so weak and insecure about their own selves that they have to tear down other people to try to regain control of a confrontation.  Wonder Woman is better than that.  There is no reason for that word to ever come out of her mouth; she’s WONDER WOMAN.  Yes, Strife was being a jerk, but Wonder Woman didn’t need to react in kind.  A slightly arched eyebrow and a stern glare from an Amazon warrior would have communicated “Who the hell do you think you are and what the hell do you think you’re doing” better than spitting out “You bitch” ever could.

Anyway, I am rather unimpressed with Azzarello’s treatment of Wonder Woman.  It’s just one word, but it perfectly encapsulates how Azzarello just doesn’t understand her.  Combined with the terrible Guillem March variant cover for Superman/Wonder Woman #3 that came out today (and that I’m not even going to show or link to because it’s awful), it’s not been a great day for our favourite Amazon princess.  I’m disappointed, DC.


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