Apologies for the delayed posting, but work got the better of me last Friday. But here, better late than never, is the weekly round-up. Last week was a little bit special as it gave us the first Wonder Woman Annual since 1999. Exciting, hey? Well, almost.
On top of that, we had the start of the Darkseid War over in Justice League #41, and as we’ve seen already, that’s going to involve Wonder Woman quite a bit. On top of that, Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Four #45 gave us the arrival of some of Wonder Woman’s old friends. Or are they?
And oh yes, Sensation Comics concludes its latest story, for which we’ll revisit the Theseus Paradox. Yay?
Well, one yay, anyway, because in one of those issues, we have, in a couple of throwaway lines, an exploration of the origin of the Amazons in the nu52, as well as Diana’s mission to the outside world. Which issue is it, do you think?
Wonder Woman Annual #1
Rather than give us a completely different story, as certain annuals have tended to in the past, Wonder Woman Annual #1 not only finishes off all the current storylines in Wonder Woman, it also gives us an additional background story related to said storyline.
Plot (story 1)
The first storyline to be concluded is the one involving the underground insect beasts that had been killing people. If you recall, when we left this story, pre-Convergence, we learnt that the beasts had come out from under the earth to kill thousands of mortals because Wonder Woman had re-imprisoned the First Born in the Earth’s centre. What could Diana do to fix her mistake?
Well, it turns out the insect beasts were actually aliens who had crash landed millennia ago and, given they can’t return home, they decided to terrorise everyone else – presumably for shits and giggles.
But if there’s a theme for the issue, it’s that time moves on and we must all adapt. And it turns out that while on Earth thousands of years ago it might have been an insurmountable problem to get your alien spaceship fixed when it crash-landed, these days, it’s relatively easy.
Problem? What problem. They might even get a valid MOT certificate and one of those little air fresheners while they’re about it. No need for war after all. Which is a pleasingly Wonder Woman solution to a situation – love your enemy, try to understand their needs and how you can help them, rather than start war.
Now it’s time to go to Paradise Island to mop up all the problems with the Amazons and Donna Troy. After writer Meredith Finch deploys her trademark move for Diana of making her all upset and giving her a little cry…
…it’s time for a big fight, interlaced with lots of comic book dialogue, between Donna Troy and Diana, in which Diana and Donna carefully explain to each other their respective philosophies and discuss the nature of Amazonian womanhood, all while twatting each other round the head.
I’m assuming that everyone’s both fighting and talking at super speed during this, a bit like Spud in Trainspotting.
Ultimately, of course, Diana wins since her philosophy is better.
The fight does have one good point, which is that Donna turns out to be far more than a mere mirror to Diana’s old clay origin – she actually has an ability Diana never had:
But we’re not done yet. Because not content with solving the insect problem and defeating Donna, it’s time to end all division on Paradise Island with a great big speech.
Even Diana seems to surprised with how easy it all is. Maybe they should try a speech or two in the Middle East?
Is it any good?
Phew. So there you go: aliens helped, Donna stopped, evil witch killed, dead male Amazons avenged, and peace brought to Paradise Island. All in one issue.
Does that seem rushed to you? It certainly did to me. Perhaps that’s because I’ve been conditioned by Brian Azzarello into expecting that all to take about three years, but honestly it’s all a bit too convenient and simplistic. Had these all been staggered out across issues and given a bit of space, they individually might have worked fine. All in one issue and it just screams “editorial mandate to get this finished and a new storyline started to coincide with the arrival of DC You and Wondy’s new cosi”. All quite dissatisfying.
So there we have it: the conclusion of Meredith and Brian Finch’s first run on Wonder Woman. Overall, it was definitely something that improved rapidly over time and by the end, we had something considerably more feminist and more Wonder Woman than when it started. Brian Finch’s artwork definitely improved by the mid-point, although in the latest couple of issues, he’s started to revert to more his bubble-headed mean with the female characters.
There’s a lot to praise in the run, including the inclusion of the Justice League, the return of Hippolyta, and the continuing rehabilitation of the Amazons – in other words, it undid some of Brian Azzarello’s bad work. But it also undid some of his good work, with almost no focus on the gods, a return to standard superhero comic book writing and plotting, continual bringing up of continuity and nothing truly innovative.
The one big exception to that last point, of course, is the return of Donna Troy and the change of her mythology to explore Wonder Woman’s own. I can’t imagine there’ll be many old-school fans who like Donna’s emergence as a villainess, although looking at future previews, it seems she might be back again soon and ready for rehabilitation, once she’s out of prison*. And her naming is an obvious problem for someone who was supposed to be the Amazons’ idea of the epitome of Amazonhood. All the same, it was a clever reintroduction of the character to the nu52.
* Marks off from Meredith Finch for bad use of Greek myth and continuity – “[Donna] was banished from Paradise Island forever for her crimes and taken to a prison on Mount Olympus.” Not the prison under Paradise Island, but a prison on Olympus? No. Just no.
Plot (story 2)
The b-story in the back of the annual is an origin story for Derinoe. Back in volume 2, of course, Donna Troy was the creation of the Amazon sorceress Magala, who eventually would turn evil thanks to Circe and Ariadne. This origin story owes a lot to those various versions, but makes Derinoe a separate character, one who turns evil thanks in part to Hecate (who was also Circe in Volume 2… it’s a long story).
Notably, Derinoe and Diana’s mother Hippolyta were both lovers:
Except thanks to a combination of Hecate killing off Hippolyta’s mother, and waging war on first Sparta and then Paradise Island, and then zapping Derinoe with some magic, things started to go pear-shaped for Derinoe.
And then, of course, Hippolyta ends up with Zeus.
So Derinoe decides that it’s time to get revenge and save Paradise Island from corruption and men, by stopping Hippolyta’s daughter with the help of an old enemy.
Is it any good?
It’s a bright and breezy little piece, although not the deepest. As motivations go, it’s all a bit lightweight and flimsy; squeezing so much unnecessary story into it reduces its potential for depth, too. Relating it in narrative also reduces some of its potential, and the idea of the Spartans doing what they do is unlikely to say the least and feels more like Finch has been intending for this to be a tribute to George Perez’s Wonder Woman #1, as well as the original Magala issues of Volume 2, rather than something that make a whole lot of sense on its own terms.
All the same, it does have some good points. For starters, we do actually get lesbianism treated relatively seriously, rather than as a point of amusement as Azzarello did. Indeed, for this issue, we actually have the return of Goran Sudzuka who did the art for Azzarello’s innuendo-laden Wonder Woman: Secret Origins #6, and mirrors his own work on that title:
And while Sudzuka perhaps needs to have Sparta’s lack of Athenian-style walls and monuments explained to him…
…the art’s generally good.
We also get the entire history of the Amazons from the classical Age through to modern times, more or less, although no explanation of the relocation to Paradise Island from near Sparta, apparently.
Nothing extraordinary, but a decent back-up story.
Justice League #41
Preparations for the Darkseid War have been in the offing since the nu52 began and this is the beginning of their fruition. Justice League #41 is the usual Geoff Johns fare in that it it’s full of big comic book ideas and experiments in continuity. Here, he sets himself several tasks. The first is to (re)introduce various New Gods from pre-nu52 continuity, including Mr Miracle.
The New Gods are on Earth trying to find someone called ‘Myrina Black’, who is the Amazon mother of Darkseid’s daughter Grail. To do this, they’re killing off everyone called Myrina Black, which prompts the Justice League to go CSI. Except for Barry who’s already a CSI, obviously, and Batman, who is the world’s greatest detective.
Unfortunately for them, it’s time for step two in Johns’ plan, because Grail turns up using the Flash as a portal.
She then starts to take apart each member of the Justice League in turn, starting with Batman and working her way through Cyborg and Shazam.
The interesting part here is that we have another nu52 character to mirror Wonder Woman, being the daughter of both an Amazon and a god, and able to not only withstand Wonder Woman’s Lasso but also destroy her bracelets.
All of which is in the interest of getting hold of Earth 3’s Green Lantern’s power ring, so she can bring the Anti-Monitor through to this universe so he can destroy Darkseid.
Is it any good?
As with practically everything by Geoff Johns, it blasts from page to page, throwing huge comic book revelation after revelation, interspersed with awful dialogue.
Here, we have the standard trope of the new enemy who somehow effortlessly defeats every superhero in existence in one issue, but who will nevertheless be defeated at a later date (cf Superman/Wonder Woman #13). Which is a bit tedious, yet all still quite exciting in the telling. How Shazam, Batman, Cyborg et al are going to recover from being dismembered, dismembered and hacked up remains to be seen.
Notably, of course, the goddess of war herself is the one who suffers the least damage in this battle. She also loses her bracelets, which while practically heresy pre-nu52 is something that’s happened before and shows that Johns might actually have been reading Wonder Woman. This is further supported by Grail knowing that Wonder Woman becomes stronger without her bracelets:
I wonder if that means that any of Diana’s other powers as goddess of war are finally going to make it into Justice League. I’m assuming her Tron beserker super-strength will make it through, given it’s just been mentioned, and if she gets some new bracelets from Hephaestus, she might do the two swords thing again. But how about the ability to summon up armies, telepathy with soldiers and ability to create any weapon from thin air? Let’s wait and see.
Incidentally, that same dialogue also refers to Wonder Woman’s gods as ‘the Great Gods’ and Diana being a failure to them, which suggests some interesting possible motivations for Grail. Indeed, the issue gives us flashbacks to the childhoods of several members of the Justice League, where they each show a desire to explore and to be curious about the world. The biggest flashback is reserved for Diana, however, who spends hours on a Paradise Island beach as a girl reading a washed up book and grows curious about the outside world.
Importantly, in the narration, notice that we get the first definite explanation for the origin of the Amazons in the nu52 universe. Talk about throwaways, hey? While pre-nu52 the Amazons were created by Aphrodite, sometimes with the help of other goddesses and gods, to be examples of a better way of living…
…in the nu52, they’re something else, it turns out:
There you have it: the Amazons were created by the gods to protect the world, presumably from mythical beasts, including the ones in Tartarus, not inspire it. The problem is ‘they chose to abandon it’. Grammatically and in the context of the next pane talking about the Amazons’ isolation from the world and the terrible tales Diana had heard about it, ’they’ would be the Amazons, not the gods, meaning it was the Amazons who abandoned the world. Of course, Geoff Johns’ grammar might be a bit dodgy, but as the gods don’t seem so much to have abandoned it as decided to get up to other things with it, I’m assuming Geoff knows when a modifier is misapplied or not.
This panel combined with another line of Diana’s this issue – “We all want to protect the world we share. And we all want a place in it. That’s why we came together” – suggests that Diana’s mission, rather than being simply about spreading a message of peace, is to continue the mission the Amazons abandoned and protect the world. Interesting, hey?
The other big point of note this issue is that it’s narrated by Diana and there’s a point where she wonders if Steve Trevor still thinks about their relationship.
Given that there are possible ructions ahead in the next Superman/Wonder Woman, I wonder if Steve’s going to be her rebound-from-her-rebound guy…?
On the whole, quite an exciting, slightly deeper, more Wonder Woman-centric issue than might have been expected. And it looks like the Darkseid War is going to be pretty impressive.
Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #37
Sigh. Last issue, I suggested that the writer of this two-part Sensation Comics story, Caitlin Kittredge, hadn’t read any Wonder Woman at all and that after touching on a couple of feminist issues, she thought she could then write Diana like she was Batman. I then joked that this issue would be “…another week of posturing, Batman pretending to be Agnes [Wonder Woman], and some unnecessary violence to work our way through on this one”.
Normally, my theories are dead wrong, but for once I was right on the money.
This issue sees Batgirl tasking Wonder Woman with rescuing a child from Harley Quinn.
After Batgirl tortures some ‘freaks’ around the warehouse, they reveal where their boss is. Wonder Woman goes and finds him… and tortures him.
And then knocks him out once he’s revealed all. Something she enjoys.
Then together, Batgirl and Wonder Woman go and punch and threaten to torture Harley Quinn, who gives up the location of Echidna’s children, after which Wonder Woman mocks her dress sense.
The children rescued and returned to their mothers, what else is there for Wonder Woman to do in Gotham than go out with Batman and beat up some more criminals?
Is it any good?
First, the good part: the last frame, with Batman and Wonder Woman bantering. It’s quite fun and a good character moment, that’ll probably have everyone who grew up on the Justice League cartoons feeling very excited. But that’s about it.
So I mentioned I was going to discuss the appropriately named Theseus’ Paradox again. To summarise the paradox, how much of something can you remove and replace before it becomes something different. In this case, what traits of Wonder Woman can you remove and replace with other traits before she stops being Wonder Woman?
Here, we have her pre-Odyssey outfit, including her Lasso, which for many people are all that really counts, as long as she doesn’t have a sword because then she’s Xena. But we also have a Wonder Woman who talks like a regular American who grew up in America and who’s happy to mock another woman’s outfit. More importantly, she’s someone who enjoys inflicting pain and violence and uses them as a first resort, rather than being forced to use them unwillingly as a last resort. She also tortures people for information. This is despite having her Lasso of Truth. The clue is in the name on this one.
Or does she? Let’s have a look at these panels.
So she’s tied up the bad guy with her lasso and is threatening to torture him. Except then she talks about someone cutting him down. Well, you can’t cut the Lasso of Truth, as any fool knows, so let’s assume it’s a turn of phrase.
All the same, she’s tied him up with her Lasso of Truth, and isn’t commanding him to the tell the truth. Instead, she’s threatening him. And when he speaks he says:
“You’re so noble, so perfect in the peak of your life. The beautiful people can afford to care about the ugly and malformed. It makes you feel better about the fact you can’t quite button those jeans or your adorable nose is only almost perfect”
To which she replies:
“You’re wrong. But you knew that already.”
Which is odd. First, it’s a little unclear what Diana is saying here – that she’s not noble or perfect; the beautiful people can’t afford to care about the ugly and malformed; it doesn’t make them/her feel better about those facts; she can button her jeans; or her adorable nose is perfect? I mean which is it?
But secondly, it’s the Lasso of Truth – why is she saying he’s wrong and that he knows it. He can’t lie.
If it is the Lasso of Truth. But what if it’s not? Is Kitteridge giving us an Elseworlds Wonder Woman who is the answer to the question: “What would Wonder Woman be like if she didn’t have her Lasso of Truth?” The answer being Batman. Batman is Wonder Woman without a Lasso of Truth and vice versa.
It’s an interesting possibility except… this is also someone who mocks other women for their clothing choices. And is American.
So I don’t buy it. Even if we accept the non-functioning Lasso of Truth, it’s still married with one of the worst bits of characterisation of Wonder Woman that we’ve ever seen in one of her own titles.
Oh well. I think I preferred it when Wonder Woman changed Gotham rather than vice versa.
Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Four #5
Issue #6 has already been released today – that’s the price of tardiness with Weekly Wonder Woman – but I’ll still save that up for Friday. Instead, today, I’ll touch on issue #5, which concludes with the Amazons and some gods turning up to put Superman in his place.
Nice use of the trademark Azzarello “?!” speech bubble there. I’m assuming that’s Hermes, going by the κηρύκειον, although it might be Mercury in this Elseworld. That’s possibly Athena with him, although the general look suggests an Amazon. I’m not quite sure what “the army of Amazon” means, given that there’s no country called Amazon, although I think it’s supposed to mean “the Amazon army”. Still, who needs accuracy, hey?
There’s also a sly nod by Batman to Ares earlier in the issue.
Disclaimer: Owing to the small fortune it would take to buy every single DC comic each week, this is not a guaranteed rundown of all the comics that feature Wonder Woman. If you know of any I’ve missed, email me or leave a comment below and I’ll cover them the following week