Weekly Wonder Woman: DC Rebirth #1, Justice League #50, Superman #52, The Legend of Wonder Woman #27, & Justice League v Teen Titans

It’s here, everyone. Finally, it’s here – Rebirth, the DC Universe’s equivalent of that Old Spice ad:

That thing that’s canon? You’ll love this – it’ll still canon. That thing you used to love that was canon but wasn’t in the nu52? You’ll love this – it’s now canon again. That thing you loved but which was never canon and you never thought would be? You’ll love this – that’s now canon.

But we’ve a bit of overlap between the nu52/DCYou and Rebirth universes still to deal with, and so in the past fortnight, DC has given us a few final nu52 issues to round off some storylines, some of which affect our Diana. So after the jump, as well as looking at DC Rebirth #1, we’ll see how the Darkseid War ends in Justice League #50 and we’ll be seeing what happens to the nu52 Superman in Superman #52.

Meanwhile, alternative universe Wonder Woman origin story, The Legend of Wonder Woman, also comes to a conclusion of sorts in #27 and just for a bit of spice in our lives, I’ll be looking at a movie that got released in the UK last week – Justice League vs Teen Titans

I’m on a horse.

Superman #52

Superman #52
PlotIt’s sadness all round for fans of nu52 Superman as he dies fighting a fake Superman. Everyone gets to say goodbye to him, including Diana… and the pre-Flashpoint Superman.

Is it any good?Like the rest of the ‘Final Days of Superman’, this is pretty dreadfully plotted, with clones of Superman, Superman knock-offs, people who think they’re Superman but aren’t, people who think they’re Superman and are (yet also aren’t), and more. Yet as with those previous issues, there have been some surprisingly emotional moments.

Chief of these is the goodbye of Superman to his loved ones – in particular, to Diana.

Superman says goodbye

Diana and Superman say goodbye forever

You really have to have a hard heart not to be moved by that. He may have been a dick at times to Diana, but he turned it around at the end.

Then, he dies.

Superman dies

Or does he? Of course, it’s not the first time that Superman has died and come back again – indeed, leaving that page is the very Superman who died. But other issues, including Superman: Rebirth #1 (which doesn’t feature Diana, in case you were wondering), raise the possibility of the nu52 Superman coming back from the dead, before doing their best to eliminate it again – although, probably more likely, they’re doing their best to knock out the previous method used to fool us, with another one to be used to actually bring him back.

Will he be back? Maybe. I suspect, as always, sales will be involved in the exact period of time before he returns. But it’s comic books – you have to be in it for the long haul.

Rating: 5/7 (Artwork: 7/7)

Justice League #50

Justice League #50Plot
Part 10 of ‘The Darkeid War’ smashes to a revelation-fuelled halt with Diana facing off against super-power imbued Steve Trevor, while Superwoman’s baby by mirror universe Lex Luthor sucks everyone’s god-powers, then turns out to be baby Darkseid, and then all the bad guys are defeated and lots of things change.

Is it any good?It’s Geoff Johns in Maximum Overdrive, firing off Big Idea after Big Idea like there’s no tomorrow, all while little details such as good dialogue, consistent characterisation and general sense get overlooked.

The Big Thing for Diana – since everyone gets a Big Thing – apart from her having to defeat Grail with the assistance of Grail’s mother…

Diana and Myrina defeat Grail

…and her reconciliation with Steve after he gets de-godded…

Steve Trevor loses his powers

…is the Big Secret she learns, which will set everything up for Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman: The Lies:

Wonder Woman: The Lies

What is this Big Secret, revealed by Grail’s dying mum? Well, it turns out…

Wonder Woman has a twin brother!

Wonder Woman has a griffin!

…Diana has a long-lost twin brother called Jason! And very possibly a griffin. And that her mum starting dyeing her hair at some point (or maybe it just looks dark at night).

When Brian Azzarello changed Wonder Woman’s origin way back in issue #3 of the nu52, one of the reasons he did it was that it opened up new story possibilities, largely involving family. Whether this was one of the possibilities he envisioned, I can’t say, but it’s clear that short of some incredibly intricate story contrivances, this is the first time “a brother for Wonder Woman” has become viable. It’s also not exactly unprecedented in Greek myth (Apollo and Artemis, the Dioskouroi, et al), so is suitably mythic. However, the question of whether it’s yet more male encroachment into what was once a purely female story is something else altogether.

Anyway, we’ll see what it all means soonish, I’m sure.

Otherwise, the main notable feature of the issue for Diana is that it’s clear that Geoff Johns may have been reading Wonder Woman – after all, Darkseid reborn as a child to be nurtured by his own daughter is pretty much the Zeus/Zeke/Zola/Athena storyline from the Brian Azzarello run – but he’s not really understood much else. How else do we explain this?

All your gods must die

We were never gods

Diana talks cobblers

Just to recap that, we have Wonder Woman saying: “Clark’s right. We were never gods. Gods watch the world from above. Gods don’t interfere. Gods don’t bleed or cry or laugh or love. Not like us. We struggle. We fight.”

That would be Wonder Woman, who is quite literally the Greek goddess of war and who has spent approximately 52 issues of her own comic dealing with the rest of the pantheon of the nu52 Olympus and their machinations in each other’s affairs and the affairs of mortals, right down to most of London being wiped out by the First Born, who disembowled and killed various members of said pantheon. 

Even discounting that, it’s just ridiculous, isn’t it? In the same issue, we have the arrival of the New Gods on the scene, including Barda, who’s reconciled with her husband. They then have a big fight. I’m pretty sure that counts as a struggle.

It’s basically Johns whipping out some thought he’s had about the Christian God to try to make a point about mortals, not putting any thought into its applicability elsewhere, and then sticking it into the mouth of the one character who’d make it seem even more ridiculous a thought than it already was.

We could slightly excuse it all if this were set way back in the continuity of the nu52. After all, we have nu52 Superman alive and well. Yet the conclusion more or less leads straight into DC Rebirth and no other titles involving Diana have ever hinted she’s busy hunting after her long lost brother. So that doesn’t work.

Basically, Geoff Johns is a big silly.

Overall, though, despite its many shortcomings, Justice League #50 is a big adrenaline rush, served beautifully as usual in the art department by Jason Fabok.

Rating: 4/7 (Artwork: 7/7)

DC Universe Rebirth #1

DC Universe Rebirth #1
Plot
Pre-Flashpoint Wally West is able to make it out of the Speed Force long enough to visit people who should remember him but currently can’t, in an effort to restore the pre-Flashpoint universe – the demise of which wasn’t caused by timelines getting mucked up but by something or someone. But who…?

Is it any good?
Despite featuring Diana very little, it is very good. In essence, it’s a big apology note from DC Comics saying “Sorry, we ballsed up. Forgive us?” 

When the nu52 started, the idea was to reset everything, scrap existing relationships, provide new origins and so on, so that potential new readers could come in and start reading the stories, without having to worry about continuity – much as had been done successfully back in the 80s with the ‘Crisis’ storyline. Trouble was, not only was it not very well thought out, with numerous inconsistencies and wrong footings, the nu52 assumed that what people really wanted (and hadn’t been getting) was dark and gritty stories. Except they didn’t.

So despite getting a few new people to try the nu52, not many stayed. And long-time fans who’d grown attached to their pre-nu52 characters didn’t much like the new approaches and stopped reading, too. It was the worst of both worlds. Despite the advent of the DC You, to try to make things a bit more fun, the decline wasn’t abated, so now DC is trying something a bit more radical.

Rebirth #1 gives us Wally West almost literally explaining that the problem with the nu52 was that it wasn’t very happy – there was ‘no love’. It was all big fighty things happening in big fighty ways.

Who’s to blame? Well, Geoff Johns and Dan DiDio, obvs, but the big – nay, HUGE – revelation in-story is that the whole of the Flashpoint/nu52 universe was the result of… well, can you guess? Here’s your first clue:

Pandora dies

That was the nu52’s Pandora (she who appeared in a frame of every #1 of every nu52 title) getting wiped out in a not very subtle bit of subtext. But by whom? Need another clue? How about this?

Clock cogs

I know what you’re thinking – Hourman. Wrong. (Okay, chances are you weren’t.)

How about this, more obvious clue?

Smile

Yes, that’s right. They’ve actually gone there. The man behind the Flashpoint/nu52 reboot is none other than…

Mars

A watch

Dr Manhattan

…Dr Manhattan from Watchmen.

As revelations go, that’s pretty mind-blowing and you have to admire Geoff Johns’ big shiny brass cojones for going there, even if it is pretty sacrilegeous. But as with Superman #52, it’s not the Big Things that are important with Rebirth #1 – it’s the emotional things. I have literally no investment in the pre-Flashpoint Wally West/Flash storylines, but even I was feeling a bit weepy after these pages:

Barry remembers

Wally West and the Flash

The trick DC has to pull off is having this level of emotion that doesn’t revolve round glibness or fighting, while bringing back potentially a metric fucktonne of stupidly intricate, highly confusing continuity. I hope they do.

Just in case you were wondering, Diana does put in an appearance in the issue:

Diana's sad for her loss

Again, the door is left open for nu52 Supes to make a reappearance later on, given that Wally ‘can’t see him clearly’. After all, it would be a shame for DC to offer old fans the chance to have their cake and eat it, while simultaneously screwing over all the new arrivals the nu52 brought to the comics world. I mean if there’s room for a Chinese Superman as well as the pre-Flashpoint Superman in Rebirth, you’d think there’d be room for the Superman we’ve had for the past five and a half years, wouldn’t you?

Rating: 6/7 (Artwork: 6/7)

The Legend of Wonder Woman #27

The Legend of Wonder Woman #27Plot
The Manhunter defeated Diana must decide her destiny – to stay among mortals as herself or remain a defender of Gaia as Wonder Woman.

Defender of Gaia?

Is it any good?It’s a decent enough conclusion to the story, even if it’s one so adamantly correct in its politics, it feels more like it’s been calculated using an algorithm than written.

As a character, Wonder Woman has far more to carry on her shoulders than the likes of Batman and Superman. It’s not enough that she simply stomp on baddies (or talk them out of being bad) – she has to speak to female readers and be someone they can identify with. It’s not really something Batman and Superman have to deal with – they’re role models, of sorts, but fans generally want to be them, rather than give them a make-over so they can all hang out together in identical clothes down the mall. 

But every five or ten minutes or so these days, some comic writer will write how they were never a big fan of Wonder Woman because she didn’t speak to them, but by changing her origin story in some way, suddenly she’s identifiable! Yay, new Wonder Woman wearing skinny jeans and a social justice T-shirt! Now everyone will love her.

That’s usually 15 minutes before someone has a go at Brian Azzarello for changing Wonder Woman’s origins (“It’s not something DC would ever do with Batman or Superman! They have no respect for Wonder Woman.”) I do sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t just be easier to create a new character, rather than spend all your time tinkering with something you’ve never been a fan of, but some people apparently think it isn’t.

While there’s been a lot to commend The Legend of Wonder Woman, it does feel like the effort of someone writing an often blandly passive, everywoman Wonder Woman, shortly after they’ve got back from a (horrifically misleading) goddess pilgrimage to Crete. So we’ve had Zeus and the Greek gods seemingly downplayed because of their supposed maleness and/or authoritarian ways (further to last WWW’s “if I were in charge of everyone’s reading list” rant, I’d like to add the second edition of Mary Kefkowitz’s rather marvellous Women in Greek Myth for its debunking powers on this score), in favour of alleged horsey god Pegasus and mother goddess Gaia because they’re as female-centric as they come. Wonder Woman has had no god-given powers but has been a true American girl, earning her protestant stripes through self-sacrifice, self-abnegation, self-flagellation, good works and perspiration, rather than gift of birth, natural cunning, etc, like a Hellenistic heroine.

Ironically, despite the fact pretty much everyone always complains that Diana is too hard to identify with because she’s so perfect and humourless, yet again she’s been a somewhat dull and worthy centre to a series of adventures surrounded by far more interesting and flamboyant characters, such as Etta Candy.

But despite this grouchy old man rant of mine, TLoWW has at least been a best-of-breed origin story, taking many of the best elements of other origin stories and synthesising them into something strong. It’s had some lovely characterisation, offered plenty of fun and consistently, genuinely outstanding art and many sly nods to both Wonder Woman continuity and general DC continuity. And young (American) girls will probably love it.

The series has been renewed for a second volume, and hopes for Justice League crossovers have been raised. I’m cautiously optimistic for it, but I hope that it manages to give Diana more personality than she’s been allowed so far.

Rating: 5/7 (Artwork: 7/7)

Justice League vs Teen Titans

Justice League vs Teen Titans (2016) (iTunes)Plot
In which Damian Wayne joins the Teen Titans and helps to save the world from the demon Trigon, who takes over the Justice League so he can rule the world.

Is it any good?
It’s not bad, but after the suprisingly adult opener to the new breed of DC animated universe movies, it all feels a bit childish.

The movie is a continuation of previous efforts Son of Batman and Batman vs Robin, which saw Bats discover his son, Damian, by Talia al Ghul. Damian’s still a bit out of hand, so like all rich billionaires with annoying brats, he sends his offspring off to boarding school. Except it’s a boarding school run by Starfire and where the pupils are all superheroes. There he comes across Raven, Trigon’s daughter, and it turns out Trigon is looking for her. 

The movie is about 50-50 Justice League and Teen Titans, but with the main emotional focus on Robin and the Teen Titans, the Justice League mostly having been possessed by demons for a large portion of their appearance. Nevertheless, there are some highlights for Wondy fans. Rosario Dawson returns as Diana again (Michelle Monaghan’s return invitation seems to have got lost in the post) and does a credible enough job. Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship continues nu52-style from previous movies, with Diana and Clark still dating.

For those who don’t like that, we also get to see a Wonder Woman v Superman fight:

But for the most part, this is for Teen Titans fans. It’s quite enjoyable in its own way, but don’t expect anything too challenging or that gives the Justice League much to do themselves.

Rating: 4/7

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