Has it really been this long? Yes, we’re now 12 issues – a whole year – into DC’s nu52 reboot of its entire universe. The reboot has energised some titles, thrown the status quo into turmoil, ditched many much-loved characters, introduced a few not-so-loved ones and restored some to their original prides of place. Although thrown together perhaps a little too speedily, judging by some of the inconsistencies between the titles, the nu52 clearly at least had some kind of plan, a storyline designed to last a few years rather than just a few issues, which in his day and age of instant web gratification is something of a throwback.
The evidence for both this planning – and occasional lack thereof – and desire to change the status quo is on display in both Wonder Woman #12 and Justice League #12, officially released in what can only be described as ‘Snog Wonder Woman while she’s flying’ month, judging by their covers. Wonder Woman #12 concludes the ‘pregnant Zola’ storyline with the inevitable – and then mixes it all up with more than a few surprises – before re-introducing an old new character (I’ll explain later).
Meanwhile, Justice League reveals what in retrospect it’s been hinting at throughout its run (even if no one over in Superman’s own titles appeared to know about it) – if you’ve been wondering why Lois Lane has had bugger all to do in the nu52, it turns out she’s superfluous to requirements. There’s a new power couple in town…
And just for luck, let’s look at the first proper Wonder Woman crossover of the nu52 – Batwoman #12, in which our wonderful Amazon princess makes the first of at least two guest appearances. No snogging on this cover, despite that Batwoman being a lesbian and everyone having their suspicions about those Amazons – something the nice people at DC seem intent on stamping out…
See you after the jump…
Wonder Woman #12
We last saw Wonder Woman and pals on Olympus, where they have to face off against Apollo, Artemis and Hera to protect Zola and her baby. After Wondy slaps Artemis around a bit and Apollo slaps Hermes around, Hera takes the initiative and throws Zola off Olympus (Hera does a lot of that in myth).
Hermes gives Wondy the gift of flight and she promptly saves Zola, but not before Apollo assumes the throne of Olympus – and casts Hera to the Earth after giving Olympus a makeover.
After casting aside her bracers, Wondy beats up Artemis good and proper, prompting Apollo to suggest a peace deal. Wondy promises to leave him alone if Apollo leaves Zola and child alone. He agrees – provided the child isn’t the one who “will slay a god to take a throne”, in which case Wondy has to slay the child herself.
Wondy and co return to Earth, where they discover Hera has become mortal (although the evidence – that Hera can be wounded – doesn’t make sense, since Hermes and Strife have already established that gods can be wounded, even by simple things like broken glass).
Zola gives birth…
…only to have Hermes steal the baby and take it to Demeter.
And then, we have the big reveal – the New God Orion defrosts and enters a boom tube to come to Earth.
Is it any good?
While not as good as last issue, being a bit more cluttered and unfathomable, issue 12 does have a lot to commend it, not least its devious plotting and references to Wondy mythology.
Hermes’ apparent betrayal is the most obvious high point of the story and it’s easy to see now that that Azz has been foreshadowing this since issue 1: what was Hermes doing at Zola’s house? How did he know about her pregnancy and how she became pregnant? Why did he want to protect her? Clearly, he’d been briefed, probably by Zeus (to protect his own reincarnation?). But if he’s with Demeter, then that suggests after last issue that he’s also working with Artemis. Oh, so many twists and turns.
So we can also see how layered the foundation is for the entire Wonder Woman run, with intrigues and alliances, characters and sub-plots established early on for future development. Characters that appear evil (Apollo) turn out to have good motivations, while those who appear good (Hermes) may have treachery planned. And presumably that will flip around a few times as well.
Unfortunately, in keeping with previous issues, we’ve had the downgrading of a female character (Hera) and the upgrading of a male character (Apollo), but with the obvious long-term plotting on display, I’m hoping (fingers very crossed) that this will get rectified if not immediately, within a few years or so.
The big caveat for me is the introduction of the New God Orion (not to be confused with the mythological hunter). Wonder Woman has been an island of Greek (almost) mythology sanity, away from the science fiction quagmire of the rest of the DC universe. Introducing other pantheons, particularly ones from other planets, punctures this nice bubble that Azz has been creating in the title, one of the few worthwhile reboots of the entire nu52 reboot.
However, Azz promises that there’ll only be two New Gods (no, no spoilers) and it’s entirely possible he’ll do something interesting with them both, so I’ll hold off on the instant knee jerk. This time.
Aside from the main, very strong plot, we have some very interesting elements to mention in passing. The first is the issue of Wonder Woman flying. Up until now, it hasn’t been clear whether Wonder Woman could fly and it’s been the subject of big online debate.
Originally, Wonder Woman couldn’t fly in the comics. Eventually, she was able to glide on air currents, but it wasn’t until George Perez’s late 80s, post-Crisis reboot that she could fly – the gift of Hermes at her birth.
Post nu52 reboot, she couldn’t fly in early Justice League issues (set five years prior to Wonder Woman) and it seemed like the most she could do in Wonder Woman was hover or walk on water. However, later Justice League issues, apparently set at the same time as Wonder Woman, depicted a Wonder Woman who could fly, even though she still didn’t appear to be able to in her own title.
Now (assuming it’s not just as messed up bit of editorial miscommunication and that it’s permanent), we have the solution. Wonder Woman is actually set just before the current Justice League run and we’ve just seen the origin story for her flying powers – she’s just been given her ability by Hermes, except instead of receiving it at her birth, she’s now been granted it as an adult.
This would also explain why Wondy’s a bit mopey and not got much of a life in her own title – over in JL#12, it’s clear she broke up with Steve Trevor about a year previously.
We also have some more Wondy mythology. As we all know, Wonder Woman wears bracelets (or ‘bracers’). In the nu52 mythos, they’re armour, created by Hephaestus for the Amazons in exchange for their unwanted male children. Or at least that’s what we thought.
Back in the Golden Age, they were, however, something more. Created by Aphrodite, the Amazons were still tricked by men and enslaved. Aphrodite freed them, but only if they promised to wear bracelets at all times to remind them of their mistake. And if they ever took them off, they went a bit mental.
It now appears we have something similar in the nu52, although rather than be children of Ares (as per myth), Aphrodite (as per the Golden Age), or Athena, Aphrodite, Artemis, Demeter and Hestia (post-Crisis), they’re now the children of (only?) Artemis, who also shackled them for some reason. Take off the shackles and the Amazons go a bit… strange and super-powerful.
What manner of strange, why they do it, why Artemis, and why Wonder Woman ends up looking like Tron as a result are all questions that we’re going to have to wait a long time to have answered, I suspect, but it’s intriguing all the same.
The first year
On the whole then, it’s been a strong, if annoying first year for Wonder Woman. While some of the decisions taken by DC and Azzarello have been good, there have been some terrible ones, particularly for the female characters. How many of those are temporary, we’ll have to wait to see, since it’s clear there’s a long-term plan at work. The Azzarello view of the gods is a little distasteful, but again, nuance is being injected slowly. And Wonder Woman is a slight cipher, with no real purpose other than to defend people against gods and be surprised at the world. A somewhat passive creature compared to her previous incarnations, she is still a force to be reckoned with, and unleashed from the needs of continuity, a surprising one, with past behaviour no longer a guide to future behaviour.
In retrospect, though, this first year of the nu52 Wonder Woman, despite its flaws and apparent misogyny, has been one of the title’s best ever runs and has easily been the best of the nu52 titles. And judging from the ending of this issue, there’s a hell of a lot more to come.
Next issue, strangely enough, is issue #0, a prequel to the first issue that explains how, among other things, Wonder Woman became a pupil Ares – should be interesting.
Justice League #12
After finding themselves apparently in some form of afterlife, facing the spirits of their dead loved ones – and sometimes even themselves – the Justice League get the life sucked out of them by mind parasites that torment them with visions. All looks lost until Steve Trevor turns out not to be as dead as everyone thought.
This proves everything is an illusion and the superheroes overcome the parasites, first with willpower and then with lots of superpowers.
When the League return to civilisation, Wonder Woman has to dump Steve Trevor for a second time to ensure that he doesn’t get used against her again.
Meanwhile, the rest of the League discover the whole world has seen their fight in the last issue. The result? Green Lantern quits the League because he’s a dick and he knows it, and Aquaman takes over as boss because Batman’s not a people person.
Of course, they have to run all this by Superman and Wonder Woman, who are elsewhere, discovering that two lonely superheroes can find solace together… on top of the Lincoln Memorial.
Is it any good?
Well, we once again have three strands to Justice League: the A-plot, in which we have a slightly dull super-villain to fight while the Justice League act like a bunch of teenagers; the B-plot, which is the creation of the Justice League as we know it; and the C-plot, which is Wonder Woman’s love life.
The A-plot is easily forgettable: we all knew exactly how it was going to end – a Geoff “I love Green Lantern” Johns story that doesn’t end with willpower (or torture) saving the day? How unlikely is that? – although the return of Steve Trevor from the dead is a big surprise… that was somewhat ruined by all the pre-publicity about how he was going to be heading up the new Justice League of America.
The B-plot is something more interesting. Here we see the effort of the last year in putting character traits and story moments into place. Making Aquaman head of the League, bucking the age-old habit of having Batman in charge, does at least make that character something more than an easy feed line for jokes about dolphins and “What if they attack on dry land?”, although Johns has been rehabilitating him in his own title, too. It also makes a certain amount of sense to have a king of the somewhat divided continent of Atlantis – so a practised politician – running the League, although presumably Bruce Wayne must have a few leadership skills to head up his multi-billion dollar industry effectively.
I’m assuming Wonder Woman didn’t get made boss because either
- She’s only a princess and kings trumps princesses
- She wasn’t there
- She’s a girl and girls are silly
Taking Green Lantern out of the League also makes sense since he’s a bit pointless with Superman around and his colossal dick-like character has been dominating the proceedings. So a decent bit of narrative architecting there by Johns.
Now, the C-plot. For a long time, we’ve all been assuming that DC has been rehabilitating Wonder Woman’s old beau Steve Trevor as a possible love interest for her. There’s been a well-crafted back story, based on the original Golden Age story (Steve is the first man to land on Paradise Island and Wonder Woman takes him back to the mainland after falling in love with him) but making it more tragic – she has to break it off so he won’t get hurt, even though she still loves him and he still loves her. When he ends up in danger last issue, Wonder Woman goes off after him, beating up anyone, no matter how super-powered, who gets in her way.
All well and good. Because for 25 years or so, Steve Trevor hasn’t been the man original Wonder Woman ended up marrying:
He’s been an old guy married to Wonder Woman’s friend Etta Candy.
Which is shame. In fact, the rehabilitation of Steve Trevor has been one of the honestly good things about the nu52. And if they’d ended up having Wondy and Steve off together that would have been great – probably everyone would have agreed with that. Instead, we now have the Wonder Woman/Superman pairing.
Now is this a good or a bad thing?
In the absence of Steve Trevor, the only boyfriends that Wonder Woman has had have been a bit rubbish, to be honest. Trevor Barnes was the first and so uninterestingly worthy, he might as well have been made out of marble.
Still, at least Wondy did get some action with our Trevor before he croaked. Then there was the Volume 3 attempt to pair her with the shifty Nemesis that (thankfully) quickly died a death.
Basically, rubbish boyfriends for Wonder Woman, post-Crisis but pre-nu52. However, during this time, our Wondy has harboured certain feelings towards Superman. First she’s off fantasising about him in Perez’s run:
Then she’s off imagining a perfect world in which she and Clark are married and she’s going to have a baby:
And in practically every future/alternative reality, whether it’s Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Rises Again or in Kingdom Come, guess who Wonder Woman ends up with and usually has kids with (albeit with the get-out clause that Lois is usually dead in such scenarios):
Yes, it’s Superman. And yes, The Dark Knight Rises Again is dreadful. So, although Supes might be a bit bland, purely from a Wonder Woman perspective, Superman and Wonder Woman together actually makes some kind of sense (and a few people seem to agree).
Now I have to confess that I’ve never been a big fan of either Superman or Lois Lane. I’ve not really read the Superman comics beyond an occasional issue so mostly my experience of both is when they’ve either ventured into Wonder Woman territory (such as the famous Day in the Life issue of Wonder Woman where Lois Lane writes a profile of her… and discovers Wondy spent 1,000 years in an alternative reality with Superman and Supes never told her about it) or through other media.
In the Superman movies, Lois Lane is the irritating woman that Superman falls for for no adequately explored reason. In Smallville, Lois Lane is the irritating woman that Clark Kent falls for for no adequately explored reason, after first falling for the very wet true love of his life Lana Lang and after overlooking the feisty and fantastic Chloe Sullivan… twice. Okay, in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Lois Lane was Teri Hatcher and was actually appealing at first – I liked that Lois. But after a few seasons, it got very bad indeed and Lois became very irritating.
In other words, to me, Lois Lane is irritating and Superman is this guy with bad taste in women who usually keeps overlooking women who’d be much better choices. Now’s he’s redeemed himself.
I appreciate that others may – and vehemently do – have other opinions, particularly (for example) if they’ve had 25 years of Lois and Clark in the comics and see Lois as representative of ordinary career women: superheroines in their own ways but apparently now not worthy of a superhero’s attention any more.
So unfortunately for some, Lois Lane is history and Superman and Wonder Woman are the DC Universe’s power couple. Geoff Johns, DC’s plot architect and writer of Justice League, says this is the new status quo and with DC marketing it for all it’s worth, it looks like this isn’t going to be a two-issue “Diana and Clark become fuck buddies because they’re not getting any with the people they really want” thing. Yes, Wondy and Supes are going to be a proper couple – you know, like Lois and Clark used to be for decades. Sorry, Lois fans – she’s been replaced and quite obviously. Does the front cover of JL#12 perhaps remind you of an equally famous cover by the same artist, perhaps?
Now, this could be okay if handled well. It’s not been without at least a little foreshadowing in the nu52. Superman is obviously impressed with Diana during their first encounter.
In Earth 2 #1, it’s clear alternative Supes, despite actually being with Lois in that reality, still thinks Diana is pretty special:
Wonder Woman’s interest in Clark is a little bit new in this reality – particularly since she gave him a massive kicking last issue – and for someone who just lost her first love – again – it’s a bit sudden, making Supes the rebound guy, but it’s plausible that they might take solace in one another’s company. The loves of each other lives? Not yet.
Now the big objection to this new pairing from the Wonder Woman direction is the possibility that this will diminish Wonder Woman – simply make her Superman’s girlfriend or a female Superman rather than a superhero in her own right. In-text, so far, this seems to have been avoided. In Justice League at least, Superman has been something of a blank slate, a plot point rather than a character in his own right. Far more attention has been paid to Wonder Woman, her character development, her feelings, her emotional life and her skillset. If anyone’s been downplayed, it’s been Superman. Provided they focus on Wonder Woman and remember she’s more than simply a female Superman or a passive object for male fantasies, there’s mileage here.
Now given that issue #13 is going to be about Cheetah – Wonder Woman’s most famous villain – and given this was an alternative illustration Jim Lee had planned for the cover of issue #12 , it’s possible that this might be something the creators are considering and doing their best to ensure Wonder Woman is an equal:
On the other hand, that does look more like a garter than a scabbard tie.
So I’m slightly optimistic this might work out okay in-text. We’ve never actually seen a Wonder Woman/Superman relationship and a post-Crisis Wonder Woman relationship that lasts more than a few issues is unheard of, so there’s all sorts of room for character development and looking at how that situation would work. Could their feelings for each other become something more than superficial? It’s not exactly been the start of a classic romance, although with DC trying to be more Marvel in terms of making their heroes more human, a messy unromantic relationship that becomes something more seems right up DC’s street now. Fingers crossed, we’ll find out in-text and 25 years from now, we’ll have all got used to the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship and it will be the stuff of legends. Assuming DC doesn’t keep releasing movies featuring Lois Lane. Oh wait… Or comics like Smallville. Oh wait…
However, there’s more to comics than the comics themselves and elsewhere, Wonder Woman has been described as… something else.
Yes, Superman’s ‘sexy new sidekick’. She’s also been accused of being a homewrecker for stalking Lois Lane for 25 years.
FFS, DC. What is the matter with you? It’s all doomed, isn’t it?
Batwoman is realising she’s going to have to deal with a true threat from Greek mythology – Medusa – so goes for help to the only person who knows how to fight gods and monsters – Wonder Woman, who’s busy doing just that.
Is it any good?
Although I’ve heard good things about it, I gave up Batwoman after issue #1 on the general grounds I had no idea what was going on. It looked good, quite grim and gritty, with some fabulous artwork, but the plot didn’t grip me and, as I said, I had no idea what was going on (to be fair, not the author’s fault, since he had no idea that it was going to be an issue #1 of anything, just a follow-up from the previous mini-series, I’m told.
Since then, by the looks of it, it’s gone downhill a bit, even if the artwork’s still probably the best in the nu52. It’s become considerably sillier, with talking skeletons, amongst other things, for example, and there’s not much by way of grittiness. So I’m reasonably glad I made that decision.
But this was worth reading, even if Wonder Woman didn’t get a lot to do apart from slice and dice, since it’s an interesting insight into how DC now regards Diana.
We start off with Wonder Woman relating some stories about herself.
There is, of course, a double meaning here since Wonder Woman is herself a creature of myth, myth being true in the DC universe. However, since Wondy’s clay origin is now untrue, we have to assume that DC’s intention here is to say flat out that Wondy isn’t ‘a sister of Sappho’ – she’s not a lesbian and why would you even think that?
Nice to see, though, that Hippolyta gets a mention, as Zeus seems to be getting all the attention when it comes to Wondy’s lineage these days, as we discover on the next page, where we get, as was standard in Volume 2 of Wonder Woman and is still standard in Batwoman, a potted bio of the protagonists:
“Blessed with superhuman strength and agility, Diana of Thermyscira was raised in seclusion by the fabled Amazons. Since discovering that she is the daughter of Zeus, Diana has been torn between the worlds of gods and mortals. Armed with enchanted weapons and a lifetime of combat training, Diana has become WONDER WOMAN, a symbol of justice in an often cruel and violent world.”
So there you have it – the new mission statement for Wonder Woman. Unless they didn’t feel like mentioning it (and what would be wrong with ‘superhuman abilities’ or ‘godly powers’ if they were stuck for space?), Wonder Woman has been downgraded to just superhuman strength and agility. Screw the great beauty and a loving heart, wisdom, eye of the hunter and unity with the beasts, sisterhood with fire, and the power of flight – DC wants her to just be strong and fast. Now why you could argue that Superman’s been depowered a little, so why not Wonder Woman, they’re not exactly comparable downgrades – it’s not like he’s lost his heat vision, is it? – and they’ve actually given Supergirl more abilities. So why depower Wonder Woman? Were they threatened by her? Or did the idea of a Wonder Woman of equal or superior ability to Superman in a relationship with Superman give someone at DC some worries?
One can only hope that as with the flying (fingers still crossed on that one) and as Superman did in Action Comics, she’ll get her original powers back over time.
The rest of the issue then shows us a bit more of how DC now perceives Wonder Woman’s inner self, which given we’ve lost her inner monologues in her own title, is something of a first in the nu52. Here it’s clear, as it was in her Justice League #3 dialogue, that Wonder Woman is an Amazon, a pure fighter, raised for battle, and only happy in battle (click on the page to make it readable).
So basically, the DC Amazons are more as they were in myth (although actually a good deal less civilised and honourable than they were in myth), less the bastions of peace that Wonder Woman’s creator intended them to be. Indeed, back in Justice League #12, this is what Wonder Woman told Supes about how the Amazons regarded relationships:
Rather than the Amazons teaching the world a thing or two, the world now teaches Amazons. Sigh.
And for those wondering if anyone outside of Geoff Johns’ inner circle knew anything about his plans for the new power couple, here’s Wondy deciding to mention Clark in passing:
Not exactly a match made in heaven with Wondy so bloodthirsty, is it? Whether that’s intended to be some aspect of their future relationship – Clark ‘civilising’ Wondy, coming to terms with her warrior nature or for it to be a constant area for argument – I can’t say. But it doesn’t bode well.
Justice League #12 finished with some actual trailers for the next year – there does actually seem to be a plan at work. Wondy features quite prominently in them:
Looks interesting. Prepare yourselves for year two.